Academic Cover Letter

The academic cover letter is a challenging beast to manage.
You must remember that the academic cover letter is not merely an introduction to the other documents in your
job application dossier. It is often the first (and in some cases only) document that the hiring committee will base its
next decision upon. The cover letter besides laying out your scholarly agenda and teaching qualifications, shows the
committee how you are able to convey large tracts of information within a limited space. Thus, a cover letter is also
your first writing sample.
While, it may seem that writing an academic cover letter might be an easier task than composing tailored letters for
industry and corporate jobs, it is in fact quite the opposite. Due to the diverse nature of academic institutions--
community colleges, liberal arts schools, teaching-intensive universities and research-focused institutions--each letter
must be tailored according to the specific needs of the institution.

That said, there are definite strategies that can be adopted to create flexible template(s), which would require
minimum modification before being sent out.
You must remember that the academic cover letter is not merely an introduction to the other documents in your
dossier. It is often the first (and in some cases only) document that the hiring committee will base its next decision
upon. The cover letter besides laying out your scholarly agenda and teaching qualifications, shows the committee
how you are able to convey large tracts of information within a limited space. Thus a cover letter in fact also your
first writing sample.

What to DO in an Academic Cover Letter
The cover letter allows the candidate to make a strong first impression on the hiring committee. Imagine the cover
letter as a place to both convey information about your scholarly persona as well as a document that would lead to
dialogue and engaging conversations. In order to frame yourself as the most suitable candidate for the position, a
well-crafted letter will:

✓✓ Show how your background is a particularly good fit for the job
✓✓ Highlight promising traits in your scholarly and teaching persona
✓✓ Convey your potential as a future colleague with a dynamic research plan
✓✓ Demonstrate the qualities that distinguish you from other candidates.

What to AVOID in an Academic Cover Letter

✓✓ Non-specific content: It does not seem to be tailored to the position.
✓✓ Dense and convoluted prose.
✓✓ “Indecisive” language: Phrases like “I believe”/ “I think”/ “I feel”
✓✓ Grammatical errors and typos
✓✓ Arrogance or overconfidence: specifically instructs the department on how you would “change” the
department

Basic Format:
Cover letters have a distinctive format, even though the execution differs significantly in each case.

Paragraph 1: Mention the position you are applying for and where you saw the job posted.
"I would like to be considered for your assistant professorship in....

Also in Paragraph 1: Identify yourself.
"I am currently a doctoral student in the Department of ... at _____ University, where I studied under the direction
of.... and expect to receive my Ph.D. in May 2016."

Paragraphs 2 and 3: Briefly describe your dissertation – and focus on the significance.
My dissertation, a study of...,
✓✓ Explain why your dissertation is special: How it addresses a previously neglected topic; how it contributes to
a significant scholarly debate; how it employs untapped evidence.
✓✓ Describe the support your dissertation has received: “With support from _____, I _____.”
✓✓ Mention any publications or conference presentations that have emerged from your dissertation research.

Paragraph 4: Describe the breadth of your expertise and experience.
"In addition to my expertise in ..., I also have considerable experience in ..."

Paragraph 5: Describe your teaching background.

✓✓ Highlight courses that you have offered and are prepared to offer.
✓✓ Concisely present your pedagogical approach (e.g., facilitating learning through hands-on activities).

Paragraph 6: Demonstrate your distinctive qualifications and strengths.

✓✓ Explicate on honors you have received or skills and experiences that set you apart from other candidates.

Paragraph 7: Address the issue of fit.
✓✓ Reflect on previous academic experiences to show how well-suited you are for the institution.
✓✓ Highlight how you will contribute to the department’s strength.

Paragraph 8: Closure
✓✓ Mention the items you have enclosed.
✓✓ Offer to provide any additional materials the department might wish.

*Heiberger, Mary Morris, and Julia Miller Vick. The Academic Job Search Handbook. 2nd e. Philadelphia: U of
Pennsylvania, 1996. Print.
Yate, Martin John. Cover Letters That Knock 'em Dead. Holbrook, MA: Bob Adams, 1992. Print.