When you’re applying for a job, you want to take every opportunity you have to explain why you’d be a great fit for the role. This is especially true in competitive tech fields, like data science, where hiring managers might have very little time to review each application. And while your resume is the key document in your application, your cover letter is also an important player when applying for jobs.
Here's how to write a cover letter that stands out when you’re trying to land a job as a Data Scientist — and keep reading for a fully written example.
But first: Do you need a cover letter?
Even though it’s common to see cover letters as an optional part of the job application now, a great cover letter can make the difference between getting lost in the pile of applicants and landing an interview for your dream job.
If you think of your cover letter as a “best of” album, then it’s an opportunity to pick out the most relevant parts of your professional history and go into more detail. Also, including a cover letter with your application is a sign that you’re taking the job-hunting process seriously, and that you’re really interested in working at the company since you took the time to go above and beyond the application expectations.
The only time you wouldn’t want to submit a cover letter is if the application instructions specifically ask you not to include one. But that’s a rare scenario.
How to write a Data Scientist cover letter
Cover letters typically have five standard sections: the heading, greeting, introduction paragraph, body paragraphs, and closing. Remember that when you’re applying for multiple positions you’ll want to tweak information in the greeting, introduction paragraph, and body paragraphs to match each job description and company. Here’s what you can put in each section.
The heading includes your full name, professional email address, and phone number. Depending on how you format your cover letter, you could use a larger font than the body paragraphs for your name so it stands out and is easy for the hiring manager to see. You may also want to put links to your portfolio and LinkedIn profile here as well, but those are optional.
If the job description doesn’t tell you who to address your cover letter to (there’s about a 50/50 chance this information will be given), you can try finding the hiring manager or team lead’s name on the company website or LinkedIn. But don’t spend too much time looking — it’s okay to use a general greeting like “Dear Hiring Manager” if you can’t find a specific name.
It’s easy to get hung up on the introduction paragraph, but you really don’t need to overthink this part. Just a couple of short and direct sentences are all you need here. You simply want to introduce yourself and state the position you’re applying to, and then follow that up with a bit of information about yourself.
Your introduction paragraph could read, “My name is Cait Ferguson, and I’m excited to apply for the Senior Data Scientist position at Source Health. My experience in statistical modeling and relational databases, as well as my proficiency in Python and Julia, would make me a great addition to your team and company.”
Since you submit a cover letter along with your resume and portfolio, these paragraphs shouldn’t be a summary of what’s in either of these other documents. This is your chance to give the hiring manager new information about you and your work experience.
Here is where you want to talk about an experience or accomplishment that isn’t obvious on your resume but gives details the hiring manager would be interested to learn. When you’re picking examples to write about, you can use the STAR techniques to help you. A STAR story includes:
- Situation: briefly explain what was going on and any relevant background details
- Task: talk about what your tasks or responsibilities were in the context of the situation
- Action: explain what you did to achieve the goal or fix the situation
- Result: summarize the results of your actions, specifically how they positively affected the company and how you grew professionally
Here’s an example of a STAR story that someone could include in a Data Scientist cover letter:
- Situation: “At a local science center where I volunteered, we noticed that membership numbers were significantly below target. We knew that lower member numbers would impact the organization’s growth and, subsequently, our access to future grant funding.”
- Task: “My role at the time was events organizer, and I offered to help revamp the programming to bring in more members. I requested access to the membership database, which included household information about each member.”
- Action: “Using the skills I learned in my machine learning course, I found that families were more likely to become long-time members if they had toddlers, while families with teenagers and without kids were more likely to drop their membership after one or two years.”
- Result: “I worked with the rest of the events team to create a new educational program designed for toddlers, including events open only to members. Two quarters later, we were already above our membership targets. It was a great opportunity to apply my skills and help a great organization at the same time.”
Note that it doesn’t have to be a paid professional role to count as relevant experience. Volunteer and internship experiences can be just as powerful, especially for entry-level professionals.
You can also use your cover letter to discuss any areas in your application that might be seen as a red flag. Maybe this is an employment gap or if you changed careers and want to give some background context to that decision, you can do that here.
This is another short and to-the-point section of your cover letter. If you want to, you can write a couple sentences that show how excited you are about the position, or end with a simple, “Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to speaking with you soon.” Either of these options is perfectly fine.
Data Scientist Cover Letter Example
Here’s a sample of a Data Scientist cover letter:Briana Simon
Dear Hiring Manager,
My name is Briana Simon, and I’m reaching out to apply for the Data Scientist (NLP) position at CoreAnalytics. My experience with NLP, as well as my proficiency in Python and SQL, would be a great contribution to your team and company.
Over the past three years, I’ve worked at TalentAI on the NLP team. I started as an intern, and I was promoted to Junior Data Scientist when my six-month internship finished. In addition to my technical skills, one of my strengths is communicating results with internal and external clients in a succinct, digestible fashion. This allowed me to take on the responsibility of presenting project updates to partners and senior management.
I also worked on a number of projects to improve the e-commerce experience on existing websites while at TalentAI. In total, I implemented over 115 A/B tests on five websites. One of the websites saw a 200% increase in online orders, and due to the results of this project, TalentAI secured additional contracts with this client.
Thank you for your time and consideration, and I’m looking forward to discussing more how my experience and skills can support the data science team at CoreAnalytics.
Preparing for your new role as a Data Scientist
There are a lot of reasons to pursue a career in data science. It’s a growing, in-demand field, the work is stimulating, and it’s well-suited for career switchers who bring subject-matter expertise.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in data science, our Data Scientist career paths will teach you to analyze data, communicate your findings, and draw predictions using machine learning. You’ll also add projects to your portfolio along the way that can help you land a job in data science.
Looking for more career advice? Check out our Career Center for more cover letter tips, resume writing advice, and interview prep.