You’re a recent grad with a degree in Architectural Engineering and you’re ready to pound the streets for that first real job. You’ve fined tuned your resume to include every WOW factor—the things headhunters and career advisors insist will at least get you an interview. But now comes the tough part—the cover letter.
You don’t have much experience and you’ve only written a handful of cover letters in your entire life. So what should you include and omit in this all-important initial piece of correspondence? What’s the WOW factor that will get an interview in what many call the worst job market since the great depression? Some tips to get you started:
Make it Personal. Write your letter to a specific person. No “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam.” You’ll have to do some digging via Google, LinkedIn or other corporate information sites to find out who the hiring manger is. And by all means, make sure you spell his or her name correctly, and use their latest title (call the company and find out to be sure). The person who placed the job ad will want to know if you’re just shot-gunning resumes by the dozen.
Make it Knowledgeable. Show the hiring manager you’ve taken the time to do some research on the company. Praise them for a specific and recent design or project. Briefly explain why you like it. If the project was local, visit it and make notes to include in your letter. Make note of any upcoming projects (go to the company’s web site and dig around). Mention how you’d like to be part of the team—at an entry level, of course.
Make it Convincing. Explain what areas of architecture ignite your passion. Connect that passion with what the firm is currently doing. Once again, you’ll have to do some crawling around on the company’s website. Read their most current press releases, published articles, even blogs. It’s in there, but you have to dig.
Make it to AIA Events. Go to these and other industry functions, seminars, trade shows and conferences. Introduce yourself to the top brass and other senior members of the staff. Don’t ask for a job. Ask questions and listen. Then ask for their business card. When writing your cover letter, name drop and include that you talked to so and so about their latest project.
One final bit of advice: Don't include your salary requirements or ask about relocation reimbursements. These are things best left for the face to face interview. You may think your letters are disappearing in a black hole, especially after you’ve sent out dozens without a response. But be persistent and don’t give up.