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Covering letters for academic jobs in the UK

Key elements for your academic covering letter  .

Your academic covering letter should:

  • be approximately one to two A4 pages in length, but can be longer (especially for more senior positions).
  • focus on what you have to offer the department or institution to which you are applying, rather than what you’d like to gain from working there.
  • succinctly highlight your academic success and achievements, in relation to the post being advertised.
  • make clear links between your experience and the job to which you are applying (e.g. which of the departments modules you could teach on, which staff members you could collaborate with etc., if relevant).

What to include in your academic covering letter

Your CV is there for the employer to refer to for further details, so you should avoid simply repeating your CV again in your covering letter.

In your covering letter, you should argue your case as to why your experience so far makes you a great candidate for that particualr job at that particular university. Here are some tips on what to include in your academic covering letter:

  • Open by explaining what you are applying for and where you say it advertised.
  • Briefly introduce yourself and what attracted you to the employer and the job (avoid directly restating phrases from their recruitment literature).   
  • Explain how your research interests and/or teaching experience complement those of the department.
  • Give examples that show that you have the right combination of skills. Examples might include some details of modules you’ve taught, conferences you’ve participated in, successful collaborations or projects in which you have been involved.
  • Include a closing paragraph stating your availability for interview (if necessary) and that you look forward to hearing from them etc.   
  • have a useful academic cover letter template  and an e-book guide on how to write a cover letter for academic jobs.
  • Keep your letter succinct, relevant and enthusiastic in tone. Ensure it complies with formal conventions, e.g. sign off with “Yours sincerely” if it is addressed to a specific individual and “Yours faithfully” when you don’t have a name, and include your address and the date at the top.   
  • If you would like advice on your academic covering letter, you can arrange to see the PGR Careers Adviser .

Good luck with your applications!  

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Academic Applications

Advice to help you create academic applications that stand out..

Click on each section below to find out more.

Academic CVs

You are likely to need an academic CV to apply for postgraduate courses or for academic jobs and funding.

Examples of academic CVs

Academic CV Example (PDF)

Academic CV for Science PhD (PDF)

Academic CV for Humanities PhD (PDF)

As with CVs for other sectors, the purpose of an academic CV is to clearly set out the evidence that you have the experience and skills that the intended reader is seeking. In the case of an academic CV this means that you are likely to focus on your academic achievements and experience relevant to your chosen course of study or academic role. There is no page limit - although you should always keep it concise and relevant.

CVs for postgraduate study applications

As always with CVs, focus on the recipient and what they need to know. Include relevant details of your academic courses, extended essays, dissertations, laboratory and field work and other experience that demonstrates your motivation for your chosen course and relevant skills.

Much of the advice that follows will be helpful for PhD applications, though it is likely that you do not yet have some of the experience referred to. See also our general advice on putting together an effective CV .

Before you start

First, look at the skills and competencies that the hiring department / research group requires. You can identify these from the person specification, the job advert, or your own research. Is this a research or teaching only job? Or will you be doing research, teaching and administration (typical for lectureships)? Do they highlight any particular skill areas, such as organisation or team work?

Look at what you need to do to apply. CVs are usually accompanied by cover letters, but they might also ask you to submit an application form, research and/or teaching statement. Your CV can reference experience and skills relevant to all of these other submitted materials.

Once you are clear what the employer wants, start to tailor your CV to the post.

Typical sections

A selection of the following sections are typical for the academic CV:

  • Personal Information . Start the CV with your name, address, telephone number and email address.
  • Research Interests . Write bullet points or a short paragraph summarising your research.
  • Education . Include degrees, possibly titles of theses, and the names of supervisors.
  • Awards and Funding . Include undergraduate/postgraduate prizes, travel grants, doctoral scholarships, early career fellowships, and grants you have led on or are named on.
  • Research Experience . Include any postdoctoral positions or fellowships and research assistant jobs. You might include more detail about your doctoral research in this section too.
  • Teaching Experience . Note any lecturing, seminar, tutorial, supervising, demonstrating, mentoring experience, and potentially non-academic teaching such as through schools and tutoring. Give details about the role and responsibilities - even if it was informal - such as level of students, class sizes and topics you taught.
  • Admin Experience . Highlight any conferences/seminars/reading groups you’ve organised, committees you have sat on, and any other relevant administration and management experience. You may also see this section referred to as 'Academic Responsibilities' or 'Academic Service'.
  • Relevant Training . Include academic teaching training, research methods training, management skills etc.
  • Relevant research/technical/laboratory skills . You may find it useful to list these under one heading if you find yourself repeating throughout various sections.
  • Patents . Give details of the title, inventors, patent number and date granted.
  • Professional memberships. List these - e.g. the Royal Society of Chemistry or the British Association of American Studies. Include dates.
  • Publications . Give full details as you would if citing them, and use a consistent style. You may wish to highlight (e.g. bold/underline) your name.
  • Conference presentations and posters . Highlight whether paper or poster and cite similarly to your publications with full author list, title, date and location. Subsections can highlight 'invited' contributions.
  • Referees . Ideally these should all be academic referees. They should be people who know you well and who are known in your field.
  • Make sure your CV is focused on academia. Include non-academic work experience or extra-curricular activities and interests if you feel they are relevant to the post you are applying for, but articulate the transferable skills/knowledge involved. You might also include languages and IT skills if they are relevant.
  • You might include your nationality in your personal details if you think it will be an advantage – e.g. if you already have the right to work in the country you are applying to.
  • If you have limited or no published work, consider including works in progress. Clearly label publications as ‘forthcoming’, ‘under review’ or ‘submitted’ if they are in process, but not yet in print or accepted. If you are unconcerned about giving your ideas away before they go to a publisher, you could have a separate heading for ‘Working Papers’ that you are preparing for publication but have not submitted yet. Include when and where you plan to submit them.
  • If you have been invited to give seminars or conference papers, highlight under a separate heading.
  • Translate jargon/acronyms that others might not understand, especially if applying abroad.
  • Review our general information on crafting CVs for tips on how to describe your activities and more.

