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Professor Of English Cover Letter

Academic Cover Letters

When you're applying for a faculty position with a college or university, the cover letter is your first chance to make a strong impression as a promising researcher and teacher. Below you'll find some strategies for presenting your qualifications effectively in an academic context.

Distinctions between Academic and Business Cover Letters

A cover letter for an academic job has a function similar to one for a business job, but the content differs significantly in quantity and kind. While the general advice for business cover letters—such as tailoring your letter for the specific job and selling your strengths—still applies, a cover letter for an academic position should be long enough to highlight in some detail your accomplishments during your graduate education in research, teaching, departmental service, and so on. The typical letter is thus usually one and a half to two pages long, but not more than two—roughly five to eight paragraphs.

The First Paragraph

In the opening of your letter you need to convey some basic information, such as what specific position you are applying for (using the title given in the job notice) and where you learned of the opening. Since a cover letter is a kind of persuasive writing (persuading a hiring committee to include you on a list of candidates for further review), the first paragraph of your letter should also make the initial claim as to why you are a strong candidate for the position.

Tailoring for Your Audience

In an academic context knowing your audience means reading the job notice carefully and knowing the type of institution to which you are applying. Most graduate students have studied a broad range of material within their discipline before specializing in a narrow field for the dissertation project. Since it is rare to find a job notice specifying your exact qualifications, you need to emphasize those aspects of your graduate training that seem particularly relevant to the position advertised.

  • Job notice: If you've written a political science dissertation on populism in early twentieth-century US national politics, you probably won't respond to a notice seeking a specialist in international politics during the Cold War. But you may wish to apply for a position teaching twentieth-century US political parties and movements. In this case you would want to stress the relevance of your dissertation to the broad context of twentieth-century US politics, even though the study focuses narrowly on the pre-World War I period. You might also highlight courses taken, presentations given, or other evidence of your expertise that corresponds to the job notice.
  • Type of institution: Often the job notice will provide a brief description of the college or university, indicating such factors as size, ownership (public, private), affiliation (religious, nonsectarian), geography (urban, suburban, rural), and so on. These factors will influence the kind of information emphasized in your letter. For example, for a job at a small liberal arts college that focuses on undergraduate teaching, you would emphasize your teaching experience and pedagogical philosophy early in the letter before mentioning your dissertation. On the other hand, for a job at a large research university you would provide at least one detailed paragraph describing your dissertation early in the letter, even indicating your plans for future research, before mentioning your teaching and other experience.

Other Advice

If you're still working on your dissertation, you should mention somewhere in the letter when you expect to be awarded the Ph.D., even being as specific as to mention how many chapters have been completed and accepted, how many are in draft version, and what your schedule for completion is. Last-paragraph tips include the following:

  • Mention your contact information, including a phone number where you can be reached if you will be away during a holiday break.
  • If you will be attending an upcoming major professional conference in your field, such as the MLA convention for language and literature professionals, indicate that you will be available for an interview there. Be sure to mention that you are available for telephone or campus-visit interviews as well.
  • If you have some special connection to the school, type of institution, or region, such as having attended the school as an undergraduate or having grown up in the area, you may wish to mention that information briefly at some point.
  • Mention your willingness to forward upon request additional materials such as writing samples, teaching evaluations, and letters of recommendation.

Job seekers at Purdue University may find value in the Purdue Career Wiki.

English Professors instruct college-level students in subjects ranging from writing/composition to English literature to ESL. A deep understanding and appreciation of the English language is essential, as well as a commitment to exploring classic works of literature and uncovering deeper meanings within the texts. Success in this role requires strong skills in course planning and leadership, and in student mentoring and advisement.

Our compilation of sample cover letters for English Professors shows the following types of abilities and experience to be of value to mention:

Below is a sample cover letter for an English Professor highlighting similar abilities and qualifications.

Dear Dr. Wise:

As an accomplished, student-centric, and respected English Professor with 13 years of experience developing lesson plans and curriculum for both undergraduate and graduate students, it is my pleasure to submit the enclosed resume for your review. My background and passion for education and English literature positions me to significantly impact Merriweather College’s English department.

Throughout my distinguished teaching career, I have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to fostering a deep appreciation for outstanding works of literature while honing my communication, creativity, and motivational skills. Curriculum development, insightful grading and evaluation, and innovative educational techniques are just a few of my areas of expertise, and I have earned consistently high ratings from my students for my level of instruction and my dedication to superior student experiences and outcomes. Furthermore, my inherent passion for fostering collaborative and engaging educational environments has successfully encouraged and developed productive, thoughtful, and accomplished English students.

Highlights of my qualifications include:

  • Selecting high-impact texts and creating dynamic syllabi, assignments, and topical discussions to drive an engaging and thought-provoking English education while stimulating students’ enjoyment and appreciation for learning.
  • Instructing students in classes such as Literary Criticism, Romantic Poetry, Postcolonial Writers, African American Cultural Texts, Shakespeare, and Expository Writing.
  • Advising senior undergraduates majoring in English as well as graduate students pursuing Masters or Doctoral English degrees.
  • Earning a reputation as a disciplined and insightful professor who cultivates meaningful connections with learners.
  • Winner of the Provost’s Circle Award in 2013 for excellence in teaching.
  • Earning a Ph.D. in English Literature with Honors from the University of Oregon.

With my experience and credentials, I am well prepared to dedicate myself to the highest standards of English learning at your school and exceed your expectations for this position. I look forward to discussing my qualifications in further detail. Thank you for your consideration.

Nalida R. Turner

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