Did you know that an Academic Cover Letter is essential when applying for academic jobs? In the following article, I will share with you why you definitely need one and what you should include.
First things first. Why would you bother with a cover letter when you have already included lots of information in your CV and application form? A cover letter can emphasise why you are perfect for the job. It gives you an opportunity to match your skills, knowledge and experience to the person requirements.
Through your cover letter, you have an invaluable opportunity to display your communications skills. It needs to be carefully edited to ensure that there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes. Your application will end up in the rejection pile within seconds if there are errors. At times, the more you read a document, the more you become blind to glaring mistakes. Do ask a friend or a colleague to proofread your work. It could really be worth it!
It is wise to emphasise your achievements as well as to highlight what you can offer the organisation. Ask yourself the following question: ‘What is the one skill, experience or knowledge that few other applicants could offer’? Make sure that you explain what you can do for the organisation or the department if being offered the role.
Cover letters must be professional and formal. Do not be tempted to adopt a chatty or colloquial style in order to seem friendly and approachable. The cover letter is not the place to do this. Equally the font and layout should be in a standard business letter style. Address the letter to the interviewer by name if possible rather than using ‘Dear Sir/Madam’. If you are unsure, find out who the head of department is and address the letter to them.
An academic cover letter should not be more than two pages. Remember that the selection panel might have several hundred applications to look through. You want your letter to have immediate impact and therefore it is best to keep it specific, clear and concise. Please do not fall into the trap of writing a letter much more than two pages – it is very likely that your letter will not be read! If your CV is too short, the recruitment panel will assume that you are not genuinely interested in the role.
You need to give a brief summary (a couple of sentences only) on why you are interested in applying for the job. Then outline your past experience and your plans in the areas of teaching and research. Make sure that you include relevant examples. These need to be based on the skills and experience the employer is interested in (you will find this out on their website and on the job advert). Finish with a short paragraph showing enthusiasm for the role.
Generic cover letters rarely work. It is best to tailor your letter specifically to the job you are applying for (instead of submitting a standard letter).
Here are two cover letter examples if you are applying for academic jobs:
Writing great cover letters is a skill you can learn. Follow some of the above guidelines and you will improve your chances of getting a fabulous job!