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5 Proven Ways To Improve Your Application Documents

In early summer, academics of all experience levels consider applying for new jobs. After hours of crafting application documents, many hit the send button and imagine how impressed the Committee will be when they read their well-written documents. Some believe they will get an interview call, while others hope and even pray for it.

After sending the application, the university's response time can vary from days to weeks or even months. This lack of response can leave applicants frustrated and confused. Many seek advice from friends, mentors, and family to make sense of the situation, asking why they haven't heard anything, what's happening, and what they should do.

Having served on over 35 search committees, I have observed common mistakes that applicants make that lead to their applications being rejected. These mistakes are often avoidable and can be easily rectified. 


If you are applying for or considering a job, consider my five tips for writing documents that don't end up in the trash.  

1: Your application documents are your avatar.

No one on the Search Committee is likely to know you. In the vast majority of searches I have been involved in, I have never known the candidates, and only once have I hired someone I previously knew. This is where your Application Documents come in: they are not just pieces of paper but your avatar, surrogate, and representative. They speak volumes about your professionalism and suitability for the position.

Your documents are how the Search Committee gets to know you and how you introduce yourself to the Committee. They are how the Committee decides whether you are appropriate for their position.

Tip: Look at your application documents. What do your application documents say about you? 

2: Your application documents must be grammatically correct.

The search committee seeks academics they can trust to conduct research, teach classes, and be active academic community members. If your application documents have grammatical errors, it sends a message to the Committee that you may not care enough to ensure accuracy. Your attention to detail and professionalism is reflected in the quality of your writing, which the Committee considers. 

Poor grammar raises questions for the Committee about your ability to publish research or teach students who struggle with grammar themselves. Due to the intense competition for most academic positions, any grammatical or spelling errors in your application documents will result in automatic disqualification from further consideration.

Tip: Check, recheck, and check again your grammar and spelling. Use the spelling and grammar option on your computer. Have someone else read and check your documents.


3: Tailor your application documents to the position.

When applying for a job, it's important to customize your application materials for the specific role, department, and location. Your CV can remain consistent across applications, but all other documents should be directly relevant to the position you're seeking.

Tip: Be honest with yourself about the relevance of your documents to the position. 

4: Application documents show how you would "fit."

A search committee's most challenging task is determining how a potential job candidate would "fit" within the department's culture.

Departments are academic communities with norms and cultural values. The search committee wants to fill the position with an academic who will publish and teach well and be a great departmental citizen who adds value to the department.

If I had to choose between two applicants who have had the same experiences every time, I would pick the applicant who can help me understand how well they will fit into my department.

Tip: Explain how you will fit into the department. 

5: Follow the instructions!

The process of applying for a faculty position is outlined in the job advertisement, which specifies the required application materials. It's important to submit only the documents requested by the Search Committee.

Tip: Give them only what they ask for, no more and no less. 

No matter what stage you are at in academia, well-written documents are not just necessary; they are vital for capturing the attention of a search committee. Give yourself enough time to write documents showcasing your abilities and dedication to submitting the best possible documents.

Keep Moving Forward



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