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Debbie Bride

Faculty Position cover letter example

Faculty Position cover letter example

All those years of writing countless academic papers make it seem like something you could do in your sleep. As for job applications … well, how hard can it be to knock out a faculty position cover letter? 

Be assured that cover letters are in a writing league of their own, and rarely second nature to anyone. That’s one reason Resume.io is here to help. Our job search resources include more than 180 occupation-specific cover letter examples, each paired with a writing guide. 

This step-by-step guide aims to demystify the process of writing a faculty position cover letter. Backed by an adaptable faculty position cover letter example, we’ll discuss:

  • The best format for structuring your faculty position cover letter
  • Speaking to your strengths as an ideal faculty job match in each cover letter section: header, greeting, introduction, body, and conclusion
  • Common cover letter mistakes to avoid

How to write a cover letter - expert guide [2024]

Here is exactly how you can write a cover letter that will stand out from the crowd, and help you land that interview.

For related examples and writing guides in our Education category, check out the following:

  • Teaching Assistant

Best format for a faculty position cover letter

For anyone accustomed to writing scholarly research papers and dissertations, the simplicity of a cover letter’s format can be a welcome treat. Like any type of letter, it conforms to this outline of parts:

Cover letter header

Cover letter greeting, cover letter introduction, cover letter middle part (body).

  • Cover letter closing.

Cover letter tips: 20 ways to make yours work

Cover letters are a critical part of the job application process, and yet many struggle with how to write them. The cover letter writing tips in this guide will help you move beyond amateur errors and into the realm of a job-winning professional.

Before taking a closer look at the purpose of each cover letter part and how to optimize the impact, here is some general advice. 

Assume your cover letter recipient is busy with many other preoccupations. That includes dozens, if not hundreds, of other faculty job applications to weed through and pour over. Making life easier for that person will earn you bonus marks when your cover letter is:

  • Short — no more than 400 words on a single page — but intriguing enough to catch the reader’s attention
  • Inviting to read at first glance and all the way through — clean, streamlined, orderly and professionally polished, with legible fonts and ample white space to offset the text-heavy segments
  • Tailored to the specific faculty position and hiring institution

Here is an adaptable cover letter example that you can customize for the faculty position and hiring institution.

Dear Professor Donnelly,

The teaching assistant faculty position would be an ideal role for me as I complete my PhD in Applied Linguistics at Brown University. I am fluent in Spanish, French, and Italian and have tutored Brown students in all three languages over the past four years. Having assisted with some cover lecturing last year, I would like to formalize my role within the department.

95% of private students have improved their grades and my extra-curricular linguistics class was attended by lecture halls of 300+ students from across the faculty. Students warm to my accessible teaching style. I enjoy reaching out to the nimble minds of tomorrow. You cannot study a language if you do not have an appreciation for the building blocks of semantics.

My ambition is to become a lecturer after my PhD, so this faculty position would provide the ideal stepping stone for the next couple of years. I already know many of the teaching staff well and a few of them suggested that this role would be a good fit for me.

I enclose a summary of my PhD thesis as I would like to discuss participating in your linguistics teaching as well as the individual languages. I know that staff absence has been an issue over the past few years, and I would like to offer as much academic support as possible.

I enclose my CV alongside nine academic and pedagogical testimonials from your faculty colleagues. I look forward to the opportunity of a formal interview - I would love to share my ideas about how I can make a difference to both students and staff.

Brain Townsend

A distinctive cover letter header — traditionally at the top of the page but sometimes along one side — can help your job application stand out from the rest in a “personal brand” fashion. Your identifying information is prominently displayed in a way that gets noticed first and is easy for recruiters to find when they’re ready to get in touch with you later.  

Be sure to include your name, occupation title, phone number, and email. It’s a good idea to add your LinkedIn profile URL too, and any relevant professional social media or website links.

A professional pair It takes very little extra effort to visually match your cover letter and resume design — notably in the header — so it’s obvious that the documents belong together, and to you. 

The goal of the cover letter header: Stand out from scores of other faculty job candidates with an attractive cover letter header that makes it easy for recruiters to remember and reach you.

No job candidate can go wrong using this traditional cover letter salutation: “Dear <Dr.> <Mr.> <Ms.> Surname.” It’s not considered old-fashioned and strikes the right balance between formal and friendly.

Typically, faculty position cover letters are addressed to a professor, a department or section head, or perhaps a principal investigator if it’s a research role. In any case, do make every effort to find out who will be on the receiving end of your faculty job application so you can address that person by name in your cover letter greeting.

“Dear Sir or Madam”: The wrong way to start a cover letter and your best alternatives

“Sir” or “Madam” might have their place in polite society, but not in cover letters. Here, we look at why “Dear Sir or Madam” is the wrong way to address your cover letter recipient and the best alternatives.

If no one is named in the advertised faculty job posting, check the university website, LinkedIn profiles, or online publications. Failing those sleuthing efforts, just make a phone call and ask.

But if you still come up empty, your next best option is “Dear Search Committee Members.” 

To whom it may concern: just don’t

“To Whom It May Concern” is an old-fashioned way of writing a letter greeting when you don’t know the name of the correct person to address. But it should never be used in a cover letter in which you’re seeking a job. Here are some alternatives.

The goal of the cover letter greeting: Start off on a professional but personal note by directly addressing the faculty position recruiter by name.

