• October 24, 2014

That Crucial First Impression

Writing Dissertation Illustration Careers

Brian Taylor

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Brian Taylor

A cover letter is one of the most important—and most often botched—elements of a community-college job application. Assuming your materials arrive on time and you're actually qualified for the job, an effective cover letter can do more than any other part of the application to help you secure a coveted interview.

Now is a good time to discuss the features of an effective cover letter, since many applications for positions at two-year colleges are due around the end of November. But first let me offer some general advice for people who are either new to the job market or have never given their letters much thought.

First, understand that the cover letter—and not your appearance in person—actually constitutes the first impression you'll make with members of the search committee. Long before laying eyes on you, they will learn a great deal about you from what you say in the letter, and how you say it. Just as you would dress well for an interview (probably better than you normally dress), so you should take pains to dress your cover letter appropriately.

Second, tailor your letter to fit the position you're applying for, especially if you're applying to both two-year and four-year institutions. A letter to a research university might focus heavily on your dissertation, while a letter to a community college should mention it only briefly. And not all two-year colleges have the same requirements, expectations, or needs, which means that a simple form letter won't suffice. You may have a basic template that you follow—in fact, I'm going to show you one—but be prepared to adapt it, as necessary, to make the best case for each job.

The way to achieve that tailored effect is to do your homework. Read the job announcement carefully, more than once, to make sure that your cover letter responds to specific job requirements or preferences, such as experience teaching online. Spend some time surfing the institution's Web site to gain a feel for its culture and values. If you know someone who teaches there, or someone who knows someone, don't hesitate to work the phone.

Finally, don't neglect the visual impact of your letter. I've always liked the clean lines and businesslike appearance of simple block format. Print the letter in black ink on good-quality white or ivory paper, using a decent laser-jet printer. I recommend 12-point Times New Roman font for its size (remember the middle-aged eyes of the search-committee members) and professionalism. The letter should be at least a page long, and no longer than two. And for heaven's sake, make sure it's as free of typos and grammatical errors as you can make it. If necessary, hire a copy editor. And now, as promised, I offer a basic template that you can adapt for any academic cover letter. I didn't invent this template, but I've employed it quite effectively over the years in my own job searches. (One dean told me that I got an interview because my letter was one of the strongest he'd ever read.) And yet, among the hundreds of cover letters I read every year as a search-committee member, I rarely see the kind of specificity and organization I look for. Most letters are too long, too short, too dry, too scattered, or too irrelevant. In short, they're bad. When I do see a good letter, it stands out.

The salutation. One of the first mistakes applicants make is not addressing their cover letter to anyone in particular. A letter should be written to a person, not to a committee, a department, or an institution. "Dear Department of Human Resources" or "Dear Search Committee" is simply too impersonal. "Dear Human Resources Officer" or "Dear Search Committee Chair" is not much of an improvement. With a little time and effort, you should be able to identify a specific person whom you can address by name and title in the letter, such as the director of human resources, the chair of the relevant department, or even the chair of the hiring committee. If a Web-based search does not yield that information, try making a phone call or two.

It doesn't matter, by the way, if the person you address the letter to is not actually the person who receives it. In reality, the recipient might be a clerk. But there's something about addressing your letter to an actual human being that turns it from another mindless exercise in bureaucracy into a form of genuine human communication.

The opening paragraph. Your goals here are to let the reader know what job you're applying for and to assert your suitability for it. You will, of course, expand on that second point later in the letter.

Open by stating, in a straightforward manner, that you're writing to apply for such-and-such a job, using the specific title given in the job announcement along with the position number, if applicable, in parentheses. Also, mention the institution by name and say where you saw the job advertised. Then assert what I refer to as your two primary claims on the job: your education and your experience, not necessarily in that order.

The body. It will probably consist of three paragraphs: two that expand upon your claims to the position, and one that adds any other pertinent information.

Whichever of your claims is stronger—your work experience or your education—is the point you should make first. If you have significant teaching experience, especially at a community college, you should always lead with that, because nothing else you say will make a more positive impression on the committee. Here is also the place to talk about any special pedagogical training you might have received, or any other relevant teaching skills, such as experience with educational technology or online teaching.

If you don't have a lot of experience, you'll need to make that your secondary claim and try to beef it up as much as possible. One way to do that is by talking about specific courses you have taught—especially to the extent that those courses mirror ones you will be asked to teach in the new job. Mention any experiences you had while teaching those courses that made you a better teacher.

