Whether you pursue a faculty, postdoc, teaching, or other academic position, you’ll quickly find out that the academic job search is a structured process with strict deadlines and specific materials to prepare. Strategies for the academic job search vary by discipline. It is key that you familiarize yourself with the appropriate requirements and timelines associated with your discipline, and professors and mentors are great sources of advice in this area.
At the Center for Career Development & Academic Transitions, we are here to support you throughout this process, and supplement the guidance you receive from your academic department, by assisting you with:
- Preparing a curriculum vitae (CV)
- Writing a cover letter, teaching philosophy, and gathering other application materials
- Improving your interviewing skills
Our hope is that this information empowers you to confidently launch your academic job search. For more individual help with your search and learning more about ways to implement effective job search strategies, please contact the Center for Career Development & Academic Transitions for an appointment with your career coach at 865-974-5435.
Curriculum Vita (CV)
The curriculum vitae (also referred to as the vita or CV) is a summary of one’s educational background and academic-related experiences, and is used when applying for teaching and administrative positions in academia or for fellowships or grants. In contrast to a CV, a resume is used to summarize your education and experience related to a specific career objective in industry. The CV is the key document in securing an interview with an academic search committee.
Your CV should be long enough (2-4+ pages) to thoroughly present all your qualifications in specific categories, which should be listed in order of relevance for the position you seek (e.g. for a position that emphasizes teaching, place Teaching Experience higher on the CV). Within academic and professional areas, there may be preferred formats for your CV. Although the differences may be minor, you will want to research the preferred formatting for your discipline before you begin writing. While there is no universally accepted way to write a CV, here are some of the common components across disciplines:
Components of Your CV
- Contact Information: Include your full name (at least 2 sizes larger than the rest of your contact information), mailing address, phone number, and a professional email. On secondary pages, be sure to include your last name and the page number on each page of your CV. Omit items such as age, marital status, children, and state of health – as this information is irrelevant when discussing the job and your qualifications.
- Educational Background: List all earned academic degrees beginning with the most recent (exclude high school). Include name of institution, location, dates of completed degrees/certificates. You can also provide a brief description of your dissertation here as well.
- Teaching Experience: List the courses, institutions, and dates where you have taught, and also include courses you are prepared to teach. Use 1-3 bulleted phrases to describe the course and your role in teaching it (i.e., assisted, lectured, administered grades, etc.). If your background would allow you to teach in several fields, you may want to include a list of graduate courses taken, as an appendix to your CV. The format and depth of this section will depend on whether you are targeting a teaching college or research institution.
- Research Experience: Include the name and location where the research took place and the advisor or faculty member that led the project. Use 1-3 bulleted phrases to describe the research and your role in it. This section could include graduate research assistantships, post-doctoral fellowships, research projects, etc.
- Professional/Work Experience: List any full-time or internship experience that is relevant to your field. Related, significant consulting or volunteer activities may be included here rather than with civic or service involvement.
- Publications: Include full bibliographic citations of your articles, monographs, research, book chapters, etc. with bold-faced font to highlight your name in the citation. The terms “Under Review” and “In Press” may be used if appropriate. If applicable, this category may be modified to read “Papers and Publications,” “Programs and Workshops,” or other titles which reflect production of professional work in your discipline.
- Presentations: Describe the talk title, name of conference, dates, and location. It is important to distinguish between those presentations to which you were specifically invited and others.
- Academic Service: List all departmental and university groups, committees, advisor positions or task forces which you served on. Student groups are valid as well. You should demonstrate that you have exhibited leadership qualities and you will assume certain departmental administrative duties if hired.
- Awards/Honors: List all fellowships, scholarships, grants, teaching or research awards, and the name of the related institution and dates. For grants, include how much they were worth and for how long.
- Professional Affiliations/Memberships: Include any memberships in professional organizations and significant appointment/election to positions on committees. The emphasis should be on current activities except where you have changed field of work and want to show earlier organizational activity.
- Optional Categories: There are other areas that could be included in the CV under separate headings, which would dependent on your background. They could include: skills, foreign languages, foreign travel, thesis/dissertation committee responsibilities, academic advising, research activities, relevant skills, and grant writing/participation. The key is to make sure the information is relevant to the type of position you are pursuing.
