Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Cover letter for a faculty position

Criteria for success.

  • Demonstrate scientific accomplishments and scholastic achievement.
  • Clearly define the vision and impact of your future research program.
  • Differentiate yourself from colleagues, e.g. your advisors and other faculty candidates.
  • Establish what your niche will be in the department.
  • Clearly display excitement and passion.
  • Keep the cover letter to 1 to 2 pages . The optional second page may contain a list of publications/presentations or a list of references.

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. Therefore, the primary purpose of a faculty cover letter is to summarize your application by connecting your Research and Teaching Statements, CV, and references.

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.

Structure of a Cover Letter

  • Critical contact information: name, degree, current position, email, and phone number
  • Your professional profile or webpage ( e.g.  LinkedIn, ResearchGate,
  • 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 for which you are applying ( i.e. tenure-track appointment, assistant faculty position).
  • Strong opening statement – Declare your targeted research areas. Establish the 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.

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 that 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, an educator, and a 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 will you fit uniquely 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. 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 with mixed 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, working 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!

This content was adapted from from an article originally created by the  MIT Biological Engineering Communication Lab .

Resources and Annotated Examples

Annotated example 1.

Example Faculty Cover Letter 887 KB

Annotated Example 2

Example Faculty CV 85 KB

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:

Teaching-based position job letter example:.

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. .

Borchardt, John. 2014. “Writing a Winning Cover Letter.” Science Magazine , August 6, 2014. .

Helmreich, William. 2013. “Your First Academic Job.” Inside Higher Ed , June 17, 2013. .

Kelsky, Karen. 2013. “How To Write a Journal Article Submission Cover Letter.” The Professor Is In (blog), April 26, 2013. .

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). .

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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Internship and Career Center

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

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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.

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Professor Cover Letter Samples & Examples That Worked in 2024

Milan Šaržík — Certified Professional Résumé Writer

Looking to sculpt the future geniuses of our world through education? You're just one professor cover letter away from molding minds in your dream institution! In the hallowed halls of higher learning, a well-crafted professor cover letter could be your ticket to tenure.

Assistant Professor Music Cover Letter Sample

Our ultimate guide offers a syllabus of handy tips, examples, and templates that will illuminate how to highlight your pedagogical expertise, academic passion, and career drive.

So stay tuned to learn:

  • How to format your professor cover letter correctly
  • How to create an impactful header
  • How to compose an engaging cover letter headline
  • How to personalize the greeting in your cover letter
  • How to write a powerful introduction for your professor cover letter
  • How to showcase your academic skills and achievements
  • How to write a compelling cover letter conclusion
  • How to avoid common mistakes in your professor cover letter
  • About the average salary and job outlook for professors
  • Where to find valuable resources for professors in the job market

1. How to properly format your professor cover letter

Proper formatting is paramount to ensure your professor cover letter is easy to read and navigate. Fear not. We won't have you penning a thesis here, but a neat, concise design that'll make your application memorable.

  • Keep it concise: Cover letters should be a maximum of 1 page. Remember, brevity is the soul of wit. 
  • Choose a legible font: Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri, preferably size 12, works well. A clear, readable font shows respect for your reader's time and eyes. 
  • Use a professional structure: Stick with the standard structure — header, headline, opening paragraph, main body, closing paragraph, and sign-off. This provides a familiar, easy-to-follow pattern. 
  • Perfect your paragraphing: Aim for 3-4 paragraphs. Each paragraph should cover different aspects — introduction, your qualifications and why you'll excel at the job, and a strong closing statement. 
  • Spacing is crucial: Apply a 1-inch margin all around, and space between lines should be 1.15. This makes your cover letter pleasant to the eyes.
  • PDF it: Save your cover letter as a PDF file. This format ensures stability and consistency when your file is opened on a different system.
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread: Typos and grammatical mistakes can quickly tarnish the impression of your cover letter. Spare some time to go through the text thoroughly . Grammar-check tools can be a real lifesaver here.
  • Subtle use of color: If you're daring, a small splash of color can make your cover letter stand out. Stick to muted, professional tones and use it scarcely. 

Remember, the cover letter isn’t just a narrative of your journey in academics. It's a testament to your attention to detail, aesthetics, and understanding of structure and layout.

Create your cover letter fast with artificial intelligence.

2. how to create an effective cover letter header .

The header of your professor cover letter might seem like a minor detail, but it's more important than you might think. It's not just about providing your contact information. It's also about demonstrating an ability to present information clearly and professionally . 

The header should contain your contact information, the date, and the recipient's contact information, in this order:

  • Your full name
  • Your address 
  • Your phone number
  • Your email address
  • Recipient's full name and title (if known)
  • Recipient's address 

Let's take a look at two contrasting examples: 

Incorrect cover letter header example

John Doe [email protected]

Why is it incorrect? It lacks key information — it presents only the applicant's name and email address. The recipient wouldn’t know where to send a written response if they wanted to. Missing a phone number? That's a fast-track conversation sidelined. What’s more, disregarding the date and recipient's information reflects a lack of attention to detail and professionalism.

Correct cover letter header example

John Doe 123 Main Street City, State Zip (123) 456-7890 [email protected]

To: Professor Jane Smith Dean of Biology Department University Name 456 College Avenue City, State Zip

Why does it work? This example is comprehensive. It includes all the needed contact information for both parties and the date, which can be crucial for record-keeping. It adheres to the expected professional structure for a cover letter header, hinting at the candidate's meticulous organizational skills.

All in all, the cover letter header is your initial point of contact with the hiring committee or recruiter. Don’t rush it. Pay attention to the details to ensure that yours makes an entrance, leaving a trail of professionalism and thoroughness in its wake.

3. How to write a compelling headline for a professor cover letter

A cover letter headline is your elevator pitch. Consisting of a succinct, catchy phrase, rightly placed beneath your header, it's your chance to grab the reader's attention . 

The perfect headline is a balance between confidence and humility, introducing your professional standing or key accomplishment without appearing boastful.

Weak cover letter headline example

Experienced Professor Seeking Employment

Why is it weak? This headline is too generic and lacks impact. It doesn't differentiate you from other candidates and overlooks an opportunity to lead with a compelling accomplishment or unique trait.

Strong cover letter headline example

Renowned Biologist with 50+ Peer-Reviewed Publications, Committed to Nurturing Future Leaders in Conservation

Why does it work? This headline conveys the candidate's impressive academic feats while expressing a spirited commitment to their educational role. It presents the applicant as both an accomplished scholar and a passionate educator. Such a forceful headline heightens the reader's curiosity about the expertise, experiences and values the candidate brings to the table.

When crafting your headline, wear your achievements with pride, introduce the unique flavor of your professional persona and give the recruiters a reason to keep reading. That's how you get your foot in the academic door.

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4. How to customize the greeting on your professor cover letter

Customizing your cover letter’s greeting isn’t just a sign of respect; it shows that you've conducted your due diligence on the job and are genuinely keen about it. 

When you address the hiring committee or a specific person by name in your greeting, it shows that you've taken the time to research and understand who will be reading your application. It also signals that you are detail-oriented and watchful — desirable traits in any academic.

The best place to find the names of the hiring manager or committee members are in the job posting itself, on the university's website , or via LinkedIn . 

Personalized cover letter greetings

Dear Dr. Smith, Dear Dr. John Smith, Dear Hiring Manager John Smith,

But what if, despite your research, you can't pin down a name ? There are still options to keep your greeting professional and respectful.

