The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Academic Cover Letters

What is this handout about.

The long list of application materials required for many academic teaching jobs can be daunting. This handout will help you tackle one of the most important components: the cover letter or letter of interest. Here you will learn about writing and revising cover letters for academic teaching jobs in the United States of America.

What is an academic cover letter?

An academic cover letter describes your experiences and interest as a candidate for a specific position. It introduces you to the hiring committee and demonstrates how your academic background fits with the description of the position.

What do cover letters for academic teaching jobs typically contain?

At their most basic level, academic cover letters accomplish three things: one, they express your interest in the job; two, they provide a brief synopsis of your research and teaching; and three, they summarize your past experiences and achievements to illustrate your competence for the job. For early-career scholars, cover letters are typically no more than two pages (up to four pages for senior scholars). Occasionally, a third page may make sense for an early-career scholar if the application does not require a separate teaching statement and/or research statement. Digital versions of cover letters often contain hyperlinks to your CV or portfolio page. For some fields, cover letters may also include examples of your work, including music, popular articles, and other multimedia related to your research, service, or teaching available online. Typically, letters appear on departmental or university letterhead and include your signature. Above all, a strong cover letter presents your accomplishments and your familiarity with the institution and with the position.

How should I prepare to write my academic cover letter?

Like all writing, composing a cover letter is a process. The process may be as short as a few hours or as long as several weeks, but at the end the letter should present you as a strong candidate for the job. The following section has tips and questions for thinking through each stage of this writing process. You don’t need to answer all of these questions to write the letter; they are meant to help you brainstorm ideas.

Before you begin writing your cover letter, consider researching the institution, the department, and the student population. Incorporating all three aspects in your letter will help convey your interest in the position.

Get to know the institution. When crafting your cover letter, be aware of the type of institution to which you are applying. Knowing how the institution presents itself can help you tailor your letter and make it more specific.

  • Where is the institution located?
  • Is it on a quarter-system or semester-system?
  • What type of institution is it? Is it an R1? Is it an R2? Is it a liberal arts college? Is it an HBCU? Is it a community college? A private high school?
  • What is the institution’s culture? Is it teaching-focused or research-focused? Does it privilege experiential learning? Does it value faculty involvement outside the classroom? Is it affiliated with a specific religious tradition?
  • Does it have any specific institutional commitments?
  • How does the institution advocate for involvement in its local community?
  • What are the professional development opportunities for new and junior faculty?

Learn about the department. Knowing the specific culture and needs of the department can help you reach your audience: the department members who will be reading your documents and vetting you as a candidate.

  • Who is on the search committee? Who is the search committee chair?
  • What is the official name of the department?
  • Which different subfields make up the department?
  • Is it a dual appointment or a position in a dual department?
  • How does the department participate in specific types of student outreach?
  • Does the department have graduate students? Does it offer a terminal Master’s degree, Ph.D., or both? How large are the cohorts? How are they funded?
  • Does the department encourage or engage in interdisciplinary work?
  • Does the majority of the department favor certain theoretical or methodological approaches?
  • Does the department have partnerships with local institutions? If so, which ones?
  • Is the department attempting to fill a specific vacancy, or is it an entirely new position?
  • What are the typical course offerings in the department? Which courses might you be expected to teach? What courses might you be able to provide that are not currently available?

Consider the students. The search committee will often consider how you approach instructing and mentoring the student body. Sometimes committees will even reserve a position for a student or solicit student feedback on a candidate:

  • What populations constitute the majority of the undergraduate population?
  • Have there been any shifts in the student population recently?
  • Do students largely come from in-state or out-of-state?
  • Is there an international student population? If so, from which countries?
  • Is the university recruiting students from traditionally underrepresented populations?
  • Are students particularly active on campus? If so, how?

Many answers to these questions can be found both in the job description and on the institution’s website. If possible, consider contacting someone you know at the institution to ask about the culture directly. You can also use the institution’s course catalog, recruitment materials, alumni magazine, and other materials to get answers to these questions. The key is to understand the sort of institution to which you are applying, its immediate needs, and its future trajectory.

Remember, there is a resource that can help you with all three aspects—people. Reach out to your advisor, committee members, faculty mentors, and other contacts for insight into the prospective department’s culture and faculty. They might even help you revise your letter based on their expertise. Think of your job search as an opportunity to cultivate these relationships.

After you have done some initial research, think about how your experiences have prepared you for the job and identify the ones that seem the most relevant. Consider your previous research, internships, graduate teaching, and summer experiences. Here are some topics and questions to get you started thinking about what you might include.

Research Experiences. Consider how your research has prepared you for an academic career. Since the letter is a relatively short document, select examples of your research that really highlight who you are as a scholar, the direction you see your work going, and how your scholarship will contribute to the institution’s research community.

  • What are your current research interests?
  • What topics would you like to examine in the future?
  • How have you pursued those research interests?
  • Have you traveled for your research?
  • Have you published any of your research? Have you presented it at a conference, symposium, or elsewhere?
  • Have you worked or collaborated with scholars at different institutions on projects? If so, what did these collaborations produce?
  • Have you made your research accessible to your local community?
  • Have you received funding or merit-based fellowships for your research?
  • What other research contributions have you made? This may include opinion articles, book chapters, or participating as a journal reviewer.
  • How do your research interests relate to those of other faculty in the department or fill a gap?

Teaching Experience. Think about any teaching experience you may have. Perhaps you led recitations as a teaching assistant, taught your own course, or guest lectured. Pick a few experiences to discuss in your letter that demonstrate something about your teaching style or your interest in teaching.

  • What courses are you interested in teaching for the department? What courses have you taught that discussed similar topics or themes?
  • What new courses can you imagine offering the department that align with their aim and mission?
  • Have you used specific strategies that were helpful in your instruction?
  • What sort of resources do you typically use in the classroom?
  • Do you have anecdotes that demonstrate your teaching style?
  • What is your teaching philosophy?
  • When have you successfully navigated a difficult concept or topic in the classroom, and what did you learn?
  • What other opportunities could you provide to students?

Internships/Summer/Other Experiences. Brainstorm a list of any conferences, colloquiums, and workshops you have attended, as well as any ways you have served your department, university, or local community. This section will highlight how you participate in your university and scholarly community. Here are some examples of things you might discuss:

  • Professional development opportunities you may have pursued over the summer or during your studies
  • International travel for research or presentations
  • Any research you’ve done in a non-academic setting
  • Presentations at conferences
  • Participation in symposia, reading groups, working groups, etc.
  • Internships in which you may have implemented your research or practical skills related to your discipline
  • Participation in community engagement projects
  • Participation in or leadership of any scholarly and/or university organizations

In answering these questions, create a list of the experiences that you think best reflect you as a scholar and teacher. In choosing which experiences to highlight, consider your audience and what they would find valuable or relevant. Taking the time to really think about your reader will help you present yourself as an applicant well-qualified for the position.

Writing a draft

Remember that the job letter is an opportunity to introduce yourself and your accomplishments and to communicate why you would be a good fit for the position. Typically, search committees will want to know whether you are a capable job candidate, familiar with the institution, and a great future addition to the department’s faculty. As such, be aware of how the letter’s structure and content reflect your preparedness for the position.

