The internet has the answer to everything (almost): but are there too many answers? It is hard to spot the really useful websites/posts in a long list of google hits – so here are some links we’ve found which could be useful. In previous posts about Cover Letters we mentioned some of the points raised in these websites, and at the end of the day it is not about taking ALL the advice, but chossing which advice best suits you.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has boiled down the key rules of Cover Letters to five great points, and they also include a list of references for further writings on the topic. Columbia has an entire PDF document with great suggestions, and it even includes sample letters which can be quite inspiring. Likewise, Harvard have a PDF document with details about CVs as well as Cover Letters – the guidelines for the latter start on page 22.
But what if you’re not applying on the American market? The above still list very useful points, so are definitely worth a look. But do also have a look at some other websites. For the UK, there are some very useful ones. LSE have a document on How to Write CVs and Cover Letters, a lengthy document which contains many helpful tips.
To be honest, though, shorter and/or more informal pieces tend to be concise and effective. Chad Thomas Black has an excellent post which, if not short, is very effect!ive and really helps you build a Cover Letter from nothing. Hacking the Academic Job Cover Letter summarises the piece well. And Nadine Muller gives some very sound advice no one could disagree with – for example, don’t misspell the name of the Professor who you’re adressing the letter to.
And to top it all off, here is some sound advice we recently overheard: don’t bend over backwards. By that we mean don’t try toooooo hard to fit their criteria – round hole, square peg. Of course spend hours writing and re-writing the letter and CV; studying the department, the structure of the degree and the course options, the staff, etc. But don’t try to be something you’re not. Indeed, sometimes we over-emphasise how perfectly we fit the job in order to hide the ways in which our specialism might not be exactly what (we think) they’re looking for. But if you think you’d be great at the job, then you don’t need to over-sell yourself to their exact criteria. Be confident, act like a colleague – if your Cover Letter is clear, then they’ll easily connect the dots.