General cover letter greetings

  • Dear Hiring Manager,
  • To the Biology Department Selection Committee,
  • Dear Faculty Search Team,

Each of these unspecific greetings has different nuances:

  • The first is a general, respectable choice. 
  • The second addresses the selection committee of the specific department, showing awareness of the role department members play in hiring. 
  • The third is more informal and might be suitable in less traditional or more modern institutions.

However, diligence in personalizing your greeting is crucial to avoid falling into the "generic trap". Cliche, overly generic greetings like "To whom it may concern," might reflect detachment. 

Remember, customizing your greeting is a small detail that can make a big impression. Invest the effort, and it could be a step in the direction of your dream teaching position.

5. How to write a compelling cover letter introduction

The introduction of your cover letter is a storytelling moment. It's the spark that ignites the recruiter's interest in your professional and academic journey. The trick is to introduce yourself, highlight key achievements, and articulate your interest in the position clearly and efficiently. 

If you have a mutual connection with any existing faculty member, be sure to mention it. This can strengthen your introduction by offering immediate context and relevance.

Weak cover letter introduction example

I'm writing to apply for the Biology Professor position.

Why doesn’t it work? This introduction lacks imagination and doesn’t pique the reader's interest. It merely states the obvious and misses an opportunity to introduce the candidate's credentials or express genuine enthusiasm for the position.

Strong cover letter opening example for an experienced professor

As an evolutionary biologist with 15 years of teaching experience and over 30 peer-reviewed publications, I was thrilled to find the opening for a Biology Professor at XYZ University. My passion for imparting knowledge and recent Fulbright scholarship align perfectly with your focus on global research perspectives.

Why is it strong? This introduction signals the candidate’s teaching experience, academic accomplishments and aligned values, making it a compelling read for any hiring committee.

Strong cover letter opening for a fresh graduate

As a newly-credentialed PhD holder in Computer Science and recipient of the 'Outstanding Research Assistant' award for two consecutive years, I am excited about the opportunity to contribute to the growing Computer Science department at XYZ University.

Why does it work? Here, the recent graduate leverages their award and newly minted PhD as testament of their potential, making a strong compelling case despite lack of extensive experience. 

Remember, the cover letter introduction is your initial pitch. Make sure you swing for the fences!

professor cover letter opening example

6. How to highlight your top skills and accomplishments as a professor

The body of your cover letter is your academic showcase, the stage where you outline your skills , achievements , and passions as they relate to the professorship role. Here's what this act should cover:

  • Your notable achievements in teaching and research
  • Skills that set you apart and align with the role
  • Indication of your teaching methods and philosophies

Let's touch on structure first. Aim to construct two to three mid-length paragraphs. Each one should focus on a different skill or accomplishment, creating a clearly organized and easy to navigate story of your career.

When highlighting your teaching skills , get specific. Does your interactive teaching style drive high student engagement? Have your innovative lesson plans boosted students' grades? Paint a vivid picture of what you bring to the classroom.

Skills to mention in your professor cover letter

  • High proficiency in a particular teaching method or philosophy
  • A record of impressive publication or research grants secured
  • Proven track record in improving student performance
  • Success in curriculum development or program accreditation
  • Award or distinction in education or research field

If you are a fresh-faced professor with no experience to pull from, focus on your areas of academic excellence, internships, research assistance, or relevant university projects that denote your potential as an educator.

Now, let’s take a look at some examples:

Cover letter body paragraph example for an experienced professor

In my recent role as a Sociology Professor at ABC University, I consistently received outstanding student evaluations, reflecting my commitment to creating an engaging learning environment. I am particularly proud of an elective course I developed on Modern Social Movements, which was recognized by the university board for its in-depth, engaging structure.

Why does it work? This showcases teaching skills, course development abilities, and a knack for generating student engagements.

Cover letter body paragraph example for a fresh graduate

During my doctoral study, I had the opportunity to teach two semesters of undergraduate introductory biology and serve as a research assistant on a project exploring genetics and evolution. Both these roles honed my communication and teamwork abilities, while driving an appreciation for hands-on bio-research that I'm eager to impart.

Why is it strong? In this example, the fresh graduate leverages teaching and research assistant experiences, indicating clear initiative and a passion for the field. 

Remember, to set yourself apart, showcase your unique achievements, skills, and experiences that make you not just an expert in your field, but a teacher who can inspire, motivate, and impart knowledge.

professor cover letter body paragraphs tips

7. How to conclude persuasively your professor cover letter

After your convincing body paragraphs, there’s one last hill to climb: the conclusion . The importance of a persuasive conclusion can't be overstated. It's your final chance to leave a strong impression, convey your enthusiasm, and specify your plan to proceed in the application process. 

Your conclusion should ideally cover:

  • A restatement of your interest in the role 
  • Your contact details and preferred time to be contacted 
  • Whether and when you intend to follow up
  • A formal, courteous sign-off

Incorrect cover letter conclusion example

You can call me whenever it suits you. 

Cheers, John

Why is it wrong? This example misses the mark. The language is too casual and it lacks a clear intention for follow-up. The sign-off is overly informal for a professional setting and lacks the applicant’s full name.

Correct cover letter conclusion example

I am excited at the possibility of bringing my passion for teaching biology and cutting-edge genetic research to the team at XYZ University. I am available at your earliest convenience for an in-depth discussion. You may reach me at (123) 456-7890 or via email at [email protected]. If I have not heard from you by next week, I’ll follow up to ensure you have all the information you need. 

Thank you for considering my application.

Best regards,  John Doe

Why does it work? This conclusion demonstrates a clear interest, indicates a plan for follow-up, and includes all necessary contact information. The sign-off is professional and courteous, maintaining the formal tone that a cover letter requires. 

Crafting an effective conclusion is about being direct and proactive. It's your chance to ensure your application leaves a lasting impression and initiates the next steps in the recruitment process. Nail the conclusion and you're one step closer to the lectern.

8. How to avoid common mistakes on a professor cover letter

Even the most seasoned professors can trip over a few common pitfalls when crafting their cover letter. Let's shed some light on these mistakes, and more importantly, how you can dodge them:

  • Typos or grammatical errors: While even the best of us can occasionally miss an errant comma or misspelled word, these errors can imply carelessness. Use proofreading tools, but also manually proofread your letter, perhaps even aloud, or get a second pair of eyes on it.
  • Failing to customize: If your cover letter could be sent to any university, it’s failing its job. Modify it to show you've researched the institution and understand its needs and values.
  • Being overly lengthy: Academic essays might let you wax poetic for pages, but a cover letter needs to be succinct. Stick to a single page.
  • Repeating your resume: Your cover letter should complement your resume , not copy-paste it. Use it to share relevant experiences or accomplishments that set you apart, which your resume might not showcase.
  • Neglecting to name-drop: If you have a network connection within the institution, mention them. It adds credibility and indicates your active interest in the institution. 
  • Overusing “I” statements: Remember that your cover letter should convey what you can contribute to the institution, not just what the job means to you. Balance "I" statements with emphasis on what you can offer. 
  • Leaving out key details: Each professor job will have unique requirements — maybe it’s experiencing leading a research team, securing grants, or developing a new course. Make sure your letter speaks directly to these needs.
  • Being either too formal or too informal: Aim for a professional yet approachable tone. Too formal and you might come off as robotic. Too informal and you can seem unprofessional.