The structure of your cover letter should reflect the typical standards for letter writing in the country in which the position is located (the list below reflects the standards for US letter writing). This usually includes a salutation, body, and closing, as well as proper contact information. If you are affiliated with a department, institution, or organization, the letter should be on letterhead.

  • Use a simple, readable font in a standard size, such as 10-12pt. Some examples of fonts that may be conventional in your field include Arial, Garamond, Times New Roman, and Verdana, among other similar fonts.
  • Do not indent paragraphs.
  • Separate all paragraphs by a line and justify them to the left.
  • Make sure that any included hyperlinks work.
  • Include your signature in the closing.

Before you send in your letter, make sure you proofread and look for formatting mistakes. You’ll read more about proofreading and revising later in this handout!

The second most important aspect of your letter is its content. Since the letter is the first chance to provide an in-depth introduction, it should expand on who you are as a scholar and possible faculty member. Below are some elements to consider including when composing your letter.

Identify the position you are applying to and introduce yourself. Traditionally, the first sentence of a job letter includes the full name of the position and where you discovered the job posting. This is also the place to introduce yourself and describe why you are applying for this position. Since the goal of a job letter is to persuade the search committee to include you on the list of candidates for further review, you may want to include an initial claim as to why you are a strong candidate for the position. Some questions you might consider:

  • What is your current status (ABD, assistant professor, post-doc, etc.)?
  • If you are ABD, have you defended your dissertation? If not, when will you defend?
  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • Why are you a strong candidate for this position?

Describe your research experience and interests. For research-centered positions, such as positions at R1 or other types of research-centered universities, include information about your research experience and current work early in the letter. For many applicants, current work will be the dissertation project. If this is the case, some suggest calling your “dissertation research” your “current project” or “work,” as this may help you present yourself as an emerging scholar rather than a graduate student. Some questions about your research that you might consider:

  • What research experiences have you had?
  • What does your current project investigate?
  • What are some of the important methods you applied?
  • Have you collaborated with others in your research?
  • Have you acquired specific skills that will be useful for the future?
  • Have you received special funding? If so, what kind?
  • Has your research received any accolades or rewards?
  • What does your current project contribute to the field?
  • Where have you presented your research?
  • Have you published your research? If so, where? Or are you working on publishing your work?
  • How does your current project fit the job description?

Present your plans for future research. This section presents your research agenda and usually includes a description of your plans for future projects and research publications. Detailing your future research demonstrates to the search committee that you’ve thought about a research trajectory and can work independently. If you are applying to a teaching-intensive position, you may want to minimize this section and/or consider including a sentence or two on how this research connects to undergraduate and/or graduate research opportunities. Some questions to get you started:

  • What is your next research project/s?
  • How does this connect to your current and past work?
  • What major theories/methods will you use?
  • How will this project contribute to the field?
  • Where do you see your specialty area or subfield going in the next ten years and how does your research contribute to or reflect this?
  • Will you be collaborating with anyone? If so, with whom?
  • How will this future project encourage academic discourse?
  • Do you already have funding? If so, from whom? If not, what plans do you have for obtaining funding?
  • How does your future research expand upon the department’s strengths while simultaneously diversifying the university’s research portfolio? (For example, does your future research involve emerging research fields, state-of-the-art technologies, or novel applications?)

Describe your teaching experience and highlight teaching strategies. This section allows you to describe your teaching philosophy and how you apply this philosophy in your classroom. Start by briefly addressing your teaching goals and values. Here, you can provide specific examples of your teaching methods by describing activities and projects you assign students. Try to link your teaching and research together. For example, if you research the rise of feminism in the 19th century, consider how you bring either the methodology or the content of your research into the classroom. For a teaching-centered institution, such as a small liberal arts college or community college, you may want to emphasize your teaching more than your research. If you do not have any teaching experience, you could describe a training, mentoring, or coaching situation that was similar to teaching and how you would apply what you learned in a classroom.

  • What is your teaching philosophy? How is your philosophy a good fit for the department in which you are applying to work?
  • What sort of teaching strategies do you use in the classroom?
  • What is your teaching style? Do you lecture? Do you emphasize discussion? Do you use specific forms of interactive learning?
  • What courses have you taught?
  • What departmental courses are you prepared to teach?
  • Will you be able to fill in any gaps in the departmental course offerings?
  • What important teaching and/or mentoring experiences have you had?
  • How would you describe yourself in the classroom?
  • What type of feedback have you gotten from students?
  • Have you received any awards or recognition for your teaching?

Talk about your service work. Service is often an important component of an academic job description. This can include things like serving on committees or funding panels, providing reviews, and doing community outreach. The cover letter gives you an opportunity to explain how you have involved yourself in university life outside the classroom. For instance, you could include descriptions of volunteer work, participation in initiatives, or your role in professional organizations. This section should demonstrate ways in which you have served your department, university, and/or scholarly community. Here are some additional examples you could discuss:

  • Participating in graduate student or junior faculty governance
  • Sitting on committees, departmental or university-wide
  • Partnerships with other university offices or departments
  • Participating in community-partnerships
  • Participating in public scholarship initiatives
  • Founding or participating in any university initiatives or programs
  • Creating extra-curricular resources or presentations

Present yourself as a future faculty member. This section demonstrates who you will be as a colleague. It gives you the opportunity to explain how you will collaborate with faculty members with similar interests; take part in departmental and/or institution wide initiatives or centers; and participate in departmental service. This shows your familiarity with the role of faculty outside the classroom and your ability to add to the departmental and/or institutional strengths or fill in any gaps.

  • What excites you about this job?
  • What faculty would you like to collaborate with and why? (This answer may be slightly tricky. See the section on name dropping below.)
  • Are there any partnerships in the university or outside of it that you wish to participate in?
  • Are there any centers associated with the university or in the community that you want to be involved in?
  • Are there faculty initiatives that you are passionate about?
  • Do you have experience collaborating across various departments or within your own department?
  • In what areas will you be able to contribute?
  • Why would you make an excellent addition to the faculty at this institution?

Compose a strong closing. This short section should acknowledge that you have sent in all other application documents and include a brief thank you for the reader’s time and/or consideration. It should also state your willingness to forward additional materials and indicate what you would like to see as next steps (e.g., a statement that you look forward to speaking with the search committee). End with a professional closing such as “Sincerely” or “Kind Regards” followed by your full name.

If you are finding it difficult to write the different sections of your cover letter, consider composing the other academic job application documents (the research statement, teaching philosophy, and diversity statement) first and then summarizing them in your job letter.

Different kinds of letters may be required for different types of jobs. For example, some jobs may focus on research. In this case, emphasize your research experiences and current project/s. Other jobs may be more focused on teaching. In this case, highlight your teaching background and skills. Below are two models for how you could change your letter’s organization based on the job description and the institution. The models offer a guide for you to consider how changing the order of information and the amount of space dedicated to a particular topic changes the emphasis of the letter.

Research-Based Position Job Letter Example:

Teaching-based position job letter example:.

