Advice for Research Students
Applying for Academic Jobs: Basic Do's and Don’ts
By Professor Nicola Miller
Do supply information in the format required and where required, i.e. if a statement is requested as part of an application form put it there and resist the temptation to send a separate attachment. Online systems are often inflexible – if you send material outside the required format it will probably not even be downloaded. Any university will be wary about employing someone who can’t follow instructions, which is partly what the application process tests. After all, the ability of academic staff to do what’s required re teaching, pastoral care and examining is crucial to the successful working of any dept. An applicant who cannot follow the specified application process is likely to turn into a colleague who never quite does what is required in the dept, creating work for other people.
Unless there really is something unclear in the instructions given, don’t email to ask for clarification. If you do need to ask, make sure that you email the person specified for your particular query. It’s usually no good contacting the academic in charge to say that you couldn’t upload your file; that’s one for an administrator. If you do have an academic query, think hard before asking. Sometimes there are legitimate questions about the scope of the post, but nearly always such queries come across as variations on “will I stand a chance if I apply?” HR good practice means that a recruiter can’t answer that except with a bland statement that could apply to virtually anybody. Unless specifically invited to do so, never send a cv or a long email telling the recruiter all about yourself. People sometimes think that they can make themselves stand out by emailing in advance of application, but for the busy person at the other end, it’s usually just irritating, i.e. you will stand out, but not in a good way. If you are interested in the post but are worried about whether your experience fits their remit, it is up to you to explain and justify why you should be considered, which can be done in your statement or letter of application.
Don’t send extra material, e.g. written work; student evaluations; course proposals. If they are interested, they will ask for it. If they do ask for more material, supply it exactly as requested, no more, no less.
Ensure that there are NO typos on any of the application materials (it’s surprising how often people don’t do this).
In your statement about why you are suitable for the post, use continuous prose, not bullet points. Ensure grammar, spelling and punctuation are accurate.
Avoid jargon and organisation-specific acronyms. Don’t assume knowledge.
If asked for a certain number of words, make sure you write that – no more, but not significantly less either.
Don’t say that you want the job because it will help you to further your career, develop your talents, acquire experience, etc. Employers are interested in what you can do for them, not the other way around. Do some research about where you’re applying to and make it clear that you’ve done so by specific references to areas where you could contribute, colleagues you would like to work with, etc.
Address the job description, person specification and criteria, not necessarily point by point, but make sure you cover all the bases. If there’s an area in which you don’t have experience, admit it, say that you’re willing to learn and mention any relevant experience that can be adapted.
In your C.V., make sure that you explain why posts ended (e.g. fixed-term contract) and any gaps in employment or study.
Page last modified on 06 sep 12 11:21 by S Pickett