RIBA Appointments CV and portfolio guidelines

RIBA Appointments CV and portfolio guidelines

These guidelines are intended to be your first port of call when you are preparing your CV and portfolio for prospective interviews. Use them as a general guide when you are beginning your job search. You can always seek additional support and specific advice from the experts at RIBA Appointments.

Your CV and your portfolio are your primary marketing tools for yourself and your career. Your CV may well be the first representation of you that a potential employer receives. In an interview, your portfolio will be the illustration of your career, your experience and your expertise. Your goal is to make a positive impression.

General guidelines:

  • you are telling the story of your career. So, remember to focus on development and success. Consider your strengths and weaknesses, and describe or illustrate your strengths.
  • Consider every word that you use and why you are using it. Make sure it has a place and purpose that will help towards presenting you in a positive light.
  • Success may come in many forms – be prepared to describe it: think beyond simply producing the project on time and on budget. Did you save the practice money? Did you research and use innovative materials? Did you persuade the client against a design catastrophe to a more considered approach? Did you educate the client from a tired formulaic design to a more creative solution? Be prepared to illustrate how this benefited the business, such as saving money, winning business, gaining positive client feedback.
  • Be sure to be clear about the specific role that you had on a project; what was its scope and your particular input? For example, describe whether you lead the project, or had joint responsibilities for certain aspects, or you took instruction but worked independently on part of the project.
  • Outline what additional skills you demonstrated on projects, for example, problem solving, communication skills, meeting deadlines, organisation and planning, prioritisation, self-motivation. Take some time to decide how you will evidence these skills.
  • Don’t forget to mention any management or leadership experience you may have. As well as personal skills and achievements, consider whether the role to which you are applying may require you to manage or supervise others, and how you can demonstrate those skills.
  • Along with your academic and professional qualifications, include registration numbers, such as ARB, so that these can be checked.
  • Make sure you research the company to which you are applying. You can then tailor your application to show relevance and genuine interest in the type of work and projects that they carry out.
  • Whilst you may prepare a general all-purpose CV, do try and personalise it to the actual role, and any job description and person specification that is available. Align any specific skills and experience you possess to the requirements of the role.

Curricula Vitae (CVs):

  • Prepare this in Word or PDF format separately from your portfolio. Be sure to read the job advertisement to check if any specific instructions have been given regarding the application. It wouldn’t do to fall at this first hurdle and your application discarded because clear guidelines for application have not been followed.
  • Keep it focussed and no longer than 2 A4 pages.
  • Use black text and simple fonts, on a white background.
  • Begin by a clear and simple personal profile, stating your level of qualification, credentials and what sort of role you are seeking.
  • List your experience first, beginning with the most recent and including dates, including months and years.
  • If there are recent gaps, state a simple explanation, such as, ‘6 months travelling in Eastern Europe’ or ‘carried out voluntary work whilst seeking employment’. Unexplained gaps may put off the person reading your CV.
  • List your education and qualifications – the specific course taken and the educational institution.
  • Be sure to include any awards that you have won, since these are likely to enhance your qualifications and the perception of your skills.
  • Set down your particular skills and proficiency, particularly in software packages. Be honest about your level of expertise because this may be tested as part of the interview process. Be sure to include other relevant skills such as hand drawing, or model-making.
  • Offer references or list them if you still have space on your CV. References should cover your most recent employer and should be your immediate manager, as opposed to a work colleague.
  • Check your spelling.
  • Ask someone else to read your CV and seek their feedback.


  • This should be prepared so that it can be submitted separately from your CV.
  • Use illustrations of projects that you have actually worked on.
  • Focus on the particular parts of the project on which you worked yourself.
  • Try to demonstrate your specific skills, for example, where you solved a design problem, or where you solved a technical issue. Try not to include images of a project simply because you like them – they need a purpose for being in your portfolio.
  • Offer images in a variety of media and formats, e.g. hand drawings, perspectives, plans, 3D, photographs.
  • Resist the temptation to provide images of every stage of your career. Focus on the most recent projects on which you have worked. This should particularly be the case if you have already had a long career. Prospective employers will want to know where you are now.
  • Create a focused narrative for each image including what skills it is intended to demonstrate.
  • Set the images down in chronological order to reflect your CV.
  • You may have to email your portfolio, so use a simple format such as PDF and try to keep the file under 5MB, otherwise it may not get through the server of the potential employer.
  • Prepare a maximum of 5 – 10 pages.




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