Remember your first draft does not have to be your last. Try to get feedback from different readers, especially if it is one of your first applications. It is not uncommon to go through several stages of revisions. Check out the Writing Center’s handout on editing and proofreading and video on proofreading to help with this last stage of writing.

Potential pitfalls

Using the word dissertation. Some search committee members may see the word “dissertation” as a red flag that an applicant is too focused on their role as a graduate student rather than as a prospective faculty member. It may be advantageous, then, to describe your dissertation as current research, a current research project, current work, or some other phrase that demonstrates you are aware that your dissertation is the beginning of a larger scholarly career.

Too much jargon. While you may be writing to a specific department, people on the search committee might be unfamiliar with the details of your subfield. In fact, many committees have at least one member from outside their department. Use terminology that can easily be understood by non-experts. If you want to use a specific term that is crucial to your research, then you should define it. Aim for clarity for your reader, which may mean simplification in lieu of complete precision.

Overselling yourself. While your job letter should sell you as a great candidate, saying so (e.g., “I’m the ideal candidate”) in your letter may come off to some search committee members as presumptuous. Remember that although you have an idea about the type of colleague a department is searching for, ultimately you do not know exactly what they want. Try to avoid phrases or sentences where you state you are the ideal or the only candidate right for the position.

Paying too much attention to the job description. Job descriptions are the result of a lot of debate and compromise. If you have skills or research interests outside the job description, consider including them in your letter. It may be that your extra research interests; your outside skills; and/or your extracurricular involvements make you an attractive candidate. For example, if you are a Latin Americanist who also happens to be well-versed in the Spanish Revolution, it could be worth mentioning the expanse of your research interests because a department might find you could fill in other gaps in the curriculum or add an additional or complementary perspective to the department.

Improper sendoff. The closing of your letter is just as important as the beginning. The end of the letter should reflect the professionalism of the document. There should be a thank-you and the word sincerely or a formal equivalent. Remember, it is the very last place in your letter where you present yourself as a capable future colleague.

Small oversights. Make sure to proofread your letter not just for grammar but also for content. For example, if you use material from another letter, make sure you do not include the names of another school, department, or unassociated faculty! Or, if the school is in Chicago, make sure you do not accidentally reference it as located in the Twin Cities.

Name dropping. You rarely know the internal politics of the department or institution to which you are applying. So be cautious about the names you insert in your cover letters. You do not want to unintentionally insert yourself into a departmental squabble or add fire to an interdepartmental conflict. Instead, focus on the actions you will undertake and the initiatives you are passionate about.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Ball, Cheryl E. 2013. “Understanding Cover Letters.” Inside Higher Ed , November 3, 2013. https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2013/11/04/essay-cover-letter-academic-jobs .

Borchardt, John. 2014. “Writing a Winning Cover Letter.” Science Magazine , August 6, 2014. https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2014/08/writing-winning-cover-letter# .

Helmreich, William. 2013. “Your First Academic Job.” Inside Higher Ed , June 17, 2013. https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2013/06/17/essay-how-land-first-academic-job .

Kelsky, Karen. 2013. “How To Write a Journal Article Submission Cover Letter.” The Professor Is In (blog), April 26, 2013. https://theprofessorisin.com/2013/04/26/how-to-write-a-journal-article-submission-cover-letter/ .

Tomaska, Lubomir, and Josef Nosek. 2008. “Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Cover Letter to Accompany a Job Application for an Academic Position.” PLoS Computational Biology 14(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1006132 .

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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How Long Should a Cover Letter Be and What Should Be Included?

If you’re applying for a new job, you want to make sure your cover letter length is appropriate and contains the right cover letter sections. Learn more about cover letter word count and organization as well as tips on crafting an effective cover letter.

[Featured image] A woman in a maroon shirt holding a cup of coffee looks over her cover letter and smiles.

A cover letter can be anything between half a page and a full-page long. Generally, you should aim for a cover letter word count of 250 to 400 words and about three to six paragraphs. 

A short, concise cover letter serves as a written introduction to a prospective employer and outlines why you’re the best fit for the job. The cover letter, which you submit alongside your resume, highlights your experience and helps explain how your skills and personality will complement the company.

In addition to asking how long a cover letter should be, you might also wonder what to write. To help, we’ll provide tips on the length, offer an outline to follow, and highlight writing suggestions that can impress and inspire the hiring managers to invite you for an interview. 

Cover letter length and outline 

A cover letter should take up at least half or a whole page, but not longer. Shorter is better. 

The length is also dependent on how you plan to send the cover letter, either in the body of an email or as a separate attachment. If you send your letter in an email, it should lean more towards a half-page. If it’s an attachment, you can go a bit longer, but not longer than a page. 

Although all options are acceptable, crafting your cover letter in an email gets instant visibility as opposed to an attachment that the recipient must open after reading your email. Check for delivery directions in the job description. If there aren’t any directions, an email will be the best option for you.  

What should be included in your cover letter? Here’s an outline of the cover letter sections and the information each paragraph should include: 

Contact information and greeting

At the top of your cover letter, include your contact information, which should include your:

City and state

Phone number 

Email address

After providing these details, add the date and contact information of the recipient, although you do not need this information if you're writing your cover letter in the body of an email. 

Next, write a greeting to the hiring manager. Ideally, you’ll know the name of the hiring manager and will address the letter to that person. However, if you don’t know their name, you can simply address it to the Hiring Manager.

Paragraph 1: Introduction

The first paragraph serves as an introduction. Start by introducing yourself and stating the position you’re interested in within the company. Add a fact or two about the company as you explain how you’ll complement the business.

When you research the company, examine the company's mission statement, values, and products. Review the company’s social profiles, search for news articles about the company, and run a search on the company’s owners and head executives. Use these pieces of information to write your introduction. 

Paragraph 2: Relevant experience

The next paragraph should offer your specific qualifications that align with the job description. You should mention your most recent job, its daily responsibilities, and how it helps the current job opening if it applies. 

Briefly highlight your skills. If you can, offer statistics that support your achievements by including a statement like, “The content marketing strategies I implemented led to a 300 percent increase in visitors, a 15 percent increase in inbound leads, and a 2 percent increase in conversions." 

If your previous job was in a different field or if you’re new to the job market, use this cover letter section to explain why you’re a good fit for the position. 

Paragraph 3: Company details or more qualifications

The third paragraph can take two different forms. You can talk about the company and why you want to join such a business, or you can point out additional qualifications that make you a standout candidate. 

Speak about the company. By researching the company’s website, social presence, news, and employee LinkedIn profiles, you can synthesize a few details about the company that you appreciate. With this data, determine why it’s the role and work environment for you and include your explanation in the letter itself.

If you’re light on company-specific details, mention more of your alluring qualifications, skills, or personality traits. However, be sure it’s fresh information and not repetitive of anything mentioned in the previous paragraph. 

Paragraph 4: Closing

In the last paragraph, you should express your appreciation to the reader and offer to discuss the position more in-depth during an interview. 

Every cover letter, no matter what position you apply for, includes a call to action at the end, such as asking for a meeting or an interview. 

Add your contact information including your cell phone number, address, and professional sites like your LinkedIn profile or portfolio, all below your signature. 