If most (or all) of your experience has been as an adjunct, and in particular if you have a great deal of adjunct experience, you should make the connection for the committee by pointing out that teaching three courses a semester for five years, for example, is the equivalent of three years of full-time experience.

Under education, if that's your primary claim, you will want to list your graduate degrees and the institutions where you earned them, along with any additional course work you may have completed. But don't use the education section to talk about your thesis or dissertation topic, unless it relates specifically to the job at hand. (For instance, if you're applying for an English position at a community college with a large international population, and you wrote your master's thesis on teaching composition to non-native speakers, then mention that in the letter.) Otherwise, focus on the specific courses you took as a graduate student and how those courses will enable you to perform this particular job effectively.

If you have a great deal of teaching experience, education should, of course, become your secondary claim, and you need not go into such great detail. Just make sure the committee members know you have the appropriate credentials.

The last paragraph in the body of the letter should be a kind of catchall in which you include any relevant information that you haven't had a chance to mention. The key word is "relevant." This might be the place for you to mention your dissertation topic, although you still shouldn't do much more than that. There's no place, in a cover letter to a community college, for a detailed summary of your research.

Other items you might list in a catchall paragraph include any additional training that may relate to the job, teaching or research awards, publications and presentations, and any significant institutional or community service. In short, add anything that you think might help you get an interview, without seeming to brag or cross over into the realm of the trivial or inconsequential.

The "ask piece" and the closing. Another common mistake of applicants is failing to come right out and ask for an interview. In fund raising, a document that is produced specifically for the purpose of eliciting a donation is referred to as an "ask piece." I recommend that your cover letter include an "ask piece" as well.

Near the end, after you have thoroughly expanded on your claims and listed any other relevant information, you should reiterate your fitness for the job—"For these reasons, I believe I would be an excellent fit at XYZ College." Then write something like, "May I travel to [name the city] to discuss this position with you in person?" After that, state that you are available at the interviewer's convenience and reference the contact information in your résumé or CV. End your letter with a note of thanks and an expression of hopeful confidence: "Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon."

In your closing, you can say "Best wishes" or "Warmest regards," but I've always preferred a simple "Sincerely." Be sure to leave room to sign your name, although if it's an electronic application, you might not have that opportunity. And below your printed name, type the word "Enclosures," to indicate that you have included other documents, such as your résumé, CV, transcripts, teaching statement, and the rest.

With hundreds of qualified people out there applying for each job, nothing and no one can guarantee you an interview. But a cover letter that is professional-looking, well written, and relevant to the position will certainly give you a leg up on the competition.

Rob Jenkins is an associate professor of English and director of the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College. He blogs at www.academicleaders.org and writes monthly for our community-college column. If you would like to write for our regular column on faculty and administrative careers at two-year colleges, or have a topic to propose, we would like to hear from you. Send your ideas to careers@chronicle.com.

Comments

1. watermarkup - October 12, 2010 at 12:33 am

1. Do you make it obvious in your job advertisements who the letter should be addressed to?

2. Did you ever not interview an applicant because he or she may have fit the position perfectly, but didn't ask you for an interview? In other words, do the things you mention actually matter at all, compared to the experience you're looking for?

2. robjenkins - October 12, 2010 at 06:44 am

watermarkup:

Your skepticism is palpable, although probably not misplaced. That's the problem with writing "how-to-get-a-job" pieces in an environment where nobody really believes he or she is going to get a job: most of my potential readers are skeptics, some (though not you) bitterly so.

On the other hand, there are still jobs out there, if not as many, and each job is going to go to someone. Moreover, I assume people are still trying to get those jobs. I'm trying to help them find any edge they can--and in this job market, where very little separates many candidates, small things like what you say in your letter become magnified.

So here are my answers:

1) No, most ads don't say whom to address. (They used to, but they don't anymore.) Finding the right person requires a little digging. But it's still a good idea.

2) You're right--experience is the key. But a well-written letter, including the "ask piece," is still important. For the candidate with a lot of experience, it says that he or she is really interested in that particular position and cares enough to observe the conventions of polite letter-writing. Someone with less experience, meanwhile, can improve his or her chances by taking great care with the letter. If I'm looking favorably on a candidate by the end of the letter, but perhaps waffling because he or she doesn't have as much experience as some of the others, I'm going to find it more difficult to say "No" to a straightforward yet politely worded request for an interview.

