Now that you have successfully completed your doctoral degree, it’s time to hit the job market. It can be a long process. Academia is a competitive field and it may take some time to find the right job. A cover letter is a good opportunity to stand out from the rest of the applicants. It’s your chance to communicate with the hiring manager and explain what would make you a good fit for this specific postdoc position. Do not underestimate the importance of a cover letter. So, without further ado, here are a few tips for writing a letter that will make you shine.
Do your research
Writing a cover letter is like having a conversation with a person. The most engaging once are based on both people listening and paying attention to what the other person is saying. Do your research and gather as much information as possible about both the position and the institution you’re applying for a postdoc position with. Show that you understand their expectations, requirements, standards, and organizational culture. Your cover letter should make it clear that you took the time to really understand what a job entails as opposed to applying to every job you could possibly find.
Explain why you are writing the letter
Your opening paragraph should explain the goal of writing the letter. Include the position you are applying for and how you came across it.
Tailor your qualifications to a job
Yes, writing an individual cover letter for each postdoc job you are applying for is time-consuming. However, failing to do so will drastically reduce your chances of getting to the next stage – the interview. Hiring managers go through dozens, if not hundreds, of applications on a regular basis. They are able to sense when a letter is generic in the first few seconds of reading it.
The body paragraph of your cover letter should be dedicated to explaining how your qualifications make you a good fit for this particular postdoc position. Do not make the mistake of simply repeating what’s already on your resume. Use this as an opportunity to fill in the blanks. For example, explain how you used your skills to solve a specific problem. Describe an achievement you are particularly proud of and why. Show how your experience has prepared you for this position.
Always remain professional
Whether it’s the salutation, an opening paragraph, or the way you sign off in a letter, remember to always keep your language and style professional. Postdoc positions are formal by nature. You are applying for a position of a lecturer or a research assistant, not a PA at a funky tech start-up that brews its own beer and has a ping pong table. Provide your contact details, thank the person reading your cover letter for their time, and tell them that you are looking forward to hearing from them and are available to provide information on any additional questions they may have.
Many candidates fail to apply these tips in their cover letters. If you want to stand out from the crowd of applicants, you need to show the interviewer that you are willing to put in the time to apply for this particular postdoc position.