By Timothy Ring
BGE Career Strategy & Professional Development
Mastering Your Scientific Cover Letter
A cover letter comprises a crucial component of any application. This post will show you simple steps you can take to ensure your cover letter is professional, clear, and concise. It will also show you how to highlight how well you match with the employer, rather than merely summarizing your CV or resume.
Your goal is to grab attention and present an image of who you are professionally in a short paragraph.
- Identify yourself and your goals – Give a brief introduction of yourself, what position you are applying for, and how you found out about it.
- Research the employer – Gain a thorough understanding of not just the job description but also the employer’s mission and values, which you should be able to find through a search of their website. If you can’t find anything on their site, this could be a great time to reach out to someone that works there for an informational interview. See Caleb's McKinney's 5 Tips on Informational Interviews for tips on how to do so.
- Introduce the skills you have that make you a match with what the company is looking for - Share what you learned about the employer that you admire. If this is a research assistant position, it may be referencing a publication of the Principal Investigator. If it is a company, you may mention one of their values that really resonates with you, and a very brief reason for why. Overall, focus more on why you would benefit the employer, and not the other way around. This brings us to the last part - close by introducing what skills you bring to the table that make you an ideal candidate for the position. The actual job description is a good place to look to determine which skills you could emphasize! You will expand upon these skills in your cover letter’s body.
The Body Paragraph(s)
Your goal is to show your skills and how they make you a match for the position.
- Promote the idea that you are a great match with the company – Within a body paragraph, or several paragraphs if you choose, highlight each of the skills you just introduced. We recommend 3 skills so that you show a diverse skill set, but keep the letter brief. One way to format this is shown in our cover letter template. Make sure to emphasize the clear message that you would be a valuable asset to have on the team.
- Show what value you have brought, and what you will bring – For each skill, demonstrate past experience in which you used and developed that skill, and explain how this will useful for this position and benefit the employer. Try to be as specific as possible both in regards to your accomplishments as well as how your skills align with the employer’s current goals.
Your goal is to summarize what you shared above and invite follow
- Summarize – Tie everything together here. Be sure to emphasize how well you match with what the employer is looking for and how your skills will transfer to this new position.
- Invite follow up – To invite follow up from the employer, close with something such as “Thank you for considering my application. If you have any questions for me, please do not hesitate to contact me by phone or email.” Make sure you have that information provided in your cover letter!
- Edit – Make sure you proofread and have made your letter as focused and concise as possible. Leave it to sit for a day and then come back to it and trim anything that does not present you as a great match for the company.
This post was adapted in part from a Science Magazine article.