Dr. Karen Kelsky, former tenured faculty member and chairperson now working as a highly successful consultant to academics, tells you “Why Your Job Cover Letter Sucks (and what you can do to fix it).”
In the introduction, she points out that the the vast majority of job letters need work:
In my 15 years as a faculty member I served on approximately 11 search committees. Some of these search committees I chaired. These committees brought in ten new assistant professors into my departments.
Estimating that each search brought in an average of 200 applications (a conservative estimate for a field like Anthropology, a generous estimate for a much smaller field like East Asian Languages and Literatures), that means I have read approximately 2200 job applications.
That means I’ve read 2200 job cover letters.
I’ve also read the cover letters of my own students, and a passel of Ph.D. students who came to me for advice, as well as a large number of clients since opening The Professor is In (as of July 2012 let’s say 600).
So let’s say I’ve read 2400 (2800) job cover letters. Of those 2400 (2800) job cover letters, it is safe to say that 2300 (2700) sucked. Sucked badly. Sucked epically. Sucked the way Cakewrecks cakes suck.
Dr. Karen then goes on to tell you exactly how to organize and fix it, so this is a great place to start when you’re thinking about how to write and revise your job letter.