What if a job description says a cover letter isn’t required?

Experts say you should always send a cover letter as it gives you a chance to introduce yourself, showcase your skills, and stand out. You might come across a job description that indicates a cover letter isn’t required and be inclined to skip it. Send one anyway. A cover letter will allow you to highlight your relevant skills, experience, and interest in the company, presenting yourself as the ideal match for the job.  

Tips for writing an effective cover letter

You want your cover letter to stand out from the other candidates who are also applying for the job. Your words should express your qualifications and show your potential for growth at the company. Follow these tips to elevate your cover letter: 

Check the job description for requirements.

Before writing your cover letter, check for requirements in the job description. 

In some cases, the job description may include instructions for your cover letter. It might have requirements such as: maintaining a specific length, naming the recipient, and the information they want to know about you. 

Know the name of the recipient.

Include the name of the hiring manager as opposed to a more general greeting like “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Hiring Manager.” Check the job description or company website for this information, or call the company to get the name of the hiring manager assigned to you. If you exhaust these options and can’t find the answer, use the general greeting.

Tailor the letter.

You’ll notice in the outline that company-specific and job posting-specific details should be included in the cover letter. As a result, every cover letter should be uniquely written for each of the jobs you're applying for and not repurposed.  

Formatting is important too.

While it’s easy to focus on word selection or questions like, “How long should a cover letter be?” formatting is a priority as well. Keep the margins standard, pick a legible and common font like Arial or Times New Roman, and font size of 11 or 12. 

Use bullet points for organization. In your second or third paragraph, when you mention your qualifications, list each of your qualities as a bullet point. 

Bullet points make your copy “skimmable,” so if a hiring manager is short on time, they might skip the paragraphs and simply read the bullets. 

Complement your resume, don’t repeat it.

Your resume offers a snapshot of your job experience, education, and skill set. Avoid repeating information from your resume in your cover letter. It should complement your resume instead of being a copy of it. Rather than duplicating the bullet points listed on your resume under your most recent job, for example, craft sentences that build on those bullets for your cover letter. 

Be concise.

A cover letter is a short document, so every word must count. Make your sentences concise and clear. When you’re finished writing, go back through your cover letter and remove any “fillers,” or phrases that don’t add value to your letter. 

Have a clear call to action.

Include a call to action at the end of your cover letter, such as a suggestion to schedule an interview to further discuss your qualifications. It’s one of the last things mentioned in your letter to encourage the hiring manager to take quick action. 

Getting started

Craft your next cover letter by taking Writing Winning Resumes and Cover Letters from the University of Maryland. To further enhance your job hunt, consider courses like Successful Interviewing or Career Planning: A Path to Employment .

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Cover Letters

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. 

Introduction

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.

Teaching Statements

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.

Research Statements

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.

Remember to:

  • 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 . 

Our Resources

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

Related pages

  • Demonstrate You Fit the Job Criteria
  • Application Forms

External Resources

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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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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academic cover letter how long

  • Writing an Academic Cover Letter for a PhD Application
  • Applying to a PhD
  • The aim of an  academic cover letter  is to convince the supervisor that you are a strong candidate for the PhD position on offer.
  • Your cover letter should be  half a page to a full page  in length; it should be concise and to the point.
  • Your PhD cover letter should include your  personal details , the position you’re applying for, your  motivation  for applying, what you know about the project, what  relevant experience  you have and what makes you suited for the position.

The two documents crucial to get right when  applying to a PhD  are your CV and covering letter.

In this article, we’ll set out the core guidelines you should follow to create an effective academic cover letter.

What Is An Academic Cover Letter?

An academic cover letter is a written document that accompanies your CV and application form when applying for a PhD.

It’s different from a CV as instead of being a structured summary of your skills and experience, it is a summary of why you believe you are suited for a particular PhD programme. As a result, all academic covering letters should be tailored for the specific position you are applying for and addressed to the supervisor who is overseeing the project. They also shouldn’t repeat what is already stated in your CV, but rather expand on the details most related to the position you are applying to.

Note:  An academic cover letter is sometimes referred to as a PhD application letter, but never a motivation letter. The latter is different in that it concerns the reasons as to why you want to undertake research, while a cover letter focuses on demonstrating your suitability for a programme. This is an important distinction to note.

What Is the Purpose of An Academic Cover Letter?

The aim of an academic cover letter is to convince the PhD supervisor that you are the perfect candidate for the PhD project.

Academic cover letters should complement your CV and sell you as a person – will your potential supervisor be excited to work with you after having read your cover letter?

What Should I Include in My Academic Cover Letter?

You should demonstrate that you have the skills which make you suited for research. It is essential that you recognise these skills in you and that you use them to promote yourself.

1. Your Personal Details

Include your name, address, email address and phone number in the top right corner of the letter. This is so the supervisor can reach you should they have questions or require any further information.

2. The Position You’re Applying For

Help the supervisor establish exactly which PhD position you are applying for as there may be several positions being advertised at one time. If they provide a reference number as part of the project description, it would be a good idea to include it in brackets.

3. Why You’re Interested in The Position

Use this section to explain your motivations for applying to the specific PhD and where your research interests stem from. Is it related to the dissertation you produced as part of your final year undergraduate dissertation, etc?

Whatever your motivation for applying to the PhD, make sure that your enthusiasm comes across clearly. The supervisor will appreciate how great a role self-drive plays in completing PhD projects and you will want to convince them you have the level of drive required to be successful.

4. What You Understand About the Project

Besides explaining your motivations for undertaking the project, show that you possess a basic understanding of it. In doing so, make sure you reinforce each point with some level of evidence; avoid making general statements or talking loosely around the research subject. This will show the PhD supervisor that you’ve taken the time to research the background to the project.

5. What Relevant Experience You Have

In this section, briefly discuss your academic background and any relevant experience you have within the field of research. Don’t worry if you have little experience in this area as this will be the case for most applicants. If this the case, then use this section to explain how you will be committed to the PhD research project. If you have experience in conducting research, explain what your role was, the analytical methods you used and any other aspects of your work which may be relevant. Similarly, discuss any teaching experience if you happen to have it.

6. Closing Statement

Keep this short and concise. Thank the supervisor for taking the time to read your application and let them know that you’re looking forward to hearing from them.

How Long Should My Academic Cover Letter Be?

Your academic cover letter should be between half a page to one full page .

To keep it effective, make it as concise as possible and only discuss points which are either relevant to the project or the aspect of being a doctoral research student. This may feel difficult to do, especially if you have much you want to include, but keep in mind that your cover letter can also be used as evidence of your communication skills, more specifically, whether you can convey important information in a clear and logical manner. As this will be a key skill of any research candidate, the prospective supervisor will take it into account when evaluating your capabilities.

How to Format an Academic Cover Letter for A PhD Application

Your cover letter should be written in paragraph format, with bullet points only reserved for situations where a list would improve clarity. This is because a cover letter is one of the few places where you are expected to show your personality, so using too many bullet points will diminish your ability to do this. The best way to approach writing your application letter is to see it as a very short personal essay.

