Tips and tricks on how to apply for an academic position
Writing a job application is hard. It is difficult to figure out what to put
in the application and what to leave out. Below is an indication of how
I review applications along with some common mistakes I find in many applications.
I hope this document can be of some help to those considering applying for
a position with me.
Note: this document is in no way the official policy of DTU and should
not be read as such. Merely consider this friendly advice.
What is the procedure?
When writing an application, it can be helpful to know how the application
will be treated after it is submitted. At DTU, the application system works
such that I get to see all submitted applications once the application deadline
has passed. I typically, receive between 50 and 100 applications when a
position is announced, so it can be a rather overwhelming task to go through
all applications. I usually book an entire day where I read through all
submitted applications in order to find the top 10 candidates. The applications
from these top candidates are then carefully reviewed over several days.
A selection of candidates will be invited for an online interview (via Skype,
Wire, Google Hangouts, or similar). This is to clear up any misunderstandings
in the applications and to determine if we have good personal chemistry.
This is also a chance for you to determine if this is really the job you want.
Select candidates will usually also be invited for a in-person interview
How to become a top 10 candidate
As you may have guessed, it is very tiresome to read through 100 job applications
in one day. So if you want to make the list of top candidates, then you have
to peak my interest. I can't tell you how to do that, but I can tell you some
things you should avoid:
- Don't write a very, very, very long application.
Since I have to read so many applications, it can be a bit demotivating
to receive a very long application. Usually, PhD or post doc application
should include a CV, a cover letter, and other supporting documentation.
The cover letter shouldn't be more than 2 pages in most cases.
(The DTU application system may ask you to also upload some previous publications
(if you have any); personally, I prefer if you just upload a list of
links from where I can download your publications).
- The call is not discussed.
When the job is announced some details of the position will also be listed
in the announcement. These may be vague, imprecise and difficult to
understand. Still, you really should spend time thinking about these details,
and in your cover letter reflect on why you find them interesting and
why you'd be a good person for working in the domain.
- The application is too generic (SPAM).
Related to the point above: some job applicants send the exact same
job applications many places, which often makes the application
very generic. Usually, I will not spend a lot of time reading such
applications. Note that I expect that top candidates apply for several
positions at the same time, so there is nothing wrong with re-using
large parts of your application for many jobs. I do recommend that
you adapt your application to the individual call as that will dramatically
increase your chances of being interviewed.
- The application depends on knowledge that I do not possess.
Don't assume that I know everything you that you know. This is especially
true if you have not studied or worked in Europe. As an example, I am
generally not aware of university rankings outside of Europe and the US,
so if you have studied at a top university, you should explicitly
state this in your application. I may not be able to tell directly from
the name of your university. Similar considerations hold for other types
of information, so be specific.
- Required information not included.
The job call generally contain a list of documents that you must submit
as part of your application. Don't forget to check that you have all
relevant documents included. I may be unable to review your application
if you leave something out.
What are we looking for?
When I read an application, there are certain skills and experiences that I
look for. At the abstract level, I'm happy when I see signs of you being
enthustiastic, ambitious and motivated to do research. More practically, I
tend to notice the following:
- Grades (for PhD positions only). If you're applying for a PhD
position, then you should have good grades. At the time you apply, you
may not have all your grades yet. Then show me what you have achieved
so far and tell me what you expect your remaining grades to be.
- Previous research experience.
If you're applying for a PhD, you may not have much experience with
research, but you will most likely have done project work. Then tell
me about some of your favorite projects. If you're applying for a post
doc, then tell me about some of your previous work, and give me an
indication what type of work you would like to do next.
- Communication skills/experiences.
An important aspect of scientific work is the ability to communicate
(you need to be able to tell others about the awesome research you will do).
The cover letter is itself a test of this, but if you have communication
experience then list it very explicitly. Examples include giving talks
(also local presentations as part of your education), teaching experience
and so forth.
- International experience.
Science is international, so it is helpful if you are used to interacting
with different cultures. You may have studied in a country, which is different
from your country of birth. If so, that helps your chances. In general,
if you have international experiences, then tell me about them.
If you read this far...
then I'm impressed :-) I hope the above text will help you improve your application,
because I want you to be awesome! Should you have questions that aren't answered
here, then do feel fee to contact me.