As always, these are generic guidelines — depending on where you’re applying and what your committee says, you might need to tweak these suggestions.
Keep your job letter short — 2 pages, 12 point font, single-spaced. You’ll want to include much more, but the goal is to get an invitation for a campus visit. So, to get there, give your reader some interesting things to think about, index that you’re a potentially interesting colleague, and leave them wanting more — if you tell them too much, you run the risk of people feeling like they already know all there is to know about you…
The form is pretty generic:
1) Address the job you’re applying for and give a sense of your interests & training
2) Give a 1 paragraph summary of your dissertation
3) Give a 1 paragraph summary of your next project and how it relates to your dissertation
4) Write about your teaching interests & pedagogy in 1 paragraph
5) Write about your broad research interests in 1 paragraph
6) Close by addressing possible synergies between you and the department you’re applying to — show that you know something about the faculty as potential colleagues, but don’t overdo it.
The best job letters are anxiety-free. That might seem difficult, but if you write about what you know and your strengths, that will help to minimize any textual stress…
You can see a copy of my sample job letter with commentary here: