Monday, April 25, 2011

Lulu's Mailbag: Who's looking at my resume...anyone?

I got a great question recently from "S" about getting your foot in the door at a firm and the "auto-response" that some firms give:

I am a senior who will be graduating this May. I have been looking up firms in my area. They usually put "" or "" on their career page. It seems suspicious to me that they don't let us know who we're supposed to address our cover letter to.

 My question is, will our resume, cover letter and work samples get looked at? Big firms which require people to apply on their website have what is called ATS(Applicant Tracking System). My friend who majors in software engineering tell me that big firms usually have that to screen out potential employees and weed out the rest, without even bother to look at the work samples. It's one of those thing that automatically sends a reply after we finish applying no matter what time it is.

Back to the suspicious email address, I know how easy it is to make an email address on a server, since I have one. So, what do you think? Do firms which can't afford to pay for ATS, specifically make that so they don't have to look at the resume so they seem accepting, but are not? I know that they want the best bang for the buck and that Interns don't really have much to offer. So, I'm guessing it'd be nice for them if they could look at the resume and just pick the best.

A couple day later, I looked at job boards. The same firm which only gives out that suspicious email address, said that they are hiring a senior designer and they give out the name of the principal who I presume also acts as a hiring manager. I don't really know much about hiring, but it just seems weird to me that they said on their website that"they are always looking for qualified people", but don't give out the names of the hiring manager.

My professor also said that architecture is a "you-know-who" kind of job. Is that really true? I go to Massachusetts College of Art and Design. The BFA is not accredited and the MArch is still waiting for accreditation (4+2 program). Do firms acknowledge architecture education from a pre-professional school? The people in my grade who gets hired usually have some sort of connection or just a good ass kisser (I really need to learn how to do that...)

Last but not least, what do you think of cold calling firms?

Good questions, S.  Let's start with some basic info about the hiring practices of firms right now.  While the economy is recovering slowly, there are still way more applicants than there are positions.  This means that firms that advertise for one or two positions can get as many as a hundred resumes in a week for those two spots.  There is someone (or a couple of someones) that are reviewing resumes and are responsible for hiring, but chances are good that those people are also architects working on billable work.  They're already way more-than-40-hours-a-week busy, and they're having a hard time getting back to all the emails and voicemails regarding their one or more projects.  That's why everyone is instructed to send their resumes to a generic address--so they don't fill up some poor schmuck's (or schmuckette's) inbox.  An official name isn't given out because the firm also doesn't want this person's voicemail full of calls (cold or otherwise) from the influx of job applicants.  It's nothing personal, it's just that the person in charge of hiring wouldn't be able to humanly return all of these calls and emails in a timely fashion.  And because they don't give out a name, they won't be offended if your cover letter starts, "To whom it may concern."

That being said, you'll see applicant tracking software especially at really big firms or firms with multiple offices.  This is because they, being a big firm, get even more applicants than a smaller or privately held firm with fewer than 50 people.  But that being said, every firm has some process of weeding out candidates.  The first round of weeding resumes is spelling and grammar problems as well as resumes that are hard to read.  The next round is about skills and experience--some firms may be looking for someone with only a couple of years, and some may be looking for someone with several years of experience.  This round might also involve factors as random as where an applicant went to school or what project types they've done or where they've worked before or....the list is endless.

Of course, knowing someone is always a big help, and not just in architecture.  The problem is that so many candidates are equally excellent--everyone's been to college and grad school and can use various types of software and has work experience here or there, so how do you choose?  If you know someone already in the business--whatever field that may be--it helps to include that on your resume.  Personal knowledge of a candidate allows a firm to know just a little more about you, whether you're going into law, medicine, architecture, marketing,  teaching, or whatever.

Cold calling at this point in the economy is a double-edged sword.  If you know a name to ask for when you call, that's in your favor.  If you're blindly calling just to speak to "someone involved in hiring interns", your cold call may be met with a cold shoulder.  Of course, you could call in the hopes that you catch a company's temp receptionist while the usual one is on vacation, in which case you might inadvertently get somewhere.

If you have a topic you'd like to see discussed here, let me know in the comments or via email in the sidebar.  And don't forget to take the intern quiz here, and have any friends or colleagues who are licensed take the architect survey here.  Thanks!

1 comment:

  1. A great response. I was tasked as the schmuckette in charge of hiring interns at two design firms I worked for (a side project I actually really enjoyed). I agree, there wasn’t anything shady or sinister about the generic email address. I averaged about 30+ work-related (billable) emails per day and would in no way want my inbox infiltrated with applicant resumes. Once you open that can-o-worms, you’ll never get your inbox in order again. It’s just good housekeeping. Also, spam-bots are always on the lookout for email addresses posted online. Even though I have filtering software, I try to limit who gets my email address to actual live, breathing, human-beings.

    As for cold-calls, I’m not really a fan because it’s a disruption in my insanely busy day, but I was always polite and tried to be helpful to those who did get through. If someone reached me to let me know to expect their resume, confirm the spelling of my name and official title, that did get bonus points with me. Often the receptionist will give that out if you call and indicate that you don’t want to bother the staff-person but rather just want to confirm their contact info for your cover letter.