The introduction of your faculty position cover letter has some basic ground to cover off the top, in the space of just two or three sentences. It must convey who you are, your current academic role, why you are interested in the job, and what makes you an excellent candidate. 

The challenge is to prevent the search committee members’ eyes from glazing over reading the same opening lines as dozens of other applicants have put forward. You need a hook that resonates right away, intriguing them enough to keep reading and then learn more in your CV.

Was your faculty job application prompted by a lead from another university professor or colleague that the recruiter and you know in common? If so, your cover letter introduction is the place to mention it.

Hitting the high notes of your brightest accomplishments won’t go quite far enough. An engaging cover letter introduction helps faculty recruiters understand your motivation and how you might contribute to the projects and activities they care about deeply. How will this institution benefit from your expertise and enthusiasm? Is your excitement about this prospect coming across?  

The goal of the cover letter introduction: Appeal to the specific faculty hiring needs by emphasizing the value you would bring to this research project.

Here’s the greeting and introduction from our faculty position cover letter sample.

The body of your cover letter substantiates why you belong on this faculty team. To some extent, it’s like a written response to the “Tell me about yourself” interview question that you hope will come later when your application is shortlisted. 

Again, the career highlights presented in these middle paragraphs should paint a picture of your future that’s framed from the recruiter’s standpoint. Citing facts and figures to quantify beneficial outcomes where possible, give a few examples of achievements that speak to the hiring university’s needs and values. Focus on skills and experiences that are impressive, relevant, and relatable. 

Brief anecdotes also have their place in this cover letter section. Tell a story or two about unique or unexpected discoveries reflecting your curiosity and creativity as a dedicated researcher and teacher.

Evidence of your efforts to learn everything about this faculty role should be implicit here. How compatible are your career goals with this institution’s mission? What about your personality and work style? Who are you eager to collaborate with?  

The goal of the cover letter body: Build the recruiter’s confidence in your ability to help advance the university’s research and teaching goals.

This faculty position cover letter sample illustrates what you might include in the middle part:

Cover letter closing 

It’s time to end your cover letter while hinting at a professional relationship that’s only beginning. Beware of treating this concluding paragraph offhandedly as just a final formality. 

By all means, do the courtesy of thanking the hiring professor or search committee members for their time and consideration of your application. Beyond that, it’s the place to reinforce how interested and enthusiastic you are about this faculty opportunity. And absolutely reiterate why you’re an excellent match for the position.

Be sure to conclude with a call to action that opens the door wider to the next steps. Indicate you look forward to speaking or meeting with the search committee, or at least hearing back soon. Ask if they’d be receptive to a follow-up phone call from you in a week’s time. Anything that puts some onus on the recruiter to respond in some way is fine, as long as it doesn’t sound pushy or presumptuous.

Finally, close with a professional sign-off: your full name below “Sincerely,” or “Best regards.” 

The goal of the cover letter closing: End with a call to action that implies your expectation of a response and next steps. 

Below is the closing section of our faculty position cover letter example.

Common cover letter mistakes

It’s a safe bet that writing errors are not something most academic professionals typically need to worry about. Still, no cover letter writing advice would be complete without these precautions about common pitfalls to avoid:

  • Failing to customize and personalize your cover letter for each job application, instead sending the same generic letter to multiple employers
  • Self-centered angle — “why I need this job” instead of “why you need me on your team”
  • Lazy language, word bloat and sloppy sentence construction
  • Stilted institutional, bureaucratic or otherwise unnatural writing style — people don’t talk like that!
  • Lack of personality, with too much emphasis on technical competence
  • Careless typos, spelling mistakes, and grammatical goofs signifying a failure to proofread
  • Over-reliance on spell-check and grammar apps that overlook faults such as inconsistent capitalization, date formats, and periods ending bullet points
  • Page layout and formatting flaws that sabotage reader-friendliness
  • Duplication of resume content and wording

Don't forget to publish your faculty position

Save yourself the time, hassle and uncertainty that DIY layout, design, and formatting entails. Leave those details up to Resume.io, by using one of our field-tested cover letter templates. It could not be simpler to drop in your own replacement text using our cover letter builder tool.

Key takeaways

  • Faculty position applicants are already equipped with strong academic writing skills they can adapt to create a persuasive cover letter.
  • Each custom-tailored cover letter should reflect your knowledge of the position and hiring institution while noting how the faculty would benefit from having you on board.
  • Let your personality, purpose, and passion shine through in a way that’s not possible in a CV.
  • With the bar set high for academic professionals to error-proof their work, a job application leaves no room for slip-ups.

Free professionally designed templates

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:

Date: Month Day, Year

Search Committee Chair’s First and Last Name, Graduate Degree
Full Department Name
Name of Institution
Department Address

Dear Dr./Mr./Ms. Search Committee Chair’s last name and/or Search Committee Members:

Paragraph 1 [3-5 Sentences]: Identify the position you are applying for. Introduce yourself to the committee and your research interests. Connect your interests to the department and describe what makes you interested in becoming part of this departmental community.

Paragraph 2 [3-5 Sentences]: Briefly explain your research to date. Consider mentioning your research questions, methods, key findings, as well as where and when you published and/or presented this work.

Paragraph 3 [4-5 Sentences]: Elaborate on your current research project. Consider mentioning your most prestigious funding awards for this project. Explain your key findings in more detail.

