For Fall 2016 I am reposting the top 25 posts on academic job applications.
In the past month a client wrote in his tailoring section that he was excited to apply to a position at the University of Chicago, because his “family lives in driving distance.”
And another write that a position at Berkeley was exciting to him because “I have friends and family in the area.”
Can we all agree that this is… um… less than ideal cover letter rhetoric?
Rule of thumb: if the institution is one of the top-ranked institutions in the world, hotly coveted, and the object of academic dreams, then mentioning the existence of family and friends in the area comes across as laughable.
Of course, if an institution is small, low-ranking, or located in a far-flung region…ie, an institution that you can imagine might have trouble attracting or retaining hires, then mentioning the existence of family in the area makes sense, as long as it’s done without undue hysteria, desperation, or emotionalism. Just stay brief and factual. One sentence in a paragraph that primarily focuses on SUBSTANTIVE connections related to research and teaching.
But seriously, nobody prioritizes Harvard because family lives nearby.
If your family does, sure, that’s icing on the cake, and a great thing.
But don’t mention it in the application. It makes you look fundamentally unserious. And like you don’t grasp the unspoken but unyielding rules of hierarchy that shape academia status.