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How to Write a Job Application Cover Letter
Writing a cover letter is essential when applying for jobs. This is the perfect way to express how your specific skills are relevant to the open position. Wow your future employer with this simple cover letter example format.
Write a First Draft
Writing a first draft makes your letter concise and professional, states The Balance Careers. Organize your thoughts by making a list of what you’re trying to convey. Make sure you prioritize certain aspects like your previous job experience and why you would be a good fit for the position. Clearly state what position you’re interested in and why. Think about why you’re applying and what caught your eye about this specific position. Your cover letter will be easier to write after your thoughts are collected and organized.
Customize Your Salutation
When writing a salutation, make sure you know who you are writing to. Is this person the owner of the company or a Human Resources administrator? If you’re not sure, research the company to find out. Addressing your cover letter to a specific person shows initiative and attention to detail. After your salutation, start your letter with a short introduction of yourself. This gives future employers insight into who you are and the purpose of your cover letter.
Your cover letter should be no more than one page, so keep your points brief. Clearly state what position you are interested in and why. Explain why you are a good fit for the company because of your past job experience. If you have no similar job experience, let the employer know why you are changing career paths. Expand on your skills and give specific examples of how that skill set helped you at your last position. Name projects you’ve worked on and show results.
Close Your Letter
End your cover letter with a brief sentence and sign off. Thank the employer for their time and express your interest towards the job again. Let them know you’ll follow up with them if you do not hear back within a week and leave your contact information. Sign off with a professional farewell and leave room for a signature if sending a hard copy.
Edit and Proofread
As you finish writing your cover letter, make sure you take time to edit and proofread your document. Make sure it’s structured in a professional format with the company’s information, the salutation and introduction, the body of the letter, a brief closing sentence and farewell. Check for spelling and grammar mistakes to ensure a formal result. Make sure all names are spelled correctly, as well.
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Writing the Cover Letter
What are the objectives of a cover letter.
A good cover letter puts your résumé in context and persuades the prospective employer that you are a good match for the position in question. If your cover letter does its job, the prospective employer will begin to consider your candidacy and go on to review your résumé in detail.
Your cover letter also serves as a sample of your organizational and communication skills. For this reason, it's essential to spend time writing and organizing the content, and to proofread it carefully. The time and care that you devote to constructing and writing your cover letter and résumé will demonstrate to the prospective employer that you're capable of producing high quality work.
Finally, your cover letter expresses your interest in the particular position or particular organization. Cover letters should be individually tailored for each job prospect. Your letter should convey to each prospective employer that you have an understanding of the job, and that you've done some thinking about how you could fit in to the organization and contribute to its goals.
How should I approach the writing task?
Your cover letter is your opportunity to market those aspects of your skills, abilities, education, training, background, and experience which are most relevant to the position you're seeking. This means that you will need to begin by doing some thinking about your skills and background and how these relate to the position for which you're applying. (For more information about skills, visit the Humanities Academic Services Center website .) Your cover letter should reflect your individuality, but remember that you are "introducing yourself" for the first time to a stranger: it's best to err on the side of professionalism.
Read the job announcement carefully. What are the most important qualifications being sought? How can you best demonstrate that you have them? Try to put yourself in the prospective employer's position: What would you want to know about a candidate for this particular job? What information would be most important to you? Include only the most relevant attributes and experiences you possess which specifically match the job for which you're applying.
Research the company or organization: What does the employing organization do? What are its goals? What is its history? How does it fit in to its industry? What characterizes the organization's culture (e.g., is it casual, conservative, highly structured, diverse, traditional, modern, fast-paced, etc.)? Some information, such as the organization's mission, purpose, clients, partners, and a sense of its "style" can be found on its website (if it has one). There are also industry and employer directories available on the web, in the libraries, and at UW Career Center in 134 Mary Gates Hall. Local and national newspapers, industry-related publications and journals, and the Washington Occupational Information System are also good resources.