Thanks for the questions, and best wishes on your search.

Rob

3. kac1236 - October 12, 2010 at 08:46 am

With the new automated application process in many fields it is more than difficult to personalize anything. One is reduced to creating the splat form of letters, you have to write to a computer that searches for buzz words. It is most difficult to taylor letters to the job. I have found this to be the case in small schools as well as some of the largest.

4. tridaddy - October 12, 2010 at 09:04 am

I find the advice offered to be "spot on". I am amazed and baffled when I read application letters that could be used in a general nature for almost any type of academic position. Not to repeat the author, but I find letters that specifically address the qualifications and responsibilities of the position specifically tell a great deal about the nature of the person applying. Aside from my past experience, I believe the specificity of my position application letters was the reason I received invitations to interview and gave me the opportunity to convince faculty and administrators I should be the top choice. One final note, there are numerous ways to "ask" for an interview and no matter how you do it, you should set the expectation that you should be interviewed.

5. tridaddy - October 12, 2010 at 09:05 am

To kac1236, the automated processes I've dealt with in the last two successful applications did not hamper my ability to personalize my application.

6. robjenkins - October 12, 2010 at 09:18 am

kac1236:

I agree that online application systems tend to depersonalize the process--which may make it even more important for applicants to go out of their way to bring the process back into the sphere of human interaction.

You know, the last time I chaired a search committee, which was last spring, was my first experience working with our college's new online application system. I found myself longing for the days of paper files, hanging chads and all. At one point I said to a friend in HR, "I'm sure this new system is easier for you, which is good, but I have to tell you that it's not easier for me." Apparently somewhat surprised, she replied, "It's actually a lot more work for us, too." Which leaves me wondering: what's the point? Other than saving trees, that is.

Rob

7. usaret - October 12, 2010 at 10:53 am

This advice is excellent--I followed similar advice (Dana Zimbleman's previous columns of a few years ago) when I applied for the job I have (full-time English faculty at a CC), and it worked. It did not, alas, work the times I was turned down, but I almost always got an interview with this kind of cover letter.

In one of my previous teaching jobs, I reviewed about 90 applications for a position in our department and found that almost no candidate follows Rob Jenkins' (or other, similar) advice--and the vast majority were not interviewed. So this model is not a guarantee of an interview or of a job, but it clearly improves an applicant's chances.

8. caccfaculty - October 12, 2010 at 11:29 am

I like all the points in the article and want to emphasize the importance of tailoring the letter to each school and proofreading! Nothing worse than a cover letter that refers to a "university" when we are a community college, or even the incorrect position name or school name. Well-qualified applicants are bypassed when their cover letter shows they don't care enough to think about where they are actually applying.

9. knitter - October 12, 2010 at 02:25 pm

Lots of great advice here for applicants to all academic jobs, not just community college jobs. I take exception to just one bit:

"May I travel to [name the city] to discuss this position with you in person?"

Maybe I'm just overly cautious, but the last thing I want to see is the threat of some stranger showing up on my doorstep to discuss the position. Believe me, if we want to talk to you, we will call you. If we are seriously interested in you, we will ask you to an on-campus interview. I was just on a search committee that looked at 67 candidates and successfully chose the one we want to hire. Almost all of them expressed an interest in having an interview but none of them asked if they could come to town to discuss the position.

So, please do show that you are interested in an interview, but please don't make such a presumptuous sounding statement!

10. robjenkins - October 12, 2010 at 02:36 pm

knitter:

Thanks for your comments. But I don't think that question is presumptuous at all; I think it's a pretty reasonable thing to ask. For one thing, it indicates that you're willing to travel for an interview. It also shows that you know where the college is located--and given the location of some community colleges, that's no small thing. I can't imagine anyone would interpret a polite question like that as a form of stalking. Now, maybe if you posted it on the dean's or chair's Facebook page. . . .

Best wishes,
Rob

11. jlmickel - October 12, 2010 at 02:49 pm

Couple of things I'd like to add to those looking for a job.

1. Although I agree with the majority of this article it is vitally important that you take all career advice with a grain of salt, what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another. You can ALWAYS tell when someone is trying to write in a style outside of their comfort zone. Personally, I disagree with the direct asking for an interview that doesn't work for me--I'm not that enterprising, but for some it's a natural outcome.

