This section looks at the competitive context of academic recruitment, ways to strengthen your application and the main components and procedure. The advice here applies to both temporary and permanent posts. Special features of academic recruitment are highlighted. The general advice given in Job applications, Creating effective CVs and Successful interviews is also valid for academic applications. For specific advice on interviews in the higher education sector, look at Academic job interviews.
Permanent posts are highly sought after and early careers in higher education are often pursued through a series of temporary posts. At one time, recruitment for temporary jobs was relatively informal, but since the Concordat, temporary as well as permanent jobs are usually subject to rigorous selection practices.
Comments from successful academics reflect both commitment needed and rewards of an academic career:
To succeed in academia, you have to really want the job... Nevertheless, if you are fascinated by your research subject and want to go on exploring it, while also sharing your enthusiasm for it with the next generation of students, it is worth all the hard work in order to have that opportunity.
Prepare well in advance to build a range of skills and experience that will get your application noticed. Below are nine factors that can improve your chances of a successful academic job application. International experience will also enhance your application.
- Acquiring publications in well-recognised journals with collaborators who are frequently cited.
- Gaining experience of applying for and securing research funding.
- Demonstrating efficient project management that consistently delivers stated outcomes on time and within budget.
- Gaining experience of designing, delivering and evaluating degree level courses.
- Understanding the process of quality assessment in teaching and research.
- Being conversant with current issues in higher education.
- Networking with people who are aware of your ambitions and can advise on your job search strategy.
- Using conferences as a way of raising your profile within your discipline and as a possible springboard for publications.
- Analysing the selection criteria of academic selectors and providing convincing evidence that you meet their standards.
Reproduced with permission from Moving on in your career - a guide for academic researchers and postgraduates, Lynda Ali and Barbara Graham, RoutledgeFalmer, 2000. ISBN 0-415-17870-3
Higher education institutions are publicly accountable for their spending and so appointments are rigorous and transparent. Vacancies are often advertised with detailed job descriptions, person specifications and lists of required competencies. It is relatively straightforward to compile a matching list of supporting evidence for your application form and CV. Always give prominence to your academic and research achievements.
Become as informed as possible. Do you know anyone in the institution you are applying to? Talk to academics within your own institution, especially those with recent successful experience of selection. Institutions often invite candidates to make contact informally about advertised posts before making applications. Do take up this opportunity.
Academic applications usually include:
- completed application form
- statement of interests
- current CV
- covering letter
Other possible requirements include an example of work (e.g. a publication) or a research project outline or even a course outline for teaching. You may be asked to prepare a presentation as part of the selection process.
Academic CVs are more detailed than other types. Be guided by relevance to the job requirements when deciding what to include. Look at tips on structuring an academic CV and presenting your research in CVs and applications. Highlight your achievements, not just your responsibilities. Use a clear layout to draw the reader's eye to the most relevant points.
Follow instructions carefully and look at the general advice on application forms. Use every section of the form to provide evidence relating to your match with the job criteria.
General advice in covering letters is just as relevant in the academic context. State the post you are applying for (universities often have many posts advertised concurrently). Include a list of all the documents you are enclosing. Use the letter to highlight the key elements of your interest and suitability for the post.
Statement of interest
Use this to show how your skills and experience will fit with the department and that you have clear ideas about your career development. Include a summary of your past research and present activity as well as a short list of potential areas for future exploration - not too diverse. If the job involves teaching and/or management, express your interest in developing these areas. Outline your teaching experience and any administrative roles you have undertaken.
Always ask permission. Choose people who have worked with you or supervised or taught you. Try to include at least one professor or senior academic with a good academic reputation. If possible, draw your referees from higher-ranking British universities.
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