Teaching Statements

What is a teaching statement and why do you need one.

When making an academic job application, you may be asked for a teaching statement (sometimes referred to as a ‘philosophy of teaching statement’). These statements may also be requested of candidates for grant applications or teaching awards. If a separate teaching statement is not requested, some of the following advice may still help in cover letters for roles involving teaching.

A teaching statement is a narrative that describes:

  • How you teach.
  • Why you teach the way you do.
  • How you know if you are an effective teacher, and how you know that your students are learning.

The rationale behind a teaching statement is to:

  • Demonstrate that you have been reflective and purposeful about your teaching. This means showing an understanding of the teaching process and your experience of this.
  • Communicate your goals as an instructor, and your corresponding actions in the laboratory, classroom, or other teaching setting.

Format and style of a Teaching Statement

There is no required content or format for a teaching statement, because they are personal in nature, but they are generally 1-2 pages, and written in first person. The statement will include teaching strategies and methods to help readers ‘see’ you in a lab, lecture hall, or other teaching setting. The teaching statement is, in essence, a writing sample, and should be written with the audience in mind (i.e. the search committee for the institution(s) to which you are applying). This means that, like a cover letter, your teaching statement should be tailored for presentation to different audiences.

Articulating your teaching philosophy

Consider your experiences as both teacher and learner, and always keep your subject at the forefront. Consider all opportunities that you have previously had to teach, mentor, or guide, and determine instances that were both successful and perhaps not so successful. Understanding why and how learning happens is an important part of your teaching philosophy.

Here are some general areas to focus on in your teaching statement:

  • Goals : Convey your teaching goals. What would you like students to get out of your courses? What matters most to you in teaching and why?
  • Strategies : List effective teaching strategies. How will you realise your goals? What obstacles exist to student learning and how do you help students overcome them?
  • Evidence : Specific examples of your teaching experience are powerful in a teaching statement. Provide evidence that your students have learned (or not) in the past.

Research Statements

Some applications ask for a short research statement. This is your opportunity to propose a research plan and show how this builds on your current expertise and achievements. It forms the basis for discussions and your presentation if you are invited for interview. Remember to:

  • Tailor each statement to the particular role you are applying for
  • Make sure there are clear links between your proposal and the work of the recruiting institution
  • Write about your research experience stating the aims, achievements, relevant techniques and your responsibilities for each project
  • Write as much (within the word limit) about your planned research and its contribution to the department, and to society more broadly
  • Invest time and ask for feedback from your supervisor/principal investigator or colleagues

Vitae, an organisation that supports the professional development of researchers, offers further advice on crafting research statements .

Fellowships and Funding

Funding for postgraduate study.

Some sources of funding for masters and PhD courses require a separate application. Check closing dates and eligibility criteria carefully. In your application, focus on the recipient - what do they need to know about you, your interests, your motivation, your experience? In many cases it is also important to consider why they are offering the funding. Is it a scholarship from a foundation aiming to promote international understanding or some other ethos? How will you be an effective ambassador for that? Most commonly you will need to submit an academic CV and personal statement .

See also our information on sources of funding for postgraduate study in the UK , the USA and elsewhere .

Post-doctoral fellowships, including Junior Research Fellowships (JRFs)

Read the job description carefully to understand what is prioritised by the recruiting College or institution(s) beyond furthering your research.  If there are additional responsibilities (such, as outreach, mentoring, expanding or fostering academic networks), you will need to provide evidence of your interest and experience in these areas, as well as statements about how you would fulfil these roles when in post.

Try to meet current JRF holders to gain further insight into what the role entails on a daily basis and what is expected by senior colleagues. 

Try also to speak with academics who may be on JRF panel committees and could give you insights into the requirements and expectations of the role.

Show how your research contributes to, extends and/or maximises the impact of other work going on in the University. Then state why the JRF would enable you to further these in specific ways.

Give prominence to your publications (and those in progress):

  • use headings in your publications list to draw attention to journal articles (above book chapters), and to distinguish policy papers from expert reviews and public commentaries, or conference proceedings from published papers.
  • consider adding an impact factor or HI index metrics to journal publications (even if these are not high for junior stage publications they show an awareness of their importance).

Outline how you intend to participate in knowledge exchange and public engagement within your fellowship. These activities are now recognised as significant components of academic life.

Give prominence to your grant-writing experience and partnerships or work with people or organisations outside the university.

Remember that non-specialists are likely to also be on an assessment panel, so try to highlight the 'big-picture' relevance of your research as well as specialised content.

Look at Vitae's Research Developer Framework to identify any other academic-related competencies that you could demonstrate in your application (particularly project-management, leadership, developing innovative partnerships/strategic thinking).

Make an appointment with a Careers Adviser  to have your application reviewed.

Grant applications

Applications for research funding will have varying requirements according to the funder and scheme in question. Oxford University Research Services  works in partnership with academic divisions, departments, University Administration and Services (UAS) and Oxford University Innovation to support Oxford’s research community in many ways.

These include understanding grant eligibility and writing competitive applications, how to engage strategically with non-academic partners (including intellectual property agreements), and defining Knowledge Exchange or Impact targets to benefit both the project and your career.

Research Services run regular training sessions on how to apply for funding. Their staff are equally willing to advise individuals on which schemes to apply for and how to prepare a solid funding application. Use the searchable Oxford University research support staff list to identify the right person to talk to about research funding. Research Services also offer twice-yearly seminars on writing funding applications.

