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Write a cover letter: sample and thoughts

For many, the end of an academic year marks the transition from students to employees. Whether you are seeking a job in a company or a PhD position in a university, mastery in writing a cover letter is critical. Here, I will share a sample from my own writing, and hope that it helps 😉

“A model cover letter” would be an overstatement for the sample I am going to present, because I know that anything I wrote/write is far from perfect! Nonetheless, with the help of cover letter I was shortlisted in 2 out of 3 PhD applications. It still works!

Writing a cover letter is the art of matching and elaborating. You match your skills and qualifications with those demanded by the employer, and elaborate curtly and convincingly why you are the best. The first things I did, was to sift out the requirements, either written explicitly or implicitly in the advertisement.

By doing so, the advertisement was simplified into four key items. They can be regarded as the four pillars, on which the content of your letter should be built.

A cover letter is a formal letter. As a consequence, your contact information -> your employer’s contact information -> salutation is always the fail-safe way.

Immediately after salutation I explained how I heard of this opportunity. It is one of the ways to open a conversation, but certainly not the canonical or obligatory. But I am doing it in purpose: I alluded that my application was not a consequence of vagary or opportunism, instead, I underwent serious consideration and planning.

Introducing your educational background is not a bad choice in every sense. Always think about the four pillars that I pointed out earlier in your writing and incorporate them whenever possible:

As said, you definitely want to reason why you should be the chosen one. That’s why I continued to talk about the two selected projects that overlapped most with the four pillars.

Are they all? The answer is no! I here presented my secret weapon/silver bullet, or whatever it is called:

It is important that one managed to delineate what he/she has done; by adding what has been achieved and fortunately being able to present a piece solid evidence, you are going to outwit at least half of the applicants. In the letter I attached two posters; in reality your master thesis, Github, or even ppt slides will do!

Without a second thought the description “you have excellent links with experts in multi-disciplinary” is far too ambiguous and a bit half-hearted. If I have invested more effort, the paragraph should have highlighted the interests of the group that best align with mine, and how I envisioned the project. To be honest, you should definitely be able to write something better 🙂

To repeat, a cover letter is a formal letter. In addition, you may also want to say thank you to your employer and express your wish to be considered before closing the letter.

Now, good luck with your own writing and application XD

Related reading:

An example: my motivation letter for university application