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How to be an Academic Superhero

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay

In universities across the world, academics struggle to establish and sustain their careers while satisfying intensifying institutional demands. Drawing from the author’s decades of observation and experience in academia, this exceptional book responds to the challenges of fostering and sustaining a successful academic career.
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Chapter 13: Write a compelling job application

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay


It is all very well to ready yourself for an academic role by conducting research, developing teaching skills and engaging in relevant service activities (discussed in Part IV of this book), but one absolutely critical step in securing a position at a university is preparing an application that successfully conveys to a selection panel the extent of your preparation and your readiness for work. While the characteristics of a good job application depend on geographical and institutional context as well as the academic level being sought (e.g., lecturer, professor, senior manager) there are some commonalities. Below is some advice focussed primarily on early- to mid-career applications in places like Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Also included are some tips on the different requirements and expectations in North America. Depending on your circumstances, you may find it helpful to draw from both to help develop a strong application.

A typical job application comprises the following components: a one- to two-page cover letter, a statement addressing selection criteria and your CV. You may also be asked to provide copies of key publications and the names of prospective referees. In some contexts (e.g., North America) you may be required to include a short account of your teaching philosophy and a research statement.

Your cover letter is your first and most important chance to convince the selection committee of your suitability for the job. Indeed, your very carefully presented one- to...

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