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Academic Covering Letters

When making job applications researchers tend to typically focus on the CV. Many underestimate the importance of the covering letter, forgetting that it is one half of the application. The purpose of the letter is to act as your persuasive argument, highlighting why you are the best candidate for the role. Therefore, it’s worth spending some time crafting your letter.

The focus is much more on you and what you can bring to the role and your motivation to do it well. It is still important not to go overboard on the length, aim to stick to a side and a half (two sides maximum). You need to consider the requirements of the role carefully. For example, if the role is focused on teaching you need to give more detail on your experience in this area. If the role is broader, for example a standard lectureship, then you will need to talk about your teaching and research experience. Address what your unique contribution to the university will be. What can you offer that another candidate cannot?

The importance of doing thorough research into the department and university really pays off here. You need to know what the department is all about to be able to effectively highlight how you will be a good fit. For example, what do you know about the department’s teaching profile? Can you teach on certain courses straight away? Do you have any suggestions as to courses that could be introduced? The same can be said of your research activities. Once you have outlined your future research plans and publications, cover ideas you have for generating more funding. Does this fit with what other academics are doing within the department? Can you become involved in any immediate collaborations etc. Consider what are the synergies between what you can offer and what they are doing


  • Be led by the job description! Look at where the emphasis has been placed and try to give the same balance in your letter.
  • Highlight your added value. Talk about the achievements and outcomes in your previous roles that you have been responsible for. What responsibilities did you take on and exceed expectations?
  • Remember the importance of addressing the letter correctly – always write to a named individual if possible (even if this means contacting the organisation directly to find out who this is).
  • Remember to include the correct sign off at the end of your letter. For example, if you have written to a named individual end with ‘Yours Sincerely’ otherwise it’s ‘yours faithfully’.

Further resources:

Book a 1:1 Career Consultation

Cover letter Checklist handout

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