Friday, January 2, 2015

Effective cover letters for faculty job applications

Put yourself in the shoes of a search committee member. They will receive 100 plus applications. Most committee members are not in the same field as you. They are going to quickly skim your cover letter. You need to be clear. You need to get their attention. You need to give them some reason to believe that might want to have you as their colleague.
Here are a few general suggestions. Below I list sites with more specific recommendations.

1. You are applying for a faculty position, not another postdoc.
It should be clear that you have a plan to establish an independent research program, an interest in teaching, an interest in advising graduate students, and a plan to get funding. The more specific the better.

2. A good way to indicate an interest in teaching and in the specific department is to suggest specific courses, both graduate and undergraduate, that you should teach.

3. List a few people in the department who you might collaborate with [especially theorists with experimentalists and visa versa].

4. Don't be too technical about your research. This is difficult because you have two distinct audiences. The first is non experts. You need to show that you are working in an exciting and growing field and are poised to make significant contributions. To the experts you need to show you know your stuff and are proposing realistic and important projects.

This site also has a lot of other useful advice.

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