Paragraph 4 [3-5 Sentences]: Introduce your future research plans and goals. Point out the intellectual merit and/or broader impacts of this future work.

Paragraph 5 [3-5 Sentences]: Briefly discuss your teaching experience and strategies. Provide examples of teaching strategies or an anecdote highlighting your teaching effectiveness. You may also want to introduce your philosophy on diversity in an academic setting.

Paragraph 6 [2-3 Sentences]: Make a connection between your work and the department to which you are applying. Include how you will participate in the intellectual life of the department both inside and outside the classroom. Provide concrete examples of how you will be a hard-working and collaborative colleague.

Paragraph 7 [1-2 Sentences]: A thank you for the search committee’s time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[Signature]

Your Name
Credentials and Position
Institution/Affiliation Name

Teaching-Based Position Job Letter Example:

Date: Month Day, Year

Search Committee Chair’s First and Last Name, Graduate Degree
Full Department Name
Name of Institution
Department Address

Dear Dr./Mr./Ms. Search Committee Chair’s last name and/or Search Committee Members:

Paragraph 1 [3-5 Sentences]: Identify the position you are applying for. Introduce yourself to the committee and your research interests. Connect your interests to the department and describe what makes you interested in becoming part of this departmental community.

Paragraph 2 [3-5 Sentences]: Briefly discuss your teaching experience and pedagogical commitments. Provide examples of teaching strategies or an anecdote highlighting your teaching effectiveness. You may also want to introduce your philosophy on diversity in an academic setting.

Paragraph 3 [3-4 Sentences]: Provide a discussion of how you involved yourself with students or the broader university community outside of the traditional classroom setting. Discuss how those interactions influenced your teaching.

Paragraph 4 [2-3 Sentences]: Briefly explain your current research interests to date and how it relates to your teaching. State your research questions, methods, and key findings or arguments. Point out the intellectual merit and/or broader impacts of this future work.

Paragraph 5 [3-5 Sentences]: Highlight when and where your research was published and/or presented this work or any forthcoming publications. Mention any prestigious funding or awards. Introduce your future research plans and goals.

Paragraph 6 [2-3 Sentences]: Make a connection between your work and the department to which you are applying. Include how you will participate in the intellectual life of the department both inside and outside the classroom. Provide concrete examples of how you will be a hard-working and collaborative colleague.

Paragraph 7 [1-2 Sentences]: A thank you for the search committee’s time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[Signature]

Your Name
Credentials and Position
Institution/Affiliation Name

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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Cover letter template for academic faculty and teaching positions.

Below is a general template for use when crafting a cover letter for academic teaching positions. Before getting started, you will also want to review the academic cover letter samples .

Optional – include header (similar to your resume and other supporting documents)

[Mailing date] [Search committee mailing info, including department and address] [Dear Professor _____________________, or Dear Search Committee Chair and Members:] [Paragraph 1: simple introduction.]

     I am writing to apply for the position of [official title] announced in the XXX [e.g., Chronicle of Higher Education]. I am completing a Ph.D. in XX from the [department name] at the University of California, Davis. I will defend my dissertation, "[dissertation title]” and expect to graduate in [month]. OR: I am finishing the first year of my postdoc with XX [your PI's name or in the lab of XX], where I am working on X, Y, and Z [briefly describe, but leave the bulk of the research description for the below sections]. [Paragraph 2: principal research area(s) and dissertation - this paragraph along with paragraph 3 would follow the introduction when applying for a faculty or teaching position within a R1 university emphasizing the research over the teaching. For Liberal Arts Colleges and State Universities, research and teaching paragraphs should be somewhat balanced in length. For teaching-only Community Colleges, a research statement might be included towards the bottom of the cover letter, but only in the context of staying on top of the discipline in order to perform more effectively as a teacher. ]

     My principal research area is X [area here], with a focus on [focus area(s)]. [3-4 sentence summary of dissertation here]. I've used X method/technique/approach to explore W and Z. [Paragraph 3: other research areas, contributions, and future directions - this paragraph would be included for R1, Liberal Arts College or State University.]

     My immediate research priority is to expand this manuscript into a book. I will direct future research toward [1-2 sentences on next project]. [Add additional sentences on your broader research agenda, how you would apply this to your new institution]. [Paragraph 4: teaching experience and interests - this paragraph would follow the 1st paragraph when applying to a State University.]

     During my [number] years at X [campus], I have taught [identify what you have taught, particularly as it relates to the institution you are applying]. [Add 2 or so sentences on any pedagogical training, innovative approaches you have taken in the classroom, technology you've used, areas you are particularly interested in exploring, and/or specific new class or seminars you would like to teach at their institution]. [Paragraph 5: closing.]

     I have enclosed my CV, a writing sample, and a teaching philosophy state [or whatever they ask for…]. Three faculty recommendations will be mailed under separate cover [or by Interfolio , a dossier service]. I will attend the XX conference in [city] this year, and I can always be reached by phone or email. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, [your signature] [your email] – include if you don’t use a header [your phone number] – include if you don’t use a header

A couple of notes:

  • The tone of the cover letter should be that of a potential colleague. It should showcase your knowledge, contribution to the discipline. The cover letter should be used to outline your academic accomplishments and to share a five year vision for where you are heading into the future.
  • You want to present the perspective of an independent researcher and teacher, not simply a list the coursework and tasks you've completed as a graduate student or postdoc.
  • Note that you do not have to separate your dissertation and other research interests (i.e. paragraphs 2 and 3).
  • Understand the different missions of the institutions for which you are applying.