Address the letter to a specific individual. As with all writing, it's important to identify your audience. Taking the time to find out the hiring party's name and correct title is another way to demonstrate your interest in the position.
How should I format my cover letter?
Your cover letter should be three to four paragraphs in length and limited to one page. Like an essay, its content can usually be divided up into three parts:
The introduction states the position you're seeking, explains how you learned about the position, and indicates your interest. It often also contains a brief statement of your qualifications (education, experience, and skills).
The body highlights the most important qualities you can offer to this particular employer , related to the position that you're seeking. Because you will be attaching your résumé, this is not the place to go into great detail. What you are attempting to do is to get the employer's attention and interest him/her in your candidacy. This is also the place to present other relevant information about your characteristics or background that may not be evident from your résumé. You might provide the employer with some specific examples of how you've demonstrated particular key skills or how you fulfill the most important qualifications listed in the job announcement.
The conclusion should summarize your qualifications and your interest in the position. Be sure to close your letter with a request for action or an indication that you'll be following up. This might include a request for an interview, a statement of your intent to call the employer on a specific date, or the dates you'll be in town for an interview. Finally, always thank the employer for considering your application.
Sample Cover Letters
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Academic cover letters: 10 top tips
T he classic counterpart to a CV, cover letters are standard in almost all job applications. Academic cover letters are typically allowed to be longer than in other sectors, but this latitude comes with its own pitfalls. For one, many cover letters are written as if they were simply a retelling in full sentences of everything on the CV. But this makes no sense. Selectors will have skimmed through your CV already, and they don't want to re-read it in prose form.
Instead, approach your cover letter as a short essay. It needs to present a coherent, evidence-based response to one question above all: why would you be an excellent hire for this position?
1) Start with a clear identity
Consider this sentence: "My research interests include Thomas Mann, German modernist literature, the body, the senses, Freudian psychoanalysis, queer theory and performativity, poststructuralism, and Derridean deconstruction." In my experience, this type of sentence is all too common. Who is this person? What do they really do? If I'm asking myself these questions after more than a few lines of your cover letter, then you've already fallen into the trap of being beige and forgettable.
To get shortlisted, you need to stand out. So, let's start as we mean to go on. Your opening paragraph should answer the following questions: What is your current job and affiliation? What's your research field, and what's your main contribution to it? What makes you most suitable for this post?
2) Evidence, evidence, evidence
It's generally accepted that, in job applications, we need to 'sell' ourselves, but how to do this can be a source of real anxiety. Where's the line between assertiveness, modesty and arrogance? The best way to guard against self-aggrandisement or self-abnegation is to focus on evidence. For example, "I am internationally recognised as an expert in my field" is arrogant, because you are making a bold claim and asking me to trust your account of yourself. By contrast, "I was invited to deliver a keynote talk at [top international conference]" is tangible and verifiable.
If you can produce facts and figures to strengthen your evidence, then your letter will have even more impact, for example "I created three protocols which improved reliability by N%. These protocols are now embedded in my group's experiments and are also being used by ABC". Remember that your readers need you to be distinctive and memorable.
Never cite the job description back at the selectors. If they have asked for excellent communication skills, you're going to need to do better than merely including the sentence "I have excellent communication skills." What is your evidence for this claim?
3) It's not an encyclopaedia
Because everything you say must be supported with evidence, you can't include everything. I find that many people are prone to an encyclopaedic fervour in their cover letters: they slavishly address each line of the job description, mention every single side project which they have on the go, every book chapter and review article they've ever written, and so on. Letters like this just end up being plaintive, excessively tedious, and ineffective.
Instead, show that you can distinguish your key achievements (eg. top publications, grants won, invited talks) from the purely nice-to-have stuff (eg. seminar series organised, review articles, edited collections). Put your highlights and best evidence in the letter – leave the rest to the CV.
