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Tips to Use Action Verbs in Writing Cover Letter & CV for Postdoctoral/Research Scientist Positions

Updated on July 6, 2013

Writing compelling cover letter and curriculum vitae (CV) is a daunting task for candidates who wish to apply for a doctoral, postdoctoral or research scientist position in industry and academia. Numerous applicants from all over the world will be applying for any advertised research or scientist positions. Employers in both academia and industry select few potential aspirants from the pool of applicants for the next step of the hiring processes; that is, telephone or personal interview. This selection is purely based on the cover letter and CV of the candidate.

Contents in the cover letter or CV of a research scholar

The cover letter and CV of a research scholar describe the past and present research accomplishments, employment history, teaching experience, technical expertise, publication, conference attendance/presentation, reviewer and fellowships/grants.

Almost all applicants will be stating these attributes in their cover letter and CV. However, only few of them are picked for the next round of interviews because their cover letter and CV persuade the employers about their academic and research activities.

What to write in a cover letter and CV?

Check the below links to find important tips to write a cover letter and CV for postdoctoral positions.

How to write an appealing cover letter and CV?

One way to make your cover letter and CV attractive is to use appropriate action verbs to describe your achievements in the field. Applying suitable verb phrases will make your cover letter and CV stronger and compelling. Moreover, the action verbs will help to catch your employer's attention. For instance, you may write your research work as follows: I have investigated the role of nerve growth factor protein in Alzheimer disease. Another example, I discovered that vitamin A rich food improves memory and cognition. No doubt, these sentences sound good. However, these sentences also indicate that you are the sole researcher for making this discovery. At the postdoctoral level, most of the research work is performed under supervision. Most of the publications in the science field are multi-authored. Therefore, this sentence may not be appropriate to style your achievement.

Let us write it as; I have contributed in investigating the role of nerve growth factor protein in Alzheimer disease. Here the verb contributed suggests that you have played a critical role in this project, and the discovery made is a team work. Most of the research projects in both industry and academia involve expertise from several scientists. Employers expect a postdoctoral fellow to be a team player. Likewise, you should use right action verbs to state all your accomplishments.

Tips to use action verbs in your cover letter and CV

As a first step, prepare a separate list of all your activities that you want to put in your cover letter and CV. Usually, in the cover letter, you may want to state briefly about your present job, duties, education, technical expertise, teaching experience and number of publications. It depends on individual’s achievements in his/her own field. Start constructing sentence for each of your skills using appropriate action verbs (see below table for examples). You may find such an action verb list by Google search.

For example, if you are describing your research skills, you can use the action verbs such as collected, investigated, identified, examined, clarified, etc. Similarly, to describe your technical skills use verbs: designed, trained, assembled, computed, etc. For teaching experience you can use verbs – set goal, coached, explained, etc.

Examples of action verbs

Research skills
Technical skills
Teaching skills
Creative skills

Likewise, you can use the right action words to create your CV. However, you may not face many problems in writing your publication record or referee contact information in the CV, because these sections of the CV can be written in standard formats.

Good Luck!

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The below hubs may be useful for postdoctoral fellows and scientists


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