Remember, avoiding these common mistakes is about attentiveness, intentionality, and clear communication. With a bit extra care, your cover letter can avoid the wastebasket and land you that interview.

9. Average salary and job outlook for professors

Being a professor is not just about shaping minds; it's also a profession with considerable financial and job market potential. 

As per the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) , the median annual wage of professors sat at $80,840 as of May 2022. Like other professions, this can vary widely based on expertise, experience, and the particular institution, but it presents an attractive baseline.

Well, it's not just about the earnings. If job security is a concern, consider this: the overall employment of postsecondary teachers is expected to grow 8% from 2022 to 2032. That's faster than average for all occupations. 

This translates into about 118,800 openings for postsecondary teachers projected each year, on average, over the upcoming decade. 

The takeaway? The outlook for professors is not only intellectually stimulating but also comes with promising salary prospects and a positive job market trend. So keep refining that cover letter, because the future looks bright!

Tenure Track Assistant Art Professor Cover Letter Sample

10. Useful resources for aspiring professors

As an aspiring professor, your journey towards academic excellence involves continuous learning and development . To aid your research, job hunt, and professional growth, here are some key resources:

  • Job boards: Academic-oriented job boards such as HigherEdJobs , the Chronicle of Higher Education's job board , and present a vast pool of professor positions across different disciplines.
  • Networking: LinkedIn is an invaluable tool for connecting with fellow academics, joining interest groups, and discovering job opportunities. Also, did you know that you can now turn your LinkedIn profile into a polished resume ?
  • Academic journals: Keeping an eye on the latest research in your field demonstrates commitment to staying current. JSTOR , PubMed , and Google Scholar are vast libraries of such material. 
  • Teaching guides: Books like Ken Bain's "What the Best College Teachers Do" or James M. Lang's "Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons From the Science of Learning," offer practical advice to hone your teaching skills.
  • Conferences: Academic conferences in your field allow networking opportunities, collaboration sparks and learning from industry-leading researchers. Look for opportunities both at home and internationally.
  • Government resources: BLS’s Occupational Outlook Handbook offers a wealth of information about the teaching profession, wages, job outlook, and more. 
  • Professional development courses: Enhance your skills and stay up-to-date with current trends in academia by taking continuing education courses. Many universities offer these, and sites like Coursera and EdX offer online options in various disciplines.

Finally, continuous self-improvement is integral to a professor's role, so never hesitate to seek out professional development opportunities. Engage with these resources, and you'll keep growing as an educator, while maximizing your chances of landing your dream professor role.

Professor Cover Letter FAQ

Should i include references in my professor cover letter.

Typically, it's not a good idea to include references in your cover letter. Instead, have a separate reference page prepared. If the job posting specifically requests references included, then and only then, include them in your application.

How can I show my teaching philosophy in my cover letter?

Your teaching philosophy can weave through your cover letter subtly. Science theorist you admire? Methodology you swear by? Mention it in the paragraphs where you highlight relevant skills or experiences. Keep it brief and relevant to the position.

Can I use humor in my professor cover letter?

It depends on the tone of the job posting and your familiarity with the institution's culture. Usually, a more conservative approach is advised. You can show personality without using humor. Stay professional and relatable.

The job posting asks for a cover letter, but the application form doesn’t have a place to upload it. What should I do?

In such a scenario, you can combine your cover letter and resume into a single PDF document and upload it.

What if there's a preferred candidate? Should I still apply?

Absolutely. The preferred candidate might not take the job, and you might impress the hiring committee. Writing a cover letter tailored to the position will emphasize your interest and could put you in the running.

Milan Šaržík — Certified Professional Résumé Writer

Milan Šaržík, CPRW

Milan’s work-life has been centered around job search for the past three years. He is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer (CPRW™) as well as an active member of the Professional Association of Résumé Writers & Careers Coaches (PARWCC™). Milan holds a record for creating the most career document samples for our help center – until today, he has written more than 500 resumes and cover letters for positions across various industries. On top of that, Milan has completed studies at multiple well-known institutions, including Harvard University, University of Glasgow, and Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

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Crafting The Perfect Academic Cover Letter: A Step-By-Step Guide

Land your dream academic position! Craft a compelling academic cover letter that highlights your skills and experience.

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This guide will help you create a winning academic cover letter! Here you’ll find everything you need, whether you’re an experienced academic or a fresh graduate seeking your dream job in academia. We’ll discuss how to write an academic cover letter that grabs attention while highlighting your skills and experiences.

Making a positive impression on hiring committees and search panels begins with a well-crafted academic cover letter. This document serves as your introduction, demonstrating your passion for your field, your qualifications, and your fit for the institution and position you are applying for.

A great cover letter can make all the difference in the competitive world of academia, where job openings are often limited and highly sought after. A cover letter provides context to your CV or resume, allowing you to highlight specific experiences, projects, or accomplishments that demonstrate your suitability for the position. Throughout this guide, we’ll provide you with tips, strategies, and examples to help you craft a compelling academic cover letter that sets you apart from the competition. So let’s dive in and start crafting your path to academic success!

The Purpose (Why Do You Need A Cover Letter?)

It is imperative to include a cover letter in your job application package when applying to academic jobs. A cover letter serves as a personal introduction, adding depth and context to your CV or resume. In order to better understand its specific purpose, let’s look at:

1. Explaining How you fit the position and Interest: In your cover letter, you can explain why you are interested in the position and institution. It gives you the chance to explain why you are applying, whether it is the institution’s reputation, specific research opportunities, or alignment with your career objectives. You can also express your interest in the program and describe how it fits into your future goals. Additionally, you should demonstrate your enthusiasm and commitment to the program.

2. Highlighting Your Qualifications: In contrast to CVs and resumes, cover letters provide you with an opportunity to highlight and contextualize specialized experiences or qualifications relevant to the role. In order to demonstrate your suitability for the job, you can highlight specific projects, publications, teaching experiences, or other accomplishments.

3. Personalizing Your Application: Unlike a CV or resume, which tends to be more standardized, a cover letter offers you the chance to personalize your application for a specific job and institution. By addressing the hiring committee directly and tailoring your content to the institution’s values, mission, and goals, you can demonstrate your genuine interest and commitment.

4. Adding Context: At times, you may need to explain or contextualize certain aspects of your application. It can be helpful to include a cover letter if you are transitioning from one field within academia to another, or if there are gaps in your employment history.

5. Showcase Your Communication Skills: In academia, effective communication is paramount. An important skill that hiring committees look for is the ability to communicate clearly and persuasively in writing. You can demonstrate your writing style, professionalism, and attention to detail with a well-crafted cover letter.

6. Stand Out From Other Candidates : Being able to stand out from other applicants is essential in a competitive job market. With a thoughtfully written cover letter, you can convey aspects of your personality, work ethic, and passion for your field not readily apparent from your CV.

Research About The Institution

The first step in writing an academic cover letter is to thoroughly research the institution as well as the role for which you’re applying. By taking this step, you not only demonstrate your genuine interest in the position, but you also tailor your cover letter to make it more compelling to hiring managers.

Importance Of Research Before The Interview

You demonstrate your genuine interest in joining the academic community by demonstrating your knowledge about the institution and the position. You can align your qualifications and experience with what they are seeking in a candidate if you understand the institution’s values, mission, and goals. By researching the department, faculty members, and ongoing projects, you can use your insights to enhance the relevance and impact of your cover letter.