Adapted from a template provided by Robert P. Newcomb, Ph.D., Department of Spanish & Portuguese, UC Davis

Biological Engineering Communication Lab

Cover letter for a faculty position

Criteria for success.

  • You demonstrate scientific accomplishments and scholastic achievement.
  • You clearly define the vision and impact of your future research program.
  • You differentiate yourself from colleagues, e.g. advisors, as well as other faculty candidates.
  • You establish what your niche will be in the department.
  • Your excitement and passion are clearly displayed.
  • Your letter is no more than 1 page long.

Structure Diagram

  • Critical contact information: name, degree, current position, email, and phone number
  • Your professional profile or webpage ( g., LinkedIn, ResearchGate, Academia.edu)
  • Date, department, and university name and address
  • Salutation – “Dear [Faculty Search Committee / Department Head],”
  • Brief introduction – Display excitement. State specific terms related to the faculty position, department and university. For example, if you are applying to a “cluster” hire that includes faculty across multiple departments, such as Systems and Synthetic Biology , then state this directly. State the position you are applying for (i.e., tenure-track appointment, assistant faculty position).
  • Strong opening statement – Declare succinctly your targeted research areas. Establish your foundation on which you will base your research. Emphasize novel interfaces and applications within your proposed research.
  • Scientific achievements – Summarize successes highlighted in your CV that demonstrate the breadth and depth of scientific expertise. Demonstrate your productivity, as well as key scientific or technical strengths with supporting details.
  • Motivation & impact – State areas of expertise and indicate specific aims of your future research program. Clearly describe how these aims align with current research initiatives in the department or university.
  • Teaching & mentorship – Highlight your experience in the classroom and as a research mentor, and service in the profession or community.
  • Wrap-up – “Additional documents are enclosed. Please feel free to contact me if supplemental information is required. ”
  • Follow-up & thank you – Be clear that you expect to hear back ( e.g., I look forward to your reply ). Thank the committee for their time and consideration.
  • Closure – Maintain professionalism. Sincerely , Best regards , and Kindest regards are appropriate closing phrases. Include your electronic signature.

Identify Your Purpose

The faculty cover letter, as with cover letters for other positions , is the first part of your application to be read by the Faculty Search Committee. Your cover letter may be the only part anyone reads if the Search Committee doesn’t like what they see in your cover letter. Therefore, the primary purpose of a faculty cover letter is to capture attention and generate interest among members of the specific department for which you are applying.

If you make it over this first hurdle, the cover letter should then serve as a letter of introduction. The faculty cover letter connects all other application material, such as the Research and Teaching Statements, CV, and References. Brainstorm approaches to reiterate important points and themes between these documents in a complementary and cohesive manner.

Analyze your audience

Knowing what the Faculty Search Committee is looking for will help you tailor your application.

Searches for new hires may focus on specific research areas ( e.g., nanomaterials, systems engineering, therapeutic science, renewable energy). In this case, you should customize your application to highlight your work in the specified research area.

Alternatively, departments may concentrate solely on the best candidates regardless of pre-selected scientific disciplines, in which case you have more flexibility in how you present yourself.

In addition, academic employment opportunities differ based on whether positions are tenure-tracked or require teaching, and the type of institution (university, medical school, research institute). Research the responsibilities associated with each of these positions, and include only information relevant to the specific position – don’t waste valuable space on irrelevant experiences.

Advocate for yourself

The faculty cover letter emphasizes your past and present academic career, while promoting your future potential. For many of us, exuding confidence in an open letter of introduction is challenging, but you have to believe in yourself before you can convince others to believe in you.

State your pedigree

In academia, the institutions and departments you have attended and the advisors for whom you have worked do matter. State this information in Scientific Achievements . Inform your audience if you have co-taught classes with distinguished professors in Teaching & Mentorship or emphasize existing collaborations in the Motivation & Impact section.

Quantify your productivity

Academia identifies scientific contributions by the following conventions: number of publications, quality, and impact. In addition to research articles, noteworthy contributions may also include opinion articles, book chapters, or your role as a journal reviewer. Emphasize alternative sources of scientific communication (and funding) such as distinguished merit-based fellowships.

Engineering students are likely to be co-authors of patents; state this information.

Describe your future potential

Beyond reiterating your past accomplishments, you must also show you are prepared to handle the future challenges of being a Principal Investigator. By far, the most difficult paragraph to write in the faculty cover letter focuses on the Motivation & Impact of your future research program. Clearly articulate the vision of your future research program and describe how your leadership will facilitate an environment of scientific and teaching excellence. Demonstrate expert understanding of your field, and confidently state your qualifications as a leader in research, educator, and citizen of the university.

Define your niche

Your application will be one out of hundreds. You must differentiate yourself and your research program from other candidates, as well as previous or current advisor(s). Ask yourself what you will do that is unique compared to any of your past or future colleagues. How you will uniquely fit into the department; what is your niche?

The Motivation & Impact section provides an opportunity to concisely define your niche. State specific aims of your proposed research that expand upon the department’s core strengths while simultaneously diversifying the university’s research portfolio ( e.g., emerging research fields, state-of-the art technologies, novel applications). Carefully consider research centers, core facilities, affiliated institutes or medical centers at the university. In many cases, campus- or state-wide research initiatives may complement your research program.

