Cover Letter

A cover letter is the most tailored portion of your application packet. Within the cover letter, sell your strengths and detail how your accomplishments make you an ideal fit for the desired position. When writing a cover letter know your audience and elaborate on elements of your experience that may be of interest to the search committee or chair. A cover letter should present more than the information provided in your vitae. Depending on your field and the position, cover letters vary in length; one page for business or science and up to two pages in the humanities. Cover letters are single spaced and should be printed on the same paper as your other application materials (e.g., curriculum vitae).

Important Elements of a Cover Letter

  • Applicant return address, phone number, and e-mail contact information
  • Search committee chair's name and address
  • Direct the letter to a person (when possible)
  • Title of the desired position
  • A clear statement of your research and/or teaching interests
  • Address how you meet (or exceed) each of the position requirements
  • Highlight how you meet (or exceed) each of the preferred qualifications
  • Dissertation topic and/or expected completion date
  • Offer to provide more information upon request
  • Reference enclosed or accompanying materials at the end of the letter

For example cover letters please click on the corresponding position type or content area below. All examples are from successful application packets.

Example cover letters of successful applicants:

Curriculum Vitae

A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a summary of your educational and vocational background, skills, and experience. In North America, CVs are used mainly when applying for jobs in academia and research, or to accompany fellowship or grants applications (they are sometimes used for other purposes in other parts of the world). A good CV should walk the reader through your academic and professional (not personal) life in a systematic, organized manner. A CV is intended to be longer (2+ pages) and more detailed than a resume (1-2 pages); it should cover major milestones and generally should not include minor points such as names of courses you completed or your instructors. Some content within a CV is fairly standard (e.g., academic degrees, employment history), whereas other content may vary depending on the intended audience (e.g., clinical experience, teaching experience) and the requirements of your academic field (e.g. psychology, anthropology, medicine).

Some important elements of a CV may be:

  • Name and Contact Information: Typically includes work and home contacts. (FYI - In North America, CVs generally do not include personal information such as nationality; however, this is expected in some other regions of the world.)
  • Educational History: List of degrees, licensures and awarding institutions/agencies (choose whether to order chronologically or in reverse and use rule of thumb throughout all the remaining sections of the CV). It is common to include Thesis and Dissertation titles and Committee Chairs in the section.
  • Publications: List of journal articles you have authored or co-authored that are either published or in press. It may also be acceptable to list journal articles recently submitted for publication; however, it is generally not accepted to list articles which are still in the planning or writing stages.
  • Presentations: List of presentations you have authored or co-authored. Some students earlier in their research careers may choose to combine "presentations" with "publications."
  • Research Experience: List of significant research projects/grants you have worked on. To avoid redundancy, do not include Thesis or Dissertation research.
  • Teaching Experience: List of courses taught as an instructor or teaching assistant.
  • Honors and Awards: List of major recognitions of your work. Use discretion regarding whether to include honors received at the undergraduate level or below.
  • Professional Affiliations: List organizations in which you are a student affiliate or full member (e.g., SRCD, etc.)
  • References: Consider which mentors would speak or write well on your behalf and ask their permission to list them as references on your CV. 2-4 references are recommended.
  • Other: Clinical Experience, Other Skills, etc.

Refining your CV is a craft that you will hone over time. To this end, many students and young professionals find it extremely helpful to get input from other professionals in their field such as faculty mentors or more advanced graduate students.

Example CVs of successful applicants:

Personal Statement

Personal Statements can be written is response to questions asked of graduate school applicants or general statements about the individual. This is your opportunity to communicate to an admissions committee about who you are, your experiences that strengthen your potential as a graduate student and in the field, and why you should be admitted into their graduate program.

A personal statement should have a theme and tell a story. The personal statement should have a purpose and the content should reflect that.

These statements can range from 1 to 2 pages in length, but keep in mind that admissions committees will generally have a number to read. Applicants writing should be direct, organized and concise.

Applicants should give concrete examples when describing personal characteristics, skills or experiences.

Ask others to read over your statement and proof read!

Find out if your university has a career center and ask for their advice.

The following questions can help you in writing a personal statement and they are good questions to answer in your statement. Answer them, and then decide what you want to expand on.

  • When did you become interested in the graduate school/the field? What have you learned about the field and yourself that furthered your interest or helped determine that you are well suited for the field?
  • How have you learned about the field? Describe your experiences.
  • What are your career goals?
  • What personal information might help the admissions committee set you apart from other applicants?
  • Are there any gaps or discrepancies in your academic record that you should explain?
  • Have you had to overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships in your life?
  • What personal characteristics and skills do you possess which predict you being success in the field/graduate school/profession?
  • What are the compelling reasons for the admissions committee to be interested in you?
  • Useful resources:

Example personal statement of a successful applicant:

Research Statement

Research statements are generally requested when applying to an academic position such as a post doc or professorship. This is your opportunity to communicate to a search committee three main pieces of information: (1) the type of research you specialize in, (2) your compatibility with the department or school, and (3) the plans that you have for your own program of research. These statements can range from 1 to 3 pages in length, but keep in mind that search committees will generally have a number to read. Thus, it is important to so keep your language concise and the organization of the information you are covering clear for the reader. Avoid page-long paragraphs and use headings and subheadings if useful.

