How To Write The Perfect Architecture Cover Letter

I see many applicants fail to recognize the importance of an architecture cover letter. Perhaps now that a majority of job applications are emailed it is less obvious that a letter should be included.

For this post I share what you should and shouldn't include in an architecture cover letter. I will also discuss some general tips, formatting, submitting options along with a sample architecture cover letter.

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:

Need help finding an architecture job? No more digging for hiring manager details or sending to a black hole online portal. I give you the direct contact information (name and email) for each open position with The Architect's Guide Architecture Job Search Service.

The cover letter usually the first thing an architecture hiring manager will see with any job application. This is a vital document that can help set your application apart from the other candidates.

The number one purpose of a cover letter is to get an interview. However, this short letter is an opportunity to show the potential employer several key points regarding your application.

What is the purpose of a cover letter?

  • Highlights your key skills and qualifications relevant to the position you are applying.
  • Provides brief project examples of your relevant experience.
  • Shows you have done your research, you know the company and what they are looking for in a candidate.
  • Expresses your enthusiasm for the role (also architecture) and emphasises the value you will provide the office.
  • Communicates “the intangibles” that is not obvious in your architecture resume

General cover letter tips

  • Keep it short. One page is ideal.
  • Who are you? Let the interviewer know who you are. If you have a mutual colleague or connection make sure you mention them.
  • Use active voice instead of passive. “I started the project” is better than “the project was started by me”.
  • Make it easy to read, formatting is especially important in the design world.
  • Formatting should match your resume so they look like a complete set.
  • Sell yourself, this is your marking document. Highlight the best parts of your resume without duplicating it. This is your two sentence "elevator pitch".
  • Highlight your "soft" skills. For example your work ethic, ability to meet deadlines and work long hours if required (not uncommon in architecture).
  • Show that you are enthusiastic and passionate about the firm and the role. This can't be found in a resume.
  • Don't be a robot. Be a person. May generic resumes don't sound genuine. Try to add a personal touch by mentioning something unique and interesting about yourself.
  • Clearly and concisely explain why your qualifications  are a good fit for the job. 

Mistakes to avoid

  • Too long. Keep it to one page.
  • Isn't customized to the firm you are applying and sounds generic.
  • Using a non professional email address (i.e. awesomeperson@email.com).
  • Avoid phrases such as “I’m the perfect candidate for this position because…” or “I am confident I will exceed your expectations in every way.”
  • Avoid complicated, confusing sentences, or superfluous words (like superfluous) in an effort to sound smart.
  • Using one line emails such as, "see attached resume and cover letter".
  • Spelling errors. Triple check everything and have a friend read it over. Just because spell check didn't catch anything doesn't mean your (you're) perfect.

To avoid these common mistakes I recommend using Grammarly, other programs fix spelling errors but Grammarly does much more by checking contextual spelling and vocabulary. Since it is a Chrome plugin it works anywhere you are writing online - job applications, Gmail, LinkedIn, etc.

The biggest mistakes I see on job applications are grammar errors, so this is a great tool for perfecting your architecture cover letter and resume (CV).

And it's FREE! Check it out here: Grammarly.com

How to structure your architecture cover letter

Here is the basic outline for what you should include.
Three concise paragraphs is ideal.

Introduction paragraph

You need to quickly and clearly answer the employer’s unspoken questions: “Who are you?” “Why are you contacting me?” “Why should I hire you?” 

List the role for which you are applying and explain why. 

Hint at what you can provide the firm by briefly highlighting your skills, education or experience.

Good fit paragraph

Elaborate on your skills and qualifications and how they apply to the position.

Use the job description for this. For example if they are looking for a Revit expert, be sure to highlight it here. Do not just copy your resume but pick out a couple of relevant examples to get their attention.

Closing paragraph

Emphasize how you want to contribute to the firm, not what you can get out of it. End with a firm statement that you will be contacting them and that you are looking forward to the opportunity.

Sample Architecture Cover Letter

Here is a sample cover letter that you can use as a starting point. However, remember you are selling your unique story.

UPDATE FROM BRANDON 3/7/2017:

Hi there, just a quick note before you read the example. Since this article has become very popular (#1 on Google) I have seen many word-for-word copies of this architecture cover letter in a lot of applications. I don't mind it being copied but you are doing yourself a disservice because all of the hiring managers know about this article. "Here is another Brandon cover letter". Please just use this as a reference for you own voice and experience. Thanks!