Finally, take advantage of any experiences you’ve had outside of academia. Have you previously worked in industry or consulted? Would these former and future relationships lead to additional funding for your lab? If so, suggest more unusual avenues of additional funding. It may no longer suffice to focus primarily on traditional grants sponsored by government agencies. Think of creative alternatives and diversify your future financial portfolio. This, in turn, differentiates your research program from colleagues.

Finally, you will more than likely apply to multiple departments and universities. Therefore, modify your niche for every application!

Make important information concise and identifiable

Again, your application is one out of hundreds. Helping the Faculty Search Committee easily identify important information in your cover letter will only improve your chances of moving forward in the hiring process. A faculty cover letter should not exceed 1 page , so you must present your qualifications to the Faculty Search Committee in a concise manner.

Maximize impact of words. When it’s accurate, use verbs that illustrate impact (“led,” “developed,” “innovated”) over verbs that make you sound passive (“participated”). Aim for verbs that are more specific to the actual contribution you made.

Minimize redundancy and wordiness. For every sentence, challenge yourself to remove as many words as possible without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Use keywords. Keywords cited by grant-funding agencies, easily recognizable by any faculty member, should be included in relevant sections of your faculty cover letter. Using field-specific vocabulary may demonstrate your understanding of the field and the department’s needs, but be aware that Faculty Search Committees that are more mixed in expertise may require simpler vocabulary and/or explanations accessible to a broader audience.

Maintain abundant white space. In terms of formatting, inclusion of white space is easy on the eye while providing a precise transition from one section to the next.

Devote time!

Crafting your faculty application is a process that will continue indefinitely.

  • Devote time to your faculty application, and work in consistent increments over the course of weeks not days.
  • Take time to brainstorm, reflect, write, edit, critique, and revise accordingly.
  • Seek guidance in terms of technical content, emphasis of soft skills, as well as grammatical improvements and aesthetics from colleagues and friends.

Above all else, remember that the faculty application is a creative process. Enjoy it!

Resources and Annotated Examples

Annotated example 1.

This cover letter resulted in an invitation to interview for the desired faculty position. 2 MB

University of Pennsylvania

  • Appointments

Career Fairs

  • Resume Reviews

Penn Career Services

  • Undergraduates
  • PhDs & Postdocs
  • Faculty & Staff
  • Prospective Students
  • Online Students
  • Career Champions
  • I’m Exploring
  • Architecture & Design
  • Education & Academia
  • Engineering
  • Fashion, Retail & Consumer Products
  • Fellowships & Gap Year
  • Fine Arts, Performing Arts, & Music
  • Government, Law & Public Policy
  • Healthcare & Public Health
  • International Relations & NGOs
  • Life & Physical Sciences
  • Marketing, Advertising & Public Relations
  • Media, Journalism & Entertainment
  • Non-Profits
  • Pre-Health, Pre-Law and Pre-Grad
  • Real Estate, Accounting, & Insurance
  • Social Work & Human Services
  • Sports & Hospitality
  • Startups, Entrepreneurship & Freelancing
  • Sustainability, Energy & Conservation
  • Technology, Data & Analytics
  • DACA and Undocumented Students
  • First Generation and Low Income Students
  • International Students
  • LGBTQ+ Students
  • Transfer Students
  • Students of Color
  • Students with Disabilities
  • Explore Careers & Industries
  • Make Connections & Network
  • Search for a Job or Internship
  • Write a Resume/CV
  • Write a Cover Letter
  • Engage with Employers
  • Research Salaries & Negotiate Offers
  • Find Funding
  • Develop Professional and Leadership Skills
  • Apply to Graduate School
  • Apply to Health Professions School
  • Apply to Law School
  • Self-Assessment
  • Experiences
  • Post-Graduate
  • Jobs & Internships
  • Career Fairs
  • For Employers
  • Meet the Team
  • Peer Career Advisors
  • Career Services Policies
  • Walk-Ins & Pop-Ins
  • Strategic Plan 2022-2025

Cover Letter Writing Guide

The purpose of a cover letter.

Anatomy of a Cover Letter

Anatomy of a Cover Letter

Sometimes called a “letter of intent” or “letter of interest”, a cover letter is an introduction to the rest of your job application materials (e.g., resume/CV, research statement, teaching philosophy, writing samples, etc.). The purpose of a cover letter is to quickly summarize why you are applying to an organization or for a particular position, and what skills and knowledge you bring that make you the most suitable candidate for that position. The cover letter is often the first impression that a prospective employer will have of you, especially if they do not know you, or have not heard about you from their network of contacts. First impressions count, and so getting your cover letter right is a critical step in your job application process. Like all your job application materials, it may take time and focus to write your cover letters well. You will likely have several drafts before you come up with a final version that clearly articulates your skills and your understanding of the employer and the job requirements.

While your resume briefly states your skills, knowledge, experience, and (most importantly) what you have achieved using your abilities, the cover letter gives you an opportunity to create a narrative that shows the path you have taken in your career or education, emphasizing the skills you’ve used along the way, and explaining why the position you are applying to is the next desirable step on this path. To find out more about the structure of the cover letter, you can see some examples here. Also, it is important to know that there are some differences between cover letters written for faculty positions and those written for non-faculty positions. You can review some of the key differences of cover letters for faculty positions here .