While your CV is a major component to your application, it isn’t the only required document for your academic job search. These additional application materials will be necessary to help you demonstrate your qualifications and make a strong first impression. Check out the sections below to learn more about these additional documents that make up your application materials for the job search:
When you’re applying for a faculty position with a college or university, the cover letter (sometimes called a letter of interest or a job application letter) is your first chance to make a strong impression as a promising researcher and teacher. However, before you begin writing your cover letter, you’ll want to:
- Reread the job ad and pull out key information.
- Consult a professor, advisor, or mentor from your field to determine what information should be discussed.
- Learn a little more about the institution and the department.
- Understand that your cover letter is the place to go into more detail about your research, teaching, and most notable accomplishments – not just reiterate what your CV already says.
Researching and thinking through the information you have gathered will allow you to tailor the letter to each position. Once you’ve brainstormed the direction your cover letter should take, here’s how you bring it all together!
Your cover letter should have the same formatting as your CV and the rest of your application materials. It also should be long enough to highlight your accomplishments during your graduate education in research, teaching, departmental service, and so on. The typical letter is thus usually one and a half to two pages long, but not more than two.
Header and Greeting
- Include your header or contact information at the top.
- Indicate the date you are sending in your application.
- Address the letter to the individual named in the job posting, or with “Dear Members of the Search Committee”.
- Begin by introducing yourself.
- Refer to the specific position for which you are applying and how you learned about the position or institution.
- Briefly explain why you are interested in the job and institution (beyond repeating the mission statement).
- Include a thesis statement outlining the reasons why you are applying for this job and what makes you a strong candidate.
- Articulate your fit and focus on potential contributions to this institution.
- Describe your achievements and qualifications and how they connect to the job description.
- Provide brief, specific examples to demonstrate your skills and experience (avoid simply repeating your CV).
- Emphasize interest in conducting research and elaborate on current research topics (for major research institutions) or emphasize interest, commitment, and experience in teaching and in undergraduate education (for liberal arts/teaching colleges).
- This section should discuss your dissertation, related/future research, teaching, and service–as it relates to the position and the institution.
- Don’t be afraid to show enthusiasm for the work and the institution!
- Summarize what you’ve discussed in your letter and reinforce your interest and enthusiasm.
- Thank them for their time and consideration of your application.
- Mention when you’ll complete your degree and when you’re available to start working.
- Indicate what you would like to see as next steps (e.g. “I look forward to speaking further with the search committee), and that you’re available for telephone, video, or campus-visit interviews.
- End with a professional closing such as “Kind Regards” or “Sincerely” and your full name.
Cover Letter Examples
“Just because you have never written a statement of your teaching philosophy does not mean that you do not have a teaching philosophy. If you engage a group of learners who are your responsibility, then your behavior in designing their learning environment must follow from your philosophical orientation…What you need to do is discover what [your philosophy] is and then make it explicit.” ~Brian Coppola
A statement about your teaching philosophy is typically required for most academic positions. It is a narrative that is used to convey your teaching values, beliefs, and goals to a broader audience, as well as your conception of teaching and learning, a description of how you teach and justification for why you teach that way. It also provides concrete examples of your teaching effectiveness (either through samples of course syllabi, teaching evaluations, or even videos of you lecturing). Like with the rest of your application materials, it will be important to consider what is appropriate for your academic discipline. Be sure to have a professor or a mentor review and comment on your teaching philosophy.
To get started with drafting your teaching philosophy, consider some of the following questions:
- Why do you teach?
- What do you consider effective teaching and a successful class?
- What are your goals for student learning in your classes, and why?
- What are your instructional methods and how do they connect to your teaching goals and conceptualization?
- What are your strategies for evaluation and assessment?
- How do your research and disciplinary context influence your teaching?
- What are your own and your students’ backgrounds/identities and how does that affect the teaching and learning in your classes?
- How do you create an inclusive environment in your classes?
- How do you create a student-centered, active learning environment?
- How do you feel your discipline contributes to the larger goals of general education?
- What are assignments or activities have worked particularly well in your classes? How did you measure their effectiveness?
- How do you use technology in your classroom to support student learning?
- How do students learn and how do you facilitate that learning?
- How do you know that your instructional methods are working?
- What are my future goals for growth as a teacher?
