Cover Letter Guidelines

Read the ad carefully. Make sure you're qualified and then use the language of the advertisement in your letter.

First paragraph:  introduce yourself, what job you're applying for, state clearly your status and your expertise: make them want to read more. If you have a personal connection to the position, someone recommended you apply, state it here.

In next several paragraphs: tell some compelling stories that point to specific skills, expertise and experience that match you to this job. Use one paragraph to describe your dissertation and your on-going research (current research agenda). In another paragraph focus on teaching, and in your last paragraph in this section describe your commitment to institutional and departmental service. Describe enrollment-building activities. Remember that your curriculum vitae provides the outline of your professional biography; give that outline some exciting detail in your cover letter. Do your research
on the institution and make specific comments that are clearly related to the institution to which you are applying. (Be sure to edit these comments carefully if you are using the cover letter for more than one institution. Don't tell Harvard that it's been your life's dream to teach at Yale.) Mention the college or university by name and try to show how you are a good fit. Describe courses you have taught that they are looking for, and so forth.

In closing: state your readiness to follow up with
interviews at AATSEEL/MLA if you will be attending the conference in December. Point out if you will be giving a paper and invite the committee to attend the paper. State clearly how you can be reached as the semester ends especially if you have travel plans. (Don't make them hunt you down.)

Additional Guidelines: Use positive language and
active voice.

Use neutral paper (standard white printer paper or resume paper that is light grey or beige).

Type or word-process the cover letter: do not write it by hand; don't use cute typefaces, logos, flashy paper or smiley faces.

Use professional looking fonts (times, times new roman, etc.) and print no smaller than 10-point (remember, many people on the committee are using bifocals to read your letter and c.v.).

Use margins of 1 to 1.25 inches all around.

Do not use a conversational / colloquial tone.

Do not exaggerate or mislead, but do not omit important details: if you didn't chair the committee, but did all the chair's work, then talk about your involvement as a committee member, don't claim to have been the chair.

Address your letter to the chair of the search committee or the person named in the advertisement. If there is no individual named, address the letter to the search committee and write "Dear Search Committee Members:".

Don't say anything negative about any institution with which you have been affiliated.