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Top Tips for Improving Your Academic Cover Letter

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Content originally published on data180.com. Learn more about Interfolio’s acquisition of Data180 here.

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It is safe to assume that if you are submitting a CV for an academic position, an academic cover letter will be coming along with it. An academic cover letter is your opportunity to let potential employers know why you are the perfect fit for the job. Your cover letter should let employers know of your accomplishments, but it really should not take more than two pages to do so.

Steve Joy, in a blog article for The Guardian titled “Academic Cover Letter: 10 Tips,” says that one page, single or double-sided, should be enough to convey the message. It might be easy to fall into the trap of writing a cover letter that is too long, since academic cover letters offer more leeway in terms of length compared to other sectors, but Joy advocates against that.

Joy says that an academic cover letter should be treated as if it were a short essay. You don’t need to include every single course that you’ve taught in your cover letter – that information should already be included in your CV. This short essay should be able to answer a fairly simple prompt – what makes you the perfect fit for the position you’re applying for? You will need to find a perfect balance of including enough information to show employers that you’ve done ample work in your field to warrant their interest, but not including so much that reading through your cover letter becomes a cumbersome task.

Someone reading through your cover letter should have a solid grasp of who you are after the first couple lines of your cover letter. Keep pertinent information like your current job, field of research, and your contribution to it at the top. Your cover letter is most likely only one of many that an employer is going to be reading though, so it is important to make them remember you. Do not let length be the reason yours does not end up on their shortlist.

Be efficient with your space. Show, don’t tell. Instead of saying that you’re good at something, provide examples of work you have done that proves that you are. Take into account the fact that not everyone is an expert in your field. Including the research you’ve conducted can be dangerous if an employer ends up more confused than enlightened after reading through your research section.

If you want to provide examples of research you’re conducting, do so in an easy-to-read manner. Ask a colleague or friend that is not in your immediate field to read through your cover letter. If they are not able to understand your research portion, it may be safe to assume that others might not be able to either.

You should be able to stand on your own merits to prove to employers that you’re a good fit for the job. Do not try to mold yourself into something that you’re not – employers will see right through that. And if there’s one bit of advice that Joy strongly suggests – it’s not including student testimonies of how good of a professor you are. He says that this move “smacks of desperation.”

The full article can be found here: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2013/nov/28/academic-cover-letters-10-tips

Content originally published on data180.com. Learn more about Interfolio’s acquisition of Data180 here.