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How to write a research assistant cover letter

So you’ve been awarded your degree or even your doctorate and you are feeling pretty sure of yourself. As with all things in life, when you come to take the next step, you get that dreadful sinking feeling that you are back at stage one again. You have decided to apply for a research assistant post and they want a cover letter to go with your cv. If you have never written one before or you have tried but are not quite sure what you are doing, don’t worry, read on and all will become clear.


Whatever you do, don’t underestimate the importance of the cover letter and think that your cv will land you the job. It may not. The reason for this is that most people’s cv does not get read by the recruiter because the cover letter does not impress them enough. This may seem outrageous if you have an outstanding cv but that is the way recruitment works. It gets worse, unfortunately because of the time constraints and high levels of job applicants, your cover letter will probably get a quick initial skim to see if it is suitable. This means that your window of opportunity lasts about ten seconds. This is why your research assistant cover letter has to be outstanding.

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The trick to writing a cover letter that will catch the eye of the recruiter is to make it impossible for them to miss that you fit their requirements exactly. Let’s imagine that you are applying for a job as Picture Research Assistant. The job requirements are as follows:

  • An interest in picture research.
  • A degree in Art History.
  • Administrative experience.
  • A flexible attitude.
  • An eye for detail.
  • Knowledge of foreign languages.

Essentially, you would not merely state that you fit this criteria, instead you would demonstrate it through your qualifications and experience. For example:

  • In June 2017, my article on ‘Turner’s Time at Harewood House’ was published in the Art Today magazine.
  • I read Art History at Oxford and achieved a First with Honours.
  • I spent the three years that I was at Oxford as a member of the Brueghel Appreciation Society. During that period, I successfully worked as the secretary for the club undertaking all administration aspects of the club’s business.
  • I work on a standby basis as a volunteer at the local museum. If someone lets them down, I cover the shift.
  • At present, I am working on research that encompasses spotting fake art through the labels on the back of the pictures.
  • I am particularly interested in Italian Renaissance art, Piero Della Francesco being my favourite. My Latin and Italian A levels allow me to research original documentation about my favourite artists.

Can you see how every aspect of the requirement is list covered? Moreover, the applicant is not simply saying ‘I have administrative experience’ but actually demonstrating it. For instance, the applicant does not state “I have a flexible attitude” because that is too general and tells the reader absolutely nothing. Instead, the applicant demonstrates that she works at the local museum on a standby basis thus denoting a flexible attitude.

When you send in your research assistant cover letter, you know that so much is at stake. The reason for this is that that research jobs that make your heart beat faster don’t come along all the time and if you don’t get the one that you truly want, you may have to settle for second best. No-one wants that if they are honest.

The problem with writing your own cover letter is that if you are not au fait with the world of recruitment, you could lose your chance of getting your cv looked at simply because you have generalized your accomplishments or simply not grasped what the position really is asking for. Another tendency that is common in weak cover letters is for the applicant not to be able to view themselves objectively. It happens all the time, people don’t always see their best attributes and this really is a lost opportunity.

Fundamentally, when a professional writer creates your research assistant cover letter you get:

  • A formal format.
  • A hook to keep the recruiter reading your cover letter.
  • Your qualifications and experiences professionally demonstrated to match the job criteria.
  • Your strengths highlighted.

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