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Portfolio Cover Letter Guidelines

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:

 


Strong Cover Letter

493: 1

December 12, 2001

Portfolio Committee

English Department

Humboldt State University

Arcata, CA  95521-8299

Dear Portfolio Reader:

In this portfolio I included a variety of pieces in order to display a wide breadth of my abilities and interests.  I tried to show the presence of awareness of my audience and rhetorical purpose by providing several different styles of writing.  [Comment on paragraph one.]1

I chose to present "Voyeur" first2 because I feel that it provides the reader with an introduction and insight3 into my character and interests in a personable manner.  Although I feel this piece stemmed from worthwhile introspection and used vivid descriptionssuch as that of riding through a Mexican border town in a "shiny white rental car smelling of new plastic and a faint tinge of the prior occupant's cigarettes" past ancient grandmothers who "sit listlessly on the dust packed earth with their faces wrinkled by a thousand years of sun, tears, and age,"4 I consider it my weakest piece because I was experimenting with writing a subjective narrative in first person, a style that is new and unfamiliar to me.  because I was not writing an objective essay or a research paper, it forced me to abandon writing strategies that I had found adequate and successful for the requirements of previous classes.  It forced me to write about emotions as opposed to logic and straight facts.  Facts tainted by emotion are harder for me to portray because I often don't trust my writing to convey their meaningfulness.  For example, when I wrote, "When I came back, I returned with a sense of confidence,"I did so because I felt I could not even begin to convey the magnitude of my new found sense of self worth and the absence of ostracism from my peers that I felt at that point.5

Because I wasn't comfortable with this paper, I had many people read over it for me as I made my revisions.  Some of these people suggested that I name the destinations of my travels.  I purposely did not do so because I only sought to convey the incredible impact traveling can have upon me; thus, I felt the locations were irrelevant and possibly distracting.6

Despite my concerns about the strength of "Voyeur" in comparison to the others, I think it enhances my portfolio because it does succeed in telling the reader about me and some of the definitive influences on my character.  [Comment on paragraph four.]7

The second piece I chose to include in the portfolio was written in response to the events of September 11th.  I wrote a letter to an elected official because I felt its value would be twofold: I could fulfill a class requirement while simultaneously informing an elected official of my opinion on such a serious situation.8  I feel that the latter is highly important because if one believes strongly in something, and she doesn't tell her representatives her opinion, then they cannot be held accountable for their actions or inaction.

Although when I wrote it felt passionately about the situation, I tempered my vocabularybecause if I had used over-emotional language my opinion would have been easier to dismiss or discredit.  It was also purposely written to be concise.  I wanted to make my point and move on, and not overload it with facts, so that it would actually be read and not just skimmed over.9  I know I made unsubstantiated generalizationslike, "For even as unprincipled as terrorism is, the desperation and craziness of those who commit these crimes stem from real situations of injustice in the world," but for the sake of brevity I did not find this unreasonable.10  I also feel that in a letter to an elected official one need not justify her views but merely state them, for it is not the official's job to evaluate his constituents' views, only to represent them.

Finally, the third piece of writing I included was my research paper11 on the philosophical beliefs of North Coast Earth First!ers.  I thought it would be a strong piece to end with as it demonstrates my skills to research a topic at length, analyze it, and also compare it with other topics for clarification.  For example, I showed the philosophies of the New Age Movement and Animal Rights proponents to contrast with a deep ecological philosophy.12 This helped to support my assertionsabout their beliefs as well as dispel some of the misconceptions surrounding them.13

The tried and true methods I used to write this paper made it one that I felt quite comfortable including in my portfolio.  For example, I outlined this piece by using a method for writing research papers suggested to me by a previous instructor.  As I concluded my research, I simply wrote down any relevant points and quotes that I wanted to use on index cards.  On the back of these cards I wrote the bibliographic information of my sources in MLA format.  Then, when I felt I had enough in formation to begin writing, I laid out the cards in the order in which I wanted to present the information they held which instantly provided me with an outline.  Writing my works cited page and bibliography were then a cinch because I didn't have to return to any of my sources or even reach for my MLA handbook.  [Comment on paragraph eight.]14

Fortunately, I entered this semester with a strong background in English which allowed many of my revisions to focus on style, purpose, and trying to make my voice heard.  And although much of this semester's work validated the effectiveness of strategies that I had used in the past, I learned the areas in which my writing is weakest and needs the most work.  I now know that to improve my overall writing abilities I need to continue to practice writing subjectively and also vary the sentence structures I use to add depth to my work.  I also learned that it is okay—and ultimately necessary—for one to experiment outside her comfort zone in order to achieve a higher level of success.15

Sincerely,

493


 

Annotation

  1. The writer opens with her goals for her portfolio; although this is certainly not the only way to open the cover letter, I respond positively to he sense of purpose. 

  2. This author remembers to identify each of her submissions by title--not be genre--and she formats the title appropriately.  She also remembers to discuss her rationale for ordering her submissions as she does. 

  3. Herein lies an example of one minor concern with this cover letter: it is a bit wordy.  I wouldn't use both "introduction" and "insight."  

  4. Not only does this author support her assertions about "vivid descriptions" with specific examples, she does so by gracefully integrating (and correctly punctuating) her quotations into the cover letter's text.  

  5. This writer makes excellent decisions concerning how many quotations to include.  She offers brief, specific examples without making the whole portfolio redundant.  

  6. Here the author discusses one of her writing decisions--a very smart strategy.  Not only does she reveal her control over her writing, she also casts this section of her paper as a strength rather than as an oversight or mistake.  

  7. This paragraph feels redundant to me.  I would have deleted it.  

  8. I like that this writer exposes her writing motivation; in this way, she reveals her appreciation for the role writing plays in the world, for the power of writing.  

  9. Again, the writer highlights in this paragraph her decision-making process; again, she casts this element of her paper as a strength rather than as an error.  

  10. The author wisely identifies a generalization--providing a specific example--and explains her decision.  

  11. The author slips a bit here by identifying this submission by genre rather than by title.  

  12. Again, this author makes her decision-making process transparent, effectively revealing her behind-the-scenes work.  

  13. I don't find sufficient support for this generalization.  I find myself wondering HOW these comparisons "support [her] assertions about their beliefs as well as dispel some of the misconceptions surrounding them."  

  14. As an evaluator, I am reassured by these process revelations.  They increase my confidence that this author is in control of her writing, that she has mastered skills that will continue to serve her in her college career and beyond.  

  15. I like that this author offers herself advice for continuing to improve her writing.  This kind of awareness will most likely result in continuing improvement.  


Updated: 08.16.07

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