When answering these questions and drafting your teaching statement, provide specific examples that relate to your overall philosophy as well as the institution. In preparing your statements, research the department to which you’re applying so you can indicate which of their current courses you are prepared to teach. This information might work better in your cover letter, but you do want to make sure that your teaching statement reflects your willingness and capacity to teach the kinds of courses you’ll be expected to teach at the institution.
Lastly, it will be important to demonstrate your commitment to teaching and how that translates into your classroom practice. Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you illustrate this effectively:
- Keep your statement brief and follow any instructions about length included in the job ad
- Make it a personal, reflective, and in the first-person narrative
- Make sure you discuss goals, methods, and assessment
- Give specific examples
- Ground your statement in your discipline
- Connect your teaching and your research
- Reiterate what’s on your CV
- Use jargon or abstract language (try to define terms like “critical thinking” within your disciplinary context)
- Be generic (tailor your statement to the institution and position you’re applying for)
- Talk about teaching as a burden or as less important than research (in your tone and language, convey an enthusiasm and commitment to teaching)
- Include quotations from teaching evaluations or secondary references
- Use clichéd or overly emotional language (avoid reiterating your “love” of teaching, for instance)
Teaching Statement Examples
Research is often a large portion of your graduate education, and a significant experience that you will need to highlight during your academic job search. Think of this document as a summary of your research experience, goals, and interests – or, simply, a research statement. A research statement is a one- to three-page summary that is often a critical part of your job application materials, but it doesn’t end there. Throughout a career in academia, you will most likely use this or a similar document for annual reviews, reappointment and tenure packages, awards or publicity, or even on your departmental web pages. For this reason, it’s important to spend time crafting a statement that best highlights your research but is succinct and applicable to all audiences.
To get started with drafting your research statement, consider some of the following questions to help you brainstorm the content you should include:
- What do you do (i.e. what are your current research/interests? what techniques do you use; etc)?
- Why is your work important (why should both scientists and non-scientists care)?
- Where is it going in the future (what are the next steps, and how will you carry them out in your new job)?
- Your research goals for a 3-5 year period and potential outcomes
- Your excitement about your research
- If applicable, funding organizations likely to support your research agenda and alternative projects showing the breadth of your interests
As you write your research statement, be sure to:
- Make it no longer than 3 pages in length
- Avoid page-long paragraphs by dividing content into headings & subheadings
- Make use of bullets and white space
- Tailor your research statement to the appropriate audience (e.g. institution, position, program, and/or committee)
- Refer to your own past publications and presentations (cite them) as appropriate when describing your research
- Have your advisor or a professor who’s recently gone through the job search process review your statement
Research Statement Examples
The purpose of the statement is to demonstrate your professional skills, experience, and/or willingness to engage in activities that would enhance campus diversity and equity efforts. The diversity statement shows how these past experiences have made you a diverse candidate, and how you’ll apply that diverse perspective at your target institution in your future research and teaching pursuits. Diversity statements are a relatively new addition to the job application packet. Thus, search committees are still developing assessment tools for such statements, and many campuses lack clear guidelines. Believe it or not, this is great news for you! This gives you the advantage to write a stellar statement that emphasizes your record of contributions to diversity and equity as well as your commitment to future efforts at the institution.
There are many examples of activities that contribute diversity and equity, such as: mentoring, recruitment & retention efforts, research and service dedicated to diversity/inclusion, etc. As you are brainstorming your diversity statement, you will want to discuss not only your past and current experiences, but also what your future goals are in relation to diversity.
When beginning your statement, talk about your story – whatever that may be; whether you have overcome obstacles or have a story with more privilege, acknowledge your journey and tie it to your passion and interest in diversity. Avoid false parallels between your story to illustrate exclusion or any other issues that may arise with this topic. If you feel comfortable getting personal, feel free to share about your own experience. However, you don’t have to get personal; you can cite statistics or studies to make your points. Strong statements discuss specific things you have done to help students from underrepresented backgrounds succeed. This involvement can either be as a former participant or as a mentor or adviser to someone who has participated in these efforts. Lastly, be sure to highlight your commitment to working toward achieving equity and enhancing diversity – at a whole and specifically at that institution.
