The cover letter is key.
I believe most postdoc (and many faculty) applications live or die [i.e., get to the long short list] based on the quality of the cover letter.
You need to specifically answer the following specific questions:
- Why are you interested in this specific job?
- Why are you interested in this specific research?
- Why should they hire specifically you for this specific job?
So to be specific!
Write something like:
"One of the scientific questions I am most interested in is "What is the physical mechanism for XXXX in material YYY? I recently read your nice paper "blah blah" in journal YY and I have been wondering if a similar approach might be relevant to answering my question. I welcome any suggestions from you in this regard....."Dont write:
"Dear Professor,The letter is so important you should spend at least a day writing it, even though is should fit on a single page. Should should get a range of faculty to read it and provide feeback.
I did my Ph.D on topic X and want to continue working on it [even though I have no idea as to whether you have ever worked in this area or have any interest in it]. I published lots of papers [even though most listed on the CV are "in preparation"] and will publish lots more if I come and work with you....]"