All Careers | Cover Letters


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Your cover letter offers you the opportunity to highlight your unique qualifications for the position to which you are applying. It should be a short, concise document of no more than one page.

As with your resume, your cover letter should be tailored to the position and employer you are applying to work for. You should think carefully about the job advertisement and the key qualifications the employer is asking for in the position description.

  • Brainstorm two to three particularly relevant qualifications from the job advertisement which highlight that you are a good match for this role.
  • Incorporate skills from the job description in your cover letter. Be sure to provide specific examples describing how you obtained these skills and when you used them in previous work or research environments.

Your letter should aim to address the following questions:

  • Why do I want to work for this employer? What about this position is attractive to me? How does this job fit into my long-term career trajectory?
  • What unique skills and experience can I bring to the position and employer?
  • Why am I the ideal candidate for this position? In other words, why should the employer choose to interview me over other applicants who are qualified for the position?
    • Make it easy for the hiring manager to see that you are exactly the kind of applicant they are looking for.

For more information about crafting a cover letter, see our detailed PDF.

The Office of Intramural Training and Education at the National Institutes of Health crafted the following guide that outlines the structure of a cover letter for non-academic positions. You can find that resource and more advice from the NIH on writing effective cover letters by clicking here.
Image: Example of a Cover Letter.

Additional Resources

‘5 Must-Do Steps for the Perfect Cover Letter’
Stanford ‘PhD & Postdoc Career Guide’, pgs. 56-61
University of Illinois, ‘Nonacademic Cover Letters’