Practical resources

  • Research Professional is an online database of funding opportunities that you can tailor to your subject areas. It is a subscription resource so you need to be on a university-networked computer to set up an account.
  • UK Research and Innovation , the new national body which brings together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and Research England, is another good place to look for information about current research funding opportunities.
  • The European Research Council also has a broad range of grants available to researchers whose projects will be undertaken in an EU member state or associated country.
  • Early Career Fellowships for scientists (plus, increasingly, other disciplines) are helpfully summarised by Research Services Fellowships , including a table for download containing key information and upcoming deadline dates.
  • Funding Insight articles are of particular relevance to early career researchers, with advice on applying for funding and interviews with funders and researchers.
  • Daily Info often carries advertisements offering editorial support for documents. Check out, however, the University policy on the extent to which academic writing can be edited by others prior to submission before using extensively.

Supporting Statements and Cover Letters

For supporting statements for PhD and masters applications please see our information on personal statements for further study . In this section we focus on supporting statements and cover letters for academic jobs.

When job descriptions ask you to supply a CV, supporting statement plus other documents (research and teaching plans, writing or coursework samples etc), the cover letter need not be long or detailed. It can be a concise letter, introducing yourself, your reason for writing and laying out what is contained in your application.

Academic Cover Letters

Academic cover letters vary in length, purpose, content and tone. Each job application requires a new, distinct letter.

For applications that require additional research or teaching statements, there is no point repeating these points in a cover letter – here, one page is enough (brief personal introduction, delighted to apply, please find enclosed X, Y, Z documents).

Other applications ask for a CV and a cover letter only, in which case the letter will need to be longer and require more detail. Others ask explicitly for this detail in the form of a supporting statement that sets out how you fulfil the job criteria. Aim for a maximum length of two pages, though for roles at associate professor level and above it may extend to 3-5 pages. In all cases it is important to use the space effectively and show that you can prioritise according to what they are looking for.

In all cases:

  • Your letter is a piece of academic writing – you need a strong argument and empirical evidence
  • Write for the non-expert to prove that you can communicate well
  • Make sure you sound confident by using a tone that is collegial (rather than like a junior talking to a senior)
  • Demonstrate your insight into what the recruiting department is doing in areas of research and teaching, and say what you would bring to these areas from your work thus far

Give quantifiable evidence of teaching, research and funding success where possible

Narrative CVs

In 2020 the UKRI (the UK public body that oversees the research councils and some other research funding bodies) announced their intention to develop a standardised researcher CV format. The result is the development of a narrative CV template which has been piloted in several UKRI funding calls. The approach is based on the Royal Society " Resume for Researchers " which includes a suggested template and a breakdown of the structure to be used. 

What are Narrative CVs?

‘Narrative CVs’ are becoming a common requirement in academic funding and even job applications. They are significantly different from a traditional academic CV that is more based on a list of your experience and achievements, moving towards descriptions of your contributions. Narrative CVs aim to improve research culture and assessment by broadening the outputs, skills, and experiences that are valued by research, beyond publication metrics.

Depending on the funder or organisation, they may have different names, such as the UKRI Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI) or the ‘Your research contributions’ section of Wellcome applications.

The trend is likely to continue as more researchers and evaluators recognise the benefits of narrative CVs for capturing the diversity and quality of research outputs and outcomes.

What is the typical format of a Narrative CV?

There is no one standard format for Narrative CVs, but most consist of different sections that ask you to describe your contributions and achievements in various aspects of research and innovation, such as outputs, impact, environment, leadership, funding, awards, teaching, service and engagement. You should refer closely to the instructions, guidance, or template your specific funder or institution provides, as requirements can differ.

Each section should provide a concise summary of the researcher’s activities, achievements and reflections, with evidence and links to relevant sources where possible.

Guidance on writing your Narrative CV

Funders and institutions are beginning to develop guidance on developing Narrative CVs, so check resources and guides they provide. Oxford University Research Services have developed valuable Guides and Resources and have a recorded webinar for supporting your development of Narrative CVs.

The following summarises the key advice provided in the guide for drafting your Narrative CV:

Be Selective: The Narrative CV aims to emphasise quality of contributions, rather than quantity.

  • Attempt to highlight fewer key contributions in good detail, rather than provide long lists with little detail
  • Ensure your selected contributions are strong but also relevant to the funding call or position you are applying for
  • Focus on your past achievements, not your future plans

Provide evidence: For your selected contributions, describe outcomes and your role in enabling them, rather than purely listing outputs. Qualitative and quantitative evidence is suitable.

Consider including collaborative activities. You can use evidence from within and beyond academia if they are relevant to your application.

Provide context: you are allowed to explain how your activities benefited you at your career stage and enhanced your skills. Narrative CVs understand that not all researchers have the same level of opportunities available to them, and explanations of context can demonstrate your ability level within the constraints of your situation.

Some top tips for starting the writing process:

  • Note down what the funding call or position guidance calls for you to provide evidence on
  • Make a list of your activities that meet these, and begin to identify your strongest and most relevant examples
  • Begin expanding on these, explaining their significance, what resulted from them, what you gained, quantitative or qualitative evidence to demonstrate impact
  • Check for overlap between sections, and ensure your examples are placed in the most relevant section
  • Consider including a sentence summarising the key point you want the reviewer to remember

Writing a Narrative CV can feel challenging at first, and therefore practicing and drafting this new format early can be beneficial.

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A good application, whether a CV and cover letter or an application form, is critical in getting to the interview stage. Our CVs & Applications books are packed full of examples, so whether you’re preparing for the annual graduate recruitment cycle, or an academic researcher looking for your first lectureship position, you’ll find something inside to help you.

