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Postdoc Cover Letter Example

Your PhD is a significant professional milestone. Now it’s time for a postdoc job that lets you put all that knowledge to work. Resume.io’s writing tips and sample sentences take you through the process step by step. Get started on a great postdoc cover letter right away.
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Postdoc Cover Letter Example
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You wrote a successful dissertation to get your PhD. How hard can it be to write the papers needed to get a postdoc job? 

With 125+ cover letter examples and occupation-specific writing guides, Resume.io is here to make an impressive postdoc cover letter easier than you think. This guide, along with our postdoc cover letter examples, will cover these topics:

  • The best format for structuring a postdoc cover letter
  • How each cover letter section speaks to your strengths as an ideal postdoc job match: header, greeting, introduction, body and conclusion
  • Writing psychology to persuade the person making hiring decisions
  • Common cover letter mistakes to avoid.

Best format for a postdoc cover letter

The simplicity of structuring a postdoc cover letter may seem like a treat when you’re accustomed to writing academic research papers. Like any type of letter, it includes these sections:

  • Cover letter header
  • Cover letter greeting
  • Cover letter introduction
  • Cover letter body
  • Cover letter closing.

 

Before taking a closer look at each part to ensure it hits the mark, here are a few general tips. Always assume the PI or search committee recipient is busy with many preoccupations — including other postdoc job applications to weed through. Making that person’s life easier will automatically earn you bonus marks when your cover letter is:

  • Short — no more 400 words on a single page.
  • Inviting to read at first glance — neat, clean, streamlined and professionally polished, with ample white space.
  • Easy to read all the way through — reflecting suitable choices of fonts and sparing graphic touches.

Here is an adaptable postdoc cover letter example that you can customize for the position and hiring organization:

Adaptable cover letter example

Dear Professor Knightly,

Having completed my doctorate in Slavonic Studies last semester, I am applying to continue my Postdoc research in the area of the Old Church Slavonic language.

Researching the homeland and language of the Slavs has always been a passion and I have undertaken many translation projects that have contributed to the modern understanding of how language influenced the early Slavonic church in the Moravian Empire.

I will be spending much of my Postdoc period in libraries across Eastern Europe, presenting at local symposia and writing my second book on the development of early Proto Slavic and Common Slavonic languages in conjunction with a number of leaders in the field. My travel has mostly been funded by the publishers, but given the considerable expense in my work I am continuing to request the bursary from the university.

I teach classes for local students and will continue to lead seminars six times a year on my return trips to Chicago. I enclose my latest research paper for your interest. It has received critical acclaim in over 15 industry publications. After analyzing over 2,000 church manuscripts, it is fascinating to see the evolution.

I was proud to receive my doctorate, but the work is just beginning. Understanding the origins of language is helping to unlock the secrets of the early Slav Church – exploring many of the rituals that still hold firm to this day.

Sincerely,
Simon Bartley

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Cover letter header

The header of your postdoc cover letter sets you apart from other job candidates in a visually distinctive manner. It also serves the important practical purpose of making your contact information readily available for recruiters to get in touch.

In addition to your name, phone number, email and relevant address or location information such as city, include your LinkedIn and possibly other social media or website links. Check out our postdoc cover letter sample for more ideas on creating a great header.

Expert tip

A good match

The minimal extra effort it takes to create a visually matched cover letter and resume design — notably in the header — is a worthwhile way to impress recruiters who may be inundated with postdoc application documents.

Goal of the cover letter header: Stand out from scores of other postdoc candidates with a distinctive-looking header that identifies who you are and how recruiters can reach you.

Cover letter greeting

Typically, postdoc cover letters are addressed to a professor, often the principal investigator (PI) for the research position in question. Try to find out who your cover letter recipient will be so you can address that person by name. Check the institution’s website or LinkedIn profiles, or just make a phone call and ask. 

This traditional cover letter greeting is recommended: “Dear <Dr.> <Mr.> <Ms.> Surname.” Unless you’re confident the workplace culture is informal enough, “Dear” alternatives such as “Hi,” “Hello” or “Greetings” are not a good idea..

If you’re unable to identify any specific recruiter by name, address your letter to “Search Committee Chair” or “Search Team Members.” The ill-advised option “To Whom It May Concern” sounds lazy as well as cold and pompous. 

Goal of the cover letter greeting: Start off by directly addressing the postdoc recruiter in a friendly, professional manner.

Adaptable cover letter greeting example

Dear Professor Knightly,

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Cover letter introduction

The introduction is where your postdoc cover letter seeks to intrigue the PI or search team members enough to keep reading and then learn more in your CV.

Ensure the basics are covered somewhere in these two or three opening sentences: the status of your PhD — earned or still in progress — the field and institution, your dissertation title and supervising professor.

Strike the most relevant high notes of your academic background in ways that resonate right off the top. A mere synopsis of your brightest research accomplishments does not go far enough. A successful cover letter introduction helps postdoc employers understand your motivation and potential contributions to their research projects. How does this institution stand to benefit from your expertise and enthusiasm? And how compatible are your career goals with the institution’s investigative mission? What about your personality and work style?

For recruiters to envision whether you are a good lab team fit, they need evidence of your efforts to learn everything possible about the postdoc role in question. They are interested in the research skills you brought to bear for that purpose, not just for your dissertation.