4) Think holistically
There's no need to try to make each application document do all the work for you. That leads to repetitiveness. Let them work together holistically. If there's a research proposal, why agonise over a lengthy paraphrase of the proposal in the cover letter? If there's a teaching statement, why write three more teaching paragraphs in your letter as well? Give me a quick snapshot and signpost where the rest of the information can be found, for example: "My next project will achieve X by doing Y. Further details, including funding and publication plans related to the project, are included in my research proposal."
5) Two sides are more than enough
There is no reason why your cover letter should need to go beyond two sides. In fact, I've seen plenty of people get shortlisted for fellowships and lectureships using a cover letter that fitted on to a single side of A4. It can be done – without shrinking the font and reducing the margins, neither of which, I'm sorry to break it to you, is an acceptable ruse. Besides, please have some sympathy for your readers: they have jobs to do and lives to lead; they will appreciate pith.
6) Writing about your research: why, not what
In almost every conceivable kind of academic application, fellowships included, it's very high risk to write about your research in such a way that it can only be understood by an expert in your field. It's far safer to pitch your letter so that it's comprehensible to a broader readership. You need to show a draft of your letter to at least one person who, as a minimum requirement, is outside your immediate group or department. Do they understand your research? Crucially, do they understand its significance? Before the selectors can care about the details of what you do, you have to hook their interest with why you do it.
Bad: "I work on the lived experiences of LGB people in contemporary Britain [why?]. I look particularly at secondary school children [why?], and I use mixed methods to describe their experiences of homophobic bullying [vague]. My PhD is the first full-length study of this topic [so what?]."
Better: "In recent years, significant progress has been made towards equality for lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people living in Britain. However, young people aged 11-19 who self-identify as LGB are more likely to experience verbal and physical bullying, and they are at significantly greater risk of self-harm and suicide. In my dissertation, I conduct an ethnographic study of a large metropolitan secondary school, in order to identify the factors which lead to homophobic bullying, as well as policies and initiatives which LGB young people find effective in dealing with it."
7) Mind the gap
Be aware that "nobody has studied this topic before" is a very weak justification for a project. Nature may abhor a vacuum, but academia does not. Does it even matter that no previous scholarship exists on this precise topic? Perhaps it never merited all that money and time. What are we unable to do because of this gap? What have we been getting wrong until now? What will we be able to do differently once your project has filled this void?
8) Writing about teaching: avoid list-making
Avoid the temptation of list-making here, too. You don't need to itemise each course you have taught, because I've already read this on your CV, and there's no need to detail every module you would teach at the new department. Similarly, you don't need to quote extensively from student feedback in order to show that you're a great teacher; this smacks of desperation.
A few examples of relevant teaching and the names of some courses you would be prepared to teach will suffice. You should also give me an insight into your philosophy of teaching. What do students get out of your courses? What strategies do you use in your teaching, and why are they effective?
9) Be specific about the department
When explaining why you want to join the department, look out for well-intentioned but empty statements which could apply to pretty much any higher education institution in the world. For example, "I would be delighted to join the department of X, with its world-leading research and teaching, and I see this as the perfect place to develop my career." This won't do.
Deploy your research skills, use the internet judiciously, and identify some specifics. Are there initiatives in the department to which you could contribute, e.g. research clusters, seminar series, outreach events? What about potential collaborators (remembering to say what's in it for them)? What about interdisciplinary links to other departments in the institution?
10) Be yourself
It often feels like slim pickings when you're job hunting, and many people feel compelled to apply for pretty much any role which comes up in their area, even if it's not a great fit. But you still need to make the most of who you are, rather than refashioning yourself into an approximation of what you think the selectors want.
If you have a strong track record in quantitative research and you've spotted a job in a department leaning more towards qualitative methods, you might still decide to apply, but there's no point in trying to sell yourself as what you're not. They'll see through it, and you'll have downplayed your genuine successes for no reason.
Instead, make a case for why your achievements should be of interest to the department, for example by demonstrating how statistics would complement their qualitative work. At the end of the day, the best way to get shortlisted is to highlight bona fide achievements that are distinctive to you.