This is a business letter so use formal block formatting (not indented) paragraphs. Don't forget to include your contact information in the header or footer. Just email and phone number are acceptable, your mailing address is not necessary. 

Download the example documents for a formatted sample. 

[insert your contact information in header or footer]
October 12, 2015
Mr. Chris Anderson
Design Director
ABC Architects
145 Main Street
Boston, MA 02108
Dear Mr. Anderson:
With this letter, I wish to express my strong interest in working with ABC Architects as a Junior Designer. After three years in design and construction, I believe I would bring several areas of competence to ABC Architects. My resume detailing my professional background is enclosed for your review and consideration.
In my current position, I manage a team of designers and coordinate various consultants and work streams under demanding deadlines. I have contributed to the design of numerous high-rise projects including the First Bank Tower in New York and the Finance Office HQ in Dallas.
Through these and other projects detailed in my resume I am experienced with building materials and systems, sustainability techniques and construction administration on complex projects. I have extensive experience with a broad range of design and management software including AutoCAD, Sketchup, Revit, 3DS Max and Adobe Suite.
I would very much like to speak with you about the designer opportunities and the ways you can utilize my expertise. Please expect my call on Thursday, October 15th to arrange a convenient time to discuss. I look forward to speaking with you about this opportunity.
Sincerely,
James M. Smith
[insert your contact information in header or footer]

Notice it does not say, “I look forward to hearing from you” or “Please call me at your earliest convenience.” You need to be firm and show initiative at this stage.

Submitting the cover letter

There are generally three ways to submit your cover letter:

1. Email
2. Website submission
3. Mailed hard copy

Email Applications

I generally recommend you include the cover letter in the body of the message if you are applying by email. By keeping the cover letter as part of the email it takes out one step from clicking on two or three separate attachments (cover letter, resume, and sample portfolio.)

There are several options in submitting your application by email, I will have a look at these options and discuss the pros and cons of each method.

Here are the three main “ingredients” of your application

1. Cover letter
2. Resume
3. Sample Portfolio

Option 1: Cover letter in body of email, resume and portfolio attached separately

Pros:

  • Makes it more likely the recipient will read your cover letter if it is just included in the email as opposed to opening the cover letter attachment.
  • Keeps the resume and sample portfolio separate so the formatting can be different.
  • Makes the package more interesting instead of opening the attachment and seeing a letter, instead of a portfolio image or a well formatted resume.

Cons:

  • The above benefit of the resume and portfolio separate could also be a disadvantage because it creates two separate attachments, increasing the chance they won’t both be opened.

Option 2: Cover letter, resume and portfolio attached separately

Pros:

  • Allows different formatting for each document.
  • Allows the hiring manager to skip to whichever document he or she is looking for.

Cons:

  • More things to open and/or lose

Option 3: Cover letter, resume and portfolio combined into one attachment

Pros:

  • Easier to keep track of just one document, but if this email does not include a compelling email body cover letter then the attachment may not be opened at all.

Cons:

  • If you also include the cover letter in the email body AND the attachment it appears redundant when you read the email then open the pdf. This can make it a little trickier if you have different formatting between the three documents, from portrait to landscape for example. However it can make it a little easier for the hiring manager to print or forward if it is all-in-one document.

Website submissions

Some of the large architecture offices will have application submissions on their website. For cover letters in this situation there are generally two options:

1. Attaching a pdf cover letter
Always go with this option first. If they only offer a cover letter text box then that becomes a formatting issue.

2. A text only box
This is usually a plain text box that does not allow formatting, you need to have your cover letter formatted for both html and plain text when applying so they are both clearly readable.

Mailed hard copy

I generally don't recommend submitting hard copies of your applications. However, if you insist on snail mail be sure to print your cover letter on quality white bond paper (that matches your resume) and sign it.

You may want to send it in a waterproof envelope to reduce the chance of it getting wet.

I hope you found this information on architecture cover letters helpful for your next application.

Want to find your dream architecture job?
Check out The Architect's Guide Resources.

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:

Thanks for reading, see also my posts on:

How To Write The Perfect Architecture Resume (CV)

The Top 5 Architecture Interview Questions

Where To Apply For Architecture Jobs Online

Good luck!

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

Have a suggestion for a future blog post? Please let me know in the comments below.