Search committees often spend the most time looking at your cover letter compared to the rest of your application materials. Therefore, it is critical that you write a well-crafted cover letter to pique the search committee members' interests.
There are many articles that focus on how to write an effective cover letter for the academic job market. Here are two articles that I found helpful:
Since there is significant overlap between both authors' recommendations, it is safe to assume that you should include, at minimum, the following paragraphs in your cover letter:
- Future Research
Use each paragraph to demonstrate how you are a good fit for the position, don't just make general statements (e.g., "I am a great team leader") or repeat information that can be found on your CV. Browse each of the articles to find out what specific information you should include in each paragraph.
The authors also provide additional suggestions to help you craft your cover letter:
- The cover letter should be less than 2 pages but longer than 1.5 pages.
- Don't change the font (11-12 points) or margins.
- Present yourself as a colleague (not as a desperate graduate student).
- Tailor each cover letter to the job description.
- Use letterhead.
It is important to follow the traditional genre conventions for writing an academic job cover letter. However, you also want to find a way to stand out from the other applicants. It is up to you to determine how to find a balance between these two demands.