Senior graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and junior faculty submit many applications: to industry jobs, to postdoctoral fellowships, to faculty positions… Every academic application (faculty positions and fellowships) will have a unique list of deliverables but there are some basic components that exist for most applications. The following articles will help you formulate each piece of the application individually, keeping in mind the concept of match while working on each piece. This will allow you to create an application packet that presents you as the best fit for any position.
If you’re interested in graduate school applications or fellowships, see the article on graduate/fellowship applications.
Overall Application Strategy
As a whole, each application has the same goal: to show that you have the skills, knowledge, background to succeed in a specific environment. By doing so, you’re showing the hiring/selection committee that you have a high chance of succeeding in a position. In order to illustrate this match, it is important to critically examine a few facets of your application.
Reflect on your experience, motivation and research goals. List your relevant experience before you begin your application. Be specific, concrete (show, don’t tell!), and quantitative. Does each experience to help convince the hiring committee you are qualified? Include experiences that helped you develop and demonstrate your leadership, organization, and communication skills (and teaching skills, if relevant). What drives your research motivations, and how do they link to your background and long-term goals?
Know the program
Explore the department/program website. Each department and fellowship has different goals; some might value fundamental science, others engineering innovation, and others societal impact. To demonstrate how well you fit with the program, know what they value. This includes, and is not limited to, looking at the course catalog, faculty webpages, and press releases. What do current faculty/past recipients have in common? What classes do they currently offer, and which are they missing?
Why are you perfect for the program and vice versa?
Demonstrate match. Now that you have identified your place in the program, it is important to illustrate that in your application. Throughout the application, explicitly state how your knowledge and experiences overlap with the program’s goals to illustrate that you and the department are a good match. By making the right choices in your application materials, you can show the committee that your experiences, goals, and ideas will advance the goals of the organization or school to which you are applying.