Use a common font like Times New Roman or Calibri, and if possible, avoid the use of highlighting, underlining and tables as they become too distracting. Keep your font size between 10 to 12 points and your margins to at least 0.5 inches around all edges. Try to match the font size, type, line spacing and margin size to your academic CV for neat and consistent presentation.

Your cover letter should be addressed to the PhD supervisor, starting with a “Dear [academic title] [surname]”, for example, “Dear Professor Williams”.

Hopefully, you now know what it takes to write a successful cover letter for a PhD application. While a strong cover letter will go a long way to helping you stand out, you will need to learn how to create an equally strong CV if you really want your application form to excel. To this effect, we recommend you next read our step-by-step guide for creating effective academic CVs .

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When you're applying for a faculty position with a college or university, the cover letter is your first chance to make a strong impression as a promising researcher and teacher. Below you'll find some strategies for presenting your qualifications effectively in an academic context.

November 2, 1998

Dr. Naomi Sellers Chair, English Search Committee Box 58 Baxter College Arcadia, WV 24803

Dear Dr. Sellers:

I am writing to apply for the position as assistant professor of English with an emphasis in rhetoric and composition that you advertised in the October MLA Job Information List. I am a graduate student at Prestigious University working on a dissertation under the direction of Professor Prominent Figure. Currently revising the third of five chapters, I expect to complete all work for the Ph.D. by May of 1999. I believe that my teaching and tutoring experience combined with my course work and research background in rhetoric and composition theory make me a strong candidate for the position outlined in your notice.

As my curriculum vitae shows, I have had excellent opportunities to teach a variety of writing courses during my graduate studies, including developmental writing, first-year writing for both native speakers and second language students, advanced writing, and business writing. I have also worked as a teaching mentor for new graduate students, a position that involved instruction in methods of composition teaching, development of course materials, and evaluation of new graduate instructors. Among the most satisfying experiences for me as a teacher has been instructing students on an individual basis as a tutor in our university Writing Lab. Even as a classroom instructor, I find that I always look forward to the individual conferences that I hold with my students several times during the semester because I believe this kind of one-on-one interaction to be essential to their development as writers.

My work in the composition classroom has provided me with the inspiration as well as a kind of laboratory for my dissertation research. My project, The I Has It: Applications of Recent Models of Subjectivity in Composition Theory, examines the shift since the 1960s from expressive models of writing toward now-dominant postmodern conceptions of decentered subjectivity and self-construction through writing. I argue that these more recent theoretical models, while promising, cannot have the liberating effects that are claimed for them without a concomitant reconception of writing pedagogy and the dynamics of the writing classroom. I relate critical readings of theoretical texts to my own pedagogical experiments as a writing teacher, using narratives of classroom successes and failures as the bases for critical reflection on postmodern composition theory. After developing my dissertation into a book manuscript, I plan to continue my work in current composition theory through a critical examination of the rhetoric of technological advancement in the computer-mediated writing classroom.

My interest in the computer classroom has grown out of recent experience teaching composition in that environment. In these courses my students have used computers for writing and turning in notes and essays, communicating with one another and with me, conducting library catalogue research and web research, and creating websites. I have encouraged my students to think and write critically about their experiences with technology, both in my class and elsewhere, even as we have used technology to facilitate our work in the course. Syllabi and other materials for my writing courses can be viewed at my website: http://machine.prestigious.edu/~name. In all of my writing courses I encourage students to become critical readers, thinkers, and writers; my goal is always not only to promote their intellectual engagement with cultural texts of all kinds but also to help them become more discerning readers of and forceful writers about the world around them.

I have included my curriculum vitae and would be happy to send you additional materials such as a dossier of letters of reference, writing samples, teaching evaluations, and past and proposed course syllabi. I will be available to meet with you for an interview at either the MLA or the CCCC convention, or elsewhere at your convenience. I can be reached at my home phone number before December 19; between then and the start of the MLA convention, you can reach me at (123) 456-7890. I thank you for your consideration and look forward to hearing from you.

First Lastname

Points to Remember

  • Use the form of address and title of the contact person as they appear in the job notice.
  • Refer to the job title as it appears in the notice, and state where you learned of the position.
  • Mention your major professor by name, especially if he or she is well known in your field. Also, mention your expected completion date.
  • Make a claim for your candidacy that you will support in the body of the letter.
  • For a position at a small undergraduate college, emphasize teaching experience and philosophy early in the letter.
  • Describe your dissertation and plans for future research. Emphasize links between your teaching and research interests.
  • Mention specific teaching experience that is relevant to the job notice or is otherwise noteworthy.
  • Refer to relevant materials available on the web.
  • State your willingness to forward additional materials and to meet for an interview.
  • Mention any temporary changes in contact information.

How Long Should a Cover Letter Be in 2024?

Background Image

Finally, an organization posted your dream job. You crafted a flawless resume and now you’re ready to apply. You land on the cover letter section of the application and see that it is optional. Is it truly optional?

Will not submitting make me less likely to land the job? Where do I even start and how long should the cover letter be?

These are some things that might run through your head. But don’t panic, we are here to help. No matter what your career level is, your cover letter can set you apart from the other applicants. But how much do you have to write?

This can be a complicated question. Too much text? The hiring manager might glance over it. Too short? The recruiter may think that you didn’t put much thought or effort into writing the cover letter . 

Cover letters should range from a half-page to one full page. Your cover letter should never exceed one page in length.

  • Page Count: 0.5 to 1
  • Word count: 250 to 400
  • Paragraph count: 3 to 6

how long should a cover letter be

How to Keep Your Cover Letter to One Page

Tip #1: keep it concise.

While the cover letter is a great way to showcase your personality, it is also very important to be concise. Hiring managers are sifting through dozens, and maybe even hundreds, of applications.

They do not have time to read a full two-page article about your daily tasks. Instead, highlight any relevant experiences that show your qualifications for the specific job.

Demonstrate your passion for the industry and end the letter. The decision-maker will appreciate your brevity and may even reward you with an interview . 

Tip #2: Highlight Only Relevant Experiences

Unless the employer requests a specific word count, keep it short. Take only the amount of space required to show that you are an ideal candidate for the job.

Highlight your qualifications and any relevant stories. It’s important to be specific, and not regurgitate the content on your resume. 

It is very important here to showcase how your past achievements can help the company solve their current challenges and how you will use your skills if chosen for the position.

Doing so will show the recruiter or hiring manager the value you can bring to their organization. 

matching resume and cover letter

Tip #3: Break Your Cover Letter into Sections

An effective cover letter contains three to four paragraphs. It’s important to keep the sentences short so the reader can quickly navigate your cover letter.  

Paragraph #1: The Intro

The first paragraph should grab the decision-maker’s attention. This is an opportunity to show your interest in the position and knowledge of the company. Make sure you address your cover letter to the correct person or department. Always be sure to research the company and customize each cover letter to the position you are applying for. 

Example: “I am excited to submit my application for the position of [insert position name] with [insert company name]. I have watched your growth for years and really appreciate the devotion to serving your customer’s needs.” 