Tips for researching about the Institution:

  • Explore the Institution’s Website: Start by thoroughly exploring the institution’s official website. Learn about the faculty members, research areas, academic programs, and recent achievements of the department you’re applying to.
  • Read Faculty Profiles and Publications: Take the time to read faculty profiles and publications related to your field of expertise. Furthermore, this will help you identify potential collaborators or mentors within the department.
  • Review Recent News and Press Releases: Check for any recent news articles or press releases about the institution. It can provide valuable insights into the Lab’s accomplishments, partnerships, or current initiatives.
  • Utilize Professional Networks: Reach out to your professional network, including colleagues, mentors, or alumni who may have insights or connections related to the institution or position. You might find valuable information or advice from them that you couldn’t find through traditional research methods.
  • Attend Departmental Events or Webinars: If possible, attend departmental events, seminars, or webinars hosted by the institution. In addition to learning more about their academic community, you will also have an opportunity to network with faculty and students.

Tailoring Your Cover Letter

As soon as you have gathered enough information about the institution and the position, you can tailor your cover letter accordingly. Here are some tips for writing a targeted and impactful cover letter:

  • Start your cover letter with the name of the institution and the position you are applying for. It shows that you have done your homework and immediately grabs the reader’s attention.
  • Provide examples from your background that are directly related to the institution’s research areas, teaching philosophy, or academic initiatives. By doing so, you demonstrate how your skills and experience are in line with their requirements.
  • Refer to specific projects, programs, or initiatives in your cover letter if the institution has them. Explain how your expertise or interests make you a good candidate for participation or contribution.
  • Describe how you align with the institution’s values, mission, and academic culture. In this way, you demonstrate your commitment to excellence and innovation in education and research.

Academic Cover Letter Structure

Your introduction serves three purposes: grabbing the reader’s attention, expressing your interest in the position, and briefly describing your qualifications. The following is a list of what to include:

  • A strong opening sentence or paragraph that captures the reader’s interest.
  • The position you are applying for and where you learned about it.
  • A brief introduction of yourself and your interest in the position and institution .

Here is a simple Example:

“Dear Hiring Committee/Department Chair, I am writing to express my interest in the Specific Position at the Institution , as advertised on XYZ . With a passion for mentioning your field or research interest , coupled with relevant experience or qualification , I am excited about the opportunity to contribute to the Institution’s name or department .”

Body Paragraphs

Describe your qualifications, relevant experiences, and how they are aligned with the job requirements in the body paragraphs. The following is a list of what to include:

  • Detailed discussion of your academic background, research experience, teaching experience if any, and any other relevant skills or accomplishments.
  • Specific examples and achievements that demonstrate your suitability for the position.
  • Alignment of your qualifications with the institution’s mission, values, and goals.

“As a research assistant at [University/Institute], I conducted groundbreaking research in [specific area], resulting in [mention of any publications, grants, or awards]. In addition to my expertise in [relevant technique or methodology], I am particularly drawn to [Institution’s name or department] due to the institution’s commitment to [mention any specific initiatives or focus areas].”

In the conclusion, you express gratitude for the opportunity to apply, summarize your interest, and offer a call to action. The following is a list of what to include:

  • A summary of your interest in the position and how you can contribute to the institution.
  • Expression of gratitude for the opportunity to apply and the reader’s consideration.
  • A call to action, such as expressing readiness for an interview or providing additional materials if needed.

“Thank you for considering my application. I am looking forward to contributing to [Institution’s name or department]’s mission of [mention the institution’s mission or goals] with my expertise in [your field]. It would be my pleasure to provide any additional information you may need. I look forward to discussing how my skills and experience align with the needs of [Institution].”

Academic Cover Letter Template

Dear Hiring Committee, Dear Hiring Committee/Department Chair, I am writing to express my interest in the Specific Position at Institution , as advertised on XYZ . With a passion for mentioning your field or research interest , coupled with relevant experience or qualification , I am excited about the opportunity to contribute to the Institution’s name or department . As a research assistant at [University/Institute ], I conducted groundbreaking research in [ specific area ], resulting in [ mention any publications, grants, or award s]. In addition to my expertise in [ relevant technique or methodology ], I am particularly drawn to [ Institution’s name or department ] due to the institution’s commitment to [ mention any specific initiatives or focus areas ]. Thank you for considering my application. I am looking forward to contributing to [ Institution’s name or department] ‘s mission of [ mention the institution’s mission or goals ] with my expertise in [ your field ]. It would be my pleasure to provide any additional information you may need. I look forward to discussing how my skills and experience align with the needs of [I nstitutio n]. Sincerely, Name

Using this structure, you can craft an effective cover letter for an academic position. Personalize each section based on your experiences and the specific requirements of the position and institution you are applying for.

Polishing And Final Touch

You should polish your academic cover letter after you draft it to ensure that it effectively conveys your qualifications and professionalism. During this final step, you will check your letter for errors, edit it, and ask for feedback to ensure that it is as good as possible.

Proofreading and Editing

You should proofread your cover letter to ensure it contains no grammatical, spelling, punctuation, or clarity errors. The following tips will help you proofread effectively:

  • Take your time when reviewing your cover letter. Make sure you don’t rush through proofreading.
  • The best way to catch awkward phrasing, repetitions, and grammatical errors in your cover letter is to read it aloud to yourself.
  • Take advantage of spelling and grammar checkers available in word processing software like Microsoft Word or Grammarly. It is important to remember that these tools may not detect all errors, so don’t rely on them solely.
  • Be clear and concise in your sentences. Use simple language rather than overly complex jargon that might confuse the reader.
  • Your cover letter should be consistent in terms of formatting, punctuation, and writing style.

Professional Tone and Formatting

Making a positive impression on potential employers requires a professional tone and formatting. You can ensure professionalism in your cover letter by following these steps:

  • Write in a formal tone appropriate for academic and professional settings. Don’t use slang, contractions, or language that is too casual.
  • Follow a standard business letter format, including your contact information, the recipient’s information, a salutation, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. You should use a professional font and a standard font size (e.g., Times New Roman, 12-point).
  • When possible, address the recipient by name and title. Use a generic salutation such as “Dear Hiring Committee” or “Dear Search Committee” if you’re unsure of the recipient’s name.
  • Double-check your contact information, including your email address and phone number.

Seeking Feedback

Your cover letter can be improved by getting feedback from others. Feedback can be obtained from the following sources:

  • Review your cover letter with trusted classmates or colleagues and ask for constructive criticism. It is possible for them to offer fresh perspectives and catch errors that might have slipped your mind.
  • Find mentors with experience in your field of study or academia who can provide feedback. It is possible to get guidance from them on how to tailor your cover letter for a particular academic position.
  • If your university has a career center or academic advising office, make use of those resources. Academic cover letters can be tailored to different positions by career advisors.

To ensure your academic cover letter presents you to potential employers in the best light, be sure to proofread, maintain a professional tone and format, and seek feedback from peers, mentors, and career advisors.

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6 Professional Professor Cover Letter Examples for 2024

In your professor cover letter, it is imperative to display your academic expertise. Highlight your publications and research to showcase your contributions to your field. Connect your teaching philosophy to your professional experiences. Illustrate how you engage with students to foster an effective learning environment.

