How to write a motivation letter for a postdoc?

While a good motivation letter makes an explicit connection between how your past experience will help you succeed in the postdoc, an outstanding motivation letter wakes the interest among selection panel and ensures they read your application. Here are several tips to make sure your motivation letter is a great one.

Before you start writing, learn as much as you can about the position and institute. Do some research on the University website and talk to your mentors about the group. It’s also a recommended to take a look at their recent papers to familiarize yourself with the kind of work they do. Once you have a good understanding of the position and overall setting, you can determine which of your qualifications would be most applicable. Be sure to emphasize them in your motivation letter.

The Motivation letter Format

A motivation letter starts like any formal letter with the date at the top and address of the University. This is followed by the salutation (Dear Dr, Dear Professor, etc.). For a postdoc position, you will often be addressing your letter to the panel. However, if it is not clear from the advertisement who has posted the Call, you can always address the letter to “members of the research panel).

Good motivation letter for a postdoc fellowship should entail around four to five paragraphs and should be around one page long. The parts of the letter should be as follow:

1.      The Opening Paragraph of your motivation letter for a postdoc

The introduction paragraph should explain why you are writing this letter. Indicate the specific post doc position you are applying for and where you saw the Call. If another professor at the university or someone suggested that you apply for the position, mention it here. Follow it up with a short description of yourself that will allow the reader to place you academically. This could be something like “I am PhD in Chemistry at Bristol University currently working as a junior researched at Bristol Lab University”.

2.      The Body Paragraphs

The meat of your motivation letter is to demonstrate how you are the right candidate for this postdoc fellowship by highlighting your qualifications and showing how they will benefit this specific project. One of the biggest mistakes you make is not tailoring this section to each position you apply for.

However, in these paragraphs you should also demonstrate your motivation to become a postdoc fellow. Therefore, you can dedicate one paragraph to your dissertation or current research project, by summarizing your research topic, your key findings or arguments and why they matter to the field.

In the next step you have to translate your dissertation and previous research to the postdoc project. What expertise will you bring to the project and how the receiving institution will benefit from that expertise? Give specific references that show that you understand the proposed project. Make clear references to your major awards and accomplishments while doing so. Reliant on the requirements of the post, it might also be relevant to discuss your teaching experience here. Remember, the theme throughout the body paragraphs should be to show your strong motivation for the position and demonstrate your capacities to complete postdoc.  You should also write here how you will benefit from fellowship.

3.      The Closing paragraphs

The closing paragraph covers some formalities. Here, you should write that you have attached your CV and other necessary documents in your application. Mention that you look forward to hearing from them and are available to discuss the position further in an interview.

At the very end, thank them for their consideration before signing off.

Once you have written your postdoc motivation letter, ask your colleagues to review it for you and provide you the feedback. Most likely they already had some experience in hiring and hence they are able to make valuable feedback from their point of view. They can also check if your motivation letter is formatted in good order, and without typos.

Good luck!