When you start the process of looking for job opportunities, you will probably read through lots of job advertisements. You will notice that most job ads ask for a cover letter of some sort. The exception to this might be when you apply for some jobs through an employer’s online job application system, where they may ask you to upload your letter as a document, cut and paste the contents of your letter into specific fields, or they may not ask for a letter at all. For most jobs, and whenever you are submitting a formal application, cover letters are usually expected – and can be very helpful – even if a letter is not requested in the job ad itself.

Cover Letter Etiquette

You might be tempted to send the same version of your cover letter to multiple employers, especially if you are applying for similar types of positions. Don’t. It can be fairly obvious to an employer when they receive a stock letter, and this will make a bad first impression. Tailor your letter to the employer and to the specific job. This may require you to do some background research on the employer’s website, or talk to someone you know (or don’t yet know) who already works there. Use this information to explain why you want to work at that particular place, doing that particular job. It takes time, but it is worth it. You’ll probably have more luck with three tailored cover letters than with 30 stock letters sent out to 30 different employers. Your cover letter will be read by someone as part of a formal job application, so make certain that it is free of spelling mistakes, grammar issues, and typos. Make sure your cover letter fits onto 1 page (for non-academic position applications), has consistent margins and formatting, and a readable font that is between 10-12pts.

When Not to Use Cover Letters: There are some occasions during the job search process where cover letters shouldn’t be used. During career fairs, you would typically only hand out your resume to employers (and a 1-page resume is ideal). Employers want to be able to quickly scan your resume for the key points, and you should be able to verbally communicate some of the ideas that a letter might contain (for example, why this company interests you). Recruiters won’t have the time to read a letter.

Timeline: Getting Started with your Cover Letter

Step 1: The first step to writing a good cover letter is to first have a good resume. For information on putting these documents together, click here . Your cover letter expands upon some of the information you include within these documents, and describes the role you have played in achieving your academic or non-academic goals (i.e., showing how your experiences have made you the best candidate for the position).

Step 2: The next step is to find an open position that interests you, or at least the type of job to which you want to apply. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all cover letter, as each should be tailored to each job you apply to, but there will certainly be parts of the letter that will stay much the same, and be appropriate for multiple jobs. This might mean changing some of the key words in the letter, so that you are describing your experience in the employer’s language (using some of their keywords), not your own.

Step 3: Go through the job ad and carefully note all of the requirements and skills the employer is looking for. Based on your background research of the employer and the people you have spoken to who know about this employer, try to identify the two or three most important skills that the employer is looking for. You should then try to create a cover letter that illustrates that you have these skills and have used them effectively. Your cover letter will be stronger if it addresses these requirements and the job duties.  Ensure that you talk about your experiences in the language used by the employer, echoing their words in descriptions you use to illustrate your skills. Write out a list of the keywords that you highlighted from the job ad, and then next to each of these words, write a brief statement that illustrates the fact that you have this skill/ability/knowledge using a specific example. You may not have an experience for all of the requirements, but the more you think about what you have achieved, the more likely it is that you will find something relevant to talk about. When you have all of this information, then you can begin to structure it within the format of a formal cover letter.

Cover letter template

Here is a general template for a cover letter:

Your Name Street Address City, State, Zip Email and phone number

Today’s Date

Mr./Ms./Dr. Name Title Organization

Dear ______:

The opening paragraph should explain why you are writing, giving your specific employment interest. Mention how you found out about the position. If it was advertised, refer to the website or resource in which you saw it. If a contact told you about it, say so. It is also helpful to include an overall summary of the key skills, knowledge areas, or experiences that you are bring to this role right here in the first paragraph. If you start off with these very specific conclusions that confidently state that you have what the employer is looking for, then the reader will also have a lot of confidence that your letter and resume are worth reading. The next paragraphs will then expand on and illustrate what you are summarizing in this first paragraph.

The middle paragraph(s) should summarize the aspects of your background which will interest the employer. The more information you have about the organization and its needs, the better.  Discuss your qualifications in terms of the contributions you can make. While you should not repeat your resume verbatim, don’t hesitate to refer to the most important information discussed in it. Ideally, both your cover letter and your CV/resume would be able to stand alone. It is not necessary to describe yourself in superlatives. Rather than saying, “I can make a uniquely valuable contribution to your organization,” give the employer enough relevant, targeted information to allow the reader to reach that conclusion independently. Be specific and credible. Tell stories that have a touch of drama, for example: “When I was working as the president of X student group, one of the challenges that we faced was XYZ.” Once you have created a touch of drama, describe how you used your skills to overcome it, for example: “So what I had to do was build relationships with administrators on campus by communicating the critical role our group played in doing ABC.” Once you have told the story, reflect on it in terms of how this is particularly relevant for the reader, for example: “I really enjoyed being placed in a position where I had to reach out to contact and bring them all together by creating a shared vision for everyone to buy into. I think this combination of strong marketing skills and relationship building will be valuable to the role of Advertising Associate.”

The closing paragraph should explain why the position and the particular organization is attractive to you, and should hopefully pave the way for the interview. Provide an authentic reason why you are excited about bringing your skills to the role, and what you will also gain from being in the role. Speaking with former or current employees at the organization as part of your networking will help in this regards.  You can also offer to send any additional information, restate your contact details, and state that you look forward to hearing from them.

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Academic Cover Letters

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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.

