Applying for an academic job
Give yourself time to produce an application that you are proud of and will get you to the next stage of the recruitment process.
A rushed and last minute application for a post-doctoral research or teaching role while writing up or preparing for viva is not the best approach.
Before making an application - watch our video on the three 'I's
- Research academic careers and think carefully whether it is the right option for you
- Consider your future research ideas and plans beyond your PhD
- Identify research leaders working in this area who may have job opportunities
- Update and review your CV and other application documents
The three 'I's of successful job applications
The three 'I's are Interest, Immediate and Impact. Clare Jones, explains how to use them to produce a successful application and move onto the interview stage.
Finding academic job vacancies
For most PhDs looking for academic roles - networking is a key skill. Build and use your network of contacts to explore the opportunities available – your profile and reputation, and those of your close colleagues, will potentially open doors for you.
If you have a personal contact with someone in a particular institution that interests you, a conversation followed up with a targeted CV can be productive.
Explore relevant courses through your school, faculty, the Graduate School and academic or learned societies
Application forms, academic CVs and covering letters
The application form will usually require a statement of research interests – proposing future research and explaining how that builds from your current expertise.
The following guide is written by Clare Jones, Senior Careers Adviser (Research Staff and Postgraduate Research Students) within our team at the University.
Download Building Academic Job Applications: A Quick and Practical Guide for Early Career Researchers
Vitae - writing a statement of research interests
You will, of course, need to submit your academic CV when you begin to apply for post-doctoral research and teaching jobs.
However, we would encourage you to set up an academic style CV from the beginning of your research degree so that you can use it as an important part of managing and developing your career. You can use it to:
- assess your academic career development
- identify potential training and development needs
- keep an up-to-date record of your academic activities
- apply for opportunities that will add to your academic profile, such as conferences and awards
As your CV is more than a job application document, we've created a series of videos with expert advice to help you to set up and review your academic profile.
Watch our videos on developing your academic CV
Your covering letter (or supporting statement) should highlight key themes from your CV but not simply repeat them in narrative form.
If one of the initial paragraphs begins with:
I am currently completing my PhD ....at Nottingham under the supervision of … My research has ...
STOP. Consider the reaction of the reader. What will they be considering when selecting who to shortlist?
The reader will want to quickly identify candidates who meet the requirements of the role and who demonstrate their interest in, and enthusiasm for, the area of research or teaching.
The theme of your letter should be forward-looking focused on role and work you will do. In the first couple of paragraphs, explain your interest in the role and the contribution you will make. Use evidence and examples from your CV to support your case.
Jobs.ac.uk - advice on an academic covering letter
The interview process is likely to involve a presentation and a panel interview with between two and ten interviewers. There are useful sources of advice and sample questions available online.
Maximising your chances of success
- Be geographically flexible
- Be prepared to take on short term contracts – this is the norm for those starting on a post-doctoral research career
- Focus on building your network of contacts e.g. through attending conferences, contributing to relevant discussion groups on social media.
- Develop a publication strategy and some ideas for future research
- Talk to academic colleagues about their career paths