In applying for a position in higher education, the cover letter seems the least important piece of the application materials for many applicants. The curriculum vitae and transcripts provide the core of an application and document an aspiring faculty member’s experiences and training. The letters of reference are from one’s strongest supporters who will paint a strong image of the aspirant’s experience and potential.
However, the key to a successful application is in the details. The cover letter is the way to pull the many pieces of an applicant’s professional record in one place. A strong cover letter provides the opportunity to package the applicant’s materials to the specifics of the jobs and make the job of the hiring committee easy.
A successful applicant will read the job posting carefully and craft a cover letter that addresses each of the qualifications or requirements enumerated in the job posting. The qualifications are generally included in two sections–those required (sometimes listed as minimum) and those desired or preferred. The minimum or required qualifications are usually the bare minimum and are outlined so that the institution will be able to hire someone even if no one meets the “ideal” or preferred qualifications. For instance, a master’s degree in elementary education might be the minimum qualification, but the preferred qualification might be a doctorate in elementary education or a “closely related field.”
A successful applicant should address both levels of the qualifications in their cover letter. A candidate should not assume that the interview committee will make a leap in relating a degree as “closely related.” Speak to the specific coursework and research that directly related to the content area in question. If you do not make the connection for the reader; it may not be made.
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