2. If you think you are smart enough to work for a college you should be smart enough to write a well-thought out, typo-free, and grammatically correct letter and resume. I cannot tell you the number of times I have cringed while reading candidates letters and resumes only to be shocked to learn the person held a Master's degree or Doctorate. If you've accomplished that level of education and still cannot write simple senetences that's a huge red flag to me. Everyone makes mistakes, few understand commas and semi-colons (myself included), but obvious mistakes and incorrect wording just kill your chances.

Basically, be yourself, talk about your skills and abilities, be direct as to why you're the best candidate and have good/great references.

12. jlmickel - October 12, 2010 at 02:50 pm

And I misspelled sentences... :)

13. ccmusic - October 12, 2010 at 04:51 pm

This is great advice for anyone searching for a two-year college job!

I will differ with one point, though. Having served on several search committees, I'm not a fan of the "ask piece." To me, it seems try-hard and tacky. Although, I would certainly disqualify an applicant for it. First impressions do count, and that just isn't my taste.

An annecdote to take or leave:
We were hiring a new instructor (the ink wasn't yet dry on her graduate degree). She had the "ask piece" in her letter, and also asked for the job in the interview, followed by a fairly whiney "pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease?" Some of the people on the committee - notably all non-faculty - were quite taken with her asking for the job. The faculty all found it in bad taste.

Incidentally, we hired her. So, maybe Rob is on to something, after all.

14. robjenkins - October 12, 2010 at 07:16 pm

Thanks, ccmusic. I like your story. It makes me wonder if I should add an "ask piece" to my next column: "Pleeeeeeeeeease read this! And then e-mail it to everyone you know! And then post a glowing comment!"

What do you think?

Rob

15. offthemarket - October 12, 2010 at 07:21 pm

Interviews for tenure-track positions are typically by invitation.
Typically solicitations for invitations are seen as uncouth.
I would see the "ask piece" as an indicator that a person is unfamiliar with how the game is played.

16. robjenkins - October 12, 2010 at 08:29 pm

I hear what everyone is saying--and I appreciate the exchange--but I still disagree and stand by my advice to job seekers: in your cover letter, ask the addressee politely if you can come talk to him/her in person about the job. That's not "inviting yourself," nor is it rude or creepy or in any way inappropriate.

Did I mention that I've been hired for four tenure-track jobs using this template--including the "ask piece"?

Best wishes to all,
Rob

17. new_theologian - October 12, 2010 at 10:39 pm

I see what Professor Jenkins is saying about the "ask piece", but I have to say, I couldn't do it, and would probably perceive it as untoward. Why? I presume that everyone applying for the job actually wants it, if for no other reason than that doing what you have dedicated your adult life to doing is vastly preferable to doing anything else, even if it's not at your first, third, or tenth choice college. Maybe some people really could take it or leave it, but they're rare enough that we can presume any application to be a plea for a job in the current, unbelievably tight market. This bit may not apply to the so-called "STEM" disciplines, but for everyone else? Let's be honest.

So, if I'm to get an interview, it's going to be because they like what I've got to offer, not because I break down ask for the same thing all my competition wants just as much as I do. And if an applicant does the same thing in a search wherein I'm a committee member, I'm going to think, "Look, I know you want the job, but don't embarrass yourself or me. If you come to the top of the list, we'll give you a call."

18. 11161452 - October 13, 2010 at 12:21 am

"1) No, most ads don't say whom to address. (They used to, but they don't anymore.) Finding the right person requires a little digging. But it's still a good idea."

*****
This drives me nuts. They should put in the ad the name of the person if they want to see a letter addressed to a particular person. And if you are suggesting this is one more hoop the committee is providing to separate serious interest from dilettantes, then count me out.

Also, new theologian is right on about the asking.

19. robjenkins - October 13, 2010 at 08:29 am

new_theologian:

John 16:24 (KJV)

Best,
Rob

20. kattt - October 13, 2010 at 02:30 pm

I have a difference of opinion on the salutation and closing... If the listing mentioned the search committee chair by name, I might address it to her/him. But even then, I wouldn't feel odd about using the generic "Dear Search Committee." Since the letter is being read by group of people, I think it's reasonable to keep it general. I definitely wouldn't simply put in the Department Chair's name--there's a very good chance that the chair isn't on the search committee at all.

Regarding asking for an interview, I share what seems to be the majority opinion--I think it's a bad idea (or at least something I would be very careful about doing). The search committee assumes that it is implied that every applicant would like to visit the campus.

