It is no secret that applications for academic positions are lengthy, including a variety of documents such as a research statement or CV. A cover letter is the first page of your job application. It is a letter that introduces you to the search committee and highlights your strengths, fit to the position, and interest in the university and geographic area. Your cover letter therefore is school specific in that it must be tailored to each institution as it is an expression of your interest in that position. Why are you applying to this institution in particular? A typical cover letter is one to two pages long and is written in a specific format. Be sure to address the letter to the chair of the search committee (or department chair or other person designed by the job ad). Address the letter to Dr. or Professor – never Mr. or Ms. Err on the side of assuming that the reader has a doctoral degree. Make sure that you have addressed the essay to the right university. It is easy to make a mistake when juggling multiple applications. The first paragraph of your cover letter introduces you to the search committee, the group of faculty, administrators, and sometimes students that evaluate applications.

Cover letter for academic positions

Provide the reader with basic information including the position to which you are applying and how you learned of it. Use the specific job title used in the job announcement. Noting that these points illustrate why you are a good fit to the position, briefly provide highlights of the material that you will discuss in the remainder of the letter. The next two to three paragraphs, provide specific information to support your argument that you are well suited to the position in the body of the letter. Discuss how your work falls within the requested subdiscipline. Discuss both your teaching and research experience but emphasize each in accord with each school’s mission. By placing it first in the letter and providing multiple examples to illustrate your competence in the classroom applications to teaching-intensive liberal arts institutions should emphasize teaching. Briefly refer to the materials in your teaching philosophy or portfolio, such as what courses you have taught and your general view of your role in the classroom.  Place your research first in case you are applying to a research-intensive institution. Discuss the general questions that you have studied, how you have done so, where your work has been published, and your plans for the future, such as where you will apply for grant funding. Do all of this briefly – similar in quantity and depth to what you might say to someone at a cocktail party. Explain why you are interested in the position. Show that you know something about the institution and community. This simple step helps to show the reader that you are seriously interested in the job and not simply sending the same application to every job opening. You must state so in case have not yet defended your destination.