All cover letter examples in this guide

how to write cover letter for professor job

College Professor

how to write cover letter for professor job

University Professor

how to write cover letter for professor job

Associate Professor

how to write cover letter for professor job

Adjunct Professor

how to write cover letter for professor job

Assistant Professor

Cover letter guide.

Professor Cover Letter Sample

Cover Letter Format

Cover Letter Salutation

Cover Letter Introduction

Cover Letter Body

Cover Letter Closing

No Experience Professor Cover Letter

Key Takeaways

Professor cover letter

Embarking on the job hunt, you've realized a well-crafted professor cover letter is expected alongside your resume. But here's the challenge: You must capture attention without echoing your CV, opting instead to spotlight that crowning professional achievement that defines you. Writing in a formal yet fresh tone can feel like a tightrope walk, all while keeping your story compelling and concise within a one-page limit. Let's unlock the secrets to creating that impactful, cliché-free cover letter.

  • Personalize the greeting to address the recruiter and your introduction that fits the role;
  • Follow good examples for individual roles and industries from job-winning cover letters;
  • Decide on your most noteworthy achievement to stand out;
  • Format, download, and submit your professor cover letter, following the best HR practices.

Use the power of Enhancv's AI: drag and drop your professor resume, which will swiftly be converted into your job-winning cover letter.

If the professor 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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Professor cover letter example

Hazel Clark

San Antonio, Texas


[email protected]

  • Demonstrated expertise in relevant techniques: Mentioning experience with "enterochromaffin cell culture techniques," "confocal microscopy," and "molecular biology" aligns with the specialized skills typically required for a role in neuroscience research.
  • Quantifiable achievements: The applicant boosts their credibility by citing a specific improvement metric ("enhanced cell viability by an impressive 20%") and linking their research to securing additional grant funding, which provides concrete evidence of their impact and capability.
  • Relevance to the hiring organization: By acknowledging the organization's commitment to innovation and expressing a parallel in their professional journey, the applicant builds a connection and suggests that their goals align with those of the potential employer.
  • Call to action: The applicant concludes by expressing enthusiasm for the role and requesting an interview, which is a proactive step in the job application process and demonstrates their keen interest in the position.

The visual appeal of your professor cover letter: format, font, and structure

When using our cover letter builder , make sure to include these vital sections:

  • Header (with your name, contact details, the role, and date);
  • Greeting (that's personalized to the recruiter);
  • Introductory paragraph (to capture attention);
  • Body paragraph (to tell a story of how you've obtained your job-crucial skills);
  • Closing paragraph (ending with a nod to the future ahead);
  • Signature (that is not a must).

Our cover letter templates are already set up for you with the best professor cover letter design with single-spaced paragraphs and a one-inch margin.

As for the font of your professor cover letter, use the same one as you did in your resume (where modern and simple fonts, like Rubik and Bitter, take precedence over Arial and Times New Roman).

Your professor cover letter is created with the recruiters in mind - as no Applicant Tracker System looks over this part of your profile.

When sending over your professor cover letter, download it in PDF. This format allows your information and design to stay intact and to keep the same visual quality.

The top sections on a professor cover letter

  • Header: Includes your contact information, the date, and the recipient's details, essential for establishing professionalism and for ease of reference.
  • Opening Greeting: Addresses the recipient by name or with a respectful title such as "Dear Search Committee," setting the tone for a personalized and respectful communication.
  • Introduction: Introduces yourself, states the position you're applying for, and provides a hook—the unique aspect of your application that demands further reading, such as your passion or an impressive accomplishment in academia.
  • Academic Experience and Achievements: Highlights your teaching philosophy, research interests, and scholarly contributions relevant to the position, demonstrating your qualifications and alignment with the department's focus.
  • Conclusion and Call to Action: Wraps up the cover letter by summarizing your interest and suitability for the role, and expresses your eagerness to discuss your potential contribution in an interview, establishing a proactive stance.

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

  • Academic achievements: Recruiters look for a strong track record of relevant educational qualifications including advanced degrees and prestigious fellowships, as this indicates a commitment to academic excellence.
  • Teaching experience: Demonstrated ability in teaching and mentoring students is critical, as this is a core component of most professorial roles.
  • Research excellence: A history of published research, grant acquisition, and contributions to the field signal that the candidate can advance the institution’s research agenda.
  • Subject matter expertise: Deep knowledge in a specific area of study shows that the candidate can add value to the department's academic offerings and reputation.
  • Collaboration and collegiality: The ability to work well with others, both within the department and across interdisciplinary teams, is important for fostering a productive academic environment.
  • Service and leadership: Evidence of involvement in academic service roles (e.g., committee membership, program coordination) and leadership potential indicate readiness to contribute to the institution's mission and governance.

How to greet recruiters in your professor cover letter salutation

As the saying goes, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression."

Write your professor cover letter salutation to be more personalized to the actual hiring manager, who is set to assess your profile by:

  • greeting them on a first-name basis, if you have previously communicated with them (e.g. "Dear Sam,");
  • using their last name, if you have more formal communication or haven't spoken to them (e.g. "Dear Mr. Harrows" or "Dear Ms. Marshall");
  • writing "Dear HR Team" or "Dear Hiring Manager", if you have no clue about who's recruiting for the role.

Search on LinkedIn, Google, or the company website to find information as to the recruiter's name.

In any case, avoid the impersonal "Dear Sir or Madam".

List of salutations you can use

  • Dear Dr. [Last Name],
  • Dear Professor [Last Name],
  • Dear Search Committee Chair,
  • Dear Hiring Committee,
  • Dear [University or College Department] Search Committee,
  • Dear Dean [Last Name],

How to start your professor cover letter introduction

The opening paragraph of your professor cover letter can seem like a real enigma.

Where do you start writing ?

In your professor cover letter introduction, focus on yourself by stating what:

  • gets you motivated and excited about the role;
  • you like best about the company, from culture to awards.

Write no more than two sentences, which are both authentic and show your enthusiasm for the opportunity.

How to write an achievement-focused professor cover letter body

We've got the intro and greeting covered. Now, comes the most definitive part of your professor cover letter - the body .

In the next three to six paragraphs, you'd have to answer why should recruiters hire you.

What better way to do this than by storytelling?

And, no, you don't need a "Once upon a time" or "I started from the bottom and made it to the top" career-climbing format to tell a compelling narrative.

Instead, select up to three most relevant skills for the job and look back on your resume.

Find an achievement, that you're proud of, which has taught you these three job-crucial skills.

Quantify your accomplishment, using metrics, and be succinct in the way you describe it.

The ultimate aim would be to show recruiters how this particular success has built up your experience to become an invaluable candidate.

Final words: writing your professor cover letter closing paragraph

The final paragraph of your professor cover letter allows you that one final chance to make a great first impression .

Instead of going straight to the "sincerely yours" ending, you can back up your skills with a promise of:

  • how you see yourself growing into the role;
  • the unique skills you'd bring to the organization.

Whatever you choose, always be specific (and remember to uphold your promise, once you land the role).

If this option doesn't seem that appealing to you, close off your professor cover letter with a follow-up request.

You could even provide your availability for interviews so that the recruiters would be able to easily arrange your first meeting.

Keep this in mind when writing your zero experience professor cover letter

Even though you may not have any professional experience , your professor cover letter should focus on your value.

As a candidate for the particular role, what sort of skills do you bring about? Perhaps you're an apt leader and communicator, or have the ability to analyze situations from different perspectives.

