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Looking for an Academic Job in 2020?

3 Ways to Stand Out from the Crowded Application Pool

The first part of 2020 has been tough for many people and certainly challenging for academia due to Covid-19. Very quietly, the pandemic has dried up the traditional March – June academic job cycle, as well as potentially disrupting the primary August-December academic job cycle. For example, in my University, hiring has been stopped for over a month. Because of anticipated budget cuts due to the virus and oil-price hits to the economy, our department, which was hoping for four new positions in the fall, will get none, for the next two years! Unfortunately, similar situations will be happening in higher education institutions around the world.


Right now, many people are looking for jobs, and academia is no different. This is the time to put all of your efforts, practice, and thought into how you can be the very best! How can you stand out among all of the other applicants who are standing up, yelling, and screaming in search of their next position?




In Finding the Best Faculty Job for You, we have shared that the only way a Search Committee has to get to know you and initially judge whether you are right for their job is through clear, concise, and succinct application materials. You have one shot at grabbing the committee's attention, and that happens with the application documents.

In addition to submitting documents that are well written, we have a few more tips to help you stand out from the very overcrowded pool of applicants.


1- Cover Letter

Your cover letter and CV are the primary means by which the Search Committee determines whether you should make it into the shortlist for an interview. Remember that while your CV is a detailed outline of your academic accomplishments, the cover letter allows the Search Committee to determine how you fit within their department.

Your cover letter tells the Search Committee why you are interested in the job. It also gives them a holistic overview of your research area, how you are developing as a teacher, and, most importantly, how you see yourself fitting into and making the hiring department a better academic community. Applicants who take the time to think about and describe how they envision their fit into the hiring department will increase their chances of landing the interview.

2- Interview preparation

The interview is where you have to shine. Remember, regardless of the interview forum – video or in-person – you will be critiqued and judged by your interviewers as to whether you would fit into the departmental community. Therefore, you have to pay special attention to details so prepare for the interview by doing the following:

* Use a professional background for the video interview,

* Wear a business outfit that is appropriate for the interview,

* Ask and answer questions clearly and concisely,

* Give the best job talk the committee has ever seen.

3- Practice, practice, practice

Most importantly, focus on and hone your interview skills. Practice your interview by doing a mock interview (wear your interview attire) with someone who can give you useful feedback and critiques. By practicing, you will gain confidence as well as insight into areas of the interview that may need some tweaking. The best way to make yourself the most comfortable and memorable to the committee is by practicing and being prepared for their questions and having questions to ask. If you plan to just "wing-it" and forego the mock interviews, you may discover after the fact how silly and unfortunate your decision was when you get passed by for the position.

If you are looking for an academic position during the time of the pandemic when the number of applicants have increased and positions are very limited, make sure you give yourself every possible chance by being the absolute best you can be. Make sure you take advantage of all the resources and interview tools to make your application materials and your interview skills shine. Practice like it was the real deal so you become confident and comfortable.


By putting the application and interview practice at the top of your to-do list, you'll increase your chances of being hired over your competition, and the hours you've spent getting prepared will pay off!

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