By Tracy E. Robey
Before going on the academic job market, many of us wonder which documents are required for job applications, yet encountering a long list of documents given on a blog or in a guide to the academic job market can be overwhelming. I decided to look at a sample of 27 ads for tenure-track positions in a variety of History fields this year to identify the most commonly requested job application documents. As an applicant, knowing this can help you decide which documents to draft and revise first when you have a flexible workshop opportunity (I was able to workshop my c.v. and teaching statement as a Writing Fellow at CSI and my cover letter in an advanced writing seminar). Not all application documents are equally important, but having a sense of which ones will be seen over and over can help you prioritize while attempting to balance scholarship, teaching, and applying.
As someone working on professional development events for the History Program, I wanted to know which documents are most commonly required in applications so that we can develop talks and workshops to provide hands-on feedback concerning them. Look for professional development events this spring related to drafting and revising the most critical documents early so that you can start the job search from September 1 with a portfolio of key documents, allowing you to tailor application letters and generate new, less commonly-required items as you apply.
Since there is not a standard application for academic jobs, each hiring committee or school lists the required documents in the job posting. The documents can range from the universally-required cover letter and c.v. to one-of-a-kind statements about your future role in the school’s religious mission or diversity initiatives.
This is what one fairly standard job ad looks like (I found this on the American Historical Association’s job listings website):
To get a better sense of which documents are most commonly required for tenure-track positions in History this year, I looked at 27 job listings in a variety of fields and calculated the number of times each document was required. Dividing that number by the total, I found the percentage chance that a given document would be required as part of a History tenure-track application. This information is, of course, unscientific and liable to change in the future, but it does reflect the patterns I’ve seen this year while applying for jobs.
Observations and Trends
The Foundation: The Application Letter and C.V.
The application letter or cover letter (a misnomer, since they are now two-page, single-spaced documents packed with information about your research, teaching, and service) and c.v. serve as the foundation of the application package for all of the jobs sampled.
Letters of Recommendation vs. Contact Information for References
The majority of jobs required three confidential letters of reference. One trend seen in 2012-2013 is requiring applicants to submit contact information for your references in online applications. Your references are then e-mailed and expected to upload the letters–and they often have to deal with broken upload systems and confusing instructions. This requires significant coordination with your recommenders and pre-planning—or a bit of advanced knowledge of how to use the Interfolio dossier service (look for details on that in a future blog post).
Writing Samples: Required More Often Than Not
More than half of the search committees required at least one writing sample. Other committees will likely request writing samples within a few weeks of the deadline from those applicants being considered for interviews. More search committees seem to want to see writing samples now than in the past—and a greater number of documents in general—which is possibly related to the development of electronic submission systems and portable, digital files rather than applications printed on bulky and heavy paper.
Teaching Evaluations and Sample Syllabi vs. A Statement of Teaching Philosophy
While most books and blogs about the academic job market discuss the statement of teaching philosophy as a common part of the application package, the listings sampled indicate that the teaching statement is not commonly required for academic jobs in History this year. History search committees in general seem far less interested in statements about teaching and instead want evidence drawn from actual teaching experiences. Sample syllabi and course evaluations (included in that category is “evidence of teaching effectiveness,” which can include course evaluations and/or sample syllabi) are far more commonly requested than teaching statements. For information on how to present a report of your course evaluations, check out the model “evidence of teaching effectiveness” document in the job market resources and models PDF posted earlier on this blog.