In this digital world, where we ping everything over as an email attachment, is there a place for a cover letter for architects’ job applications?
Are you just wasting everybody’s time when all the potential employer is interested in is your resume and portfolio?
Despite the ease of digital communications, the architecture cover letter plays a crucial role in getting you that interview.
Think of it as a trailer for a movie. Its function is to highlight that your application is worth a look. It tempts the architecture hiring manager to look at your resume and portfolio.
Writing an architecture cover letter saves the architecture hiring manager precious time in that first sift, especially when facing hundreds of applications. A cover letter that sparkles gets your application noticed and saved from hitting the unread slush pile.
Why Have a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is necessary for all job applications from new graduate architect roles to architecture internship and senior positions except:
- When the application specifically states you don’t need one – you need to demonstrate you can follow instructions, so don’t include a cover letter.
- You complete an online form with no space for a cover letter – there is probably a box having the same information that a cover letter provides.
- Your cover letter is poorly written and not an asset – if you are serious about job searching, you must resolve this issue.
- Lack of time – it is better to miss out on the cover letter than send a hasty, poorly written one.
A tailored cover letter is a golden opportunity for you to boost your application. A cover letter lets you:
- Promote your relevant skills and qualifications – the crucial ones for this role.
- Highlight your best project examples from your portfolio.
- Demonstrate enthusiasm for the role.
- Focus on the value you bring as the ideal employee.
- Reflect the research you do into the company and lets you present yourself as the best candidate for their needs.
- Explain your resume – gaps in your employment and why you are looking for a new role.
- Demonstrate your written communication skills.
- Put a human face on your application and show some of your personality and style.
Also, even if most recruiters don’t read the cover letter, they expect to see it as part of a “complete” application pack. An incomplete application pack may an instant rejection.
Generally, as part of the recruitment process, you avoid disappointing the recruiter or failing to meet their expectations.
14 Top Tips for a Good Architecture Cover Letter
You know you must include an engaging, professionally-written architecture cover letter as your first step to marketing yourself to the architecture hiring manager, but how to write the perfect architecture cover letter?
1. Keep it Relevant
Tailor everything you put in the architecture cover letter to the job role.
Your cover letter is your first introduction to yourself; it needs to make the right points that matter to the recruiter.
Your proudest moment may put a smile on your face, but it does not go in your cover letter if it is not relevant to your application.
When you write a cover letter for architecture fresh graduate roles, you still concentrate on relevant parts of your experience. You may be talking about your second-best project rather than your first, but it is what the recruiter wants that matters.
2. Be Brief
Your recruiter is a busy person. If your cover letter is more than one page, they are going to pass it by.
They may be missing out on the best candidate (you), but you only get one page to sell yourself. George Bernard Shaw summed it up with his apology for writing a long letter when he didn’t have time to write a short one (source).
Writing a concise, relevant cover letter takes more effort than rambling on for two or three pages. You can pack everything you need on one page and demonstrate your ability to get to the point in as few words as possible: Be brief.
3. Shake Hands
When you walk into a meeting with a stranger, you take time to introduce yourself to the other person. You let them know who you are and what you are doing in the room.
A cover letter is a written form of that meeting with a stranger, so you need to introduce yourself in the opening lines.
4. Name Drop
If you have a human connection with the company or the recruiter, mention it in your architecture cover letter. Not in a creepy “I know what you did last summer” way but in passing.
Highlight the fact that you share colleagues, worked together, or met at a conference because that connection puts a human face on your application.
5. Polish Your Presentation
Formatting, spelling, grammar, and voice all matter, because they build an impression of you as an employable person.
You wouldn’t turn up to an interview in ripped and dirty clothing, so why present your cover letter for your architecture internship as sloppy and careless?
Your cover letter is step one in the interview process. Make sure it is dressed right for the job.
Format the cover letter so it:
- Matches your resume and portfolio in style.
- Straight forward and easy to read.
- Use your designer eye to make it look attractive and classic.
