philosophy professor cover letter Examples & Samples for 2024

Academic cover letters for teaching jobs should be customized for the position and mission of the organization. The priority at 4-year institutions is research, followed by teaching, then service. For state universities and liberal arts colleges, the emphasis is on striking a balance between research and teaching, with the research informing your student engagement and service. The sole focus of community colleges is on teaching and service, with research being noted as a way to stay current in the field and engage the diverse student body.

Given that it’s only May and the main US job market won’t heat up for several more months, some readers may wonder why I’m reviewing dossier materials so soon. The answer is two-fold. First, foreign job markets are currently in full-swing. It seems like I get foreign job postings from the philos-l listserv in my email box every day. Second, it takes a long time to get one’s dossier materials into the condition they need to be in, even though the main US job season doesn’t begin for several months.

This brings me to my first point, which is to emphasize the value of having highly polished dossier materials. The selection committees review hundreds of applications, so you want to impress them. You want your teaching statement, research statement, teaching portfolio, and cover letter to shine. The question then is how to do it.

Working with a job-market consultant—who, for the record, has served on numerous academic search committees—taught me some interesting things, but the most intriguing one is that job candidates consistently misinterpret what search committees are looking for in job-market materials. I was confident that my consultant would be impressed when I sent them my materials, which included my sample cover letter, research statement, and teaching statement. I could not have been more wrong. They bluntly informed me that I was making all of the wrong decisions and that I wasn’t the only one: candidate after candidate, they claimed, writes their materials with the wrong intentions. How so?.

Let me begin with the most general point I learned. The most common misconception among job candidates is that they must “sell themselves” to search committees by gushing about how innovative their research is, how dedicated they are as teachers, etc. Although this seems reasonable on the surface (how are you supposed to convince a search committee to hire you if you don’t make it crystal clear how awesome your research and teaching are? ), the issue, or so I was told, and I totally buy it now, is that bragging about yourself in your materials actually has the opposite effect: rather than making you look awesome, it makes you look like someone who is trying to persuade them that you’re awesome, whereas a truly awesome person would just be awesome. Let me explain by way of an analogy.

What’s the best way to get a date? Should you openly declare your love for the person you’re smitten with and list all of your achievements? Of course not. These tactics will make you come across self-absorbed and/or desperate. You’d be better off exuding a subdued air of self-assurance and carefreeness; one that suggests you feel comfortable in your own skin. Similar to this, when job hunting, you want to present yourself to search committee members as Someone Who Belongs rather than Someone Desperate to Belong.

Before I met the job-market consultant who taught me this and convinced me to remove nearly every self-aggrandizing word or phrase in favor of straightforwardly descriptive accounts of my research, teaching, etc. from my materials –I was shown some of my friends’ letters who used the consultant (with incredibly positive results). I was unimpressed. They seemed so flat to me. There was no evidence of the “selling” ones research or teaching. And yet. once I worked with the consultant, I totally got it. I updated my materials in response to their advice and received a record-breaking number of interviews. I now firmly believe that your cover letter, research statement, and teaching statement shouldn’t be written with the intention of trying to “sell yourself.” It should only be to fully explain to your reader—a member of the search committee—what your research is about, how you teach, etc. No editorializing, mere description. A simple description will: (1) identify you as the author (as a researcher, teacher, etc.); and 2) give the impression that you are someone who belongs to them.

Now that we have this general point on the table, allow me to move onto specific parts of the cover letter (for reference, here is a link to my cover-letter template from last year):