Select one key achievement from your life, outside work, and narrate a story that sells your abilities in the best light.

If you really can't think of any relevant success, you could also paint the picture of how you see your professional future developing in the next five years, as part of the company.

Key takeaways

Creating your professor cover letter should be a personalized experience for the role and the recruiter, where you:

  • Format your cover letter using the same ATS-friendly font (e.g. Railway) as you did for your resume;
  • Greet recruiters, using their name, and follow up with two sentences to introduce yourself, your interest in the role, and to stand out;
  • Map out one key success from your career (or life) that has taught you job-crucial skills;
  • Substitute your lack of experience with an achievement from your internships, degrees, or volunteering gigs;
  • End with a promise for your potential or your availability for an interview.

Professor cover letter examples

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

College Professor Resume Example

Cover letter examples by industry

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  • Content tailored to the job posting you're applying for
  • ChatGPT model specifically trained by Enhancv
  • Lightning-fast responses

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Writing a Compelling Cover Letter for Faculty Roles

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Learn about the key components of a compelling cover letter tailored to faculty positions. In this session we will discuss strategies to effectively showcase your qualifications, highlight your research and teaching experience, and convey your passion for the role.

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Be Prepared for Faculty Review

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Requred Job Application Materials

Submitting your application.

When you are applying for a faculty position at a college or university, your  cover letter  will differ significantly from the standard business cover letter.

Your cover letter may be reviewed by Human Resources department staff to determine if you meet the basic qualifications for the job. If it does, it will be forwarded to a search committee comprised mostly of faculty members and academic deans. 

These individuals will be accustomed to reading more lengthy academic cover letters and  resumes  or curriculum vitae (CV) than would be customary in the business world. They will also often be more interested in the philosophical foundations for your work than the typical business recruiter.

Kelly Miller / The Balance

Tips for Writing an Academic Cover Letter

Your initial challenge will be to pass through the Human Resources screening. Review each of the required qualifications included in the job announcement and compose statements containing evidence that you possess as many of the skills, credentials, knowledge, and experiences listed as possible. 

Address as many of the preferred qualifications as possible. 

Give concrete examples to support your assertions about your strengths. 

Your faculty reviewers will typically have an interest in your philosophy and approach to teaching and research within your discipline. They will also be evaluating how your background fits with the type of institution where they work.

Research the faculty in your target department to assess their orientation and expertise. Emphasize points of intersection between your philosophy and the prevalent departmental philosophy.

If you possess traditionally valued areas of expertise that are not already represented by the current faculty, make sure to point those strengths out in your cover letter. It's important to tailor your letter to the orientation of the college and adjust the mix of emphasis on teaching and research based on the expectations in that setting. 

Colleges will typically want to hire new faculty who are passionate about their current research and not resting on past research credits.

Describe a current project with some detail and express enthusiasm for continuing such work. 

Try to do the same with any evolving teaching interests. 

Highlight any grants and funding you have received to undertake your research activities. Incorporate any awards or recognition which you have received for your teaching or research activities. Some text should also be devoted to other contributions to the college communities where you worked, such as committee work, advising, and collaborations with other departments.

Your cover letter should be written in the same basic format as a business cover letter. An academic cover letter is typically two pages compared to a single page for non-academic letters.

Here’s an example of the appropriate format for a cover letter and guidelines for formatting your letters.

Academic Cover Letter Example

You can use this sample as a model to write an academic cover letter. Download the template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online), or read the text version below.

Academic Cover Letter Example #1 (Text Version)

Robin Applicant 123 Main Street, Anytown, CA 12345 555-555.5555

April 5, 2021

Dr. Sylvia Lee Chair, English Department Search Committee Acme College 123 Business Rd. Charlotte, NC 28213

Dear Dr. Sylvia Lee,

I am writing to apply for the position of assistant professor of English with an emphasis in nineteenth-century American literature that you advertised in the MLA Job Information List. I am a Dean’s Fellow and Ph.D. candidate at XYZ University, currently revising the final chapter of my dissertation, and expecting to graduate in May I am confident that my teaching experience and my research interests make me an ideal candidate for your open position.

Over the past five years, I have taught a variety of English courses. I have taught a number of American literature survey courses, as well as writing courses, including technical writing and first-year writing. I have extensive experience working with ESL students, as well as students with a variety of learning disabilities, including dyslexia and dysgraphia, and disabilities like ADD and ADHD. I pride myself on creating a classroom environment that accommodates the needs of my students while still promoting a high level of critical thought and writing skills. Some of my most satisfying experiences as a teacher have come from helping struggling students to grasp difficult concepts, through a combination of individual conferences, class activities, and group discussion. I know I would thrive as a teacher in your college, due to your belief in small classroom size and individualized support for students.

Not only does my teaching experience suit the needs of your school and department, but my research interests also fit perfectly with your description of the ideal candidate. My dissertation project, “Ferns and Leaves: Nineteenth-Century Female Authorial Space,” examines the rise and development of American female authors in the 1840s and 1850s, with a particular focus on patterns of magazine publication. I argue that, rather than being submissive to the requirements of the editor or publisher, female authors, in fact, developed a more transparently reciprocal relationship between themselves and their readers than previously has been assumed. I apply recent print-culture and book-history theory to my readings of novels, magazine articles, letters, and diary entries by various female authors, with a particular focus on Sara Willis (known by her pseudonym Fanny Fern). I plan to develop my dissertation into a book manuscript and continue to research the role of female writers in antebellum magazine culture, with a particular focus on the rise and influence of female magazine editors on literary culture.

My research interests have both shaped and been shaped by my recent teaching experiences. Last spring, I developed and taught a course on the history of print culture in America. I combined readings on theory and literature that addressed issues of print with visits to local historical museums and archives. My students conducted in-depth studies on particular texts (magazines, newspapers, novels) for their final papers. I believe my interdisciplinary teaching style, particularly my emphasis on material culture, would fit in well with the interdisciplinary nature of your English department.

I am therefore confident that my teaching experience, my skill in working with ESL and LD students, and my research interests all make me an excellent candidate for the assistant professor of English position at ABC College. I have attached my curriculum vitae and the two requested sample publications. I would be happy to send you any additional materials such as letters of reference, teaching evaluations, and past and proposed course syllabi. I will be available to meet with you at either the MLA or C19 conference, or anywhere else at your convenience. Thank you so much for your consideration; I look forward to hearing from you.

Robin Applicant (hard copy letter)

Robin Applicant

Academic Cover Letter Example #2 (Text Version)

Betty Applicant 567 North Street, Boston, MA 02108 555-555.555

Dr. Robert Smith Chair, Department of Biology Acme University 123 Business Rd. Business City, NY 54321

Dear Dr. Smith,

I am writing to apply for the position of Assistant Professor of Biology with a focus on molecular biology at XYZ University, as advertised in the March issue of Science. I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of XYZ in the Department of Molecular Biology, working under the advisement of Professor Linda Smith. I am confident that my research interests and teaching experience make me an ideal candidate for your open position.

My current research project, which is an expansion on my dissertation, “[insert title here],” involves [insert research project here]. I have published my dissertation findings in Science Journal and am in the processing of doing the same with my findings from my current research. The laboratory resources at XYZ University would enable me to expand my research to include [insert further research plans here] and seek further publication.

