We surveyed US hiring decision-makers to find out if cover letters are still necessary and if *you* need one to land a job in 2020. Here’s what we found.
Observation, hypothesis, experiment, results, conclusion—
Just a normal day at the office.
You’re part of the important process of research.
And you know more than anyone how important it is to utilize effective methods to yield the most scientifically rigorous results.
Let’s apply the same standards to writing your research assistant cover letter.
In this article, you’ll find:
- Two research assistant cover letters: one for experienced research assistants and one for entry-level candidates who have little to no experience.
- Expert tips and a step-by-step guide to perfecting your cover letter.
- One template you can copy, adjust, and have ready in 15 minutes.
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Let’s observe what factors work best when writing a research cover letter by analyzing two samples.
1. Research Assistant Cover Letter Examples
Meet Naomi. She’s ranked among the top 10 amateur coffee tasters in Boston. She’s methodical and precise. It’s why she’s so successful as a researcher at Amherst College’s Center for Educational Progress.
Naomi found a great opportunity to work with a research team at UMass Boston as part of a project evaluating youth with disabilities. They need a researcher who will oversee several key objectives of this large study while providing key insights through advanced qualitative methods.
She highlights her experience to prove she’s the best candidate for this position in her research cover letter:
Example #1: Research Assistant Candidate
Naomi H. Smith
Boston, September 18, 2019
Denise W. Mann
Head of Research
Center for Social Development and Education (UMass)
100 William T, Morrissey Blvd
Boston, MA 02125
As a researcher who recognizes UMass Boston as one of the premier institutions centered on social development research in the US, I was ecstatic to come across an opening for a Senior Research Assistant at the Center for Development and Education. With my 5+ years as a research assistant, I am confident in my ability to oversee the completion of research objectives while managing multiple project deadlines at UMass.
In the job listing, you state that you’re looking for a senior research assistant to conduct literature reviews to develop hypotheses and develop research protocols for data collection. In my current role as a research assistant at Amherst College, I coordinated and monitored data collection through surveys in order to conduct complex quantitative data analysis. I also collaborated with the Director of Program Evaluation to write up these findings and publish them in a variety of venues (conferences, journal publications, etc.). I’m confident my technical and topical skills will be an asset to the projects spearheaded by UMass.
I have always been impressed by the cutting-edge research your team at the Center for Development and Education consistently delivers year after year. It has encouraged me as a researcher to continue to work on similar topics and provide the most accurate findings on complex issues. Being part of your team and building on your great tradition of research is a dream opportunity for my research career.
May we schedule a time to discuss how I can contribute as a research assistant at UMass while maintaining your high-level degree of research?
Naomi H Smith
You can tell how connected Naomi is to the research this university conducts. She shows she has the skills but also believes in the work they are doing. It’s two essential parts of what makes this a great research assistant cover letter.
Maybe this cover letter has you worried. You don’t have 5+ years of research experience. How can your cover letter yield the same results without sufficient data backing it up?
Well, Naomi started off with no experience too. To land your first research assistant job, you still need to deliver on your cover letter and make the project manager think:
“We can always teach her the methods, but we can’t teach dedication. We need to see her in action.”
You need not hide your inexperience but target a job that doesn’t require it. This is precisely the route Tammy took in her entry-level research assistant cover letter. She’s applying for a junior research assistant job that requires candidates to know the basics of conducting qualitative research.
Tammy needs to show how she’s built such skills during his studies and highlight them in her cover letter to land that research position.
Example #2: Research Assistant Cover Letter No Experience
Tammy J Esparza
Los Angeles, September 18, 2019
Head of Human Services
Loyola Marymount University (StudyLA)
1 LMU Drive
Los Angeles, California 90045
Dear Mr. Mullen,
As a recent college graduate from UCLA in sociology, I was thrilled to find an opening at the Center for the Study of Los Angeles (StudyLA) in Loyola Marymount University. I am dedicated to providing sound research assistance through both qualitative and quantitative methods as a Junior Research for StudyLA.
