Cover Letters for Science Jobs Outside the Lab
When applying for science jobs outside the lab, writing cover letters can feel like the most taxing part of the process. Even though it’s tempting to write one version and just change the company and position name for multiple roles, you do have to spend time tailoring each one. Cover letters are probably the part of the job application process I spend the most time and thought on. They are a chance to showcase your skills, experience and motivation for the position and company. You can expand on what’s on your CV, express your enthusiasm and show that you have done your research on the company. Although the process can be taxing, there is a general structure you can follow each time to make it easier.
Here is what I would recommend your cover letter generally looks like:
A short introduction
Make the introductory paragraph brief and snappy. You should state what role you are applying for and where. It can also be nice to give a brief summary of why the position interests or excites you. This should be a maximum of 3-4 lines. You could also mention where you saw the job advertised.
Expand on your skills and experience
The main body of your cover letter is going to be delving deeper into your skills and experience that are relevant to the role. Look at the job description for indicators of what you should be talking about, and choose experiences that match these. These should be expanding on what is on your CV rather than repeating it. Think about how your experience would help the company for the specific company you are applying to. This section can be 1-2 paragraphs long.
Describe your motivations
It’s really important to get across your energy and enthusiasm for the specific role at the specific company you are applying to. What is your motivation? Here, you can show that you have done your research on the company by mentioning what resonates with you. For example, their recent work, company values or overall mission. Look at their website and do some research beforehand. Also, you will get a sense for their language and tone on their website which you can match too. I usually keep this to 1 paragraph.
Your final paragraph should be a brief summary of why you are suitable for the role. You can re-iterate your interest and write a sentence stating why your overall experience makes you the right fit. You can also talk about how you are looking forward to speaking to them further or to bringing your experience to their company. They may also ask you about logistical things like when you are available for interview, and this is where you can mention it. I like to keep my cover letters to 1 page so they are succinct and easy to read. Some employers may state on their advert how long you should keep yours to, giving either a number of pages or words.
You need to spend time tailoring your cover letters to each role, but the above structure should give you a method to follow each time. When you apply for similar science jobs outside the lab, don’t just copy and paste your whole letter, but you can start to re-use some sections and make minor adjustments.
If you are ready to take your career outside the lab and want to know how to start, book a Beyond the Lab Breakthrough Session here.