How to Write Impressive Cover Letters for a Position in Academia
The trick to be successful while applying for teaching positions is to grab attention and never let go. Yes, you heard it right- it is all about presentation and packaging information in a manner that is succinct and precise. Remember that your application will contain the CV, along with the cover letter that will get you through the door before it is shut close.
Cover Letters and why they are important:
It is truly mind-boggling to see that many candidates have no idea what a cover letter is and why it is absolutely necessary to send along with resumes while applying for a job position. Remember that there are other applicants for the same job that you are after. This means that the Hiring Committee will have to go through hundreds of resumes, each of which comes with two to three recommendation letters that would validate that candidate's talents sufficiently. Who would have time to go through such a huge volume of information to make their decision? The Hiring Committee is comprised of Full Professors or Associate Professors who not only are burdened with the task of grading hundreds of test papers, but also to carry on with their research while planning for their classes.
You need to send an appropriate cover letter where you can provide a small but effective write-up on why you are suited for the current teaching position that you are applying for. Never forget to add the name of the department and the university. If a certain person's name was mentioned in the advertisement, make sure you include that said person's name and direct the letter to them. The Hiring committee will only read cover letters at first to decide whether they want to read the attached resumes or not. If they are not impressed by your cover letter, you can expect them to throw your application into the trash straight away.
The Art of Writing Impressive Cover Letters:
So how can you write a detailed and yet short cover letter that would impress the Hiring Committee members and get you the job? Here are certain guidelines that you can follow to increase the odds in your favor:
You need to sell the idea that you are a qualified teacher. If you do not have any past teaching experience, that is acceptable too. But try to be honest about it. In case you have taught before, make sure that you write which subject you have taught and where you have taught it. Include your credentials (basic ones that you find most relevant to the job you are applying for) and present the idea that you are very good at what you do.
- Serious about Research:
If you present yourself as an armchair fundamentalist in the academia, you will be in trouble. You need to engage in research that would challenge existing ideas and also have an impact on society in one way or another. Write about the researches you have been part of, and present any details regarding conference meetings and seminars that you had participated in to read your papers. Moreover, you need to show a drive to motivate students to carry on with their own research work.
- Potential and compatibility of research:
If the Committee sees that your research purpose is not compatible with the overall goals of the university, you will not be accepted. More importantly, you need to assure them that you can continue with your research even after joining the faculty. For example, if your research is tied with another location, you need to tell them that you are capable of doing fieldwork during the holidays in order to gather data for your study.
- Never put research before teaching:
If you are applying to work at a teaching institution, it is expected that you will give more priority to teaching. You can be excited about your research but it must not appear in the cover letter that you are not very serious about teaching.
- Never boast:
Try to be very neutral while talking about your talents and skills. If you talk too much about your achievements, it could work against you.
- Stay within the structure:
There is no need to be extremely creative while writing cover letters. You need to follow a plan and stick to the rules. Try to keep it to the point.
These guidelines are there to help you to play it safe. While playing nice and safe might not be your life's motto, remember that academic institutions usually lean more in favor of straight-laced candidates who are serious about what they want to do. Apart from the definite rule to avoid typos, make sure that the font you use is extremely professional. Times New Roman is the universal choice, and anything else might be cutting it too close.