Expert tip

If your postdoc job application was prompted by a lead from another university professor or someone you and the hiring PI know in common, mention it in your cover letter introduction.

Goal of the cover letter introduction: Appeal to the specific postdoc hiring needs by emphasizing the value you would bring to this research project.

Here’s an introduction idea from our postdoc cover letter sample:

Adaptable cover letter introduction example

Having completed my doctorate in Slavonic Studies last semester, I am applying to continue my Postdoc research in the area of the Old Church Slavonic language.

Copied!

Cover letter body

The middle section, or body, of your postdoc cover letter substantiates why you belong in this research lab. It’s the place to elaborate on your most directly relatable accomplishments from the recruiter’s standpoint.

Citing facts and figures to illustrate your most impressive investigative findings should come naturally to postdoc job candidates. For added impact, anecdotal accounts also have their place in this cover letter section. Tell a story or two about unique or unexpected outcomes that reflect your curiosity, creativity and determination in pursuing discoveries.

Goal of the cover letter body: Build the recruiter’s confidence in your ability to help advance research project goals.

This postdoc cover letter sample illustrates what you might include in the middle part:

Adaptable cover letter body example

Researching the homeland and language of the Slavs has always been a passion and I have undertaken many translation projects that have contributed to the modern understanding of how language influenced the early Slavonic church in the Moravian Empire.

I will be spending much of my Postdoc period in libraries across Eastern Europe, presenting at local symposia and writing my second book on the development of early Proto Slavic and Common Slavonic languages in conjunction with a number of leaders in the field. My travel has mostly been funded by the publishers, but given the considerable expense in my work I am continuing to request the bursary from the university.

I teach classes for local students and will continue to lead seminars six times a year on my return trips to Chicago. I enclose my latest research paper for your interest. It has received critical acclaim in over 15 industry publications. After analyzing over 2,000 church manuscripts, it is fascinating to see the evolution.

Copied!

Cover letter closing 

The concluding paragraph of your postdoc cover letter is more than just a final formality. Yes, do the courtesy of thanking the PI or search committee members for their time and interest in your application. And remind them why you are an ideal match for this postdoc position, perhaps offering to discuss ideas or otherwise contribute in some specific way.

In addition, be sure to include a call to action that puts some onus on the postdoc recruiter to respond. Ask for a phone call or meeting, and even propose a time when this might be possible.

At least express how much you look forward to hearing back.

Finally, close with a professional sign-off: your full name below “Sincerely,” or “Best regards.” 

Aim of the cover letter closing: End with a call to action, ideally resulting in an interview.

Below is the closing section of our postdoc cover letter example.

Adaptable cover letter closing example

I was proud to receive my doctorate, but the work is just beginning. Understanding the origins of language is helping to unlock the secrets of the early Slav Church – exploring many of the rituals that still hold firm to this day.

Sincerely,
Simon Bartley

Copied!

Writing psychology: one step further

An average postdoc cover letter makes connections between your PhD accomplishments and potential contributions in this postdoc role.

An excellent cover letter takes that one persuasive step further by showing you’ve done your homework. Thoroughly research the research project itself and the lab setting, along with the PI, co-investigators and perhaps even their mentors. Review team members’ recent papers to become as familiar with their background as you are with the goals you aspire to help achieve.

An exceptional postdoc cover letter also reveals your “why.” Obviously, with a newly acquired PhD, you’re ready for the next academic career stepping stone. But why do you want this postdoc job more than any other? What excites you most and makes you eager to make your mark? Why would the PI and others on the research team consider you an asset and enjoy working with you?

Expert tip

A complimentary remark about the hiring institution’s academic accomplishments could be an interview-winning way to command attention in your cover letter introduction. Implying that your motivation to work in this lab shows long-term promise could also make a difference.

Common cover letter mistakes to avoid

All scholars know how critically important it is to get their writing right, well before submitting a paper for peer review . A postdoc cover letter requires just as much diligence. Make no mistakes that could jeopardize your chances, including any of the following.

  • Losing full marks for a mass-produced generic cover letter evidently going to multiple employers would serve you right for obvious reasons: failure to research each postdoc position and demonstrate your findings.
  • Dwelling on your academic background and career goals without giving enough sense of how hiring professors stand to benefit is a job interview deterrent.
  • If precision, conciseness and clarity are academic writing hallmarks, then meaningless clichés and fluff are the last things recruiters want to see in a postdoc cover letter.
  • Again, no slack will be cut for any PhD-level document containing typos, spelling mistakes and grammatical goofs.
  • Design and formatting flaws can be perceived as carelessness, if not disregard for the research institute’s credibility, reputation and image. A professionally-designed cover letter template can help eliminate these errors.

Key takeaways for a postdoc cover letter

  1. Starting with an outstanding cover letter, postdoc job applicants can take advantage of the essential writing skills they’ve relied on in all of their academic pursuits and research endeavors.
  2. Every postdoc cover letter calls for a customized approach reflecting your knowledge of the position and hiring institution. This in itself showcases your research strengths.
  3. To a greater extent than a resume allows, cover letters can shed light on the curiosity, creativity and determination driving your research endeavors.
  4. Check out our postdoc cover letter sample for more ideas on designing a great page layout.

Best of luck at this pivotal postdoc career turning point!

For related education cover letter examples and writing guides, check out the following:

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