7. Spelling and Grammar
There is no excuse for poor spelling and grammar when you have digital tools to catch most of your mistakes.
Don’t rely totally on your digital tools; if you have time, put it to one side and proofread a day or two later to pick up typos and other errors.
8. Active Voice
The active voice is more dynamic and engaging than the passive voice. Most of what you read on web pages is an active voice because people relate better to that tone.
If you are not familiar with writing in an active voice, either pay for or get a free trial of some grammar software to highlight your passive voice use.
9. Read Aloud
The quickest way to pick out clumsy phrases and double-check your spelling and punctuation is to read your cover letter aloud.
Your eye skips over mistakes and sees what it expects to see; you can’t trick your ear. Reading your written work aloud is the best way to edit.
10. Perfect Pitch
Take your best, most relevant skill and experience from your resume and pitch it in your cover letter with top billing.
This sales pitch is not a cut-and-paste from your resume or portfolio. It must have a different tone and presentation.
Imagine you had twenty seconds to impress and write a couple of sentences with your best qualities. Don’t waste the opportunity to tell the interviewer why you are perfect for this role with the ideal blend of qualifications and experience.
11. Soft Sell
You have architecture skills that you can showcase on your resume and back up with awards, accreditations, qualifications, and experience.
You will not get employed only on your architecture skills; valuable employees have a range of soft skills.
Soft skills like teamwork, leadership, building a rapport, and willingness to put in extra effort to get the job done on time make you the better candidate. They are also the hardest to prove.
Your cover letter is an excellent vehicle to highlight some of those valuable soft skills with relevant examples.
12. Human Touch
Your architecture cover letter is an opportunity to get the interviewer to see you as a person by including something that makes you stand out from the crowd.
A paragraph that starts with ‘when I’m not working’ and gives an insight into your character.
It has to be a genuine snippet of information about what makes you unique and interesting to know, so don’t say you like to climb mountains or scuba dive, trying to add some non-existent color to your life.
Fate will ensure the person you face across the interview table is an expert in that field. Be real, and be honest.
13. Flatter the Firm
You are applying for this job because you want to work for this firm and in this role. Be enthusiastic; tell them what you like about the role and why you want to work for them.
Your resume and portfolio don’t allow you to explain why you are applying, but the cover letter does.
14. Make it Personal
Your architecture cover letter must address a real person, not a job role. If you don’t know who the right person, ring up and ask.
Avoid the generic ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ approach because it highlights you have not done enough research for your application.
Avoid These Cover Letter Mistakes
If you follow the top tips above, you avoid most of the common mistakes, but it is worth checking through this checklist to make sure you avoid some of these mistakes:
One page is the maximum length for a cover letter for architects’ jobs. Keep it concise and tightly edited.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Your cover letter can’t be a standard generic document that you use for all applications.
Ideally, you tailor your resume and portfolio to fit the application and the role, but you always write a new cover letter.
The cover letter is a personal way of introducing yourself as a potential candidate for this unique job opportunity.
It is a fine line between promoting yourself and sounding idiotic and boastful. You want to avoid trash talking and concentrate on showing evidence of your value.
Avoid sentences like ‘I am the ideal candidate for this role’ – your need to allow your interviewer to make that assessment.
If you say you are a skilled communicator, offer some concrete, meaningful examples to show you are not making an empty claim. Instead of telling them you are an experienced professional, demonstrate it.
You need to present yourself as a professional asset to any company. That covers all the details from your job-hunting email address to how you address and sign your cover letter.
Many people like to set up an email for their job hunting because they know that all the relevant emails are in the same place and not lost among family and friends’ messages.
Resist the temptation to have a “fun” email address like ‘world-class’ or ‘chocaholic’ because that immediately makes you stand out in the wrong way.
For a professional appearance, pick a variation on your name – it helps link your application with you and does not put off a potential interviewer.
Long and Convoluted
Use short sentences and straightforward words.
The purpose of your cover letter is to give information to impress the interviewer. If they must look up a word or try hard to puzzle out what you mean, they won’t bother, and your application will go on the reject pile.