Paragraph #2: Your Qualifications

The second paragraph should highlight relevant stories or stats that impress your qualifications. For example, “In the previous company, I grew sales by 150% in my first year and 200% in my second year.” It is helpful if you can be specific in how you achieved success or benefited the company in some way. This highlights what you bring to the table and how you can make an impact on the hiring manager’s business. 

Paragraph #3: Your Interest in the Company

The third paragraph, if you choose to include it, can speak to what drew you to apply to the specific company. This can sway the hiring manager's decision by showing passion and loyalty to the company. 

Paragraph #4: The Closing

The final paragraph should reiterate your interest in the position. It is a great time to thank the reader for their consideration and request an in-person meeting. It’s important to have a call-to-action so the reader knows what to do next. Always include detailed contact information. 

Tip #4: Experience Level

Cover letters can vary based on your experience level. If you are applying for jobs right out of college, don’t include metrics measured in school, such as GPA, unless requested. Instead, focus on your experiences, projects and achievements that make you a strong candidate. 

If you are in the middle of your career, pick out relevant accomplishments and state your experience level. For example, “With 12 years of teaching experience, I am writing to express my interest in the open position in your Mathematics Department.” 

If you have more experience, you likely have more relevant qualifications and stories. This may entice you to make your cover letter longer. Do not fall into the trap.

Longer does not mean better . Select a few key successes and leave others for the interview process. 

cover letter one page length

Tip #5: Formatting

The format is just as important as the length of your cover letter. Pay attention to the amount of white space on the page. More white space keeps the content easier to read for the recruiter or hiring manager.

You want to make sure that you use a font that is legible (as the ones handpicked by our team together with recruiters). Keep standard margins and align your text to the left. 

Writing a cover letter can be intimidating. If you remember to keep your writing concise and highlight only your relevant experiences, you will be on your way to snagging an interview in no time.

Suggested Reading:

  • How to Write a Cover Letter in 2024
  • Resume Formats Guide: How to Pick the Best in 2024
  • Cover Letter Examples

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5 Tips for a Great Cover Letter (and samples)

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Cover Letter Format & Samples

academic cover letter how long

Cover letters are a fantastic tool to introduce oneself in the job search process and are as significant as the resume. A cover letter provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate one’s interest in the organization and establish direct connections between the employer’s job description and one’s professional background. A well-crafted cover letter, tailored to the specific job and company of interest, and addressed to the right person, can make a lasting impression on the employer.

To make the cover letter effective, one must consider some universal tips and considerations when writing it. It is crucial to ensure that the cover letter is clear, concise, and free of errors. Using formal language and avoiding contractions can help maintain a professional tone. Choosing appropriate vocabulary and grammar can help maintain the original meaning of the text and convey a sense of expertise and professionalism, which is suitable for a business or academic setting. So, it is essential to take the time to craft a compelling cover letter that showcases one’s qualifications and skills to the employer in the best possible light.

In addition to the suggestions above, see our list of key considerations to crafting effective and valuable cover letters.

Cover Letter Tips

1. ) All margins should be approximately one-inch. Typically, a cover letter consists of three to four paragraphs.

2.) The font size should be easy to read. Times, Palatino or Helvetica are good choices. A font size of 12 pt. is preferable, but in some cases you may need to use 10.5 or 11 pt. font.

3.) Don’t be tempted to send “generic” letters. Each cover letter you write should be different, because each job and company you’re writing to is different. Make it easy for the reader to see the relevance of your qualifications to the job in question.

4.) Be sure to proofread each new cover letter you create so that it is free of errors.

5.) It is important to write to a specific person whenever possible.

In addition to these quick tips, check out our comprehensive  Job Search Letters  guide for more information on structuring cover letters and other job search documents.

  • Sample 1:  Application Letter
  • Sample 2:  Prospecting Letter

Finally, we know that some people work best when they have a format to follow. Especially when they are writing a document, like a cover letter for the first time. The following example reflects the correct business format to use when writing a cover letter:

Your name Return address City, State, Zip

Name of the contact person Title Company Name Address City, State, Zip

Dear Mr./Ms./First name Last name:

The opening paragraph states your reason for writing the letter. Mention a specific job of interest, or a particular department in which you are seeking work. If possible, mention how and when you learned about the job opening or the company, i.e., through a classified advertisement, a contact person or a career services professional. Be sure to mention the name of the person who suggested this job to you, especially if that person is highly respected within the company.

The middle paragraph is an opportunity to expand on the skills you have developed as they relate to this position. This should not merely repeat your resume. You can discuss your education and particular courses or skills attained while in college. If you’re an experienced person, you may wish to use this paragraph to describe your professional background and highlight any specific job experience that may be of particular interest to the organization and that will differentiate you from other applicants. You may need a second paragraph to fully describe your related abilities.

The next paragraph reflects the research you have done on that particular organization. Use company literature, a web site, or conversation with an employee of the organization as ways to gain knowledge about the organization. Explain why you are interested in the job, and convey your awareness of what the company does to show that you have done careful research.

In closing, reiterate your enthusiasm to be considered and ask for an interview. Either state a specific week you’ll make a follow-up phone call or mention an interest in having the contacted person call to set up an interview date. Specify how you can be contacted. Remember to thank the person for considering your application.

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  • Main content

7 ways to use ChatGPT at work to make your job easier

  • ChatGPT likely won't replace your job anytime soon. But it can make it a little bit easier.
  • With its impressive functions, the buzzy AI chatbot could give some workers a "productivity boost."
  • Business Insider compiled a list of seven ways workers can use the AI tool to help do their jobs.

Insider Today

OpenAI's ChatGPT and similar AI tools may not replace jobs anytime soon . But they could help workers across many industries – from tech to media – do their jobs better and more efficiently. 

"It's almost like a bit of a productivity boost that some of these occupations might get," Anu Madgavkar, a partner at economic research firm McKinsey Global Institute, told Business Insider.

Workers have used the buzzy conversational chatbot – which attracted one million users soon after its launch last November 2022 – to write real estate listings , develop code , and create lesson plans . Some have even used it to accelerate their workflows without telling their coworkers . 

Investors have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into industry-specific generative AI tools out of the belief that these have the potential to solve problems that businesses from hospitals to marketing firms may encounter. Many companies have begun experimenting with these tools to see how they could most benefit their workers.  

"We adapted to calculators and changed what we tested for in math class, I imagine," OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said during an interview with StrictlyVC in January 2023 . "This is a more extreme version of that, no doubt, but also the benefits of it are more extreme, as well."

Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute who has researched the impact of AI on the workforce, echoed the sentiment. 

"It's absolutely true that AI applications like ChatGPT can very much improve workers' lives," Muro told Business Insider.

Workers should be careful when using AI tools, as the tech can be prone to misinformation , and it can remove the human touch from tasks like writing. Most companies also haven't established formal rules around employee use of the AI tool, though firms like Microsoft – a major partner and investor of ChatGPT's parent Open AI – have given employees the green light to use the chatbot for work purposes, as long as they don't share sensitive information with the site.

Here's how you can use ChatGPT and AI to help make your work life easier.

Use it as a Google alternative for research

academic cover letter how long

How many times a day do you Google something at work? ChatGPT may change that.