Steve Joy is careers adviser for research staff in the arts, humanities, and social sciences at the University of Cambridge – follow him on Twitter @EarlyCareerBlog
Do you have any tips to add? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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A cover letter introduces and markets you effectively by complementing your CV.
A cover letter tells your story by highlighting your relevant strengths and motivation for the person and organisation you are writing to, rather than listing all the things that can already be seen on your CV.
Always take the opportunity to submit a cover letter if you are given the chance.
The cover letter gives you scope to showcase what interests and drives you, and your enthusiasm for an organisation and the role. You can use it to align yourself with the organisation’s strengths, values and culture, and highlight in a targeted way your knowledge and strongest, most relevant skills for the position.
The content and style are up to you, but a logical and engaging structure is key. Below are some guidelines.
How to Write Cover Letters
Aim for a professional tone that conveys your message to the reader succinctly - remember it's not an essay or dissertation! Write in clear, concise English – take care not to drown the reader with your detail and avoid jargon they may not understand. The Plain English Campaign has some good guidance on improving your writing style.
Structure it like a business letter, brevity adds power and aim for no longer than 1 side of A4 in length. However, if the organisation gives you very specific instructions about the structure. length and content, follow their guidance.
Introduce yourself and explain why you are writing. If you are responding to an advertisement, state where you saw it. This tells the recruiter why they are reading the letter, and it gives them feedback on which of their advertising sources are working. You need to think about how you would like to introduce yourself; it could be that you mention the course you are studying and when you plan to finish it along with your place of study.
Why this job?
Explain why you are interested in the job and the organisation. Tailor the letter to the organisation and job description to make it clear that you haven't sent out multiple copies of the same letter to different employers.
Draw on your research, especially what you have learnt from speaking with their staff (e.g. while meeting them at a fair or event, or during work shadowing/experience) as this will demonstrate an awareness and understanding of them that goes beyond the corporate website. Be specific about why the position is particularly attractive for you, and back this up with evidence from your past, or by linking this to your overall career plans, and what you find exciting about this sector, don’t just repeat the text from their publicity material.
Explain why you are well-suited to the position. Refer to the most relevant skills (c.3-5), experience and knowledge you have and match what you say to the requirements outlined in the job description. Tell your story and highlight key evidence so that you are building on your CV, but not using exactly the same phrases. Make sure you read our guidance on demonstrating you fit the job criteria for more advice.
As your aim is to convince the recruiter that you are a suitable candidate for the job, focus on your accomplishments and the transferable skills that are relevant to the role. State explicitly how you match the job criteria – don’t expect the person reading your letter to infer your skills or experiences for themselves.
Support your claims by referring to examples that are already detailed in your CV. You can make a stronger, more credible case by linking different experiences that highlight similar skills or competences. For example:
- You first demonstrated your organisational skills by creating (an event) at school, and you have developed them further by raising (£xx) at last year’s fundraiser and, most recently, by leading (another event) for your society attended by (number) of people.
- The role (applied for) would allow you to further explore your interest in mental health well-being which has driven your success as college welfare officer and the personal sense of achievement gained from working as a peer counsellor.
Reiterate your desire to join the organisation and end on a ‘look forward to hearing from you’ statement, followed by ‘Yours sincerely’ if writing to a named individual and ‘Yours faithfully’ if you have not been able to find a named contact.
- Write to a named person if you can
- If you have not been able to find a named contact, you could use ‘Dear Recruitment Manager’ or ‘Dear Recruiter’.
- Check your spelling and get someone else to read it over.
- Check that it says clearly what you want it to say. Are there any sections that are hard to read, overly long sentences? If yes, try to simplify the language, avoid jargon, use shorter sentences or take out that section completely.
- Make the letter different each time. If you insert another company name, does the letter still read the same? If so, tailor it more specifically to the firm - you may need to do further research
- Don’t start every sentence with “I”.