I guess if the job is in a city that is far from where I live and I have specific plans to be visiting it, I might (emphasis on "might"), write something like, "I happen to be traveling to [City] during [when]. If you'd like to discuss the position or my qualifications further, I'd be happy to arrange to stop by [School Name]."

Rob, I get that you've had success with your methods--but that doesn't mean it is good advice. Imagine a student who, upon pointing out they're missing using "affect/effect" in a resume, states, "Well, I've been hired four times using this resume--I think it's very affective!" Just because it has worked (or at least hasn't tanked), doesn't mean it is the best idea.

21. robjenkins - October 13, 2010 at 04:44 pm

katt:

Point taken. However, my only objective in these columns is to offer the best possible advice, based on my 25 years of experience as a job seeker and a search committee chair, and I still say: ask. It can't hurt.

However, for all the job seekers out there following this chain of comments, let me add that you should weigh the other advice offered here along with mine and do what makes you feel most comfortable.

Rob

22. rodemer - October 13, 2010 at 06:13 pm

There's no need to "ask" for an interview -- it's enough to write "I would be happy to come to (yourtown) to meet with you for an interview."

23. lindasimth - October 13, 2010 at 09:12 pm

This is important in a interview,when I seek a job,my manager do not like me at the first impression,but she like my abilities,I leave my company now.

24. hzoggyieh - October 13, 2010 at 11:13 pm

I wholeheartedly agree with "matermarkup" (Comment #1) above. If it is so important to know and address a particular person in application letters, then, surely, it cannot be that difficult for the school/department to mention that name in the job Ad? Why, in God's name, should applicants have to look up that kind of information from school websites when it takes only a nanosecond to include it in the job Ad?

Although Professor Jenkin's pieces of advice are very useful, they don't console the standard job seeker out there who is usually desperate, descouraged with rejections or potential employers who have simply not bothered to let them know the status of their application.

Sometimes we in academe are our worst enemies! We all talk about the need to not make things harder for potential work colleagues, yet, this article seems to reaffirm and even relish exactly that
outcome! And by "outcome."

Again, what does it cost the department/university/college to add that little detail? The extra minute of their time?


HZ

25. robjenkins - October 14, 2010 at 07:43 am

hzoggyieh:

I agree that an ad should include the name of the key person in the search, whether than person is a dean, a department chair, a VP, or a committee chair.

And while they're at it, why don't they include the salary range? That's long been a pet peeve of mine. Usually salary schedules are public record and can be found on the Internet, with a lot of searching. But why put candidates through that? Since it's already public information anyway, why not just list it on the ad? People need to know, before they apply, if the salary is livable for them.

I must say, though, that I'm not sure what "outcome" I'm supposedly "relishing." Can you be a little more clear?

Best,
Rob

26. robjenkins - October 14, 2010 at 07:44 am

"whether THAT person"

Rob

27. kattt - October 14, 2010 at 10:07 am

Definitely agree with posting the salary information--it just saves wasting everyone's time.

But I understand not posting the search committee's chair name. The chair probably doesn't want to have to field 100 emails/calls from people who are simply hoping that a personal interaction will somehow help them when the applications are evaluated. I do think it makes sense to give the contact info for a department staff member, however, in case there are any real questions that an applicant needs answering.

28. robjenkins - October 14, 2010 at 06:12 pm

kattt:

Yes, I can see that. A dean's or department chair's name might be nice, though. What do you think?

Rob

29. pterodactyl123 - October 14, 2010 at 10:42 pm

I generally don't sweat the small stuff. If the job ad provides a name, I include it in my salutation. If it doesn't, I write "Dear Search Committee."

However, if you are really dying to know who is going to read your cover letter, then a simple solution is to call the department secretary/administrator and ask for more information.

Just make sure you're calling the department administrative staff, and not the chair. You can usually figure out who is the appropriate staff contact with a simple google search.

I also think it's a total crap-shoot these days. The first letter I ever wrote fresh out of grad school landed me my TT job. I wrote better letters after that, but the bites were never as good.

30. robjenkins - October 15, 2010 at 06:30 am

ptero:

A crap-shoot, maybe--but not total. I still think there are some ways to weight your dice. At least, I'm going to hold onto that belief. I'm a pragmatist by training but a romantic at heart.

