17 Jan 2011

When preparing for academic jobs one thing everyone should remember is that more is more! While for most job positions the objective is to have a short CV and a short, snappy cover letter, in academia that is usually not the case. It is important that you populate these documents well, to demonstrate that you have the capacity to be productive in several dimensions. On the other hand too much information may be counterproductive - the key is to find the right balance. Here are some ideas that can help you get started.

Regarding the CV, it tends to be divided in three areas: teaching, research, and administration. All areas are important, although the first two are naturally the key ones. Depending on the nature of the institution that you are applying for (teaching or research intensive) it is probably a good idea to emphasize one or the other. But generally the more publications you have, and the more teaching experience, the better. More information and templates can be found on the jobs.ac.uk page for instance.

The cover letter also tends to follow a format that is different from what is necessary in the "real world". This will however vary from country to country. In some contexts there might not be a cover letter but only an online form prepared by the University, where you fill in your details. In other contexts, such as North America, the cover letter may be up to three or four pages long, and should cover teaching interests (or teaching philosophy), research experience and ideas for future research. More ideas on how to write one can be found here.

The most important thing is to read the job description very well and articulate clearly how your skills and experience fit with the needs and interests of the institution that you are applying for. Once you've written a first version, write and rewrite as much as possible. Also it is great if you can find a friend to read it for you and even better if you can get one of your supervisors or a senior academic to give you some advice. It is likely that they will have hired people in the past so they will have an idea of what people are looking for.

Good luck with the job hunt!