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Cover Letters | The Careers Service Cover Letters – Oxford University Careers Service
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How to write cover letters

Example cover letter

A cover letter introduces and markets you effectively by complementing your CV. It tells your story by highlighting your relevant strengths and motivation for the person and organisation you are writing to, rather than listing all the things that can already be seen on your CV.

Always take the opportunity to submit a cover letter if you are given the opportunity.

The cover letter gives you scope to showcase what interests and drives you, and your enthusiasm for an organisation and the role. You can use it to align yourself with the organisation’s strengths, values and culture, and highlight in a targeted way your knowledge and strongest, most relevant skills for the position.

The content and style are up to you, but a logical and engaging structure is key. Below are some guidelines.

Style

Try to sound professional yet conversational, rather than wordy or too stiff and formal. Write in clear, concise English – take care not to drown the reader with your detail and avoid jargon they may not understand. The Plain English Campaign has some good guidance on improving your writing style.

Content

Layout

Set it out like a business letter. Brevity adds power, so do not exceed one A4 page in length. An exception is if the job has a person specification consisting of a detailed list of skills, and selection is based on applicants demonstrating in this letter that they have them all (i.e. there is no other application form).  In that case you can exceed one page – but remember that being concise and relevant is still important!

Introduction

Introduce yourself and explain why you are writing. If you are responding to an advertisement, state where you saw it. This tells the recruiter why they are reading the letter, and it gives them feedback on which of their advertising sources are working.  You need to think about how you would like to introduce yourself; it could be that you mention the course you are studying and when you plan to finish it along with your place of study.

Why this job?

Explain why you are interested in the job and the organisation. Tailor the letter to the organisation and job description and make it implicit that you have not sent out multiple copies of the same letter to different employers. If you can, say something original about the organisation: don’t just repeat the text from their publicity material.

Draw on your research, especially what you have learnt from speaking with their staff (e.g. whilst meeting them at a fair or event, or during work shadowing/experience) as this will demonstrate an awareness and understanding of them that goes beyond the corporate website. Be specific about why the position is particularly attractive for you, and back this up with evidence from your past, or by linking this to your overall career plans, and what you find exciting about this sector.

Why you?

Explain why you are well-suited to the position. Refer to the relevant skills, experience and knowledge you have and match what you say to the requirements outlined in the job description. Tell your story and highlight key evidence so that you are building on, but not using exactly the same phrases contained in your CV. Make sure you read our webpage on demonstrating you fit the job criteria for more advice.

Even if you think that this position is out of reach, your job is to convince the recruiter that you are qualified enough and able to do the job.  Focus on your accomplishments and the transferable skills that are relevant to the role. State explicitly how you match the job criteria – don’t expect the person reading your letter to infer your skills or experiences for themselves.

Support your claims by referring to examples that are already detailed in your CV. You can make a stronger, more credible case by linking different experiences that highlight similar skills or competences. For example:

  • You first demonstrated your organisational skills by creating (an event) at school, and you  have developed them further by raising (£xx) at last year’s fundraiser and, most recently, by leading (another event) for your Society attended by (number) of people.
  • The role (applied for) would allow you to use your passion for helping others, which has driven your success as College Welfare Officer and the personal sense of achievement gained from working as a peer counsellor.

Conclusion

Reiterate your desire to join the organisation and end on a ‘look forward to hearing from you’ statement, followed by ‘Yours sincerely’ if writing to a named individual, and ‘Yours faithfully’ if you have not been able to find a named contact. Type your name, but also don’t forget to sign the letter if you are printing it out.

Top tips

  • Write to a named person if you possibly can – rather than Dear Sir/Madam.
  • Check your spelling and get someone else to read it over.
  • Check that it says clearly what you want it to say.  Are there any sections that are hard to read or follow? If yes, try to simplify the language, avoid jargon,  use shorter sentences or take out that section completely.
  • Make the letter different each time. If you insert another company name, does the letter still read the same? If so, try to differentiate each letter more!
  • Don’t start every sentence with “I”.
  • Give evidence for all your claims.
  • Be enthusiastic and interested.
  • Don’t repeat your whole CV.
  • A Careers Adviser at the Careers Service can give you feedback on the content and structure of your cover letter and CV, and advise you on how best to target particular sectors – write one first and bring it to us for feedback.
Academic cover letters and statements

Academic Cover Letters

Academic cover letters vary in length, purpose, content and tone. Each job application requires a new, distinct letter.

For applications that require additional research or teaching statements, there is no point repeating these points in a cover letter – here, one page is enough (brief personal introduction, delighted to apply, please find enclosed X, Y, Z documents).