- Give evidence for all your claims.
- Be enthusiastic and interested.
- Don’t repeat your whole CV.
- It’s normal to find cover letters tricky to write. Give yourself plenty of time before the application deadline to redraft.
- A careers adviser at the Careers Service can give you feedback on the content and structure of your cover letter and CV, and advise you on how best to target particular sectors – write one first, book an appointment on CareerConnect and ask a careers adviser for feedback.
Academic Cover Letters and Statements
Academic cover letters.
Academic cover letters vary in length, purpose, content and tone. Each job application requires a new, distinct letter.
For applications that require additional research or teaching statements, there is no point repeating these points in a cover letter – here, one page is enough (brief personal introduction, delighted to apply, please find enclosed X, Y, Z documents).
Other applications ask for a CV and a cover letter only, in which case the letter will need to be longer and require more detail. Others ask explicitly for this detail in the form of a supporting statement that sets out how you fulfil the job criteria. Aim for a maximum length of two pages, though for roles at associate professor level and above it may extend to 3-5 pages. In all cases it is important to use the space effectively and show that you can prioritise according to what they are looking for.
In all cases:
- Your letter is a piece of academic writing – you need a strong argument and empirical evidence
- Write for the non-expert to prove that you can communicate well
- Make sure you sound confident by using a tone that is collegial (rather than like a junior talking to a senior)
- Demonstrate your insight into what the recruiting department is doing in areas of research and teaching, and say what you would bring to these areas from your work so far.
- Give quantifiable evidence of teaching, research and funding success where possible.
What is a teaching statement and why do you need one.
When making an academic job application, you may be asked for a teaching statement (sometimes referred to as a ‘philosophy of teaching statement’). These statements may also be requested of candidates for grant applications or teaching awards.
A teaching statement is a narrative that describes:
- How you teach
- Why you teach the way you do
- How you know if you are an effective teacher, and how you know that your students are learning.
The rationale behind a teaching statement is to:
- Demonstrate that you have been reflective and purposeful about your teaching. This means showing an understanding of the teaching process and your experience of this
- Communicate your goals as an instructor, and your corresponding actions in the laboratory, classroom, or other teaching setting.
Format and style of a Teaching Statement
There is no required content or format for a teaching statement because they are personal in nature, but they are generally 1-2 pages, and written in the first person. The statement will include teaching strategies and methods to help readers ‘see’ you in a lab, lecture hall, or other teaching setting. The teaching statement is, in essence, a writing sample, and should be written with the audience in mind (i.e. the search committee for the institution(s) to which you are applying). This means that, like a cover letter, your teaching statement should be tailored for presentation to different audiences.
Articulating your teaching philosophy
Consider your experiences as both teacher and learner, and always keep your subject at the forefront. Consider all opportunities that you have previously had to teach, mentor, or guide, and determine instances that were both successful and perhaps not so successful. Understanding why and how learning happens is an important part of your teaching philosophy.
Here are some general areas to focus on in your teaching statement:
Goals : Convey your teaching goals. What would you like students to get out of your courses? What matters most to you in teaching and why?
Strategies : List effective teaching strategies. How will you realise your goals? What obstacles exist to student learning and how do you help students overcome them?
Evidence : Specific examples of your teaching experience are powerful in a teaching statement. Provide evidence that your students have learned (or not) in the past.
Some applications ask for a short research statement. This is your opportunity to showcase your vision for your research, propose a research plan and show how this builds on your current expertise and achievements. It forms the basis for discussions and your presentation if you are invited for interview.
- Provide a big picture overview of your research vision
- Make sure there are clear links between your proposal and the work of the recruiting institution. Each statement must be tailored to the particular role you are applying for
- Write about your research experience stating the aims, achievements, relevant techniques and your responsibilities for each project
- Write as much (within the word limit) about your planned research and its contribution to the department, and to society more broadly
- Invest time and ask for feedback from your supervisor/principal investigator or colleagues.
