5 Tips For Architecture Letters of Recommendation

I have always stressed the importance of having reference letters to accompany your architecture job applications.

If you think of your applications documents as sales tools, the obvious problem is that there is a conflict of interest.

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The only person describing how great YOU are is YOU.

Would you be less likely to buy something on Amazon if all of the five star reviews were from the company selling the product? This is why letters of recommendation are a powerful tool that is often overlooked in the architecture job search process.

Don't wait for the employer to ask for references, provide the letter(s) along with the rest of your application.

The biggest hurdle for most applicants is how to handle reference letters when you are currently employed. While it would be nice to have a letter from your current supervisor, it is just one of the many sources.

For example you could get letters from:

  • Former supervisors who have left your current employer

  • Previous employers and/or supervisors

  • Professors (if you are a recent graduate)

  • Past and current clients you have worked with

  • Past and current consultants you have worked with (engineers, landscape, etc.)

  • Leaders in any professional organizations or affiliations that you are a member

In addition, here are five letter of recommendation tips to keep in mind:

1. Chose the right reference

This is an obvious one but make sure who you pick as a reference will have nice things to say about you.

Actually, not only nice but also GREAT, AMAZING things to say about you! The last thing you want is a negative comment that puts you in a worse position than when you started.

2. Don’t be pushy

To avoid awkwardly cornering your references, ask them by email. This gives them a chance to think about the obligation without putting them on the spot.

Ask "Do you feel you know me well enough to write me a reference?" rather than just "Could you write me a reference?" 

3. Compliment then ask

Explain to your potential reference why you chose them to speak on your behalf.

Complimenting their skills can be an additional nudge to get them to spend the time. For example, “I would greatly appreciate a letter of reference from you as I have always admired your writing and communication abilities.”

4. Be courteous

Always thank your potential referee for taking the time to read your email. Be sure to give them enough time, at least a couple of weeks to complete the letter.

Make the deadline clear but not overly demanding. Make sure to get back to them as quickly as possible if they have questions.

5. Give them something to work with

If your reference is just handed a blank page they are less likely to finish it or provide something meaningful.

Provide your references with a list of bullet points including projects you have worked on, goals you have accomplished and examples of teamwork or leadership. You can divide these large topics up, so that each letter can cover one area in detail.

Hopefully this has been helpful for your future architecture job applications. Good luck!

For further reading on applications, portfolios, interview preparation and questions see The Complete Package below:

Thanks for reading, see also my posts on:

The Two Page Architecture Portfolio

Where To Apply For Architecture Jobs Online

25 Things To Consider When Choosing An Architecture Job Offer

Good luck!

Brandon Hubbard, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C

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