In fact, the search-engine giant is  reportedly worried  that you'll eventually put your queries into ChatGPT instead. The company issued a "code red" in December of last year over the bot's potential threat to its search business.

"Google may be only a year or two away from total disruption," Gmail creator Paul Buchheit  tweeted a the time , adding that AI will be able to "instantly do what would take many minutes for a human" to do  using a search engine like Google .

While ChatGPT isn't always accurate, it can analyze data from  millions of websites to try and answer whatever question it receives. 

Rather than providing users a series of links to sift through — many of which are high up on the page simply  due to advertising spend  — ChatGPT provides the user with a quick answer. And if the answer is too complicated, ChatGPT can explain it in simpler terms if you ask it to. 

Having quick access to information could ultimately make your job more enjoyable by freeing up time for idea generation. 

"Some of the more boring parts of the job may disappear," Oxford economist Carl Benedikt Frey told Business Insider. "We may begin focusing more on generating the right ideas, asking the right questions, things that are more interesting."

Use it to write essays, speeches, cover letters, songs, and employee evaluations

academic cover letter how long

As many students with essay assignments have already realized , ChatGPT can be quite useful as a writing tool. 

Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of online course provider Coursera, told CNN that he uses ChatGPT to write work emails and even speeches. 

"I use it as a writing assistant and as a thought partner," Maggioncalda said.

Creatives looking for inspiration for their books or songs have also asked ChatGPT to produce some rough drafts for them . 

TikTok user @frontlineleadership , who works as an executive coach, said that he even used ChatGPT to write employee evaluations and was satisfied with the outcome.

"I only had to make slight adjustments here and there," the TikToker said in a January post. "It literally saved me probably 12 hours of work."

"ChatGPT is a game changer," he said.

Use it to analyze vast amounts of data

academic cover letter how long

Many roles involve various forms of data analysis, and ChatGPT can process a lot of information quickly. 

"Analyzing and interpreting vast amounts of language-based data and information is a skill that you'd expect generative AI technologies to ramp up on," Madgavkar told Business Insider . 

"If you're an academic, it's quite nice that you don't have to do statistical analysis by hand," Benedikt Frey said. "You can produce a lot of more stuff."

Thanks to Code Interpreter, one of the chatbot's latest plug-ins, ChatGPT Plus users can now feed the AI large data sets and prompt it to identify trends.

It could use that analytical capability to help make data-based investment decisions, Muro previously told Business Insider . 

"AI can identify trends in the market, highlight what investments in a portfolio are doing better and worse, communicate all that, and then use various other forms of data by, say, a financial company to forecast a better investment mix," he said.

Use it for scheduling tasks, planning, and time management

academic cover letter how long

Getting your busy work schedule organized may be time consuming — but ChatGPT and other forms of AI can make the process a little bit easier.

Economists at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) conducted a study in 2022 on the skills that AI can replicate, and found that AI tools can handle scheduling and task prioritization — in many cases, even "better than humans." 

"Scheduling work and activities seems a perfect AI problem," the study said . 

Some users have tried this out with promising results. Micah , a YouTuber who makes videos exploring AI, posted a video demonstrating how he used ChatGPT to automate his work scheduling.

After he asked ChatGPT to create a daily work schedule that includes tasks like finishing a performance report and scheduling a meeting with his boss, the chatbot was able to spit out an hour-by-hour breakdown of a potential schedule in a matter of seconds.

"This is one of the underrated things ChatGPT can do," Micah said. 

Use it as a second opinion around business, strategy, and customer decisions

academic cover letter how long

If you're a current or aspiring entrepreneur, ChatGPT may be able to help you think through the process of starting a business. 

Business Insider's Jennifer Ortakales Dawkins asked the chat bot a variety of questions and found it to be a useful tool for generating ideas, estimating startup costs, and outlining a business plan. 

Jacqueline DeStefano-Tangorra, the founder of boutique consultancy Omni Business Intelligence Solutions, told Business Insider that the AI chatbot reduced the amount of time she spent on marketing and research , which she said freed up time to pitch new clients. 

Coursera's Maggioncalda told CBS MoneyWatch he used ChatGPT to think through business challenges and strategies. 

"I ask ChatGPT to become aware of where my biases and blind spots might be," he said. "And the answers it gives are a really, really good starting point to check your thinking."

Even Amazon employees who tested ChatGPT said it does a "very good job" of answering customer support questions and is "very strong" at answering queries around corporate strategy. 

Turn it into a coding assistant

academic cover letter how long

Oded Netzer, a Columbia Business School professor, said AI will help coders rather than replace them. 

"In terms of jobs, I think it's primarily an enhancer than full replacement of jobs," Netzer told CBS MoneyWatch . "Coding and programming is a good example of that. It actually can write code quite well."

Specifically, ChatGPT is capable of quickly generating lines of code to resolve certain coding problems. One TikTok user, @asap_blockie, asked ChatGPT to identify the error in some code he was working on as part of his job, he said in a December 2022 video .

"It spat out what was wrong with my code," he said. "And then I copied that and pasted it in, and then it worked." 

In fact, ChatGPT Plus users can now use the Code Interpreter plug-in so the chatbot can identify its own coding mistakes and fix them.

But coders should proceed with caution when receiving help from an AI, as some users have found that ChatGPT incorrectly answers coding problems.  

Use it to apply for a new job or to negotiate a raise

academic cover letter how long

Finally, if you're not happy at your job, ChatGPT may be able to offer some support. People are using it to craft their resumes and cover letters as they undergo their job searches. 

"It will make you a cover letter so you don't have to waste your time anymore," Jonathan Javier, CEO of the career consulting company Consulting, said in a January TikTok video . 

If you're fairly happy at work but feel like you're underpaid, ChatGPT might even be able to help you get a raise .

Insider's Sarah Jackson asked ChatGPT for advice to help her prepare for a theoretical salary negotiation, and two career coaches told her she'd probably be able to get a raise if she followed the AI's script. 

Story was originally published in February 2023.

academic cover letter how long

IMAGES

  1. Academic Cover Letter: Samples & Ready-to-Fill Templates

    academic cover letter how long

  2. Academic Cover Letter Sample

    academic cover letter how long

  3. Academic Cover Letter: Examples & Ready-to-Fill Templates

    academic cover letter how long

  4. Ideal Cover Letter Length: How Long Should A Cover Letter Be?

    academic cover letter how long

  5. How to Write an Academic Cover Letter With Examples

    academic cover letter how long

  6. Academic Cover Letter

    academic cover letter how long

VIDEO

  1. Why Don't We Use The Letter "E" In The Academic Grading System #funfact

  2. informal recommendation letter

  3. write letter to manager

  4. Academic Letter Likhar Niom

  5. ABC 'S

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COMMENTS

  1. Academic Cover Letters

    The typical letter is thus usually one and a half to two pages long, but not more than two—roughly five to eight paragraphs. The First Paragraph In the opening of your letter you need to convey some basic information, such as what specific position you are applying for (using the title given in the job notice) and where you learned of the opening.

  2. Academic Cover Letters

    For early-career scholars, cover letters are typically no more than two pages (up to four pages for senior scholars). Occasionally, a third page may make sense for an early-career scholar if the application does not require a separate teaching statement and/or research statement.

