One very common error that writers of job documents make is going on and on about what they are interested in.
It’s often quite a writing tic. “I am interested in…. and I am particularly interested in…and a topic of particular fascination is….and I would be interested in teaching….and my interests in xxxx would fit in well with the interests of the department in xxxxx…..” and so on and so on, ad nauseum. If the word “interest” shows up once in a client’s document, it nearly always shows up at least 5 more times.
Brits: for some reason, you so do this. Why? I’m not sure. But if you’re British, and you’re reading this, please pull up your job documents right now and do a universal search for “interest.” I bet you’ll be surprised.
Anyway, here’s the hard truth: nobody cares what you’re interested in.
They really don’t care.
I know this is counterintuitive, because surely that’s the whole point of the entire exercise, right? Your interests—their interests—common ground—job offer. No?
No. In fact, interest-talk is one of the biggest red flags of a job document, and I’ll tell you why. Because it’s self-involved. And actually suggests that you’ll be a bad colleague, not a good one.
The fact is, departments advertise because they need your labor. The nature of the labor will vary depending on the type of department and campus, and the job described. But basically they need you to teach specific classes that may have been named in the ad, and other classes that will round out their major in very clear and deliberate ways. They need you to do research on topics that are consistent with the scholarly profile of the department as a whole and that strengthen the academic area specified in the job ad. They need you to publish articles and books that will a) meet their standards for tenure so they don’t have a hassle in 6 years, and b) bring fame and glory to the department. They need you to serve on committees and help the department run.
All of these things are entirely outcome-based. You either do the publishing that they want to see, or you don’t. You either teach the classes that they need and expect, or you don’t. Effective job document and interview verbiage will give substantive evidence, quickly, that you produce these outcomes. Bad job document and interview verbiage will drone on and on in a self-absorbed and self-regarding manner about your private fascinations, preoccupations, and obsessions, ie, your interests.
“I have long been interested in relationship between gender and transnational mobility in Japan. This led to my interest in Japanese women as transnational agents. My dissertation addressed this issue and one fascinating conclusion of the research was that women’s investment in transnational identities were not static but evolved over the life course. An article I published in the Journal of XX explored this further.
As a result of my interests in gender, transnationalism, and Japan, I would be interested to teach courses such as xxx and yyy. In the course XXX I bring my interests in xxx into the classroom and have the students do xxx; this produces fascinating dialogues in the classroom.”
You might laugh, but I regularly see verbiage like this. And by the way, the word “fascinating” is another symptom of this disease.
Here’s the rewrite:
“My dissertation addresses the relationship between gender and mobility in Japan, specifically focusing on Japanese women as transnational agents. Based on fieldwork in Japan using xx and yy methods, the dissertation concluded that women’s investment in transnational identities were not static but evolved over the life course. I published part of this research in an article in the Journal of XX; in this article I argue xxxxx. I have another article on yyy underway for submission this Spring, which focuses on yyy.
I am prepared to teach courses on xx and yyy. In the course XXX, one assignment that I’ve found effective is to have the students do xxxx. In this way they gain an understanding of qqqq that will serve them well in later courses as well as future professional endeavors.”
Remember. All effective job docs show, concisely, with substance and evidence, that you can meet the department’s specific needs. Any job doc that simply spins a self-involved tale of your scholarly fascinations and private preoccupations shows that you do not understand this, that you are likely a self-absorbed drama queen, and that you are not a credible candidate.