Written by Careers Consultants at the Cambridge University Careers Service - pick up a free copy or download the book below.


CVs & Applications for Undergraduates and Masters students

CVs and Applications for Undergraduates and Masters


CVs & Cover Letters for PhDs and Postdocs

CVs and Cover Letters for PhDs and Postdocs


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Short CV Guide - Quick application help

NB: These books are designed to help you to write CVs for use in the UK. The style and content of your CV may need to be very different for use in other countries. GoinGlobal gives information on international careers, including CVs for different countries.

Check and improve your CV



CareerSet is an online CV optimisation platform, which enables you to submit your CV 24/7 and receive an instant overall score plus suggestions for improvement. You can also upload a job description and see how well your CV matches. Read our  Getting Started Guide  for a quick introduction to the software.

You're still very welcome to discuss your CV with one of our Careers Consultants but you might like to use CareerSet first for some initial feedback, or just to do a final check. Login to CareerSet

Note that CareerSet is  not configured for academic CVs, so we'd suggest using the CV guide above and booking an appointment to talk to an adviser about  your academic CV. 

Careers Essentials

As part of our Careers Essentials - Getting Recruitment Ready series, we have put together two videos which cover how a CV is used to make decisions, types of CV, and how to bring all your information together.

Part 1: Getting Started

Part 2: Tailoring for an opportunity

Write the perfect Cover Letter (Five mins)

Write the perfect CV 

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Covering letters

Submit a covering letter with your job application as a way of introducing yourself whilst highlighting your strengths and motivation for applying for the role and company. 

For most roles, aim for one A4 page with three or four paragraphs. 

Academic positions may require around two A4 pages, while senior roles can extend to up to five pages. 

Make a professional impression by using a proper greeting and closing in your covering letter. For example, Dear Hiring Manager, Yours sincerely (further information on formal letter writing can be found in the Resources section below). 

Whenever possible, address the letter to a specific person by checking the job advert or contacting the company. 

Opening: Introduce yourself, mention where you found the job, and explain your reasons for applying. 

First paragraph: Express your interest in the company and the role. Show your knowledge about the organisation and sector. Align your career aspirations with the company's values. 

Second paragraph: Match your skills and experiences to the job description. Highlight relevant examples and achievements. Emphasise transferable skills if you lack direct experience. 

Closing: Stay positive and showcase your suitability for the role. Convey enthusiasm and end with a closing statement like "I look forward to hearing from you soon." 

  • Address a named person whenever possible. 
  • Proofread for spelling and grammar - get feedback from friends, family, or your careers adviser. 
  • Include a cover letter unless instructed otherwise. 
  • Customise your letter for each role and company to avoid generic content. 
  • Support your statements with examples using the STAR Technique .
  • Let your enthusiasm shine through!

Further support

Get cover letter writing tips at the Writing a Winning CV and Cover Letter  workshop or explore our Cover Letter LinkedIn Learning Pathway for ideas and inspiration.

Recommended by our careers advisers

  • Writing a Covering Letter  (includes four examples)
  • Prospects Cover Letters
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  • Balance Careers: Sample letter format
  • Balance Careers: Closing a formal letter
  • Academic Cover Letters

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Cover letters

It's important to get your cover letter right. It's your one opportunity to sell your skills and experience to potential employers. Find out how to write and format a cover letter and take ideas and inspiration from our cover letter templates

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a document sent alongside your CV when applying for jobs. It acts as a personal introduction and helps to sell your application.

Cover letters are necessary as they give you the chance to explain to an employer why you're the best candidate for the job. You do this by highlighting relevant skills and experience; therefore, you should always write your cover letter with the position you're applying for in mind.

Not to be confused with  personal statements for your CV , cover letters should complement your CV but not duplicate it. The consensus among recruiters when it comes to the length of these documents is the shorter the better. Typically, three to five short paragraphs, cover letters should not exceed one A4 page.

If sending electronically, put the text in the body of the email rather than as an attachment, to avoid it being detected by spam filters.

Applications should always include a cover letter unless the job advert instructs you differently.

How do I write a good cover letter?

Before writing your cover letter it's important that you do your research. While reading the job description thoroughly is essential, it's not enough on its own. To help you craft a successful cover letter you’ll need to find out more about:

  • who will be reading your cover letter
  • the organisation and its culture
  • the industry it operates in and any relevant news
  • company competitors and market position.
  • the organisations goals over the next five years.

When writing your cover letter keep it brief, while making sure it emphasises your suitability for the job. Cover letters can be broken down into the following sections:

  • First paragraph  - The opening statement should set out why you're writing the letter. Begin by stating the position you're applying for, where you saw it advertised and when you are available to start.
  • Second paragraph  - Highlight relevant experience and demonstrate how your skills match the specific requirements of the job description. Summarise any additional strengths and explain how these could benefit the company.
  • Third paragraph  - Cover why you're suitable for the job, what attracted you to this type of work, why you're interested in working for the company and what you can offer the organisation. This is a good opportunity to show off your knowledge of the company.
  • Last paragraph  - Use the closing paragraph to round up your letter. Reiterate your interest in the role and indicate your desire for an  interview. Now is the time to mention any unavailable dates.

Once finished read through the document and cut out any unnecessary words and sentences. Don't fill up space by repeating what's already covered in your CV. As a rule, only mention your current salary or salary expectations if the employer has specifically asked you to. If you're asked to include this information, put it between the third and last paragraphs.

Unless the job advert states differently (for example, it may ask you to provide your CV and cover letter as a Word document) save with a .PDF file extension to make sure it can be opened and read on any machine. Windows PCs and Macs don't always work in harmony - Windows use a .docx file extension and Macs .pages but if the recruiter uses the opposite system, they may not be able to open your file. Using a .PDF file extension should solve this.