Other applications ask for a CV and a cover letter only, in which case the letter will need to be longer and require more detail. Others ask explicitly for this detail in the form of a supporting statement that sets out how you fulfil the job criteria. Aim for a maximum length of two pages, though for roles at associate professor level and above it may extend to 3-5 pages. In all cases it is important to use the space effectively and show that you can prioritise according to what they are looking for.

In all cases:

  • Your letter is a piece of academic writing – you need a strong argument and empirical evidence
  • Write for the non-expert to prove that you can communicate well
  • Make sure you sound confident by using a tone that is collegial (rather than like a junior talking to a senior)
  • Demonstrate your insight into what the recruiting department is doing in areas of research and teaching, and say what you would bring to these areas from your work thus far

Give quantifiable evidence of teaching, research and funding success where possible

Teaching Statements

What is a Teaching Statement and Why Do You Need One?

When making an academic job application, you may be asked for a teaching statement (sometimes referred to as a ‘philosophy of teaching statement’). These statements may also be requested of candidates for grant applications or teaching awards.

A teaching statement is a narrative that describes:

  • How you teach.
  • Why you teach the way you do.
  • How you know if you are an effective teacher, and how you know that your students are learning.

The rationale behind a teaching statement is to:

  • Demonstrate that you have been reflective and purposeful about your teaching. This means showing an understanding of the teaching process and your experience of this.
  • Communicate your goals as an instructor, and your corresponding actions in the laboratory, classroom, or other teaching setting.

Format and style of a Teaching Statement

There is no required content or format for a teaching statement, because they are personal in nature, but they are generally 1-2 pages, and written in first person. The statement will include teaching strategies and methods to help readers ‘see’ you in a lab, lecture hall, or other teaching setting. The teaching statement is, in essence, a writing sample, and should be written with the audience in mind (i.e. the search committee for the institution(s) to which you are applying). This means that, like a cover letter, your teaching statement should be tailored for presentation to different audiences.

Articulating your teaching philosophy

Consider your experiences as both teacher and learner, and always keep your subject at the forefront. Consider all opportunities that you have previously had to teach, mentor, or guide, and determine instances that were both successful and perhaps not so successful. Understanding why and how learning happens is an important part of your teaching philosophy.

Here are some general areas to focus on in your teaching statement:

Goals: Convey your teaching goals. What would you like students to get out of your courses? What matters most to you in teaching and why?

Strategies: List effective teaching strategies. How will you realise your goals? What obstacles exist to student learning and how do you help students overcome them?

Evidence: Specific examples of your teaching experience are powerful in a teaching statement. Provide evidence that your students have learned (or not) in the past.

Research Statements

Some applications ask for a short research statement. This is your opportunity to propose a research plan and show how this builds on your current expertise and achievements. It forms the basis for discussions and your presentation if you are invited for interview.

Remember to:

  • Tailor each statement to the particular role you are applying for
  • Make sure there are clear links between your proposal and the work of the recruiting institution
  • Write about your research experience stating the aims, achievements, relevant techniques and your responsibilities for each project
  • Write as much (within the word limit) about your planned research and its contribution to the department, and to society more broadly
  • Invest time and ask for feedback from your supervisor/principal investigator or colleagues
Tips for JRF applications

Read the job description carefully to understand what is prioritised by the recruiting College or institution(s) beyond furthering your research.  If there are additional responsibilities such, as outreach, mentoring, expanding or fostering academic networks, you will need to provide evidence of your interest and experience in these areas, as well as statements about how you would fulfil these roles when in post.

Try to meet current JRF holders to gain further insight into what the role entails on a daily basis and what is expected by senior colleagues.

Show how your research contributes to, extends and/or maximises the impact of other work going on in the University. Then state why the JRF would enable you to further these in specific ways.

Give prominence to your publications (and those in progress):

  • use headings in your publications list to draw attention to journal articles (above book chapters), and to distinguish policy papers from expert reviews and public commentaries.
  • consider adding an impact factor or HI index metrics to journal publications (even if these are not high for junior stage publications they show an awareness of their importance).

Outline how you intend to participate in knowledge exchange and public engagement within your fellowship. These activities are now recognised as significant components of academic life.

Give prominence to your grant-writing experience and partnerships or work with people or organisations outside the university.

Look at Vitae’s Research Developer Framework to identify any other academic-related competencies that you could demonstrate in your application (particularly project-management, leadership, developing innovative partnerships/strategic thinking).

Have your application reviewed by a Careers Adviser. Occasionally we are made aware of alumni and other academics who are willing to offer proof-reading services to early-career academics which could extend to research proposals and other application materials. Please email rachel.bray@careers.ox.ac.uk if you would like to be put in touch.

