Credit: Richard Morgenstein
"Architects are good at taking complex problems and figuring out innovative solutions," says Marjanne Pearson, head of the eponymous design consulting and headhunting business. "Apply that to the resume process."
The job hunt starts with a pitch-perfect résumé, and design consultant-slash-headhunter Marjanne Pearson is the ultimate judge. She knows the business from the inside—despite a lack of architectural training, she’s been partner in a firm—and her ability to communicate and network are legendary. Pearson’s first client when she launched her own consulting practice in 1987 was Frank Gehry. Today, she offers a seemingly uninterrupted feed of news, information, and advice for designers as @NextMoon on Twitter.
Thousands of architects are looking for work right now. What’s the best way to go about it?
Get out of the turkey-shoot mindset. That’s how people marketed 30 years ago: Go out in the woods, shoot, and hope something falls as a result. The first issue is, who is this [résumé] going to go to? Who do you want to impress, and how do you want to shape perceptions about you? Know about the firm and what they do.
What’s the prospective employer’s point of view?
They’re trying to predict future behavior. They want someone who is going to help them be more successful.
Are cover letters necessary?
You have to have a cover letter. It’s one page. The first 75 words are your sales pitch as to why they should turn the page. Give them enough information so they’re prepped as to who you are and why they want you.
What else does the cover letter need?
It has to have five basic parts:
(1) Address it to the right person—and not necessarily the person in the ad. You won’t know until you do research.
(2) Have that compelling paragraph of 75 words. It’s not, “I am writing you, here is my résumé.”
(3) Where do we take it from here? Are you available for interviews? Who can testify about you? If you have an opportunity to name drop, do it here.
(4) Make sure it has all of your contact information.
(5) The letter has to be graphically attractive. If you don’t have your own personal letterhead, design one. It’s an opportunity to show that you’re a creative person, you take this seriously, and you are your own brand.
How long should the résumé be?
It’s more flexible than we used to think. Twenty years ago we said everybody should have a two-page résumé. But if you lack experience, you don’t have two pages. And if you have a lot of experience, two pages aren’t sufficient.
What needs to be included?
Construct a résumé that’s going to make you the most compelling prospective employee. It’s up to you to make the employer want to interview you. There are three things: your experience; the presentation, both content and graphics; and your relevance to the firm.
How do you structure the résumé?
It’s the People magazine attention span. We go to the cover and look at the headlines that are most interesting. It’s only if the headline really gets our attention that we’ll flip through to page nine.
Should résumés be sent as hard copies or digital files?
I don’t know any firms that welcome printed materials. It’s easier for them to share electronic documents. But never send a Word document—you must send a PDF! You don’t want to jeopardize the format by sending it to someone who may not have the same font.
What’s the future?
I think résumés are very 20th century. If you send an e-mail with your 75 words and say, “I’ve prepared a website,” 90 percent are going to click through. They’re curious. If it’s a compelling package, it’s probably the best way you’re going to demonstrate who you are and what you do. Architects should have websites. It’s the most effective way to submit your credentials.