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So I am applying for a postdoc position and I happen to be working on a problem that is quite closely related to PI's interests. I don't just mean that we share the same field/subfield (which we do anyway) but rather the problem that I worked out is an advancement of what he (and some other people) is doing. This makes my case particularly strong since he wants to work on related questions.

Now, I recently uploaded a preprint of my this work and I was thinking that if I highlight this paper in the cover letter for the application, my application would stand out. Including a direct link to the preprint sounds like an option to me. However, I have never seen a cover letter with links to papers. Is this possible and acceptable?

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    I do this in my research statement. – Oleg Lobachev Feb 25 '18 at 20:59
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    Can you explain why you think this might be impossible or unacceptable? – kmm Feb 25 '18 at 21:51
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While I've only been on the applicant side of things, I expect that it would be fine to include a link. Different PIs will react differently, of course, but it seems unlikely to ruin your application. Just make it clear from typesetting that it is a link. Given that the PI might only look at the printed version you should probably make the link text self-explanatory as well, e.g. using an arXiv identifier. However, depending on the method of submission you might be able to just attach the preprint of interest to your application. I expect that this is the ideal approach, when possible.

As support for using links, see this Nature Jobs blog post

When you’re reading an article online you’ll often find links to relevant content that is outside the article. This technique can be used in your cover letter too. Use links to information such as your research lab website, or your online portfolio and research papers. You can even link to specific papers that have been highly cited or extra-curricular projects you’ve been a part of. Let the employer know that there is so much more to you that what appears on that flat piece of paper!

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If you describe why your recent research work is significant and relevant to your application, and if it's significant to actually look at the paper itself, then why not? As someone who reads an application I'd find it quite reasonable.

On the other hand, I've set the key sentence in boldface. If it's not obviously important to go look at the paper itself, then providing the link seems weird at best, or vain at worst.

Caveat: I'm not tenured and don't have experience reading cover letters, only writing a few of them.

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