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Cover Letter Samples Harvard

Nonacademic

Once you decide to start exploring opportunities outside academe, you may need to recreate your CV as a resume. A resume is typically 1-2 pages, though the length and content depend greatly on the job you seek.

To get started, take a look at our two resume and cover letter guides:

Watch the “How to Write a Resume” tutorial—while designed for Harvard undergraduates, it is appropriate for graduate students, too.

Next, check out the calendar for resume and cover letter workshops, drop-in resume reviews, and other nonacademic job search events. If you cannot attend our group programs, consider meeting with an adviser to get feedback on your materials.

Academic

It is never too early to begin putting together your CV, whether you plan to use it to apply for teaching fellow positions on campus, research opportunities, postdoctoral fellowships, or academic jobs. Be sure to keep an archival version (for your eyes only) that documents all details of everything you've done. Then, selectively include the most important and relevant information when you tailor your CV for a specific opportunity.

To get started:

Next, check out our calendar for our CV and cover letter workshops and drop-in CV reviews. Also consider meeting with an adviser to get feedback on your application materials. Read and consult samples in The Academic Job Search Handbook, available at OCS and online through the Harvard library system.

Note that OCS advisers are generalists, working with all 50+ GSAS departments. It is always a good idea to have your CV reviewed by someone in your department, ideally by a junior faculty member or postdoctoral fellow who has been on the job market within the last several years and is up-to-date on current trends in your discipline.

Cover Letter Advice


The cover letter is a sample of your written work and should be brief (preferably one page), persuasive, well-reasoned, and grammatically perfect.  

A good cover letter:

  • Tells the employer who you are (e.g., a first-year student at YLS) and what you are seeking (e.g., a summer intern position);
  • Shows that you know about the particular employer and the kind of work the employer does (i.e., civil or criminal work, direct client service, "impact" cases, antitrust litigation); 
  • Demonstrates your writing skills;
  • Demonstrates your commitment to the work of that particular employer and converys that you have something to contribute;
  • Shows that you and that employer are a good "fit;" and
  • Tells the employer how to get in touch with you by email, telephone, and mail.

 Determine to whom you should address the cover letter. If you are applying to law firms, address your letter to the recruiting director. For NALP member firms, use the NALP Directory to obtain contact information. (NALP also provides a useful mail merge feature for generating multiple letters). For other employers, you can refer to their websites, or contact the office to determine to whom your materials should be directed. 

 Although there are many ways to write a cover letter, the following format has worked well for students in the past.

  • In the first paragraph of your cover letter, explain why you are sending your resume to the employer: “I am a first-year student at Yale Law School and am seeking a position with your organization for the summer 20xx.” If you are applying to public interest employers and are eligible for SPIF funding, you can mention that here.
  • Use the second paragraph to explain your interest in the employer, including your interest in the employer’s geographic location, reputation, specialty area, or public service.
  • In the third paragraph, stress why this employer should hire you. Elaborate on the qualifications that you possess that will make you an exceptional summer intern or attorney.
  • The final paragraph should thank the employer for taking the time to review your application and tell them how to reach you. You may wish to state that you will contact the employer in a couple of weeks to follow-up and then actually do so. This is especially true with public interest employers who are often understaffed and will appreciate your extra effort.

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