My cover letter currently focuses on why I think I am a good fit for each position. Should I also highlight selling points (like portable grant money) or is that too obtuse?
Date: 23 Sep 2011 16:53
Number of posts: 12
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I don't quite get how exactly an applicant propose one's fits with the department. Searcher, would you like to share with us about how you did it?
Well, I am talking about research-oriented positions only… but if I am applying for the position, it's because I believe I would like to be there… that I would fit well with what they need and what I am capable of providing (area of research, teaching needs, other faculty and affiliated research centers, and so on). I tend to highlight why the position seems a particularly good fit.
What about discussing the fit of your research interest to others in the department? I mentioned this last year and I'm not certain if it was effective or not.
I think if the job ad specifically mentions something they are looking for, then it's a good idea to mention how you can fill that need… (e.g., if they mention wanting the candidate to teach class X or are looking for people "who complement our research focus on Y")…
Hmm, so to continue this discussion: how should we talk about fit? "My expertise will complement the department," "expertise complements the department" or "expertise would complement…"
I'm also a bit confused in terms of what it means to "fit" a department research-wise - is it that your research is similar to what other faculty are doing, e.g. it augments already-existing strengths of the department, or that it's different from what other faculty are doing, e.g. it would add something new that the department doesn't have? So say you do anxiety research and there is a prominent anxiety person in the dept, does that make your fit better or worse than if you do something else? It seems like in most cases, departments want to plug holes rather than complement extant strengths, but maybe I'm wrong about that. Similarly, if there's someone in the dept doing research in an area that is similar but not totally overlapping, and maybe you would want to collaborate with them, would you mention that kind of thing in a cover letter?
I've given up on trying to figure out fit. I've applied to places where I thought I was a great fit based on things such as the description of the "ideal candidate" in the job ad matching me, my work complementing the research being done in the department, the type of institution being appropriate for someone like me, etc., only to not even get an interview. Later on, when I've found out who they eventually hired, I have sometimes shaken my head and shrugged my shoulders because I could not fathom how that person fit with that department or was a better fit than I would be.
Some people have told me that fit is often a mystery because the departments or their search committees may not even have a clear idea of the kind of person they want for a position. That's why a lot of job ads tend to be vague. However, even job ads that specify "we are looking for someone who researches X" can be misleading because the search committee might change its mind once it goes over the applicant pool.
For these reasons, I just apply everywhere that's appropriate and let the search committees figure out whether I "fit."
Well, I have to agree that talking about "fit" isn't very easy but I think for some positions it is easy to say something like "my research fits in nicely with/complements the department's strengths in X" or "my research would expand department's area in Y…" Yet, for most apps I write up my strengths and, like VD suggests, leave it to the search committee to decide if I'm a good fit or not.
Just 2 cents :)