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Recently I wrote a cover letter for a position as a quantitative analyst position posted by company X. I am a Ph.D. student in operations research, so I generally am qualified for the position. For these postings, however, I often face a dilemma between describing my research in detail and trying to demonstrate how my research skills apply to the job at hand. For example,

My research currently studies dynamic programming algorithms in supply chain settings. I have implemented two different solution algorithms using C++.

as compared to,

In my current research, I implemented two different dynamic programming algorithms using C++. I believe these programming skills give me the ability to develop and maintain X's quantitative models.

I am making no claims about the quality of either of the short paragraphs. My question is about the best use of the relatively short attention span of the person reading the cover letter. Both examples use two sentences, so I am supposing that they take the same effort to read. In the first example I use both sentences to explain my work in greater detail. In the second example, I use the second sentence try to connect my skills to the hypothetical job posting from company X.

My instincts say that the second example will be more useful to the reader of the cover letter, but I struggle watching myself reduce the number of sentences that I devote to describing the skills that I have. Which example do you think is more effective if this mentality were extended to the entire cover letter?

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The more you can tie your existing experience to Company X's needs, the better. I would go with your second example because it very clearly ties your research to what they need from you. You can include more detail about your research and other accomplishments in your resume.

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