Beyond my successes as a researcher (including five published papers and my current paper in process), I have had extensive experience teaching a variety of biology courses. As a graduate student at Science University, I served as a teaching assistant and guest lecturer for both biology and chemistry introductory courses and won the university award for outstanding teacher’s assistant. As a postdoctoral fellow at the University of ABC, I have had the opportunity to teach Introduction to Biology as well as a graduate-level course, Historicizing Molecular Biology. In every class, I strive to include a blend of readings, media, lab work, and discussion to actively engage students with the material. I would love the opportunity to bring my award-winning lesson planning and teaching skills to your biology department.

I am confident that my research interests and experience combined with my teaching skills make me an excellent candidate for the Assistant Professor of Biology position at XYZ University. I have attached my curriculum vitae, three recommendations, and the two requested sample publications. I would be happy to send you any additional materials such as teaching evaluations or past and proposed course syllabi. I will be available to meet with you at the ASBMB conference or anywhere else at your convenience. Thank you so much for your consideration; I look forward to hearing from you.

Betty Applicant (hard copy letter)

Betty Applicant

It’s important to submit all your application materials in the format requested by the college or university. You may be asked to email, mail, or apply online via the institution’s applicant tracking system.

You may be required to provide references with your application, so be prepared to submit a list of references. The institution may also request transcripts, teaching evaluations, and writing samples.

Send only what is requested. There's no need to include information that the institution hasn't ask for.

However, you can offer to provide additional materials like writing samples, syllabi, and  letters of recommendation  in the last paragraph of your letter.

Follow the instructions in the job posting for submitting your application. It should specify what format the college wants to receive.

Here are some examples of what you may be asked to include with your cover letter and resume or CV:

  • A cover letter, CV/resume, and contact information for three references.
  • A cover letter (PDF format) of interest indicating your qualifications and reason for application, Curriculum Vitae (PDF format), and a minimum of three professional references, including phone and email contact information.
  • A letter of interest, a Curriculum Vitae, a teaching vision statement, a research vision statement that specifically indicates how you would interact with or collaborate with other department faculty, and three references.
  • A cover letter, CV/resume, and contact information for three references. Please upload these as ONE document in RTF, DOC or PDF format.
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how to write cover letter for professor job

The Top 6 Tips for Writing a Powerful Cover Letter

The Top 6 Tips for Writing a Powerful Cover Letter

A cover letter is a written, one-page document expressing your interest in a job opening. It should specifically address your interest in both the role and the company, and what skills and relevant experiences make you a great fit for the position. As importantly, it’s a chance to let your personality shine through and show off your communication skills.

Even when an employer is convinced that you meet all the qualifications based on your resume, a cover letter gives that extra spark that can greenlight your application to move through the hiring process and land you an interview. 

In this article, we’ll share the top 6 tips for writing a powerful cover letter and hopefully help you land the job you want.

1. Do Your Research

Start off your cover letter by addressing it to a specific person and not using the dreaded phrase of “To Whom it May Concern.” This shows that you took the extra time to do research on their website or Linkedin to identify the hiring manager’s name.

If you know any individuals from the company, ask them if you may “name drop” them in your introduction. To further demonstrate that you’ve done your homework on the organization, reference specific initiatives and programs. You could also cite other facts that prompted you to apply, such as a recent article or announcement.

The above recommendations showcase to the employer that you put in the extra effort to research them, which in turn, demonstrates your genuine interest in working for them.

2. Tailor Everything

Tailor each cover letter to both the organization you are applying to and the specific role. Make the case as to why you would be good at that particular job and an asset within the larger organization.

You should incorporate keywords and phrases from the job description into your cover letter. Make sure to tailor them to your specific experiences and accomplishments. It’s always helpful to reiterate job description language with data-driven details. 

Here’s an example from NYFA Classifieds Sales Manager, Mary-kate Grohoski, back when she applied to her current role:

The Sales Manager’s job description detailed the responsibility of “Managing the sales process from prospect identification, close of sales, and follow-up.” In her cover letter, she rephrased the above language and incorporated her experience with the following line: “By managing the sales process of over 10 Fine Books and Manuscripts auctions per year in the New York showroom, I oversee all client communications and portfolios, as well as the management of over 2,400 auctions lots per year, and develop and maintain long-term corporate relations.”

3. Be Authentic

In a sea of often standardized cover letters, being authentic could make you stand out. Sincere interest comes through in your writing, so take the time to truly reflect on what genuinely excites you about this opportunity. Speak to why you want the position and be specific about the aspects of the role that intrigue you and are aligned with the vision you have for yourself professionally.

When reviewing your cover letter, consider how the language you’ve chosen could inspire the hiring manager to look forward to what you could achieve together.

4. Solve a Problem for the Employer

Don’t make the cover letter all about you; it’s as much about the employer as it is about you. Connect how your previous experience would be an asset to this particular organization based on what they want to achieve. (Quick tip: Usually, their goals for the role are outlined in the job description.)

How can your skills benefit the organization and help them grow? Do you have ideas as to how you’d contribute to their specific programs and take them to the next level? Reference specific skills, experiences, and projects to demonstrate the value you would be bringing to the role.

Employers are always looking to bring new skills into their teams, to not only fill gaps, but to elevate their teams and organizations’ performance. By relating your experience back to the organization, you are helping them draw clear connections between your background and their goals for the role.

5. Keep it short

A good rule of thumb is to keep your cover letter under a page long, but even shorter is better. It’s a challenge to do so, since there is a lot you may want to cover, but there are some tricks to help you stay succinct.

Something to keep in mind is to not repeat what is in your resume, but instead, provide supplementary information and context to your resume’s content. Another tip is to focus on the 3-4 most relevant transferable skills you can bring to the role, instead of trying to cover every qualification and skill mentioned in the job description. Lastly, it’s always a good idea to have a friend or mentor review your resume and make recommendations on what you could cut.

At the end of the day, remember that the hiring manager is reading countless cover letters so try to make it as seamless for them as possible and make every word count.

6. Use a template, but mainly for formatting purposes

It’s a great time saver when you have a perfectly formatted cover letter template ready to be filled out so that you don’t have to deal with time consuming adjustments to margins, fonts, spacing, and alignment. 

A cover letter format pretty much follows the standard business letter format which contains a header with yours and the hiring manager’s contact information, a salutation, an opening paragraph, one or two body paragraphs, a closing paragraph and a sign off. Quick tip: Include your email address in your contact information, in case the cover letter gets separated from your resume.

Apart from that, you can standardize some aspects of the content just to have a visual filler in place or even use the text as a starting point, but always plan to customize them further for each application.

Overall, as you are writing your cover letter, try to keep a fine balance between talking about yourself, the employer, and what you can achieve together. Always aim to be answering the question of “Why should we hire you?” and back up everything you say with specific examples from your background. 

– Katerina Nicolaou, Account Manager

Put these tips to use by finding your next job on NYFA Classifieds , the go-to listings site for artists, arts administrators, and museum professionals. Follow us @nyfa_classifieds on TikTok for more creative career tips.

how to write cover letter for professor job

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how to write cover letter for professor job

How to Write a Cover Letter That Will Get You a Job

I ’ve read thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of cover letters in my career. If you’re thinking that sounds like really boring reading, you’re right. What I can tell you from enduring that experience is that most cover letters are terrible — and not only that, but squandered opportunities. When a cover letter is done well, it can significantly increase your chances of getting an interview, but the vast majority fail that test.

So let’s talk about how to do cover letters right.