Distinctions between Academic and Business Cover Letters

A cover letter for an academic job has a function similar to one for a business job, but the content differs significantly in quantity and kind. While the general advice for business cover letters—such as tailoring your letter for the specific job and selling your strengths—still applies, a cover letter for an academic position should be long enough to highlight in some detail your accomplishments during your graduate education in research, teaching, departmental service, and so on. 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. Since a cover letter is a kind of persuasive writing (persuading a hiring committee to include you on a list of candidates for further review), the first paragraph of your letter should also make the initial claim as to why you are a strong candidate for the position.

Tailoring for Your Audience

In an academic context knowing your audience means reading the job notice carefully and knowing the type of institution to which you are applying. Most graduate students have studied a broad range of material within their discipline before specializing in a narrow field for the dissertation project. Since it is rare to find a job notice specifying your exact qualifications, you need to emphasize those aspects of your graduate training that seem particularly relevant to the position advertised.

  • Job notice: If you've written a political science dissertation on populism in early twentieth-century US national politics, you probably won't respond to a notice seeking a specialist in international politics during the Cold War. But you may wish to apply for a position teaching twentieth-century US political parties and movements. In this case you would want to stress the relevance of your dissertation to the broad context of twentieth-century US politics, even though the study focuses narrowly on the pre-World War I period. You might also highlight courses taken, presentations given, or other evidence of your expertise that corresponds to the job notice.
  • Type of institution: Often the job notice will provide a brief description of the college or university, indicating such factors as size, ownership (public, private), affiliation (religious, nonsectarian), geography (urban, suburban, rural), and so on. These factors will influence the kind of information emphasized in your letter. For example, for a job at a small liberal arts college that focuses on undergraduate teaching, you would emphasize your teaching experience and pedagogical philosophy early in the letter before mentioning your dissertation. On the other hand, for a job at a large research university you would provide at least one detailed paragraph describing your dissertation early in the letter, even indicating your plans for future research, before mentioning your teaching and other experience.

Other Advice

If you're still working on your dissertation, you should mention somewhere in the letter when you expect to be awarded the Ph.D., even being as specific as to mention how many chapters have been completed and accepted, how many are in draft version, and what your schedule for completion is. Last-paragraph tips include the following:

  • Mention your contact information, including a phone number where you can be reached if you will be away during a holiday break.
  • If you will be attending an upcoming major professional conference in your field, such as the MLA convention for language and literature professionals, indicate that you will be available for an interview there. Be sure to mention that you are available for telephone or campus-visit interviews as well.
  • If you have some special connection to the school, type of institution, or region, such as having attended the school as an undergraduate or having grown up in the area, you may wish to mention that information briefly at some point.
  • Mention your willingness to forward upon request additional materials such as writing samples, teaching evaluations, and letters of recommendation.

Job seekers at Purdue University may find value in the Purdue Career Wiki.

8 Professional Academic Cover Letter Examples for 2024

Your academic cover letter must immediately highlight your most significant achievements. Showcase the research or projects that align closely with the position's requirements. Demonstrate your potential contribution to the department and the institution. Ensure your passion for teaching and scholarship shines through every word.

All cover letter examples in this guide

faculty position cover letter example

Academic Advisor

faculty position cover letter example

High School Academic

faculty position cover letter example

College Academic

faculty position cover letter example

Grad School Academic

Cover letter guide.

Academic Cover Letter Sample

Cover Letter Format

Cover Letter Salutation

Cover Letter Introduction

Cover Letter Body

Cover Letter Closing

No Experience Academic Cover Letter

Key Takeaways

Academic cover letter

Crafting an academic cover letter can be a stumbling block, especially when you're already deep into job applications and realize it's a required piece of the puzzle. This isn't just a repeat of your resume; it's your chance to spotlight a shining professional triumph and weave a compelling narrative around it. Forget the clichés—your cover letter must exude formality without being mundane, all while fitting neatly on a single page. Let's unlock the secrets to a cover letter that leaves a lasting impression.

  • Making excellent use of job-winning real-life professional cover letters;
  • Writing the first paragraphs of your academic cover letter to get attention and connect with the recruiters - immediately;
  • Single out your most noteworthy achievement (even if it's outside your career);
  • Get a better understanding of what you must include in your academic cover letter to land the job.

Let the power of Enhancv's AI work for you: create your academic cover letter by uploading your resume.

If the academic isn't exactly the one you're looking for we have a plethora of cover letter examples for jobs like this one:

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Academic cover letter example

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  • Highlighting Relevant Achievements: The cover letter effectively showcases past accomplishments, such as reducing billing processing time by 30% and billing errors by 20%, which directly relate to the Billing Manager role and demonstrate the candidate's relevant experience and success in process optimization.
  • Focus on Process Improvement: By emphasizing a hands-on approach to revamping outdated procedures, the writer displays a commitment to enhancing financial workflows, an essential skill for a Billing Manager tasked with maintaining efficient billing operations.
  • Leadership Skills: The candidate mentions leading a team during a cross-departmental initiative, pointing to strong leadership and team management abilities, which are crucial for a managerial position responsible for overseeing the billing department.

Five tips on formatting your academic cover letter

Do you want to make a good impression on recruiters and, at the same time, follow the best industry advice on writing your academic cover letter?

Make sure to include the following:

  • Header and Salutation;
  • Introductory paragraph;
  • Body paragraph;
  • Closing paragraph;
  • Signature (this one is up to you).

