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 five 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 practices/members. The 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.
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’.
- More advice on writing graduate and work experience covering letters for the construction industry.
3. Create a CV tailored to architectural practice
The CV format is up to you, but think about what’s the best way to present your experiences. A chronological format typically suits a graduate in their early 20s who has followed a traditional path from school to university and has some work experience in and outside of the architectural profession (placements, part-time jobs and so on). A skills-based CV, meanwhile, lets applicants who have followed a less conventional path bring together and emphasise the relevant skills they have developed. Whichever format you choose, highlight the experiences you’ve had that are most relevant to the practice you’re applying to. Focus on the skills (technical and non-technical) that you developed as well as the tasks you did.
Put extra thought into the overall design and style of your CV, making sure that it remains easy to read, emphasises your strengths and is aesthetically pleasing. This will highlight your design skills. If you illustrate your CV with examples of your designs, ensure that they are large enough and rendered in high enough resolution to be appreciated properly. You can send speculative CVs as PDFs.
- More advice on writing graduate and work experience CVs for the construction industry.
4. Assemble a portfolio of your design work
You should include a sample of your work with your application; in fact, when practices advertise vacancies they usually require a sample portfolio (typically an abbreviated portfolio of around five A3 pages), so it is good to so include one when applying speculatively too. When you go to interview, you can bring a more comprehensive portfolio.
Your portfolio should provide a snapshot of your technical abilities and include both drawings and images. It could comprise a range of your work from university or work placements (if so, try to provide at least one example of work that is similar to that of the practice). Alternatively, consider putting together a new mini-project based on the practice’s current projects. It’s worth asking your university tutors or lecturers who are industry practitioners for their thoughts on your portfolio.
Before submitting, check the image quality of the files you send and that all of the detail in your images can be clearly seen even if printed out on a smaller size page. This is particularly important if you have scanned in drawings and sketches done by hand.
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 contact 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.