If you need help with your CV take a look at  how to write a CV .

How should I address a cover letter?

Always try and address your cover letter directly to the person who will be reading it. Bear in mind that you're more likely to receive a reply if you send it to the right person.

If you're struggling to find a named contact, you can use a general greeting such as:

  • Dear Sir/Madam
  • Dear Hiring manager
  • Dear Human resources director.

However, general greetings should only be used once you have exhausted methods of finding a named contact.

How do I sign off?

How you sign off your cover letter depends on how you addressed it. If you include a named contact, sign off 'Yours sincerely'. If you use a general greeting, finish with 'Yours faithfully'.

Example cover letters

  • Sample cover letter  - Used to highlight your skills and experience and to express your suitability and passion for the job, cover letters are used to encourage recruiters to look at your CV. Attention to detail is crucial and spelling, grammar and formatting needs to be spot on. Take a look at our sample cover letter for inspiration.
  • Speculative cover letter  - These can sometimes be an effective method of creating an opportunity. To ensure that speculative cover letters are successful you'll need to do your research on the company you're applying to. Using our cover letter template, discover what to include in speculative applications.
  • Cover letter by a Masters graduate  - You probably embarked on a Masters to expand your subject knowledge, gain industry contacts and improve your job prospects but to really make it work you need to know how to sell your postgraduate qualification to employers.
  • Cover letter for a jobseeker with no experience  - It can be tough applying for a job with no experience, but our example cover letter shows you how to promote yourself to an employer if you haven't got any directly related work experience.
  • Explaining a gap in your CV  - Knowing how to navigate around gaps in your CV can be tricky but it's a mistake to try and gloss over them. Your cover letter is the perfect place to explain these gaps in your employment history to potential employers. Take a look at our sample cover letter to find out how to go about it.
  • Cover letter for changing career  - Find out how to explain a change of direction in our example cover letter for career changers. You'll need to briefly cover why you want to change career and relate your past experience and wealth of skills to the industry/job you’re applying to.
  • Cover letter by an international graduate  - If you'd like to expand your horizons by working abroad, take a look at our cover letter of an international student applying for a job in the UK. You’ll need to do your research if you apply for a job in another country, as application rules may differ.
  • Disclosing a disability  - Just like your gender, marital status and dependants your disability doesn't affect your ability to do a job and you're not legally required to disclose it on your CV or in your cover letter. However, if you would like to disclose a disability to outline any adjustments you may need, this sample cover letter will show you how.
  • Internship cover letter - To set yourself above the competition you need to successfully sell your relevant skills and experience while conveying your passion for the role. As well as explaining to employers what the opportunity could do for you, you'll need to communicate what you could do for the company. Discover how to craft the perfect application for a formal internship with our internship cover letter template.
  • Apprenticeship cover letter - Apprenticeships are an increasingly popular route into work, as well as a great alternative to university. Find out how to apply for these roles with our apprenticeship cover letter example.

For inspiration and guidance on crafting a CV see example CVs .

When should I follow up my application?

It's always a good idea to follow up on a job application if you don't hear back. If two weeks have passed and you've had no response, send an email to the hiring manager to check that your application has been received. Use this opportunity to reiterate your interest in the role and why you think you'd be an asset to the company.

Keep this email brief. It shouldn't act as a second cover letter or attempt to replace or repeat the original.

What are some top tips for writing a cover letter?

With employers often receiving lots of applications for each vacancy, you need to ensure that your cover letter makes a lasting impression for the right reasons. These tips will increase your chances of success:

  • Tailor to the organisation  - You should rewrite your cover letter every time you apply for a position in order to target the company. Sending out a generic letter for all applications rarely yields positive results and recruiters can spot your lack of time and effort from a mile away.
  • Format  - Presentation is important so you'll need to format your cover letter properly. Make sure the document is as uncluttered as possible, use the same font and size as you use in your CV and if you're sending it through the post or handing it in use good quality plain white paper to print it on.
  • Use keywords that appear in the job advert - This lets the employer know that you’ve read and understood the job description. It also demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to tailor your application to the job.
  • Identify your USPs  - They're your unique selling points. Be positive about what you have to offer and clearly outline how your skills and experience meet those requested in the job description. Demonstrate why you're the perfect candidate.
  • Include examples  - Back up the claims in your cover letter with real evidence or examples that show how and when you've used your skills and experience.
  • Save a copy - If you’re invited to interview you might need to refer back to it.

If you're a student or recent graduate, you can make an appointment with your university's careers and employability service to access further help when writing your cover letter. You'll be able to talk with specially-trained advisers, get advice on what to include and have a professional eye look over your application before sending.

To make sure you don’t trip up read about the  5 things to avoid when writing a cover letter .

Find out more

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Academic cover letters

It’s also important to understand what will and won’t be acceptable to the organisation you’re hoping to join. Faced with a big pile of applications, an employer is looking for reasons to put most of them in the bin. If your application varies from the expected format or is difficult for the potential employer to understand you are giving them a reason to discard it - and all before they’ve had a chance to see that you’re perfect for the job!

academic cover letters

Online advice on academic cover letters can be conflicting due to different expectations between disciplines and especially between countries: some examples are length of the letter, what it should include versus the CV/resume and type of supplementary documents to attach.

Getting your letter right

Other things to consider.

Cultural differences - a few examples

Articles about academic cover letters or applications

Templates and examples, will anyone read my cover letter.

