Be specific about why the position is particularly attractive for you, and back this up with evidence from your past, or by linking this to your overall career plans, and what you find exciting about this sector. Refer to the relevant skills, experience and knowledge you have and match what you say to the requirements outlined in the job description.
Tell your story and highlight key evidence so that you are building on, but not using exactly the same phrases contained in your CV.
For applications that require additional research or teaching statements, there is no point repeating these points in a cover letter – here, one page is enough (brief personal introduction, delighted to apply, please find enclosed X, Y, Z documents).
Other applications ask for a CV and a cover letter only, in which case the letter will need to be longer and require more detail.
Others ask explicitly for this detail in the form of a supporting statement that sets out how you fulfil the job criteria.
Aim for a maximum length of two pages, though for roles at associate professor level and above it may extend to 3-5 pages.
When making an academic job application, you may be asked for a teaching statement (sometimes referred to as a ‘philosophy of teaching statement’).
These statements may also be requested of candidates for grant applications or teaching awards.
Focus on your accomplishments and the transferable skills that are relevant to the role.
State explicitly how you match the job criteria – don’t expect the person reading your letter to infer your skills or experiences for themselves.