Job Search Documents

When you are applying for academic positions, you need to include documentation that highlights your educational, research, and teaching accomplishments.

Curricula Vitae

A curriculum vitae (CV) is more comprehensive than a résumé for an industry job, usually at least two pages long.  It is used to apply for faculty positions, some types of research positions, or fellowships and includes a summary of your educational background as well as teaching and research experience, publications, presentations, awards, honors, affiliations, and other details.

Cover Letters

Your cover letter allows you to put the experience on your CV into a context for hiring committees.  You should use it to introduce yourself, explain your interest in the institution and in the specific position, highlight special research interests and/or your teaching background, and persuade the reader to offer you an interview.  A strong cover letter also gives you the chance to prove that you have good written communication skills, which are important in academic positions.

Recommendation Letters

A recommendation letter for an academic position should provide an overall assessment of your potential based on your past academic work, research background, and/or teaching performance.  It should also emphasize your leadership and teamwork experiences and speak favorably about your communication skills and your general character.

A reference is someone who has agreed to provide a recommendation letter for you.  References should ideally be faculty members with whom you have worked or had significant interaction, but they can also be people you have worked with or for, including current or former supervisors and/or colleagues.  Always ask for permission before using someone as a reference. Do not ask family members, friends, or significant others to be references.

Applications for most academic positions will request at least three recommendation letters.  Compile a reference list that includes each person's name, title, work phone number, email address, and current or former relationship to you (e.g., “Thesis Adviser”).  Provide each of your references with:

  • A detailed description of the position
  • A copy of your CV
  • A copy of your cover letter
  • Information about any specific accomplishments or personal qualities that you would like emphasized

Try to request recommendation letters from your references at least three weeks in advance of the date they are due, if possible. Be clear about the timeframe in which you need them to be completed and the method by which they should be returned to the relevant institution(s).  If your recommendation letters need to be mailed, provide your references with stamped envelopes, pre-addressed to the recipient and including your return address.

Be sure to keep your references informed about the progress of your job search and send each of them a thank-you note for their efforts.

Teaching Portfolio

If you’re applying for a faculty or instructor position, you’ll also need a teaching portfolio that includes:

  • A statement of your teaching philosophy and objectives
  • A list of the courses you have taught or co-taught (i.e., as a teaching assistant)
  • Samples of course syllabi, including content and requirements
  • A description of any new or innovative projects or course formats you have designed
  • Student evaluation data for courses you have taught or co-taught
  • Statements from faculty members who have evaluated your performance as a teacher
  • A list of teaching awards or recognitions (if applicable)
  • Any other items specified in a particular job description

The portfolio can be up to 10 pages long and should include a table of contents.

Statement of Research Interests

This section should be short (no longer than two pages).  It should describe your research interests—including your thesis topic—and your plans for continuing the research or branching into related areas.  Mention specific funding resources that you are pursuing.

Thank-You Notes or Email Messages

It’s important to send thank-you notes or email messages at various times in the job-search process, including:

  • When someone agrees to be a reference for you
  • After someone has provided either a verbal or written recommendation for you
  • After you have had a job interview

A thank-you note for a reference—someone you already know well—doesn’t have to be formal.  A quick email to express your appreciation for the person’s help and your intention to keep him or her in the loop about your job search is enough.

A thank-you note for an interviewer—usually someone you don’t know—needs to be more formal.  It should:

  • Express your appreciation for the interviewer's time
  • Reiterate your interest in the position or company
  • Briefly highlight your relevant skills again

If you interviewed with more than one person at a particular company or organization, send a thank-you note to each person if possible; if not, at least send a note to your host or a high-ranking manager and ask that person to extend your appreciation to the entire group.

Thank-you notes should always be written using your best grammar and spelling (proofread before sending!) and sent promptly (within 24 hours of an interview).  Emailed thank-you notes are fine.


Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations

College of Engineering

117 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-863-1032