In this statement you will want to describe the relevant research in which you have been involved, to illustrate your current ongoing research, and to outline the plans you have for your own future work. In general, you want to show the committee that you have been thinking coherently about work beyond your post-doc or dissertation. When doing this, consider what type of research you hope to do over the next three to five years? How is your major topic relevant, but also unique? How do you think you will be able to expand on the work that you have done while at the institution you are applying to? This is your chance to show the committee that your work is both important and fundable, and that you are ready to establish your research program at their institution. The final product should reflect the relevant experiences that you have had, and also ideally show a progression toward independence as a researcher.

Important Elements of a Research Statement:

  • A brief outline of research experiences
  • A description of your current work
  • An explanation of what is important or innovative about your research
  • Information reflecting the fundability of your work
  • Plans for what you would like to do next

Example research statements of successful applicants:

Teaching Statement

The following description of a good teaching statement draws from several sources. The author thanks Rand Conger, Ross Parke, Shannon Dogan, and Matt Kaplan for their insights. Your statement of teaching is one of the few things that can supplement your vitae and help you secure an interview at the institution with whom you have applied to work. Take advantage of this opportunity to present yourself to the hiring committee in words of your choosing. Everyone has a teaching philosophy, even those who don't particularly enjoy teaching. The goal of your teaching statement is to provide those on the hiring committee a gestalt impression of your teaching philosophy by breaking it down into component parts. Remember, this will also be used to evaluate your writing ability and your personality.

The following questions can help you understand your own philosophy of teaching, and they are good questions to answer in your statement. Answer them, and then decide what you want to expand on. Reflect on what teaching styles you don't like to develop some contrasts before you begin writing.

  1. What do you believe about teaching and learning? Why?
  2. How does that play out in your classroom?
  3. How do you deal with variation among students with regard to academic aptitude and background?
  4. What do you still struggle with in terms of teaching and student learning?
  5. Be specific. Avoid platitudes like "I try to engage my students" or "I foster a student-centered environment" unless you have examples to illustrate how.
  6. When writing your statement, consider the needs of the institution you are applying to. You may be well served by adapting your style (while maintaining your overall philosophy), to the expectations and goals of that institution. Find out what they value, and highlight commonalities between their mission and your teaching philosophy.
  7. Don't focus on what you've taught, but instead on how you go about teaching.
  8. Sprinkling your statement with carefully selected examples can keep a statement from sounding
  9. too manufactured.
  10. Incorporate examples drawn from your area of interest and your research, as they will help personalize your statement, as well as help convey your genuineness.
  11. Keep the statement within the page limit.
  12. Try to be aware of the tone of your statement, as you can sound friendly and open, or arrogant and insincere without even realizing it.
  13. Don't speak negatively, especially of students.
  14. Sell your strengths, without trying to sound perfect.
  15. After drafting your statement, get a colleague who knows you well to look it over and tell you if it matches your personality.
  16. Share your revised draft with senior mentors with experience on search committees, and solicit their input.

Example teaching statements of successful applicants:

Teaching Portfolio

A portfolio is a collection of documents that depict the nature, quality, and scope of an individual's teaching. In other words, the teaching portfolio provides evidence with regard to one's strengths and accomplishments as a teacher.

Given the nature of the teaching craft, teaching portfolios are highly individualized - no two teaching portfolios are exactly alike. That said, there are two key components that tend to be present in every portfolio: evidence of teaching and thoughtful reflections on that evidence. Evidence of teaching may include lists of courses, list of responsibilities, syllabi, videotapes of your lectures, etc. The reflective portion deals with issues such as why you teach what you teach, why you teach the way you do, and how past teaching experiences guide or inform your future teaching. Because of this reflective component, many consider that preparing a teaching portfolio may in itself contribute to improve one's teaching.

The following are some elements that can be considered for inclusion in the teaching portfolio:

  • Statement of teaching philosophy
  • Description of steps taken to improve one's teaching
  • Personal teaching goals for the next five years
  • Course materials, such as syllabi, exams, and discussion questions
  • Videotape of a classroom teaching experience
  • Evidence of participation in workshops or seminars intended to improve teaching skills
  • Student evaluation forms


Rodriguez-Farrar, H. B. (2006). The teaching portfolio: A handbook for faculty, teaching assistants and teaching fellows. Retrieved February 28, 2008, from Brown University, Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning Web site 

Seldin, P. (1991). The teaching portfolio: A practical guide to improve promotion/tenure decisions (2nd ed.). Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.


Like a CV, a resume is a summary of your educational background and work-related skills and experience. While a CV should be used when applying for academic jobs or research positions, a resume is more appropriate for non-profit, government, and for-profit organizations. If applying for a job in the for-profit sector, it is preferable to limit your resume to one page. If you are applying for a non-profit or government job, however, a two-page resume is appropriate. Throughout the resume, it is important to be concise, while also highlighting your strengths (especially those most relevant to the job at hand).

Essential Elements of a Resume:

  • Education: List the degrees you hold. For each one, provide your area of concentration (if applicable), the name and location of the school where you obtained the degree, and the date you received (or expect to receive) the degree. It is traditional to list degrees in reverse chronological order.
  • Professional (or Work) Experience: List the jobs you have held. For each one, provide your job title, the name and location of the organization, the dates you held the position, and a brief description of your responsibilities. In describing what you did, use active verbs (e.g., "supervised staff") and be as succinct as possible. It is typical to list work experiences in reverse chronological order, accounting for each year of work.

Other Elements of a Resume:

  • Volunteer or Leadership Experience: List relevant volunteer and/or leadership positions you have held, following the same format used in the Professional or Work Experience category.
  • Skills: List your computer, language, and other relevant skills.
  • Honors and Awards: List any honors or awards you have received. Alternatively, you can list these in the Education section, under the name of the relevant university.