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How to get a junior architectural technologist job by applying on spec

How to get a graduate job in architectural technology

Junior architectural technology, architectural technician and architectural design jobs are not always advertised. Our tips will help you to make effective speculative applications.
Draw on your research to match up your skills with the company's values and portfolio of work.

Graduate, entry-level, trainee and junior architectural technologist, technician and design jobs are sometimes advertised by large, traditional graduate employers: for example, house-builders and property developers (such as Barratt), construction and engineering companies (such as BAM Construct and Mott MacDonald) and local authorities. You can find these vacancies on TARGETjobs, RIBA Appointments and the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) among other places.

However, most roles are found with smaller architectural practices and you are most likely to get your architectural technology job by sending them speculative applications.

Follow our four steps to speculative application success.

1. Shortlist employers who may hire junior architectural technologists and technicians

Draw up a shortlist of practices you’re interested in. Research those listed in the CIAT’s directory of practices and/or in RIBA’s list of chartered members. Both directories are available on the professional bodies’ respective websites and you can search by location. It is also worth asking your university department or careers service for a list of employers who have previously hired their students or for a list of alumni who would be willing to be contacted by you.

Almost counterintuitively, it may be worth looking out for employers who are advertising for more experienced positions. An advert for a senior architect role with a minimum of ten years’ experience is unsuitable for graduates, but the advert tells you that the practice is currently hiring and it should also include information on what the recruiter is looking for in terms of personal attributes and values.

Warning: there are over 3,000 architectural practices in the UK. Don’t be tempted to send out one blanket application to as many practices as possible, thinking that the more applications you send, the greater the likelihood of a positive response; a non-targeted application will just end up in the employers’ ‘deleted items’ folders.

Instead, concentrate on creating tailored applications for no more than five to ten architectural employers at a time. Prioritise the employers by looking into the type of projects they specialise in and their portfolio.

2. Write a unique covering letter for architectural technology jobs

Make sure you know who to address the letter to (never use ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ or ‘To whom it may concern’). If you can’t find the right contact name on the website, call up the practice and you should be able to find out.

In your covering letter, you will need to explain: why you are emailing and what you are looking for; why you want to work for the employer; and why you would be an asset to the organisation.

Research the organisation, its specialist areas and any recent projects, and be clear about what it is that attracts you to working there. If you can copy and paste the material from one application to another and it still makes sense, your application is not targeted enough – re-write it and make the employer really feel wanted.

What you could bring to the organisation includes your skills, knowledge, work experience and enthusiasm. Draw on your research to match up your skills with their key values or any information you find on past job listings. Back up the claims you make about your skills with evidence from your experiences, stressing achievements, measurable results and your personal contribution where possible. If you’re going to convince someone to hire you, even when they’re not currently recruiting, you’re going to have to sell your skills and knowledge – what do you have to offer that would realistically benefit the practice? Why you?

Make sure that you are clear about what you’re looking for (eg whether it’s work-shadowing or a paid role) and when you will be available to start. Mention that you’ll follow up the application by calling or visiting the office in X days’ time (between three days and one week is best). Then sign off with ‘Yours sincerely’.

3. Write a CV for speculative applications for architectural practices

On your CV, highlight the experiences you’ve had that are most relevant to the practice you’re applying to. Focus on the skills you developed as well as the tasks you did.

The format of CV you choose is up to you, but think about what’s the best way to present your experiences. A chronological format suits someone who has had several relevant experiences recently, while a skills-based CV lets applicants with more varied experiences draw attention to the skills they’ve developed. This format is also helpful if you want to emphasise how your skills will match up well with the practice. For example, if teamworking is important in the practice according to the website, a section on ‘Teamworking experience’ is a good way to demonstrate you will fit in well.

This may seem obvious, but put extra thought into the overall design and style of your CV, making sure that it remains easy to read, emphasises your main strengths and is aesthetically pleasing. This will emphasise your design skills. You can send speculative CVs as a PDF.

4. Assemble a portfolio of your design work

It’s also a good idea to include a sample of your work with your application. This doesn’t mean sending over a back catalogue of everything you’ve ever done – a PDF of a few pages should be enough.

Decide whether it’s better to compile several different pieces, showing the variety of work you can do, or use one particular project that’s similar to the practice’s work, showing your knowledge of the work you will do on the job. Alternatively, if you don’t already have something you want to send, why not do a new mini-project based on the practice’s current developments? It’s worth asking your university tutors or lecturers who are industry practitioners what they recommend.

5. Follow up a speculative application

Following up is a critical part of the success of speculative applications: it reinforces your enthusiasm to work for the employer. Make sure you follow up within the timeframe you specified on the covering letter. You should be able to do this over the phone, but if you do go into the office (if it is local), dress appropriately.

What do you say? You should ask if they’ve had the chance to review your application and whether they have any suitable roles available. If they turn you down, don’t keep pushing – move onto another practice. If they say there might be vacancies in a few months’ time, arrange with them how you can get back in contact later, if you’re still looking for opportunities by then.