First, understand the point of a cover letter.

The whole idea of a cover letter is that it can help the employer see you as more than just your résumé. Managers generally aren’t hiring based solely on your work history; your experience is crucial, yes, but they’re also looking for someone who will be easy to work with, shows good judgment, communicates well, possesses strong critical thinking skills and a drive to get things done, complements their current team, and all the other things you yourself probably want from your co-workers. It’s tough to learn much about those things from job history alone, and that’s where your cover letter comes in.

Because of that …

Whatever you do, don’t just summarize your résumé.

The No. 1 mistake people make with cover letters is that they simply use them to summarize their résumé. This makes no sense — hiring managers don’t need a summary of your résumé! It’s on the very next page! They’re about to see it as soon as they scroll down. And if you think about it, your entire application is only a few pages (in most cases, a one- or two-page résumé and a one-page cover letter) — why would you squander one of those pages by repeating the content of the others? And yet, probably 95 percent of the cover letters I see don’t add anything new beyond the résumé itself (and that’s a conservative estimate).

Instead, your cover letter should go beyond your work history to talk about things that make you especially well-suited for the job. For example, if you’re applying for an assistant job that requires being highly organized and you neurotically track your household finances in a detailed, color-coded spreadsheet, most hiring managers would love to know that because it says something about the kind of attention to detail you’d bring to the job. That’s not something you could put on your résumé, but it can go in your cover letter.

Or maybe your last boss told you that you were the most accurate data processor she’d ever seen, or came to rely on you as her go-to person whenever a lightning-fast rewrite was needed. Maybe your co-workers called you “the client whisperer” because of your skill in calming upset clients. Maybe you’re regularly sought out by more senior staff to help problem-solve, or you find immense satisfaction in bringing order to chaos. Those sorts of details illustrate what you bring to the job in a different way than your résumé does, and they belong in your cover letter.

If you’re still stumped, pretend you’re writing an email to a friend about why you’d be great at the job. You probably wouldn’t do that by stiffly reciting your work history, right? You’d talk about what you’re good at and how you’d approach the work. That’s what you want here.

You don’t need a creative opening line.

If you think you need to open the letter with something creative or catchy, I am here to tell you that you don’t. Just be simple and straightforward:

• “I’m writing to apply for your X position.”

• “I’d love to be considered for your X position.”

• “I’m interested in your X position because …”

• “I’m excited to apply for your X position.”

That’s it! Straightforward is fine — better, even, if the alternative is sounding like an aggressive salesperson.

Show, don’t tell.

A lot of cover letters assert that the person who wrote it would excel at the job or announce that the applicant is a skillful engineer or a great communicator or all sorts of other subjective superlatives. That’s wasted space — the hiring manager has no reason to believe it, and so many candidates claim those things about themselves that most managers ignore that sort of self-assessment entirely. So instead of simply declaring that you’re great at X (whatever X is), your letter should demonstrate that. And the way you do that is by describing accomplishments and experiences that illustrate it.

Here’s a concrete example taken from one extraordinarily effective cover-letter makeover that I saw. The candidate had originally written, “I offer exceptional attention to detail, highly developed communication skills, and a talent for managing complex projects with a demonstrated ability to prioritize and multitask.” That’s pretty boring and not especially convincing, right? (This is also exactly how most people’s cover letters read.)

In her revised version, she wrote this instead:

“In addition to being flexible and responsive, I’m also a fanatic for details — particularly when it comes to presentation. One of my recent projects involved coordinating a 200-page grant proposal: I proofed and edited the narratives provided by the division head, formatted spreadsheets, and generally made sure that every line was letter-perfect and that the entire finished product conformed to the specific guidelines of the RFP. (The result? A five-year, $1.5 million grant award.) I believe in applying this same level of attention to detail to tasks as visible as prepping the materials for a top-level meeting and as mundane as making sure the copier never runs out of paper.”

That second version is so much more compelling and interesting — and makes me believe that she really is great with details.

If there’s anything unusual or confusing about your candidacy, address it in the letter.

Your cover letter is your chance to provide context for things that otherwise might seem confusing or less than ideal to a hiring manager. For example, if you’re overqualified for the position but are excited about it anyway, or if you’re a bit underqualified but have reason to think you could excel at the job, address that up front. Or if your background is in a different field but you’re actively working to move into this one, say so, talk about why, and explain how your experience will translate. Or if you’re applying for a job across the country from where you live because you’re hoping to relocate to be closer to your family, let them know that.

If you don’t provide that kind of context, it’s too easy for a hiring manager to decide you’re the wrong fit or applying to everything you see or don’t understand the job description and put you in the “no” pile. A cover letter gives you a chance to say, “No, wait — here’s why this could be a good match.”

Keep the tone warm and conversational.

While there are some industries that prize formal-sounding cover letters — like law — in most fields, yours will stand out if it’s warm and conversational. Aim for the tone you’d use if you were writing to a co-worker whom you liked a lot but didn’t know especially well. It’s okay to show some personality or even use humor; as long as you don’t go overboard, your letter will be stronger for it.

Don’t use a form letter.

You don’t need to write every cover letter completely from scratch, but if you’re not customizing it to each job, you’re doing it wrong. Form letters tend to read like form letters, and they waste the chance to speak to the specifics of what this employer is looking for and what it will take to thrive in this particular job.

If you’re applying for a lot of similar jobs, of course you’ll end up reusing language from one letter to the next. But you shouldn’t have a single cover letter that you wrote once and then use every time you apply; whatever you send should sound like you wrote it with the nuances of this one job in mind.

A good litmus test is this: Could you imagine other applicants for this job sending in the same letter? If so, that’s a sign that you haven’t made it individualized enough to you and are probably leaning too heavily on reciting your work history.

No, you don’t need to hunt down the hiring manager’s name.

If you read much job-search advice, at some point you’ll come across the idea that you need to do Woodward and Bernstein–level research to hunt down the hiring manager’s name in order to open your letter with “Dear Matilda Jones.” You don’t need to do this; no reasonable hiring manager will care. If the name is easily available, by all means, feel free to use it, but otherwise “Dear Hiring Manager” is absolutely fine. Take the hour you just freed up and do something more enjoyable with it.

Keep it under one page.

If your cover letters are longer than a page, you’re writing too much, and you risk annoying hiring managers who are likely sifting through hundreds of applications and don’t have time to read lengthy tomes. On the other hand, if you only write one paragraph, it’s unlikely that you’re making a compelling case for yourself as a candidate — not impossible, but unlikely. For most people, something close to a page is about right.

Don’t agonize over the small details.

What matters most about your cover letter is its content. You should of course ensure that it’s well-written and thoroughly proofread, but many job seekers agonize over elements of the letter that really don’t matter. I get tons of  questions from job seekers  about whether they should attach their cover letter or put it in the body of the email (answer: No one cares, but attaching it makes it easier to share and will preserve your formatting), or what to name the file (again, no one really cares as long as it’s reasonably professional, but when people are dealing with hundreds of files named “resume,” it’s courteous to name it with your full name).

Approaching your cover letter like this can make a huge difference in your job search. It can be the thing that moves your application from the “maybe” pile (or even the “no” pile) to the “yes” pile. Of course, writing cover letters like this will take more time than sending out the same templated letter summarizing your résumé — but 10 personalized, compelling cover letters are likely to get you more  interview invitations  than 50 generic ones will.

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by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images


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