Our resources

Example Cover Letters

This information was last updated on 20 October 2017.
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Recent blogs about Cover Letters

Summer Graduate & Internship Fair 2018

Blogged by Corina Lacurezeanu on May 17, 2018.
  • When: Wednesday 23 May, 14.30-17.30
  • Where: The Careers Service, 56 Banbury Rd

Graduating this year and not yet secured a job? Looking for an internship this summer? Meet over 25 recruiters from a range of sectors, offering either full-time jobs and internships starting this summer.

Whether you haven’t found a place yet, or haven’t started looking, this is a great opportunity to explore careers and available opportunities. Find out more in the fair booklet, now available online.

Explore your options

With over 25 employers attending, the fair has representatives from many different sectors – including  IT, Finance, Social Care, Retail, Engineering, Marketing and more.

All employers have either internships available for the summer 2018, or full-time graduate roles starting this summer or autumn.

Meet organisations including:

  • Bloomsbury Tutors and Bloomsbury Law Tutors
  • Capital One
  • Darktrace
  • Datatonic
  • Department for Education – Get into Teaching
  • Dragon Advisory
  • Emerson Roxar
  • Ensoft Ltd
  • Fat Lama
  • FilmLight
  • Huguenot Services Limited
  • Lonza
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  • S-RM
  • Symplectic
  • Tamarindo Communications
  • Teach First
  • TPP
  • Unlocked Graduates
  • Veeva
  • Vodafone

Find out more in the fair booklet, now available online.

Get your CV checked!

Get one-to-one feedback from a visiting recruiter in our CV Clinics. Appointments are on a first-come, first-served basis, so bring your CV along and sign up on the day!

Download our fair app!

“Oxford University Careers Fair” is available for free on iTunes and Google Play, and contains information on all of our major fairs.

Download it and you can:

• See complete employer listings, and star your favourites
• Make notes about the employers before and after your visit
• View the interactive floorplan
• Read tips on how to prepare for the fair
• And more!

Routes into Data Science Jobs

Posted on behalf of Deepak Mahtani of Pivigo. Blogged by Rachel Bray on May 17, 2018.

Data science has been described as the ‘Sexiest job of the 21st century’ and touches all sectors of industry and companies of all sizes.

A career in data science is an easy transition to make for those who have a masters or PhD in an analytical subject because the skills that one learns from academia can be directly applied to a commercial setting.

Find out more by joining Pivigo for:

Break into Data Science in 2018

In this webinar Pivigo’s community manager and data scientist, Deepak Mahtani will discuss what data science is, what tools one needs to learn to start and have a successful career in this exciting field, and why masters and PhD graduates make great data scientists. He will also discuss how Pivigo can help you make the transition into data science. Deepak studied for a degree in Mathematics and Astronomy at the University of Sheffield. From there he went on to gain his PhD in Astrophysics from Keele University where he was researching exoplanet atmospheres. Upon completing his PhD, he participated in the S2DS virtual program in March 2016. He is now the community manager and a data scientist at Pivigo.

  • For the 21 May webinar, register here.
  • For the 22 May webinar, register here.
  • For the 2 July webinar, register here.
  • For the 4 July webinar, register here.


What is Science to Data Science Virtual?

Science to Data Science Virtual is a remote working, full-time data science bootcamp designed to empower analytical PhDs and Masters with the commercial experience they need to transition into a career in data science. During the 5-week programme participants will work on company led projects, which will add real value to the company and give the participants hands on experience in commercial data science. The participants can then talk about their projects on their CVs and at interviews to land a data science job. In this webinar, our community manager Deepak will speak about his experiences on the course, what you can expect from it, and how it helped him accelerate his career.

  • For the 4 June webinar, register here.
  • For the 7 June webinar, register here.
  • For the 9 July webinar, register here.
  • For the 10 July webinar, register here.


How to land a data science job

Understanding how to present your skills in the data science job market can be confusing and daunting. Pivigo’s COO, Jason Muller has extensive experience in the recruitment industry, especially within data science. In this webinar Jason will give his best advice on how land a data science job, including his top tips for structuring your search, crafting your CV, prepping for interviews, salary negotiation, and how to manage direct applications vs working with recruiters.

  • For the 18 June webinar, register here.

 

Third round micro-internships go live on Monday!

Blogged by Rosanna Mills on May 17, 2018.

Good news from the Internship Office – it’s not too late! If you haven’t found time yet to apply for exclusive work experience in weeks 9 or 10 this term, you’ll have the chance next week! From Monday 21 May we’ll open up the third round of micro-internships for applications.

