During Fall 2016 I am reposting the top 25 blog posts about the academic job market. Today’s post is yet another post on job letters.
This one is on that object of contention: the fit sentence.
You know the one—it’s the sentence that says, “with my background in xxx and yyy, I am the ideal candidate for your position in zzz.”
Sometimes it says, “my combination of experience in xxx and yyy make me an excellent fit for your position in zzz.”
Why do advisors keep telling their graduate students to include those? I mean, really? Does anybody actually take these things seriously? Is a search committee member really going to take the CANDIDATE’S word for their suitability for the position? If we’re going to do that, why search at all? Why not just take the one who says he’s “ideal”?
“Was I born YESTERDAY????” a senior professor friend of mine with countless searches under his belt responded. “Do they think I’m that NAIVE….? Do they think I’ll just BELIEVE them????”
I mean, professors don’t take anything at face value, not anything at all. So why in the world would they believe a job letter that claims the writer is an “ideal fit” for their advertised position?
As a colleague, whom I shall call Professor Snark, recently remarked,
“Gosh and golly! How could I, seasoned professor that I am, have failed to noticed the so plainly obvious fact, until you pointed it out, that among all the eminently qualified candidates for this job, you, yes you alone among them, are the ideal candidate for the position? I stand humbled before you in all your awesome idealness.”
Seriously, job candidates, remember the rule of good writing: Show, Don’t Tell.
Writing “I am the ideal candidate for your position”? That is telling.
Writing a letter full of evidence of intellectual prowess and scholarly productivity, award-winning teaching, and a long-standing commitment to the field of work identified by the job ad? That, on the other hand, is showing.
So show us the money, candidates! Remember, talk is cheap.