August 1, 2023, by Jackie Thompson
A Life Science Graduate’s Experience of Writing a Cover Letter
By Yueqi Wang, MSc Immunology and Immunotherapeutics graduate
As an international student, writing a cover letter was a completely new experience for me and I did a lot of research before writing it. According to the information I gained from the internet, a cover letter is a brief introduction to yourself showing your skills in the work, interest in the opportunity, and commitment to the position.
After learning the definition of the cover letter, some people may have the same question as I did.
I have written my experience and skills on my CV, why do I need to write a cover letter?
A CV is a document showing the organisation that you have met their recruitment requirements, but a cover letter is an introduction demonstrating that you’ve researched the organisation’s mission and values and summarising your suitability for the post.
What did I include in my cover letter?
My career goal is to become a research assistant in a research institution so I would write about my:
1. Research experience and research skills in order to convince the hiring officer that I was a match for the role. For example, when I am writing about my postgraduate research experience, I will not only say that I analysed all data by myself. Instead, I will say:
I completed the analysis of all experimental data including statistical significance analysis and optical density calculations and used GraphPad to convert the results into charts in the later stage by myself. The more details you write, the more they can understand what you can do and what you have achieved.
2. Experience and skills tailoring them for different positions according to the job description. Different positions have different job descriptions, so you need to tailor your experience and skills for each cover letter. For example, if I am applying for an immunology research assistant in a university, I will not explain too much about what I have achieved in the art society. It will only make the hiring officer feel that you have no idea about this position.
3. Interest and understanding of this position to show that I have done research about the organisation and my commitment. The ideal candidate is one who can be capable of the work and adhere to the value of daily work.
If you feel unsure, then ask for help
I know this may sound easy and basic but sometimes it is hard to do (at least for me). Because I am an international student who does not know how to contact people who are working in the same area. At first, I only did research online and used cover letters I found online for inspiration. The result can be imagined, I got a lot of rejections. Then my classmate told me that I can ask for help from the Careers team at the university.
I thought they would just say some empty words without actual help at first. But the results exceeded my expectations because my adviser, Harriet, helped me a lot. Not only did she evaluate my initial cover letter, but she also gave me a lot of advice on how to structure the content, add details about my experience, and even help me modify my tone to fit British job-hunting habits.
I really appreciated her help because she taught me a lot and gave me the courage to ask for help from a professional without shame in the future. If you are a similar person to me who feels shy about asking for help, you can ask the careers advisers at the university first. Their patient attitude will help you gain more courage.
My tips on writing a cover letter
Writing an impressive cover letter is a long process. Sometimes you will get frustrated and lost in this process. Patience is the key. It is good to add details in your cover letters, but please remember not to copy a lot of words from your CV.
After finishing every cover letter, you need to check carefully if there are any typos and keep the format consistent. You could also add your LinkedIn address to let people know more about you.
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