After you find positions for which to apply, the next step is reading and understanding what the search committee is looking for, as well as what documents are required in your application package. A tenure-track faculty job application package typically consists of up to four documents: 1) a cover letter, 2) a CV, 3) a research plan, and 4) a teaching philosophy. Read below to learn what to include in each of these documents.
The cover letter is typically the first part of your application that is read, so it's purpose is to get you an interview. Aside from being well written, error-free, and professional, your cover letter should be compelling. In the same way a well-written abstract compels the reader to read the research article, a well-written cover letter should entice the reader to read your application package, provide an overview of its contents, and allow the reader to assess your potential fit for the position.
The overall format of your cover letter should be a business letter that is 1 to 2 pages in length (or approximately 4 to 5 paragraphs). Make sure to use standard margins and easy to read font.
Structure of the cover letter:
- Letterhead: Critical contact information (i.e., name, degree, current position, email, and phone number) and your professional profile or webpage (e.g., LinkedIn, ReasearchGate, etc.)
- Date, department, and university name and address
- Salutation: Dear Faculty Search Committee/Department Head
- Brief introduction: State the position for which you are applying and display excitement about the position
- Opening statement: Highlight your research areas and emphasize novel applications within your proposed research
- Scientific achievements: Summarize the breadth and depth of your scientific expertise. Explain your productivity and technical strengths with supporting details.
- Motivation: Describe the specific aims of your future research making sure to align these aims with the current research initiatives within the university and/or department
- Teaching/Mentorship: Highlight your experience as an instructor and/or research mentor, as well as professional and community service activities
- Follow-up and thanks: Be clear you expect to hear back and thank the committee for their time and consideration
- Closure: Use a professional closure (e.g., sincerely, best regards, kindest regards, etc.) and include your electronic signature
While this can be challenging, work to demonstrate confidence in your cover letter. Emphasize the strengths of your academic career, while also promoting your future potential. This quick LinkedIn course helps you to explain how your education, skills, and experiences line up with the position you are applying for.
A curriculum vitae (CV), Latin for course of life, is a comprehensive academic document of an individual's education, employment history, publications, and other achievements. Unlike a resume, which is short and highly tailored, a CV has no length restrictions and is simply a chronicle of accomplishments without elaborate detail or self-promotion.
Common sections of a CV include:
- Name and contact information (personal and professional)
- Education (undergraduate and graduate)
- Research experience
- Research interests
- Teaching experience
- Training and mentoring experience
- Grants and fellowships
Here are some helpful CV resources:
A research statement is a clear, exciting, and compelling description of your past and current work that forms the basis for your proposed research program. For all intents and purposes, a research statement takes the form of a short grant proposal of two or three independent projects on which you and your lab will work over the next few years.
Project 1: Low-hanging fruit (i.e., doable, fundable, and publishable)
Project 2: High risk, yet high reward
Project 3: Middle ground between one and two
In each of these projects, you must convey:
- Approach: What will you do?
- Impact: Why is it important?
- Fundability: Who will fund you?
A faculty search committee is looking for someone who can think and communicate like an independent scientist. The expectation is not that you will necessarily accomplish all three of your proposed projects. After all, good science will raise questions, the answers to which may take you in unexpected directions.
Research statement lengths and formats can vary, depending on the requirements of the department or university to which you apply. If the position description does not convey the required format, it is perfectly acceptable to inquire with the department about the posted advertisement. Unlike other scientific communications, research statements are written in first person.
A teaching statement, often called a teaching philosophy, is a description of your approach to teaching and learning. Many academic institutions require a teaching statement; however, it depends on the teaching expectations of the position. Some research intensive institutions may not request it. In a teaching statement, you must describe:
Why: What is your motivation to teach?
What: What do you teach, and what your strengths?
How: What is your methodology? How do you approach teaching?
Effectiveness: How do you evaluate your teaching? How do you assess learning?
Like research statements, teaching statement lengths and formats can vary with the requirements of the department to which you apply. Generally, a teaching statement is one to two pages long. Your statement may also vary depending on the mission of the institution and department to which you apply (e.g., university with a religious affiliation, large undergraduate population, etc.). The most important point to remember about a teaching statement is that it is about the students.
Grundman, Helen (2006). Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement, Notices of the AMS, Vol. 53, No. 11, p. 1329
A diversity statement demonstrates your commitment and ability to contribute to an academic institution's vision of equity and inclusion through your research, teaching, service, mentoring, and advising. This statement is an opportunity to articulate your understanding of the barriers faced by underrepresented and marginalized groups and how to meet the needs of diverse students and staff. In general, diversity statements tend to vary widely by institution.
While there are few strict guidelines about what must be included in a diversity statement, consider including the following:
- Statement of values: Explain your understanding of diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice in academia
- Examples of experiences: Use examples to highlight your commitment to fostering the success of diverse students, staff, and colleagues in classroom, lab, and/or community settings
- Future plans: Describe your ideas for advancing excellent in the diversity and equity of your research, teaching, and service
The Promise of Diversity Statements: Insights and an Initial Framework Developed from a Faculty Search Process by Sylvester, Sanchez-Parkinson, Yettaw, and Chavous in Currents: The National Center for Institutional Diversity
- The Academic Job Search Handbook by Julie Miller Vick & Jennifer Furlong
- The Academic Job Search: Preparing Your Job Package webinar by the NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education
- Sample Materials for Faculty Positions by UCSF Office of Career and Professional Development
- Writing a Good Cover Letter for the Academic Job Market by the Chronicle of Higher Education
- Writing a Winning Cover Letter by AAAS Science Careers
- Targeting your Cover Letter for Faculty and Non-Faculty Positions webinar by the Higher Education Recruitment Consortia
- CV Writing Guide by Colorado State University
- The Academic CV by the University of Washington Career Center
- Targeting Your CV/Resume for Faculty and Non-Faculty Positions webinar by the Higher Education Recruitment Consortia
- CV and Resume Samples from the NIH Office of Intramural Training & Education
- Creating and Maintaining Your CV by the Chronicle of Higher Education
- Writing the Research Plan for Your Academic Job Application by John G. Gilmore, Ph.D. in ACS
- The Academic Research Statement by the University of Washington Career Center
- Writing a Research Plan by Jim Austin in Science
- How to Write a Teaching Statement That Sings by The Chronicle of Higher Education
- The Academic Teaching Statement by the University of Washington Career Center
- Four Steps to a Memorable Teaching Philosophy by James M. Lang in The Chronicle of Higher Education
- What's Your Philosophy on Teaching, and Does it Matter? by Gabriela A. Montell in The Chronicle of Higher Education
- Giving a Teaching Demo by Melissa Dennihy in Inside Higher Ed
- The Teaching Demonstration: What Faculty Expect and How to Prepare for This Aspect of the Job Interview by Smith, Wenderoth, and Tyler in CBE Life Sciences Education
- Developing and Writing a Diversity Statement by Sara L. Beck in the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching
- Diversity Statements for Faculty Job Applications by Penn Career Services
- Six Examples of Diversity Statements by UCSD Physical Sciences
- National Center for Institutional Diversity by the University of Michigan
- Breaking Down Diversity Statements by Colleen Flaherty in Inside Higher Ed
- The Effective Diversity Statement by Tanya Golash-Boza in Inside Higher Ed
- Decoding Diversity Statements for International PhDs by Olga Koutseridi in Inside Higher Ed
- 5 Don'ts in Writing Your DEI Statement by Manya Whitaker in The Chronicle of Higher Education