How to write a COVER LETTER – Faculty, Postgraduate, Postdoc – sample attached
A cover letter is a communication that you write and attach to your curriculum vitae (CV) when applying for a faculty, postgraduate or postdoctoral positions in research institutions or universities or other institutions of higher learning. The cover letter is usually a one page document and some application calls usually specify the number of words or characters to write. So it is important that you stick to the limits when the number of characters or texts to write is specified in the application call.
It also is important that you read the application call several times in order to understand and write the cover letter in line with the stipulated requirements. With a cover letter, you can introduce yourself to the judges/reviewers or selection committee members and show them a strong reason why they should probe further and consider your application for the position you applied for. Remember: you will not be there when your case will be decided; so it is important that you don’t sell yourself short, in either writing your CV or cover letter.
The cover letter introduces you to the reviewing panel or judges that decides on your application together with other applicants. It is another way to up your game and sell yourself. You can have one cover letter developed as a template and use it to apply for various positions while making sure to always edit and include peculiar information pertinent to the application at hand or current call. Cover letter is different from your research statement and CV. It is also different from a personal statement (which focuses majorly on your person).
Personal statement is usually an essay about you, your person and what your values and ambitions are, in the short, medium or long term. You have more space to write when it comes to a personal statement unlike the cover letter where you are usually restricted to just a page of writing. While cover letter is usually restricted to just a page, personal statements can be between 1-2 or 3 pages. It is also not bad if your personal statement is just a page. Keeping your writing short, simple and straight to the point is very important.
Nonetheless, both cover letters and personal statements share some similarities but there differences are clear as stated above.
The components of a cover letter include:
- Line 0: Salutation (& Address of recipient if possible).
- Line 1: Here you talk about the position you are applying for, as well as what you do currently and why you are motivated to come to this institute or university or position.
- Line 2: In this second paragraph, you should talk about your accomplishments so far despite how small or large they might be. be precise and go straight to the point. Talk about what you are bringing to the table. The reviewers should note your strength and establish why they should choose your application and not another.
- Line 3: Here, you should talk about your vision for research, faculty or study (depending on whether you are applying for a research position, faculty or postdoc position). If you are applying for a teaching position, you can talk about your teaching techniques, approach to teaching and how you relate to students and (maybe) bring out the best in them. Importantly, you can also talk about your experiences in teaching and how it can help improve the environment in the position you seek. For a research or postdoc position, you can talk about your research goals in the institute, as well as your own personal research goals and ambitions (maybe during and after the position – since most research positions are usually on a limited contract basis and may have time limits or be time-bound).
- Line 4: In paragraph 4, you can bring in any other novelty you are bringing to the table or the institution or university or position. You can talk about how your previous preliminary data can be of importance to the position (if you are applying for a research position). This paragraph helps you to reiterate your passion for the position and why the judges should consider your application positively.
- Line 5: Conclusion / closure. Here you restate your passion to join the group/Lab/institute/university; and then you close the letter.
SAMPLE COVER LETTER (fictitious):
Members of the Responsible Selection Committee
Nigerian Institute of Microbiology Research & Development (NIMRD)
Dear Members of the Responsible Selection Committee,
APPLICATION FOR THE POSITION OF A DOCTORAL (POSTDOCTORAL) RESEARCHER
I write to express my interest in pursuing a doctoral program in your prestigious institution, the Nigerian Institute of Microbiology Research & Development (NIMRD), WeltGeld. I am a biologist/chemist/physicist/medical doctor with extensive experience in microbiology/chemistry/pgysics/medicine. NIMRD is seeking a highly motivated student/early career researcher (ECR)/postdoctoral researcher who thrives in multidisciplinary teams and is passionate about independently carrying out research that benefits the environment/mankind/society in medicine/agriculture/physics/chemistry/mathematics/ statistics/ social sciences/humanities/law/biology and I believe that my skill sets make me the ideal candidate for this position.
I hold a B.Sc./M.Sc./Ph.D./Diploma/etc in biology/mathematics/chemistry/statistics/medicine/law/engineering from the University of WeltGeld (2004) and a master’s degree in statistics/biology/chemistry from the WeltGelt State University (2006). I am skillful in the use of statistical packages including SPSS.
I am enthusiastic to apply these skills to challenge this new research on “investigating the reason why some world leaders like going to war with countries of lesser power.” The NIMRD has an outstanding international reputation in research and academia as a highly innovative hub for advancement of science, making it an ideal place for me to pursue my clear-cut research interests on “world leader’s hidden agendas in war and dominance”.
My bachelor’s degree/master’s degree/doctoral studies focused on “determining the motivational factors and gains and loss of colonial wars in the third world countries.” The finding which was published in Journal of Peace for Humanity showed that most world leaders were plunged into war due to their ego and quest for world dominance. I am particularly interested to come to the NIMRD, Peace State, WeltGeld to improve on these preliminary research findings of mine, collaborate with senior researchers at the NIMRD, and produce research that will help to break the chain of neocolonialism and wrong use of power by world leaders by pioneering research aimed at creating interventions for world peace and friendliness in third world nations.
It is my expectation to use this master’s position/research assistant position/doctoral position/postdoctoral position at the NIMRD to investigate the pathological and cancerous spread of communal wars and economic crises in the third world countries. This opportunity will enable me to rapidly progress towards research independence, and probably lead a junior research group – where I can make valuable contributions to the improvement of sustainable peace and conflict management practices in the world.
In conclusion, I believe that my skills set, and training as a peace and conflict resolution enthusiast has made me a highly suitable candidate for becoming a doctoral/master’s/postdoctoral candidate at the NIMRD. I am confident that my investigative qualities of independence, creativity, critical thinking, and my technical skills in statistics/law/humanities/criminology/biology would be an asset to the NIMRD.
I have enclosed my CV and research proposal for additional information. Thank you for your time and consideration.