In the job ad, you say you’re searching for candidates who can help senior leadership manage all phases of current and new research projects. During my studies, I interned at UCLA’s Sociology Department and helped administer a state-wide project undergone by an APSA (American Political Science Association) grant. My tasks were to disseminate public opinion surveys and prepare research reports to update APSA grant donors. It was an experience where many unknowns were taken into account and adjustments needed to be made for the research project to continue, but we were successful in seeing it through.
In addition, I was also tasked with transforming qualitative data into quantifiable variables for regressive analyses. With this rudimentary knowledge, I would relish the opportunity to bring my skills to the team at StudyLA. The center conducts groundbreaking work in the field of urban planning and its mission is one that I deeply share. I would be honored to be part of this great research institution and continue my career here.
Do you have time to discuss how I can help the center achieve its project deliverables while maintaining a high degree of excellence?
Tammy J Esparza
Pretty great for an entry-level candidate, isn’t it?
These two cover letters for research assistant jobs are top-notch.
Now is the time to craft yours. Follow our step-by-step guide and you’ll be on your way to yielding the same results.
Don’t have time to read through all the steps? You can still finish your cover letter in five minutes with our fill-in-the-blank template. Enter your information where needed and your research assistant cover letter will be ready in no time.
Let’s not forget—your cover letter needs to be supplemented with a research assistant resume. Need some help? Check out our guide here: Research Assistant Resume—Examples and 25+ Writing Tips
2. How to Write a Cover Letter for Research Assistant Jobs Step by Step (Template)
Let’s get started on how to write your research assistant cover letter:
1. Format Your Research Assistant Cover Letter in an Organized Way
Observations are the first peg of the Scientific Method—
You don’t want the hiring manager to see a sloppy RA cover letter.
First impressions matter. Make sure your cover letter is formatted in a well-organized and detailed way. Show your basic professional acumen here.
Use this simple checklist to format your cover letter:
- Left-align all the copy, don’t justify.
- Make all 4 sides set to 1-inch margins.
- Go with a readable font—choose a classic: Arial, Georgia, Verdana, Tahoma, or Helvetica.
- Have 1.15 line spacing.
- Keep it to one page. Don’t let it spill over onto the next.
Expert Hint: Did you know there are only 14,020 social science research assistants in the US? With such stiff competition, every part of your application matters. Make sure to keep your applications well-formatted with a crisp and professional look from the outset.
2. List Your Contact Information in the Research Assistant Cover Letter Header
If there’s one key result to garner from this guide—
Your research assistant cover letter should be identical to the one on your resume.
Keep it consistent. Make sure your header has: your full name, job title, and contact details—in that order.
Below the header of your research assistant cover letter, list the city, date, and the inside address of the hiring manager, in that order.
Not into design or typography? Need it to look good and fast? Just left-align all the contents.
Go with this template:
Research Assistant Cover Letter Header Template
[ Your Full Name]
[ Your Job Title ] (Optional)
[ Phone Number ]
[ Email Address ]
[ LinkedIn Profile ]
[ City and Date ]
[ Hiring Manager’s Full Name ]
[ Hiring Manager’s Position, e.g. Customer Service Team Leader ]
[ Company Name ]
[ Company Street Address ]
[ City and Zip Code ]
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3. Introduce Yourself and What Position You’re Applying To
The objective of the first paragraph of your research assistant cover letter is simple:
Tells them when your cover letter is relevant for the position.
You’ll need to address the hiring manager by name in your greeting. Chances are, you know who leads the project, but if not, then don’t settle. Call up the center or institution and ask the front-desk who the hiring manager is.
At the start of your cover letter, specify the job you’re applying for and detail how your skills are relevant and can transfer to this position.
Go with this template for your introduction. Just fill in the blanks with your information.
