Our books

Become a Fan

« Mission Re-Statement | Main | Notes from the Other Side of the Job Market »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Mark Alfano

Cover letter: Yes, I think the basic distinction between SLACs and all other schools makes sense here. Perhaps it also makes sense to tailor letters a bit for schools that might otherwise view you as a flight risk.

CV: probably wise to look at CVs of people who've recently gotten jobs (just google their names, which you can find on the leiter blog)

Bio: One of my mentors told me to draft this. I rarely used it, except in fellowship applications. It did go on my website, thought.

Research Statement: Even if you don't have other publications, I think it makes sense to have one of these. The diss abstract is mostly present-tense and past-tense. The research statement is more future-tense.

Portfolio: I suspect this is one of the documents with the most variability from candidate to candidate. My advice might not be ideal for everyone.

Transcripts: I was asked for undergrad transcripts by a couple of places last year. It seemed stupid, but there you have it.

References: Yes, I do think that outside letters carry a special punch. Get 'em if you can.

Writing sample(s): I agree with Marcus that it's better to have one sterling sample than 2 very good samples.

$$$: Interfolio is still exorbitantly expensive.


Would it be off limits to mention how much you love the city in your cover letter? Say for instance you're applying to a SLAC in Smalltownville. Should you say how much you like living in small towns or how much you like what Smalltownville has to offer?

Marcus Arvan

Hi Matt: that's a good question. I'm not sure. One obvious worry is that you might look dishonest. If Smallville is really a downtrodden town in the middle of nowhere, I couls imagine a search committee member reading your letter and thinking, "This dude can't be serious. First, he's probably never been here before -- in which case he's lying about loving city. Second, even if he has been here, nobody in their right mind could ever love *this* city -- so he's probably telling two lies in the course of a single sentence." For these reasons, I'd probably leave it out of the letter. But again, I'm no expert on these matters. I'm curious to see what others say.

Mark Alfano

My guess is that it only makes sense to say such a thing, Matt, if it's (1) true, (2) easily explained. For instance, you might say, "Since I grew up in Shitsville, I'd be thrilled to return," or "My fiancee lives in Shitsville and has no intention of moving, so I'm very keen to relocate there." (Incidentally, I know someone who successfully used the second strategy in a recent year.)

Kris McDaniel

Can I ask about how you guys are thinking of AOSs and AOCs? I ask this because it's not clear to me that one should aim to have 2 or 3 AOSs. 3 seems especially dubious to me -- but maybe I am thinking of AOSs differently than most.

The kind of guidelines I suggest for my students is this: an AOS is something you could teach a grad seminar on without killing yourself doing the prep; an AOS is something that you are in a position to do active research in right now. How do you show that you have AOSs on paper? The evidence consists in (i) the dissertation, (ii) publications or professional presentations, and (iii) extensive coursework, with (i) and (ii) counting much more than (iii).

Since this is how I am thinking of AOSs (rightly or wrongly), I would raise an eyebrow if a person fresh out of grad school claimed three AOSs -- especially absent evidence from (i) and(ii).

I think of AOCs as something you can declare when you can teach an undergrad class at any level in the AOC, when you know enough about the AOC to have an informed conversation with someone who has it as her AOS, and so forth.

So, in short, many AOCs, no eyebrow gets raised, many AOSs, eyebrow gets raised.

Is this an outdated or nonstandard conception?

Marcus Arvan

Hi Kris,

Those are all good points. I hadn't noticed Mark's remarks that one should aim for "two or three" AOSs. I've always assumed someone fresh out of grad school should list 2 AOS maximum *unless* they've published serious research in more areas.


Mark Alfano

Fair question, Kris. In the post, I say that you get an AOS by writing your dissertation in the field or by publishing in it. You're probably right that it's unreasonable to expect most grad students to do this in three fields (though I've seen it done here and there). That said, I do think that, if at all possible, it's prudent to have 2 AOSs, rather than just 1.

Kyle Whyte

I totally agree with the 2 AOS rule and that folks have to be extremely careful in how they present themselves if they have and include a 3rd AOS.

Trevor Hedberg

Here's a question about the statement of faith: how seriously is such a thing taken at religious institutions? My undergraduate university was a small liberal arts college with a Methodist affiliation, but all the full-time philosophy professors were atheists. I suppose it may vary from institution to institution, but since only a small minority of philosophers are theists (14.6% according to the PhilPapers survey at http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl), I'd think any school that rigorously screened out non-religious applicants would have a greatly reduced pool of candidates.

Trevor Hedberg


The link above didn't come through correctly the first time.



What about people whose works are at the intersection of traditionally-conceived boundaries but nevertheless are applying to jobs with descriptions that match traditionally-conceived boundaries (i.e. most jobs)?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Current Job-Market Discussion Thread

Job ads crowdsourcing thread

Philosophers in Industry Directory

Open thread on hiring timelines