Diversity Statement Examples
- https://www.cmu.edu/gcc/handouts/Diversity%20Statement.pdf https://gradcareers.nd.edu/assets/216841/diversity_statement_information_for_website.pdf
Letters of Recommendations/References
At this point–especially after carefully crafting your CV, cover letter, research statement, teaching statement, AND filling out the job application online–you might be wondering what else a search committee could need to make their decision. While you can do an excellent job discussing your background and skills, the committee wants to hear about your skills and qualifications from those who know you best–professors, supervisors, and mentors.
It will be critical for you to choose individuals who can positively talk about your qualifications to write your letters of recommendation or serve as references.
- Start by deciding on a potential list of faculty members. This should include your dissertation chair, some of your committee members, and a teaching mentor (all preferably tenure-track).
- Prepare a packet for each faculty member that includes: a letter or email requesting they serve as a recommender or reference; your CV; list of graduate coursework (highlight courses you have had with these particular faculty members); A waiver of rights sheet or the recommendation form (if any) appropriately signed; and a sample recommendation letter.
- If possible, visit the faculty member in person (either during office hours or by appointment) to request the letter. This ensures that you get a timely response and get a chance to go over where you are in the job search process and what direction you want them to take with your letter.
- Give the faculty member a due date that is before your actual due date, so that you have time to follow up (if they miss their deadline) and submit your application as one complete packet.
- Follow up about one week before the deadline you gave them, being mindful of their schedule and timeline.
If the application asks for a letter of recommendation, this will usually be a physical letter that you will be submit (or the professor will submit directly to the institution); these can also be submitted electronically – if the institution collects letters that way. However, if someone is serving as your reference, you will just need to include their information on a separate References page. Once you have asked them to serve as a reference for you (and provided them a packet), collect the following information from them:
- Position title
- Phone number
- Relationship to you
Letter of Recommendation Examples
The academic interview typically takes place over the course of one to three days and includes a job talk, multiple interviews with both individuals and panels, meals with the search committee, and a teaching demonstration (in some cases). Job interviews are a critical step in the hiring process. If you get invited to visit campus, it means they liked what they saw in your application materials!
An interview allows the employer to learn more about your fit within the department, but it also lets you assess the role and the environment for yourself. Preparation is key – and it should include research on the institution, department, and position, the creation and practice of your job talk, thorough review of potential questions, and an assessment of your skills, experiences, research interests, and future goals. Taking ownership of the process like this will enhance your performance while also reducing nervousness and anxiety that could arise with interviewing.
Before the Interview
As you prepare for a phone, Skype, or campus interview, you’ll want to keep these points in mind:
- Bring copies of your job application materials (i.e. CV, cover letter, research/teaching statements, references, etc)
- Gather appropriate interview attire (business professional, unless otherwise specified)
- Practice your job talk and other common interview questions
- Research faculty and other department/institution members that you could talk to or see at the interview
- Pack a briefcase or bag with some interview day essentials: snacks, alarm clock, ear plugs, mini sewing kit, stain remover, mints, allergy meds/eye drops, etc.
During the Interview
The structure of your interview will vary, depending on the position and the institution; so you’ll want to pay attention to any logistics they will communicate to you prior to your call or visit. Specifically during a campus visit, you will be “on stage” for virtually the entire visit, and you will have very little time to yourself. The search committee will schedule your job talk (and teaching demonstration, if required) and arrange a series of interviews with various stakeholders in the search (i.e. faculty, administrators, and students). Remember that every new person you meet is hearing you speak for the first time, so take breaks as they are given to you, but keep a high level of enthusiasm throughout the entire interview.
While the schedule is definitely rigorous, you will probably enjoy yourself more than you expect. People are generally very welcoming and friendly. Components of your interview day may include:
- Job Talk
- Teaching Demonstration
- Interview Meetings/Panels
After the Interview
Congrats! You made it through the interview! However, you still have some final steps to wrap things up. Campus visits take a lot to coordinate, and it is always courteous to send a thank-you letter to the search committee chair or department head afterward to express appreciation for having you on campus. Handwritten is often more impactful, but email is acceptable in some disciplines. Thank your hosts for the interview and the opportunity to learn more about the position, and emphasize your continued interest in the position (if you indeed are still interested); if someone else played an especially prominent role in the interview, or gave you special attention, send a separate thank you note to them.
If you would like to discuss an upcoming interview or get some additional help via a mock interview, please make an appointment with your career coach at 865-974-5435.
Interviewing Questions & Tips