The deadline will be midday, Monday 28 May. Students are allowed one additional application for this late round – so if you have already submitted two applications, you are welcome to apply once more! Please logon to CareerConnect from 21 May to view all late round opportunities. You can find out all the details of the programme on our Micro-Internship Programme webpage.

What placements can I apply for?

Interested? Here are some of the MIPs on offer, but all can be found on CareerConnect!

1 Million Women to Tech – Social Media Micro-Internship, Oxford: Are you a self-starter and team player? Brainstorm the best methods with fellow interns to increase social media following for this educational non-profit.

Modux – Penetration Testing (Cyber Security), Bristol: If you have some programming and coding experience, look no further! The development team at cyber security consultancy Modux needs assistance with their automation tool to aid security professionals.

Oxfordshire Recovery College Micro-Internship, Oxford: The College recently won funding to redesign its website, but they need some photos to use! A brilliant video made by a previous intern also needs refreshing. You’ll be integral to improving their online and social media presence.

Pamoja Education – Product and UX Research, Oxford: Pamoja is looking for those who are good communicators and digitally savvy to research into user experience and development of digital features, conducting interviews and delivering a presentation of findings.

Application support

We’ll be running Application Support Sessions on Tuesday 22 May, 2pm – 3.30pm and Thursday 24 May, 11.30am – 1pm. Book your slot on CareerConnect! Don’t forget, you can also receive advice straight from our host organisations with our Employer Feedback on Student Micro-Internship Applications advice document.

Questions? We’d love to hear from you. Just email micro-internships@careers.ox.ac.uk

Good luck with your applications!

Extend your horizons…Internships for researchers

Blogged by Rachel Bray on May 17, 2018.

Internships are an excellent way to ‘test the water’ of a new working environment and build your professional network. These four opportunities are particularly suited to Masters and DPhil students keen to apply their research skills in a team and to add value to an organisation.

Follow the links below to find out more and be quick with your application – the deadline is midday on 22 May.

Cast Consultancy ‘Business Technology Analysis Internship’

Location: London

Length: 8-12 weeks

Areas of study: Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences

Cast is a specialist residential real estate and construction consultancy. This role will be focused on assessing how digital technology tools can improve basic business processes and the outputs that we deliver for clients. This will include extracting ‘problem statements’ from the technical delivery teams, evaluation of external technology platforms & assessment of potential bespoke coded solutions.

 

Climate Law and Policy Postgraduate Internship

Location: Oxford, remote work if required

Length: 12 weeks

Areas of study: Humanities (Law/Policy, Human Rights, or similar)

CLP is currently looking to hire a postgraduate intern to support our expanding portfolio of projects and consultancies. This is an opportunity for a post-graduate student to gain invaluable experience working in international environmental policy and law, with exposure to a fast-paced and demanding work environment and a small, multi-disciplinary team structure.

 

Ministry of Defence, Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre ‘Policy Research Internship’

Location: Shrivenham

Length: 8-12 weeks

Areas of study: Any

An internship at DCDC involves assisting desk officers with research related to Doctrine, Concepts, Strategic Analysis and Futures in a context that is often wider than purely for Defence. Interns will be set a couple of research areas or projects, such as: support DCDC’s Futures Team on their work on the Strategic Trends Programme; support DCDC’s Strategic Analysis Team on the research and production of short occasional papers and think-pieces; support DCDC’s Analysis and Research Team on their work in providing the empirical evidence to support DCDC products.

 

Research Centre for Gas Innovation ‘CO2 Abatement Internship’

Location: University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Length: 8 weeks

Areas of study: Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences

This research project is part of the CO2 Abatement Programme of the RCGI and it aims to analyze the integration of CO2 conversion technologies to thermoelectric plants technically, economically and environmentally, aiming to mitigate the global emissions of this gas, as well as to diversify the list of products manufactured in the complex, resulting in increased profit.

Webinar on Editorial and Publishing Careers for Researchers

Posted on behalf of Katie Ridd, Springer Nature. Blogged by Rebecca Ehata on May 17, 2018.

Are you a science communicator or a PhD student/postdoctoral researcher studying the life, physical, applied or social sciences? Are you interested in exploring opportunities for an editorial and publishing career?

Academic publishing company Springer Nature invites PhD students and postdocs to join a free webinar on 30 May, at 10am and 5pm BST, to learn more about the range of editorial and publishing roles available at Nature Research.

Nature Research is a portfolio of high-quality products and services across the life, physical, chemical and applied sciences – including journals, magazines, databases and researcher services – dedicated to serving the scientific community. For more information about research editorial and publishing roles at Nature Research visit www.springernature.com/editorial-and-publishing-jobs.

To register for the webinar go to go.nature.com/2rhTZmO.

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