This article was originally published by The Architect's Guide as "5 Techniques To Land A Job With The World's Most Competitive Architecture Firms."
As I discussed in my interviews with several firms in 7 Questions Answered By The World’s Top Architecture Firms On What They Look For In Job Applications, the quality of your application documents is extremely important.
However, for some of the most competitive offices even having a perfect portfolio isn't enough. So what can you do to stand out?
The bad news is that the top firms like Gehry Partners, Herzog & de Meuron, BIG, Foster + Partners, etc. are extremely competitive. For example, most of these firms receive over 20,000 applications per year.
Since they may only hire 50 people per year at most, it means you only have a 0.25% chance of getting hired!
To put that into perspective, as of 2016, Harvard has a 5.6% Undergraduate acceptance rate. Therefore, these architecture firms are over 20 TIMES more selective than even the most prestigious universities.
The Application Black Hole
The HR Department at Perkins+Will explained their system in detail:
"Perkins+Will uses an online application system offering candidates a portal to respond to job vacancies by uploading their resume and portfolio. Over the last five years, over 60,000 applicants have applied through the portal."
That is 1,000 applications received every month, for five years...
So with these daunting statistics, what can you do to increase your changes?
Here are my 5 Techniques To Land A Job With The World's Most Competitive Architecture Firms.
I also discussed many of these topics in my interview on the EntreArchitect Podcast. You can check it out here: EA186: Brandon Hubbard, The Architect’s Guide [Podcast]
1. Letters of Recommendation
Don't just put the default "Letters of Recommendation Available Upon Request" on your resume (CV).
Instead, actually include letters of recommendation with your applications. Depending on your work experience these can be from professors, previous employers or volunteer leaders.
I discuss this in more detail in a previous article: 5 Tips For Architecture Letters of Recommendation
If you are just starting out, your network of architects, hiring managers and other employees may be somewhat limited. However, I encourage you to work with what you have.
If you are a recent graduate, is there a professor that can make a connection for you at your desired firm?
Perhaps they don't have a direct connection but odds are they know someone who knows someone. The architecture community is relatively small so there is almost always a way to connect the network dots.
I covered this topic and more in: Don't Just Build Your Resume. Build Your Brand
3. Alternate Locations
Try applying to firms outside of the "top tier" cites such as San Francisco, London, New York, etc. These places, as with the firms located within, are extremely competitive.
Instead try places like Edinburgh, Scotland, Hartford, CT or Providence, RI, Oakland, CA that also have great firms but are not as sought after. While no firm wants to be used as a stepping stone, you can leverage this experience to then join your dream firm in a few years.
Establishing yourself in a local market gives you a strong employment foundation. This increases your chances of landing a job in a nearby city instead of applying from abroad or with little to no work history.
4. Firm Selection
Picking the right firm is very important, I covered this further in How to Create a Target List of Architecture Firms.
Really give this some thought. Think about where you want to be in 5-10 years. Will this firm help you get there? How does it align with your goals (professional and personal), current skills and office culture desires?
By finding a firm that is a good fit for you, by definition, will make it more likely that you are a fit for them.
In addition, many of my readers require some kind of visa sponsorship which further complicates the issue. Target firms with 40+ people as they are more likely to offer sponsorship, since the bigger offices will typically be familiar with this process.
5. Go On Vacation
Plan a trip to one of the areas you are targeting. Let the firms know clearly in your applications that you will be there.
For example, "I will be in New York from from Dec. 1 - 7th and I would like to meet with you to discuss a potential position." This takes the pressure off of the firm from asking you to travel without the promise of a job.
If you do not hear back within a few days, follow up with an email or phone call. Don't worry about being too pushy. Be aggressive with your job search... just don't be annoying.
I hope this has been helpful for your architecture job search. Good luck!
To help you with your architecture job search, I've created a mega-pack of free resources that includes architecture resumes, cover letters, and an extensive collection of application documents. Click for a free download.