There are some things everyone seems to agree on and which are not specific to applications for academic positions. Key points include:

  • The main purposes of your letter are to convey your enthusiasm, to make it clear why you’re a good fit for the position and why you want to work in that department or research group
  • Tailor your letter to the position and employer. If you use the same letter for all applications it will probably be obvious, could give the appearance that you are not as keen as other candidates and is likely to be detrimental to your application.  Remember that your covering letter might be the first thing that a potential employer reads
  • Try to address your letter to a specific individual. Do a bit of digging if you don’t already know who the appropriate person is
  • Rather than simply making assertions, give evidence to illustrate your strengths and your fit for the role
  • Don’t repeat what can easily be seen on your CV/resume
  • Get the tone right. Apart from being professional, the right tone can vary by culture so if you’re applying outside your home nation or your comfort zone, do some research. For example, what passes for a confident tone in one culture might appear to be arrogance in another
  • Make sure you use correct spelling and grammar and have made no mistakes.
  • If the application is by online form, send a cover letter in addition unless this is specifically prohibited. If the entire application must be submitted via the online form, look for ways to incorporate what you would otherwise include in a cover letter
  • When sending your application by email, make sure that the titles of your email and of each attachment include your name and the title or reference for the position. Make it easy for your potential employer – they shouldn’t have to open your cover letter just to check who it’s from
  • Your email might be forwarded directly to the person who’s making decisions about applications so make sure that the email itself is clear and professional. It’s also important to consider your email address, for example if you are currently using [email protected] don’t even think of using it – set up a new address with a more professional feel such as [email protected]
  • Unless you possess a good knowledge of a national language for the country you’re applying to, write in English which is a working language in academia in many countries. In cases where English might not be widely spoken you could send both English and translated versions of your cover letter and other documents
  • If you have a professional website, you could direct a potential employer to it for additional information about you, if it's relevant to the position.

Cultural differences – a few examples

Consider what your potential employer will expect from an application to ensure that you stand out in the right ways, not the wrong ways! If you’re not completely familiar with the culture and customs of the country or situation you’re applying to, seek specific advice. Universities, professional bodies and national careers services might offer information. There may be international expertise in your current institution’s advisory services or in your personal network but consider whether potential advisors also have specific knowledge of academic expectations.

Here are just a few examples of different expectations that might affect how you write your cover letter or put together your application as a whole:

  • If you are applying for a position in China, remember that Chinese names are written surname first. Also, in Chinese culture humility is appreciated far more than arrogance. Language that may not seem arrogant in Western culture may appear so in China
  • For many countries, in addition to a cover letter, CV/resume, statement of academic research interests and application form it’s usual to include a professional photograph. If it’s not usual, don’t include one. In other countries, including Germany, copies of educational certificates and written references may also be expected
  • UK advice may positively encourage you to contact a potential employer - to discuss the position and the sort of person they’re looking for - as part of your research on the role. Taking the initiative, showing an interest and drawing yourself to their attention is seen as complementary to your written application. If you’re applying to a university or institute in the USA, while asking for basic information may be acceptable appearing to promote yourself outside of the defined application process can be frowned upon
  • Be aware of variations in academic qualifications and job titles between countries and that some explanation from you may be necessary. For example Lecturer (level B) in Australia is equivalent to Assistant Professor in North American universities. If you are from France and have the Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches qualification, this might need further explanation if you are applying to work in a country where no similar qualification exists, such as the UK.
  • Academic cover letters from the UK perspective . Article from
  • Ten top tips on writing academic cover letters from the Guardian (UK). Number 4 is ‘think holistically’ about your application
  • Inside Higher Ed article which sees the cover letter as the most important part of your application (US perspective)
  • This article on cover letters from Macquarie University Sydney has a section on applying for academic posts
  • Charlotte Frost compares looking for an academic job in the US to looking in the UK . A noteable difference is the relatively long application process and standard timeframes in the US.
  • UK templates from for teaching focussed lectureship and senior lectureship posts. Their academic cover letters e-book also includes some example letters
  • Examples from the University of California, San Francisco written by those applying for faculty and postdoctoral positions.

It’s impossible to say and probably in some cases no. However, in lots of cases your letter will be read or even prioritised so deciding not to bother is simply not worth it. If you do, that’s just the impression you could give – that you couldn’t be bothered.

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Cover Letter: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step by step cover letter

Writing a cover letter is a crucial part of the job application process. This gives you a chance to expand on your CV and impress the recruiter.

A great cover letter can also help you to stand out from other applicants. That’s why it’s important that you keep it short and sweet, containing only the most relevant and helpful information.

To help you out, the guide below will outline five key steps for writing a killer cover letter and securing yourself an interview.

Step one: Do your research

Before you begin writing anything you need to make sure you’ve done your research.

This means taking an in-depth look at the industry, the company and scanning through the job description to make sure you’re 100% familiar with the role.

You should also do your best to find out the name of the employer or hiring manager you’re writing to. This is important when you begin writing your letter.

Step two: Structure your letter correctly

Now it’s time to begin – and you need to get your cover letter structure right ! As with any letter, you should start with your contact details in the top right-hand corner.

This is followed by the address and contact details of the target company on the left-hand side of the page.

You must also address your letter to the appropriate person. Try to avoid ‘Dear sir or madam’ unless you’ve exhausted all research and really can’t find their name.

Step three: Introduce yourself

The first paragraph is your introduction and should be short and snappy. You need to include why you’re writing to them and the position you’d like to apply for.

For example: “I saw your job posting on {name of job board} and I am writing to apply for the position of {job title}”.

Step four: Showcase your abilities

Next, you need to write the main body of your letter. This will be around two paragraphs long.

This is your chance to showcase your skills and really expand on the information in your CV.

Use keywords from the job description, along with your research, to put together a compelling case for why you’re the perfect fit for the role.

Give examples of your past achievements whether from previous employment or education, then explain how these skills can benefit their company.

For example: “I have always been driven by results and in my previous sales role was able to exceed my targets every month by at least 15%. In fact, during my first six months I was able to bring in an additional £12,000 in revenue for the company.”

