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Academic Cover Letter Handout, updated 11/10/2006
COVER LETTERS FOR ACADEMIC JOB APPLICATIONS
A cover letter must accompany any application you submit for an academic job. The purpose of a
cover letter, also sometimes called a letter of application, is to introduce yourself and to
demonstrate the fit between your background and the advertised position. Use your cover letter to
guide the employer’s attention to the most significant portions of CV, to explain how your
particular experiences have provided you with the skills you need to be successful in the position,
and to convey enthusiasm for the position for which you are applying.
Content and Structure of an Academic Cover Letter
Although most cover letters follow a similar structure, you should tailor each one for the job to
which you are applying. If you are applying to dozens of positions, this might not be feasible, but do
at least customize the letter for the type of institution and position. Carefully read the job posting
and fashion your letter based upon the information gleaned from the ad; the university and
departmental Web sites may also provide valuable background information.
Prepare your opening paragraph with great care, since it sets the tone for the rest of the letter.
Introduce yourself, mentioning the degree you are pursuing and the university you attend. Refer to
the specific position for which you are applying, and indicate how you learned about the position or
organization. If you have not yet finished your degree, you should state when you expect to receive
your degree or defend your dissertation. You may also want to briefly mention what attracted you to
the university to which you are submitting your application (i.e., strong undergraduate programs,
commitment to research and development, excellent faculty).
The body of your letter should consist of one or two paragraphs that highlight your interest in the
position, your strongest attributes and your strong qualifications. This is