Research Assistant Cover Letter Sample: Introduction
Dear [Hiring Manager’s Name]:
As a research assistant for [number of years], I was ecstatic to find an opening for [list position] at [Target Company Name]. I am a highly-skilled professional with strong [writing/editing skills, analytical skills, critical-thinking skills, technical skills], and am confident theywill help your team meet your project deliverables.
Expert Hint: Most research assistant jobs will require at least a Bachelor’s Degree in a relevant field of study. Some require a Master’s or even Ph.D. degrees. Highlight your level of education in your cover letter to show you meet the basic requirements for the position.
4. Showcase Your Relevant Strengths
You won’t get hired if you can’t show you at least meet a set of requirements for the specific research assistant job you’re targeting. Use the second paragraph of your research associate cover letter to do this.
Show them why you have the skills to succeed in your new position. Look at the job ad and center in on some key requirements listed. Now, think about the skills you’ve gained from your previous work experience. Link these skills with specific examples to show that you’re ready to rise to any challenge that will come.
See this fill-in-the-blank example.
Research Assistant Cover Letter: Middle Paragraph
In your job ad, you clarify that you need a Research Assistant who is experienced in [developing research protocols and analyzing large data sets]. My most recent position with [Name of Your Current or Most Recent Company] I have succeeded in [responsibilities, duties, or projects you’ve successfully completed, supported by metrics, if possible]. I strongly believe my expertise will translate into similar results for [Target Company Name/Research Institute].
Expert Hint: Research assistants need technical skills to conduct sound quantitative and qualitative research methods. Show your broad skill sets in SQL administration with Microsoft’s Data Management and Analytics certificate.
5. Tell Them Why They’re Special
You talked about your accomplishments and achievements. Now is the time to show them why you want this job.
It’s the main goal of the third paragraph of your research assistant cover letter.
Sure, dropping a few compliments won’t do much if you’re a candidate who doesn’t meet the requirements of this research assistant position.
But—they want an employee who is passionate about the research their institute does. They want to employ someone who loves the type of work they do.
They don’t want a careerist who will come on board, research a few projects, then move on to something bigger and better. They’ll teach you a lot, and that’s why they don’t want to risk onboarding something who may leave in the first few months.
So—tell them why you’re choosing them over other research institutes.
Need some points? Try out this template:
Research Assistant Cover Letter Example: Your Motivation
Finally, my motivation to apply at [Target Company Name/Research Institute] relates to [something you genuinely admire about the company/research they do]. The research I undertake is an extension of my deeply held professional beliefs and the goal of your institute is very much my own. To grow as a researcher at [Target Company Name/Research Insitute] while conducting cutting-edge research is a great opportunity for my career.
6. Finish With a Clear Call to Action and a Proper Sign-Off
Conclude your cover letter with a request to meet in person or on the phone.
Tell them you want to discuss specifics about the research the institute does and how you would help them in this regard. It’ll signal you’re someone who genuinely cares about the work you’ll be doing and want to help them succeed in their mission to conduct scientifically-backed research projects.
But don’t force your way into it. Need help? Try out this closing for your research assistant cover letter:
Sample Cover Letter for a Research Assistant: Call to Action & Formal Closing
Can we discuss how my skills will help [Target Company Name/Research Institute] achieve sound results for your research projects over an in-person meeting or call?
[Digital Copy of Your Handwritten Signature]
[Your Full Name]
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Land your coveted research assistant job by utilizing these crucial steps when writing your research assistant cover letter:
- Begin the research assistant cover letter by addressing the project head or hiring manager by name.
- Tell the project manager the exact position you’re applying for when introducing yourself. Highlight 2-3 skills or strengths you have here.
- Align your achievements and educational background with the job requirements to prove you can conduct sound research.
- Show them why their research institute matters and why you want in.
- End the cover letter for a research assistant by requesting a meeting or call to discuss the position further.
Need further help with your research assistant cover letter? We’re here to answer your questions! Let us know in the comments!