Remember to use the same modern, simple font for your academic cover letter as you did for your resume (e.g. Lato, Rubik, etc.)

Ensure your academic cover letter is single-spaced and is wrapped around a one-inch margin, like in our cover letter templates .

Once completed, use our cover letter builder to export your academic cover letter in the best format to keep your information intact - PDF.

At the end of the day, your academic cover letter won't be assessed by the Applicant Tracker System (ATS) software, but by the recruiters. Your information should thus be legible, organized, and follow a structured logic.

The top sections on a academic cover letter

  • Header: This section includes your contact information, the date, and the recipient's details, ensuring that your cover letter appears professional and reaches the correct person.
  • Opening Greeting: A formal salutation addresses the hiring committee or specific individual by name, demonstrating that you have researched the institution and are personalizing your application.
  • Introduction: Briefly introduces who you are, your current academic status, and the position you are applying for, setting the stage for why you are a strong fit for the role.
  • Academic Achievements and Experience: Highlights your relevant educational background, research accomplishments, teaching experience, and any publications, tailored to the academic position to showcase your qualifications and alignment with the job.
  • Closing Paragraph: This is where you reiterate your interest in the position, mention your availability for an interview, and thank the recipient for considering your application, leaving a professional and respectful impression.

Key qualities recruiters search for in a candidate’s cover letter

  • Research expertise in the specified field: Demonstrates the ability to contribute to the academic community through original research.
  • Teaching experience and pedagogical skills: Showcases the capability to educate and mentor students effectively.
  • Publications and scholarly work: Indicates a track record of contributing to the body of knowledge in the field.
  • Grants and funded research experience: Reflects success in obtaining financial support for research, which is crucial for many academic institutions.
  • Collaboration and interdisciplinary work: Highlights the ability to work across disciplines, which is increasingly valued in academia for its potential to foster innovative research.
  • Service to the academic community: Demonstrates a commitment to contributing to the functioning and governance of the institution through committee work, peer review, or other service roles.

How to personalize your academic cover letter greeting

Before you start writing your academic cover letter, take the time to find out who is recruiting for the role.

Search for the recruiter's name on LinkedIn or the corporate website to address them personally in your academic cover letter salutation .

What if you can't find out who's recruiting for the role?

Always aim to avoid the very impersonal "Dear Sir/Madam" - instead, opt out for "Dear HR Team" or "Dear Hiring Manager" to make a better first impression.

List of salutations you can use

  • Dear Hiring Committee,
  • Dear [Department] Selection Committee,
  • Dear Professor [Last Name],
  • Dear Dr. [Last Name],
  • Dear Search Committee Chair,
  • Dear [University/College] Faculty,

What to include in those first two sentences, or your academic cover letter introduction

Have you ever wondered what the best way is to present your profile in the academic cover letter introduction ?

There's no right or wrong answer if you're being concise and authentic to yourself.

Some professionals start their academic cover letter by:

  • congratulating the company - focusing on something impressive, whether that's an award, an industry-leading project, or a key event;
  • aligning their passion for the field or industry with the job - if you're enthusiastic about what you do, you'd thus grow your skill set and value as a professional.

That one achievement in your academic cover letter body

The lengthiest part of your academic cover letter is the body.

Within the next three to six middle paragraphs, present yourself as the best candidate for the role .

How can you do that without retelling your whole professional resume?

Select one key achievement that covers job-crucial skills and technologies (and is memorable).

Within the body of your academic cover letter, aim to tell the story of how you achieved your success. Also, write about how this would help out your potential team.

Finishing off your academic cover letter with what matters most

So far, you've done a fantastic job in tailoring your academic cover letter for the role and recruiter.

Your final opportunity to make a good impression is your closing paragraph.

And, no, a "Sincerely yours" just won't do, as it sounds too vague and impersonal.

End your academic cover letter with the future in mind.

So, if you get this opportunity, what do you plan to achieve? Be as specific, as possible, of what value you'd bring to the organization.

You could also thank recruiters for their interest in your profile and prompt for follow-up actions (and organizing your first interview).

The zero experience academic cover letter: shifting the focus to your unique value

Don't worry if you have no conventional professional experience . Within your whole experience, there's plenty more you can write about in your academic cover letter.

Take, for example, your biggest achievement or award - dedicate your cover letter body to describe it and the job-relevant skills you've learned.

Your professional ambitions could also take center stage. Describe what you plan on achieving in the next five to ten years and the efforts you're making towards your dreams.

Key takeaways

Within this Enhancv guide, we've provided you with plenty of advice and inspiration on writing your academic cover letter:

  • Always make sure your academic cover letter is tailored to the role you're applying for to make a good impression on recruiters;
  • In your academic cover letter include a header (with your name, the role you're applying for, date, and contact details) and an introduction of up to two sentences that highlight your key accomplishment or why you'd fit the role;
  • Focus your academic cover letter body on one sole achievement through your career and all the valuable lessons, skills, and know-how you've learned (that are relevant to the role);
  • Ensure your academic cover letter closing statement isn't generic and includes either a call to action or a promise;
  • If you lack professional experience, shift recruiters' focus to a relevant achievement (thanks to your academic or versatile experience) or toward your dreams and goals for professional growth.

Academic cover letter examples

Explore additional academic cover letter samples and guides and see what works for your level of experience or role.

Lecturer Resume Example

Cover letter examples by industry

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