  • Heading: unless you are in grad school (i. e. Do not use your school’s letterhead if you are working a temporary position or a post-doc. Last year, I came across a blog where several members of an academic search committee stated that they believed this to be theft (!). You don’t want to take that risk, I say, though I have to admit that I was shocked that anyone would think in this manner. Instead, state your location in the return address section. Additionally, make sure to include your street address and zip code as well as the correct addressee(s) for the position you are applying for. Leaving things out will only give you the impression that you’re too lazy to even fill out an address!
  • If the job ad names a specific contact person, start your letter by addressing them as “Dear Prof.” X”; otherwise, utilize “Dear Search Committee. ” Next, state the job you are applying for (noting the job ad code/# in parenthesis). Next, briefly describe when and where you received your PhD (or, if you are still pursuing your degree, when it is anticipated to be awarded). Then, if you have held full-time academic positions since finishing graduate school (post-doc, VAP), be sure to specify where you worked and the nature of your position(s) (note: I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to say you hold an adjunct position). Readers, what do you think? (Although I personally think it is unfair and wrong to underestimate a candidate on such grounds, a number of readers have previously commented that this may be a sad reality.) Last but not least, state your AOS and only mention your AOC(s) if they coincide exactly with the AOC(s) listed in the job advertisement. Otherwise, just state your AOS.
  • Update on the placement of teaching and research: When I looked back at some of the SLACs from this year for which I was interviewed, I did place teaching before research in some of the cover letters. I would advise doing this for institutions that are obviously teaching-oriented.
  • Your second paragraph should simply describe your primary research program; do not include any editorial language. Tell your reader what you are working on in as much clarity and succinctness as you can (for me, it was a book manuscript). If you describe your research accurately, it should be obvious how it advances philosophical discussion without you having to explicitly state it. Additionally, despite what I’ve heard, you should conduct teaching-related research before applying for teaching jobs (Update: I had no trouble getting interviews with teaching schools while putting my research first, (A) I did so successfully with some of my applications to SLACs, (B) my early research on this year’s hires strongly suggests that even teaching schools care about research. Finally, if you truly have a second research program, you may describe it in a third paragraph (again, in a flat descriptive manner). Definitely dont do more than two paragraphs on research, though!.
  • Future research plans and publication history should be included in the paragraph that follows the description of your research. e. a summary of the journals you have published in and the ones you plan to continue publishing in over the coming years. Be brief but specific!.
  • Teaching paragraph: Next, you should have a paragraph on teaching. Start by briefly mentioning the courses you have taught, especially the ones for which they have advertised a need. Then, spend the remaining sentences of your paragraph demonstrating your teaching style by giving a specific example of a fun teaching activity (don’t just say, “I use in-class group exercises,” give an example). With the teaching and research statements, we will revisit this. Avoid making generalizations about your teaching or waxing lyrical about how much you love it. Give a genuine, specific example of something you do in class to demonstrate to your reader that you are a dedicated, thoughtful teacher.
  • Your final paragraph should demonstrate how you would fit into the department or college. To do this, use their last name only (not Prof.) and express your excitement about working with or teaching alongside specific departmental members. X, just X), and succinctly describing how your work is related to theirs in some way. This will demonstrate to them that you are aware of who they are and have taken the time to research their department. Additionally, it will give off a subdued air of assurance that you view yourself as a peer who belongs in their department as opposed to a desperate job seeker who they have control over.
  • It looks good to include a picture of your signature in your signoff, I discovered (rather late in the game). I created a quick one with my computers Paint program.

The majority of letters should end there, with a brief “I look forward to hearing from you” or something similar, as well as a request for readers to visit your website (with a link) if they want more details. Despite the temptation, resist the urge to end your letter by listing your accomplishments. g. your work with students on-campus, etc. –avoid this temptation. They will see this stuff in your CV.

Other stuff for non-standard letters:

  • Institutions of religion: If you’re applying to a place of religion, my understanding is that you should once more just state how your research and teaching are consistent with or would advance the mission of the institution (in this case, religion). Be honest. If you are not a believer, don’t pretend to be one, but try to speak to the institution’s religious mission if you can.
  • Some jobs are connected to a specific academic program, like an Ethics Institute or something similar. If so, you should include a separate paragraph in your letter describing how your research, teaching, and/or campus activities would enhance the program. This is, in my opinion, the only situation in which mentioning campus involvement might make sense; however, resist the urge to provide a list in this paragraph. Avoid lists at all costs!).

I guess thats all. If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to ask.

How To Write a Cover Letter for a Faculty Position

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