Rob

31. pterodactyl123 - October 15, 2010 at 07:34 pm

I hear what you're saying, Rob. I hate for people who are currently applying for jobs to get discouraged, because there are so many "nos" and "nice try" for every "yes." But I agree that there are effective ways to make your application stronger and more appealing to search committees.

I have been reading your columns religiously since I entered the job market in 2009, and they have been terrifically helpful. I read your advice about how to present yourself at an on-campus interview before I went off to one last year, and I did everythign you suggested. I also read one of your much older columns about cover letters before I submitted my CC cover letters. Thanks for being a great guide.

32. robjenkins - October 16, 2010 at 06:56 am

ptero:

Thank you for your incredibly kind words. They really made my day--even when I'm up at 6:00 am on a Saturday to take my son to an air show with his Scout troop. I'm glad to know that I've been able to help in some small way. That's why I write these columns.

Rob

P.S. My book, "The Two-Year Track: Building a Career in America's Community Colleges," based on eight years worth of columns, is due out this winter from the AACC/Community College Press.

33. gseverett1 - October 18, 2010 at 07:21 am

In several instances, I have called and tried to discover who was chairing the search committee only to be told to direct the application to HR--the strong implication being, "if we wanted you to know, we would have told you."

The "ask piece" seems more likely to offend adacemics than not. Some are expecting it, others will be offended by it. A fine case of damned if you do, damned if you don't.

34. chuffed57 - November 03, 2010 at 06:38 am

Rob, I followed advice very similar to yours in my search (CC English/Humanities) and it resulted in several interviews and two offers, which allowed me the luxury of taking the job I really wanted, rather than just a job. Now, I've sat on a slew of hiring committees and some of the cover letters are painful to see - even those for Dir of HR! This is excellent, practical advice and those hunting should heed it. I was taught long ago, well before I jumped over to academia, to ask for the order (sales) and to ask for the interview (head hunting)so I stand by your "ask" recommendation, too. I am going to forward your column to those of our adjuncts who are searching for full time positions and I'm confident it will help them.

35. robjenkins - November 03, 2010 at 08:27 am

chuffed57:

Thank you for the kind words and for the validation. In the face of the general consensus, I was beginning to wonder if I'm wrong about the "ask piece." I don't think so, because it worked for me. I'm glad to hear it worked for you, too. Thanks again for posting. Please wish your adjunct friends good luck from me.

Rob

36. kattt - November 03, 2010 at 09:55 am

Let's keep in mind that the validation for the "ask" advice is still anecdotal empiricism. Let's be realistic, in all likelihood how the salutation is worded and whether or not an interview is requested probably has little-to-no impact on whether or not the applicant gets an interview (much less whether or not the applicant gets the job). A good/bad cover letter can certainly make the difference, but these aren't really the parts of the letter that are going to make it strong or weak.

This old (from 2000) Chronicle advice piece on cover letters is a pretty good one: http://chronicle.com/article/How-to-Write-Appealing-Cove/46284

And here's another one that contains a sample letter:

http://chronicle.com/article/Writing-a-Good-Letter/46845

37. mj_zorro - November 03, 2010 at 10:51 am

The effectiveness in "the ask" may have a lot to do with how you ask. As a graduate student I have not submitted any applications for academic jobs, but I sent out many for jobs in other fields, and I always closed with "Please contact me at __________ with any questions you may have, or to set up an interview." It still requests an interview, but in a more subtle way that feels a bit less entitled to me (considering the biases against my generation, I am very conscious of not feeding into them). Your cover letter should be a reflection of you, so write something you're comfortable with.

38. chicoleo - November 06, 2010 at 11:50 am

I agree with most of the advice but please do not ask for an interview or call the department head to find out the name of the hiring commmittee chair. In most places, there is a clear process and asking for an interview will achieve nothing. I'd rather see a letter address to Dear Hiriing Committee" than have to field dozens of calls to provide the name of the chair.
I'd also add that the applicant should find something out about the institution - look at the website, if not before crafting your cover letter, before the interview. Find out what's important to community college these days and in particular to the institution with the job opening. It's a good use of your time, if you really want a job at a community college.

39. laoshi - November 12, 2010 at 01:18 am

Thanks for your excellent suggestions, most importantly having the courage to add the "ask piece". Certainly I have wasted lots of time early in my career, with wimpy cover letters, only to learn the value of aggressive self-marketing in middle-age.
Strategically using just three paragraphs, to link education/experience and other strengths, is also brilliant because we can just focus on selling ourselves and getting to that interview room.

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