Then, in the third paragraph be sure to show your knowledge of the company, giving specific details about why you’d love to work for them.

Step five: End with a CTA

The final paragraph needs to include a call to action. Remember, you’re hoping to secure an interview with them, so include details of your availability for a callback or meeting.

You might also want to mention that you’ll follow up with them in a few days if you’ve not heard back.

Finally, thank them for their time and sign off with your full name.

Are you ready to write a great cover letter?

Writing a cover letter can feel daunting at first, but practice makes perfect.

Using the five steps above, you can begin putting together a strong cover letter which showcases why you’re a great fit for the role.

Just remember to do your research first and always proofread your letter a couple of times before submitting.

Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV.

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Andrew Fennell is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.

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How to write your cover letter

Advice on what to include in your cover letter and how to structure it.

Cover letters are not an exact science, but you need to sound like you want the job and you can show why you would be a good fit for it. Employers can tell when you haven't given much thought to why you are applying. This is your opportunity to show your motivation and suitability - so take it! 

What to include 

Your cover letter complements your CV and gives you the chance to demonstrate your motivation and suitability for the job.  Your cover letter should answer three questions: 

why do you want this job? 

why do you want to work for this organisation? 

why are you right for the role? 

Use the cover letter to highlight information you need the employer to know, and to explain anything such as extenuating circumstances which you want them to take into account.  

You should: 

demonstrate that you have researched the organisation  

evidence how you have the skills and experience listed in the vacancy 

aim for one page in length with about three to five concise paragraphs.

Watch the recording above to find out more about how to write your cover letter.

To explore examples of cover letters, access Careers Service Plus (University of Edinburgh login required):

Cover letters examples  

Using generative AI to create your cover letter

Technologies such as ChatGPT can provide a reasonable basic structure for you to build upon, but what they give you is unlikely to be tailored convincingly and will be bland and generic, and unlikely to impress employers. Use them as a support and starting point if you like - but edit their product to make the end result your own.  

Remember these points:

  • adapt the content generated, to make it more closely related to you -otherwise it will lack impact
  • be cautious about submitting any personal data, as whatever you put in could be in the public domain 
  • you may be risking plagiarism, as these systems incorporate, in their output, content produced by other people without acknowledging or referencing them 

Guidance on using AI has been produced by the Bayes Centre at the University of Edinburgh. 

AI guidance for staff and students   

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Academic applications

Cvs and covering letters.

For academic jobs you will typically be asked to send any or all of the following:

  • Application form
  • Cover Letter
  • Research Statement
  • Teaching Statement (more common in the US than the UK)

Before starting to put together your application materials, think carefully about the position you are applying for. The answers to the following questions should influence how you present yourself on paper:

  • What is the balance between research and teaching?
  • Will I be working on someone else’s research or my own independent research?
  • Is the position fixed-term/contract or permanent/open-ended?

If possible try to also find out more about the position using either the contact given in the job advert or your own contacts. Try to find out why the position is being advertised (for example, has someone retired? is the department growing?) and a bit about what they are expecting from their new hire, such as to teach existing courses or develop new ones.

Academic CVs

  • Length is unimportant – can run to several pages
  • List items in reverse chronological order within sections (most recent at top)
  • Don’t need personal details such as photo, gender, marital status
  • Use simple, easy to read formatting and layout
  • Avoid institution-specific terminology e.g. the codes of courses you’ve taught if you are applying outside LSE

Section Headings

These are typical section headings for academic CVs. You don’t need to use all of them – if something is not appropriate for your CV leave it out:

  • Name and contact details
  • Research areas
  • Research positions/academic appointments
  • Awards and research grants
  • Teaching experience
  • Publications
  • Conference presentations
  • Organisational and administrative experience
  • Professional affiliations/memberships
  • Additional skills (e.g. languages, IT)

Presenting Publications

It’s crucial to present your publications clearly as this section will be one of the most important on your CV. You should:

  • Include ‘in preparation’ or ‘planned’ publications (within reason) and state which journal you plan to submit them to and if possible when
  • Be clear about the status of other publications e.g. ‘under review’, ‘accepted for publication’
  • Separate out different types of publication. The highest impact publications for an academic selection panel are likely to be any peer-reviewed journal papers. Have these (planned or already published) in a separate section listed first. Group other types of publication together e.g. newspaper articles, book reviews etc.

Example CVs

Below are some examples of successful academic CVs that have been kindly donated by LSE PhD students. These are based on real applications but some names and details have been changed:

  • UK lectureship – CV  [pdf]
  • UK teaching position – CV  [pdf]

You might also find examples on the PhD students, job market pages or academic staff pages of your department. For example, International Relations .

Academic covering letters

  • Length – generally 1 to 3 pages (shorter if you are also sending a research proposal)
  • Use the layout for a professional letter (see examples on website)
  • The first paragraph should state clearly what position you are applying for
  • Avoid giving simply a chronological account of your experience – this is what your CV is for.
  • Analyse the position to decide what parts of your experience will be of most interest to the selection panel E.g. For a research-only position they will be more interested in the impact of your research than in your teaching experience. Concentrate the content on your most relevant experience.
  • Show that you are interested in and know about them in particular – don’t allow your cover letter to read as if it could be sent to any department/university


You should consider who will be reading your cover letter. For example, if you are applying for a lectureship your letter will be read by academics in the department to which you are applying. They are unlikely to be working directly in your area of interest. This means that you cannot assume that they will appreciate the novelty/value of your research and you will need to be explicit about this. So:

