7 tips for writing cover letters for faculty jobs

by Julie Dodd

Your letter of application (or cover letter) is a key part of the faculty job application process. The cover letter is how you introduce yourself to the search chair and the search committee. The letter should convey your interest (and enthusiasm) for the position and provide an overview of you, referring to your vitae and online portfolio where more information is provided.

Here are some general tips for writing a cover letter.

Tip #1 – Be sure to use the format for a business letter.

Because most of our communication is now done with email and social media, writing business letters is a new format for many who are applying for jobs. You can find many examples online. The Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) provides tips for academic cover letters and a sample letter.

Tip #2 – In the first paragraph, indicate what specific job you are applying for.

Sometimes colleges or departments are hiring for more than one position, so you need to indicate the job title. [For example: I am applying for the position of assistant professor in new media.] Some jobs have a reference number. Be sure to include that job number.

Tip #3 – Your cover letter is strengthened if you can tie your interests and abilities to the specific job.

In your opening paragraph, you want to say why you are interested in this specific job. Research the curriculum offered, the faculty in the department and the kind of work being done in the program and include reference to those (as appropriate) in your letter.

Tip #4 – Your letter should contain paragraphs addressing specific areas.

  • Your teaching experience
  • Your research
  • Your professional experience
  • Your service

In your application, you are submitting your curriculum vitae, but your cover letter lets you provide highlights of each area. If you don’t have experience in one of those areas, then you would not include that in your letter. When you decide which faculty jobs to apply for, you are evaluating your own experience and abilities in the context of the job’s requirements. For some faculty positions, the emphasis is on teaching, and research experience isn’t necessary. For other faculty positions, research experience is the top priority.

Tip #5 – Your letter should be about one to two pages.

If your cover letter is less than a full page, you may come across as not being as serious about the job. I’ve seen cover letters that are more than two pages, but usually those letters are from candidates who are applying for an administrative position or endowed chair.

Tip #6 – Take advantage of the ability to tell more about yourself through a website or social media.

In a cover letter, you can include the URL to your online teaching portfolio or to a course you teach where you’ve posted course materials. You can include your Twitter handle. That online content lets you tell more about yourself and your abilities. That online content also conveys that you know how to use technology, which is important in so many teaching positions. But remember that if you include URLs or your Twitter handle that you need to keep information up-to-date and appropriate for review.

Tip #7 – Carefully edit your letter.

Don’t let your well organized and well written letter be diminished by grammatical errors or typos. You also should ask a trusted colleague, your thesis/dissertation chair, or a friend to read the letter and offer suggestions. If you are a graduate student, your university may have a writing center that offers assistance. For example, the University of Florida offers writing assistance for graduate students and faculty at the Writing Studio.

For more information about writing a cover letter for a faculty job position:

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a number of useful articles about the job application process. Some of those articles are from the early 2000s but are still valid in terms of the content and purpose of the cover letter. Here’s a good one with advice about the tone of your letter. Beyond the One-Page Cover Letter – Gary DeCoker

Guide for Writing Letters for Faculty Positions from the National Institutes of Health

4 ways teaching helped me be more effective in making a conference presentation

Arthur Leal
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

Arthur Leal

Arthur Leal presents at the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists conference.

I had the opportunity to present at the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists (SAAS) conference this semester about a month after I started as lead lecturer for Research and Business Writing, an undergraduate course at the University of Florida.

I imagined my teaching experience helping me in better preparing to present at SAAS. My teaching experience did help me even though the audiences were quite different.

Presenting in front of undergraduate students is quite different than presenting in front of colleagues and faculty members. Nonetheless, I still managed to extend my classroom experience into my presentation at my conference and learn how the two overlapped.

To set the stage for my conference presentation, imagine an auditorium that seats about 100 people. The auditorium was a formal setting with a horseshoe-shaped arrangement. The lighting was slightly dimmed, and there was a podium and projector available for the presenter. There were approximately 30 plus individuals present for the presentation: faculty, staff, professionals and graduate students.

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Strategies for promoting cultural diversity in college classes

by Linwan Wu
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

Linwan Wu

Linwan Wu

Cultural diversity in classroom involves two important aspects: one is to help international students adapt to American cultures, and the other one is to encourage all students to respect cultural diversity.

International students’ cultural-related problems:
(1) Social customs
(2) Language problems
(3) Culture shock

How to help international students in your courses:
(1) Help international students understand “culture is relative.”
(2) Encourage them to be open-minded.
(3) Ask them to use their communication skills.
(4) Encourage them to ask questions.
(5) Help them to find a cultural ally.

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5 tips for structuring and grading group projects

by Krystin Anderson
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

Krystin Anderson

Krystin Anderson

So you want to use a group project for your students.

If you feel some apprehension about using group projects, you are not alone! Group projects can cause anxiety for teachers and students alike, both of whom are afraid that what is meant to be a positive, collaborative learning opportunity will become a nightmarish conflict of personalities and interests resulting in tears and failure. (Click College Rant: I hate group projects for one student’s musings.)

However, group projects offer opportunities for students to complete something they could not on their own, not only because of the time constraints within a semester but because a single student may not have the all skills that a group of students could bring together. Group projects also help students learn how to work in groups and to become interdependent—a skill most media professionals use frequently throughout their careers.

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Strategies for creating multiple-choice test questions

by Julie Dodd

students taking exam in auditorium

I took this photo from the back of the auditorium, while my 130 students were taking an exam. Photo by Julie Dodd

Which of the following is correct about multiple-choice testing?
(A) Multiple-choice questions are easier to write than essay questions.
(B) If you don’t like multiple-choice tests, you won’t ever have to use them as a teacher.
(C) Multiple-choice tests can measure all student learning objectives.
(D) Students like talking multiple-choice tests better than writing essays.
(E) All of the above.
(F) None of the above.

Those were some of the issues we discussed in Mass Communication Teaching, as we talked about student assessment and multiple-choice testing.

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Tips and checklist for creating college course syllabus

by Julie Dodd

checklist of developing course syllabusWe spent much of our last class meeting discussing the many decisions involved in creating an undergraduate course syllabus.

We talked about how Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956), updated by by Anderson and Krathwohl (2001), can help with one of the most important first steps in developing a course — determining the student learning outcomes (SLOs) for the course.

Developing specific and measurable SLOs can be aided by using action verbs to operationalize each SLO — http://uwf.edu/cutla/slo/actionwords.pdf

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Reading faculty job announcements and developing your curriculum vitae can help you prepare for the faculty job market — even if you won’t be applying for jobs for several semesters

by Julie Dodd

A good way to be prepared for the faculty job market when you graduate is to begin analyzing the job market and preparing your professional materials several semesters before you graduate.

How can you do that?

Create your curriculum vitae
Most graduate students have a résumé. The résumé typically includes education, work experience, specialized skills, and relevant awards and activities. The typical résumé is one page. Often getting the résumé to fit on one page is a combined effort of editing and page design.

The curriculum vitae — rather than being very condensed — is a more detailed listing of your professional life. In most CVs, the sections are: education, teaching, research (which can include research presentations, publications and grants), service, awards, and specialized skills.

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