Practical business communications are simple, uncomplicated, and easy to read. Your cover letter must demonstrate that you communicate in straightforward ways.
An email is a secondary cover letter. It is an opportunity to express how polite and friendly you are in your approach.
The email is not a cover letter (unless you choose to make it a cover email), and although it should be brief, it should not be a one-liner saying ‘see attached’ but needs to follow the same format of a short letter rather than a post-it note.
Failure to Check
Spelling errors, typos, bad formatting, and poor grammar all make a recruiter think you don’t pay attention to detail or take pride in your work.
Proofread, read it aloud, get a friend to read it, and use computer software to catch and fix as many errors as you can.
Even with your best efforts, some typos are likely to creep through, but you can minimize them to the point where they are not making you look incompetent or careless.
Not Following Instructions
If the recruiter says they want a pdf of your cover letter, don’t send them a word document.
Most job applications will explain how they want you to submit your application – follow the instructions to the letter. If you don’t understand something, then ask for clarification.
Leave yourself plenty of time to write your architecture cover letter; one hour before the deadline to submit leaves you stressed, short of time, and unable to present yourself at your best.
Ideally, you write your cover letter and come back to it in a couple of days to polish and perfect.
The Perfect Structure of a Good Cover Letter
Borrow advice for beginner story writers: your cover letter needs to be a three-act play with a beginning, middle, and end.
The physical structure of your cover letter is three paragraphs – introduction, main pitch, and persuader.
In this section you:
- Say who you are.
- State the job title.
- Say why you are applying for this role.
- Mention any connections.
- Begin your sales pitch by hinting at the quality of your resume and portfolio.
Second Paragraph: Main Pitch
This paragraph is where you highlight that you have the skills and experience. Focus on the top skills asked for in the application pack and demonstrate your best qualities.
If they want a 3D renderer or specific software skills, mention where you fit.
This part is your main pitch. If these words are all you can say about yourself, what would you say?
You make every detail matter to the job application.
Final Paragraph: Persuader
In this final paragraph, you express enthusiasm and how you can add value to the firm. You also need to add a phrase covering your enclosed resume, portfolio, and desire for further contact.
The standard structure of the architecture cover letter is straightforward, but you need excellent formatting and a clear layout.
Methods of Submission
There are three main ways of applying to an architecture job:
- Online Portal.
- Hardcopy in the post.
Increasingly, larger firms opt for an online document that you complete and submit to apply for a job role. These can be documents where you paste all the information into text boxes or a combination of completing text boxes and uploading pdf documents.
Your primary challenge is formatting, so you need both Html and plain text formatting to ensure that your words present well and as you intended.
If you submit your application by email, you have some options:
Option 1: Put the cover letter in the email body and attach your resume and portfolio as one or two documents.
This approach’s advantage is that your recipient reads the cover letter first and then opens the attachments – the preferred order. The disadvantage is that the person receiving the email may not be the interviewer, which may mean they don’t see the cover letter.
Option 2: Create one attachment: Cover letter, resume, and portfolio.
The advantage of this is that you know the interviewer gets the whole package in the right order. The disadvantage is that you need to compose a different covering email to avoid duplication when moving from the email to the attachment.
Option 3: Send an email with three attachments: cover letter, resume, portfolio.
The advantage is that you can tailor and format each document separately as a stand-alone document. The disadvantage is that the interviewer can ignore your carefully crafted cover letter.
Post a Hard Copy
Increasingly this option is the least favorable for you or the recruiter.
Occasionally you come across a request for hard copies of an application, and then you have no alternative. It costs more for postage, printing, and the expense of using high-quality paper.
Also, you have no way of knowing that your precious application got to its destination unless you pay for tracking or make a follow-up phone call to confirm receipt.
Knowing how to write the perfect architecture cover letter lets you present yourself most effectively.
A tailored cover letter for architecture fresh graduate roles shows a level of professional attitude and ambition, while one for a more senior position lets you spotlight your close fit to the job specification.
All the best!