  • Situate your work – how does it relate to what other scholars have done/are doing
  • Draw attention to what is original about your thesis and your research activity and how it contributes to the field
  • Mention key publications that are published/planned – these are the main means of assessing research quality in most academic markets
  • If appropriate (e.g. for fellowships/lectureships) describe future research plans. You will need to persuade the reader that these are worthwhile, interesting and well thought through
  • Mention any experience you have of securing research funding
  • Convey your enthusiasm for teaching
  • Indicate the breadth of your experience in teaching e.g. undergraduates, postgraduates, range of subjects
  • Try to link your experience to them. For example, if you are applying to somewhere that teaches predominantly mature students, give evidence for why you would be able to teach that particular group well
  • If you have received any training or mentoring such as PGCert or GTA training, mention this

Teaching statements

Teaching Statements increasingly form part of the UK academic application package but they are common in the US and found in other countries. There is no standard UK format but these links might help you create yours (always check the requirements of the post, some set a page limit or word count and the UK style seems to be shorter than the US or Canadian guidelines). There is some guidance from North America here:

  • How to Write a Statement of Teaching Philosophy  by Gabriela Montell in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • Statement of teaching philosophy  from the University of Toronto - Note: these are MUCH longer than usually asked for in the UK. Here a side of A4 is generally what they want
  • What do you need for a job in the US  from

Example covering letters

Below are some examples of successful academic cover letters that have been kindly donated by LSE PhD students. All of these are real applications but some names and details have been changed:

  • UK lectureship - cover letter  [pdf]
  • UK teaching position – cover letter  [pdf]

Review your application materials

Once you have completed your application you can  make an appointment with the PhD careers consultant  to review the content.

Research statements and proposals

When applying for an academic position you will sometimes be asked to write a research statement or when applying for funding, supply a research proposal. In all cases adhere to what the selectors have requested in terms of length and focus. Here are some general tips:

  • If they don’t specify a length, two sides of A4 should be enough.
  • Think about your audience. How close are they to your discipline? Adapt accordingly.
  • Make sure you address the question of why your research is worth doing. Don’t just assume that they will agree with you that it is. It is not enough for something to just be interesting to you. You must convince that others are going to be interested too.
  • Situate your work in the wider discipline. How does it relate to other people’s work? What does it change or what could it change in the field?
  • Strike a balance between your research track record (what you have already achieved) and your future research plans.
  • Be specific about expected research outputs.
  • Make sure the research you propose doing is both interesting enough to be worth doing but also achievable in the time frames involved.
  • Although you may need to adapt it slightly as it was written by an engineer,  Heilmeier’s Catechism  is still a useful set of questions to ask yourself when putting together a research proposal.

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    First things first. Why would you bother with a cover letter when you have already included… > 4 Tips for a Winning Academic Cover Letter Too many people spend days crafting the perfect academic CV, only to spend minimal effort on their academic cover letter.

  14. PDF Cover Letters

    Structure and content Remember, your cover letter is an example of your written communication. Write in a clear, succinct and professional manner. Keep to one side of A4, with a clear structure, as suggested below. The sections may vary a bit depending on the role you are applying for. Greeting

  15. Cover Letter: A Step-by-Step Guide

    Step two: Structure your letter correctly. Now it's time to begin - and you need to get your cover letter structure right! As with any letter, you should start with your contact details in the top right-hand corner. This is followed by the address and contact details of the target company on the left-hand side of the page.

  16. How to write your cover letter

    Cover letters are not an exact science, but you need to sound like you want the job and you can show why you would be a good fit for it. Employers can tell when you haven't given much thought to why you are applying. This is your opportunity to show your motivation and suitability - so take it!

  17. Academic Cover Letter: Examples & How to Write (+Template)

    Academic cover letter template Lewis Higgins, PhD 52 Warren St Cambridge CT6 3DR 072 3333 3333 [email protected] 4th December 2021 Prof. Mohammad Short Business Studies Programme Director McCallister University 99 Berkeley Rd Cambridge KA19 7AE Dear Prof. Short,

  18. Academic Cover Letter: Examples & Ready-to-Fill Templates

    03/21/2023 Academic Cover Letter: Examples & Ready-to-Fill Templates You teach, you learn, and you can extort government bodies and NGOs for funding pretty good. The Dean could use someone like you. Dave Rygielski Career Expert You don't need Margaret-Atwood-level writing skills to create a successful academic cover letter.

  19. How to Write an Academic Cover Letter

    Go ahead and download the template as a Word Document here and use it as a starting point for writing your own cover letter. To: [Name of Faculty Head, Name of University/College, City & Postcode] Re: [Advertised job title] Dear [Joe] [Mr. Bloggs] I am pleased to apply for the role of Psychology Lecturer at XXXX University and to attach my CV ...

  20. Academic Cover Letter Template [For Faculty Positions]

    Updated 14/08/2023 0 likes comments Create a cover letter now Writing a cover letter for academic jobs isn't first year level. That's where this academic cover letter sample comes in. Your CV is polished to a high gloss. But does that matter if they only skim it? You have to write a cover letter for faculty positions that shows your laurels.

  21. Academic applications

    CVs and covering letters. For academic jobs you will typically be asked to send any or all of the following: Application form. CV. Cover Letter. Research Statement. Teaching Statement (more common in the US than the UK) Before starting to put together your application materials, think carefully about the position you are applying for.

  22. Cover letters

    When writing your cover letter, remember to: write a new one for every job you apply for and make sure it's tailored to the company and the specific role. use the same font and size as you do for your CV, so it looks consistent. make sure the company name and recruiter's details are correct. use the right language and tone: keep it ...

  23. Cover letter examples and templates

    When you're applying for a job, a cover letter lets you show a personal side and demonstrate why hiring you is a smart decision. Cover letters should be around three paragraphs long and include specific examples from your past experience that make you qualified for the position. A cover letter should include the following parts: Header Salutation