Tips for Junior Research Fellowship or JRF Applications
Read the job description carefully to understand what is prioritised by the recruiting College or institution(s) beyond furthering your research. If there are additional responsibilities such as outreach, mentoring, expanding or fostering academic networks, you will need to provide evidence of your interest and experience in these areas, as well as statements about how you would fulfil these roles when in post.
Try to meet current junior research fellowship (JRF) holders to gain further insight into what the role entails on a daily basis and what is expected by senior colleagues.
Show how your research contributes to, extends and/or maximises the impact of other work going on in the university. Then state why the JRF would enable you to further these in specific ways.
Think about how to demonstrate your experience in the following areas:
- Your research vision. Can you outline a big picture view of the research you want to do and its impact, for the department, the field and the wider society
- Publications, think broadly here and include journal articles, book chapters, policy papers, expert reviews, public commentaries and any other type of media coverage
- Funding, give prominence to any funding awards and to your grant-writing experience
- Participation in professional activities such as establishing collaborations with people or organisations outside the university, reviewing journal articles and membership of relevant societies
- Outline how you intend to participate in knowledge exchange and public engagement within your fellowship. These activities are now recognised as significant components of academic life
Look at Vitae’s Research Developer Framework to identify any other academic-related competencies that you could demonstrate in your application (particularly project-management, leadership, developing innovative partnerships/strategic thinking).
Have your application reviewed by a careers adviser by booking a short discussion appointment on CareerConnect .
Example cover letters.
- Sample cover letter
- Sample cover letter for management consultancy
- Sample cover letter for voluntary organisation
- Sample speculative cover letter (see speculative applications)
- Sample cover letter for first lectureship, Arts and Humanities
- Vitae for examples and advice relating to academic cover letters
- Demonstrate You Fit the Job Criteria
- Application Forms
External websites with guidance and examples.
- TARGETjobs: Cover letter essentials
- Prospects: Cover Letters
Artificial Intelligence (AI) generators and other paid-for services
A growing number of websites offer AI-generated cover letters, either for free or for a fee. There are also numerous organisations offering to write your cover letters for a fee. We believe that if you follow the advice above and come for a (free) cover letter review at the Careers Service as part of a 20-minute 1:1 appointment, you will get the best service for you.
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How to write your cover letter
Advice on what to include in your cover letter and how to structure it.
Cover letters are not an exact science, but you need to sound like you want the job and you can show why you would be a good fit for it. Employers can tell when you haven't given much thought to why you are applying. This is your opportunity to show your motivation and suitability - so take it!
What to include
Your cover letter complements your CV and gives you the chance to demonstrate your motivation and suitability for the job. Your cover letter should answer three questions:
why do you want this job?
why do you want to work for this organisation?
why are you right for the role?
Use the cover letter to highlight information you need the employer to know, and to explain anything such as extenuating circumstances which you want them to take into account.
demonstrate that you have researched the organisation
evidence how you have the skills and experience listed in the vacancy
aim for one page in length with about three to five concise paragraphs.
Watch the recording above to find out more about how to write your cover letter.
To explore examples of cover letters, access Careers Service Plus (University of Edinburgh login required):
Cover letters examples
Using generative AI to create your cover letter
Technologies such as ChatGPT can provide a reasonable basic structure for you to build upon, but what they give you is unlikely to be tailored convincingly and will be bland and generic, and unlikely to impress employers. Use them as a support and starting point if you like - but edit their product to make the end result your own.
Remember these points:
- adapt the content generated, to make it more closely related to you -otherwise it will lack impact
- be cautious about submitting any personal data, as whatever you put in could be in the public domain
- you may be risking plagiarism, as these systems incorporate, in their output, content produced by other people without acknowledging or referencing them
Guidance on using AI has been produced by the Bayes Centre at the University of Edinburgh.
AI guidance for staff and students