  3. PDF Cover Letters for Academic Positions

    Body Paragraphs Describe your achievements and qualifications. Use this opportunity to paint a picture of yourself in this job. Address requirements and desired skills outlined in the job posting. Provide brief, specific examples to demonstrate your skills and experience—do not to simply repeat your CV.

  4. Dos and Don'ts for writing a cover letter for the academic job market

    The first thing that Ph.D. students need to remember about the academic cover letter is its purpose: to introduce who you are as a scholar, what you would bring to the department as a potential colleague and how you fit the requirements listed in the advertisement.

  5. PDF How to Write a Cover Letter for Academic Jobs

    For jobs in academia, the length of the Address and salutation: Address the cover letter will depend on the seniority of letter to a named person i.e. the Head the post. In any event, you should ensure of Department. the letter is no longer than two pages; one First paragraph: An introduction, and a half pages is better still.

  6. How Long Should a Cover Letter Be and What Should Be Included?

    Generally, you should aim for a cover letter word count of 250 to 400 words and about three to six paragraphs. A short, concise cover letter serves as a written introduction to a prospective employer and outlines why you're the best fit for the job.

  7. Cover Letters

    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.

  8. Academic cover letters: 10 top tips

    Thu 28 Nov 2013 08.42 EST 4 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...

  9. How To Write a Great Academic Cover Letter (Steps and Example)

    2. Format the page. As with most other documents, your academic cover letter contains a heading with your name, contact information and location at the top, followed by the date and the organization's name. Set your page margins to one inch, and use a professional font like Times New Roman, Calibri or Garamond.

  10. Writing an Academic Cover Letter for a PhD Application

    Keep your font size between 10 to 12 points and your margins to at least 0.5 inches around all edges. Try to match the font size, type, line spacing and margin size to your academic CV for neat and consistent presentation. Your cover letter should be addressed to the PhD supervisor, starting with a "Dear [academic title] [surname]", for ...

  11. How Long Should a Cover Letter Be in 2022?

    What's the Ideal Length for a Cover Letter? —Plus Tips to Get Yours There by Regina Borsellino Updated 10/28/2022 Bailey Zelena; Tom Werner/Getty Images When you have a task to complete, it helps to know what the end product should look like. It's especially true when you're doing something you might find difficult—like writing a cover letter.

  12. Academic Cover Letter: Examples & How to Write (+Template)

    Sticking to word limits is also nothing new to you. How long should an academic cover letter be? A total of about 250-400 words. Space your academic cover letter out such that it nicely fills a single A4 page, never more. Leave margins at the default 2.5 cm. Leave font size at 11-12 points.

  13. Academic Cover Letter Sample

    Make a claim for your candidacy that you will support in the body of the letter. For a position at a small undergraduate college, emphasize teaching experience and philosophy early in the letter. Describe your dissertation and plans for future research. Emphasize links between your teaching and research interests.

  14. Academic Cover Letter: Examples for Faculty Positions

    With an academic cover letter template like that, they'd have to interview you. Now here's how to write a great academic cover letter: 1. Use a Respected Academic Cover Letter Template. Writing a good cover letter for university jobs takes certain core requirements. This academic cover letter template has them.

  15. How to Write an Academic Cover Letter

    Go ahead and download the template as a Word Document here and use it as a starting point for writing your own cover letter. To: [Name of Faculty Head, Name of University/College, City & Postcode] Re: [Advertised job title] Dear [Joe] [Mr. Bloggs] I am pleased to apply for the role of Psychology Lecturer at XXXX University and to attach my CV ...

  16. Academic Cover Letter Example & Tips

    Follow these three tips to write an academic cover letter that gets you shortlisted: 1. Highlight academic skills. A strong academic cover letter should highlight a variety of hard and soft skills, along with your teaching experience or involvement in research activities. To make yourself a more compelling candidate, be sure to also mention any ...

  17. Essay on the cover letter for academic jobs

    Depending on the individual committee member and how large the candidate pool is, your materials may get as long as 30 minutes or as short as 5 minutes. Less if it's obvious from your cover letter that you're absolutely not qualified for the job ( see "Fit" column ).

  18. The Do's of Writing a Spectacular Cover Letter

    Do Be Concise: Cover letters should be one page long and divided into three to four paragraphs. The first paragraph should indicate the reason you are writing and how you heard about the position. Include attention grabbing, yet professional, information.

  19. How Long Should a Cover Letter Be

    250- 400 Words 3-4 Paragraphs One-page document Recruiters and hiring managers go over hundreds of applications to find desirable candidates. Catch their attention quickly by using keywords from the job description and writing a concise cover letter with the relevant information they're looking for in a candidate.

  20. Academic Cover Letter Examples for 2024

    Angela Boerner This is much shorter than many of the cover letters you'll write. However, it's a great starting point for just about any research interest or student-types. Academic Cover Letter Sample BUILD MY COVER LETTER How To Write Your Academic Cover Letter With This Example The first step is to ensure your header and salutation are correct.

  21. Academic Cover Letter Examples & Writing Tips for 2024

    Susan Buck Tips for Writing Your Academic Cover Letter Using This Example Your first step is to have a great header with your full name, phone number, and email. Then you can start using the following cover letter format to discuss your experience and knowledge. First paragraph: Introduce yourself with a hook and list your best achievements

  22. How Long Should a Cover Letter Be in 2024?

    Cover letters should range from a half-page to one full page. Your cover letter should never exceed one page in length. Perfect Cover Letter Length Characteristics. Page Count: 0.5 to 1. Word count: 250 to 400. Paragraph count: 3 to 6.

  23. Q&A: What's the Ideal Cover Letter Length?

    How long should a cover letter be? Cover letters should be between half a page to one full page in length. Limit your cover letter length to 4 paragraphs, opening each with a succinct topic sentence and closing with an attention-grabbing final thought. Image description

  24. 5 Tips for a Great Cover Letter (and samples)

    Cover Letter Tips. 1. ) All margins should be approximately one-inch. Typically, a cover letter consists of three to four paragraphs. 2.) The font size should be easy to read. Times, Palatino or Helvetica are good choices. A font size of 12 pt. is preferable, but in some cases you may need to use 10.5 or 11 pt. font. 3.)

  25. CIRTL Network Spring Programming

    CIRTL Network Spring Programming. This week, spring programming starts with an online event on writing academic cover letters on Thursday. Registration also opens for two more spring offerings - a workshop on caring for yourself as an instructor, and a 5-week seminar on research mentor training; both have limited capacity and will fill up ...

  26. Iowa Academic Standards

    New educate.iowa.gov Website. The Iowa Department of Education's website is new. Many of our previous documents and pages have new links. Your patience is appreciated. Published on January 8, 2024. ; last updated on January 9, 2024. Use Website Feedback Form for questions/concerns.

  27. How to Use ChatGPT to Save Time, Boost Productivity at Work

    The letter F. Facebook. An envelope. ... Use it to write essays, speeches, cover letters, songs, and employee evaluations. ... "If you're an academic, it's quite nice that you don't have to do ...