Academic Cover Letters
The cover letter should " match" your background and qualifications to the specific position for which you are applying, and should give the committee enough information about you that they want to contact you. It should enhance your Curriculum Vita and other materials, and should elaborate upon and give a framework to your academic training and background as they pertain to the specific position.
Spend time reading the job description and make sure that you have addressed each of the required qualifications. Give examples of your experience; don't just state that you have some background in an area - demonstrate it by elaborating on the area. Why should they select you for an interview? Tell them why you are the right candidate! Show that you have done some research on the college or university, and would "fit" with the department. The cover letter offers you a chance to communicate with the search committee about your strengths and interests prior to the interview. The length of the cover letter should be about one page. Usually those in the sciences can complete the letter in one page. Those in the Humanities often include a cover letter that is longer than one page. However, it should never be longer than two pages.
Address the letter appropriately with "Dear Committee Members or Dear Dr.____." Identify the position for which you are applying, and how you found it. If someone referred you to the position, then state that. You should state when you received your degree, or when you are expecting to complete. When you give a projected date, give some data to support that the date is reasonable and believable, such as, "My chairperson has reviewed five of the six chapters." If you have met with someone and you had a good conference interview, mention that, along with a detail about the meeting.
The "matching" of your background, achievements, and qualifications should be included in these paragraphs. This is where you review the ad and speak about each of the requirements of the position, highlighting how you "match." This should not be done in such a way that it seems contrived, but your explanation should be woven into sentences that flow and show that you have thought about your fit.
You should elaborate on your C.V., and help the search committee to see why they should select you. Give a brief statement of your research, and include your teaching interests. Speak about your teaching and mention something about your success as a teacher with specific examples. Do not just give an overall philosophy of teaching, but explain what you did in a specific course to be successful.
Show your enthusiasm. If you are particularly excited about the college and the courses you will be teaching, mention that. If your family lives close to the college and demonstrates that you will have ties there, speak about that. If your research goals will be supported by the university, or you are excited about the research of other department members, mention that.
Reiterate, briefly, your interest and fit for the position. Let the committee know how you can be reached. Re-state your telephone number, email address, and state whether you will be at a future conference. Mention all of the materials you have enclosed (c.v., teaching portfolio, writing sample, etc.). Thank the reader for considering your application.