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An Overview of the Faculty Job Application Process

4 min read · By Academic Positions

Applying for a faculty position at a North American university is a long process that requires several specialized documents and a lengthy interview process. Here's an overview of the application process.


Academic jobs can be posted at any time, but many American and Canadian tenure-track jobs are posted in the late summer or early fall. Applications are then generally due in November and December. Shorter, fixed-contract positions like visiting assistant professorships or lecturerships are often posted in the spring.

Key Application Materials

For most faculty positions the following application materials are required:

  • A cover letter- the cover letter presents overview of the applicant and shows why they are the right person for this position. An academic cover letter will cover the candidate’s research and contributions to the field as well as publishing plans, future projects, teaching experience, and specific interest in the department.
  • A CV- A curriculum vitae lists the applicant’s academic qualifications, employment history, plublications, awards, grants, conference presentations, teaching experience, and service activities. Learn more about how to write an academic CV here.
  • Recommendation letters- Most positions require three to five letters of recommendation from senior faculty who can comment thoughtfully on the applicant and their work.

In addition to a cover letter, CV, and recommendation letters there are several other documents that might be required as part of the application. These could include:

First-Round Interviews

There will be several rounds of interviews for faculty positions. After reviewing all the applications, the search committee will create a shortlist of 15 to 25 candidates. In many fields, the first-round of interviews take place at the discipline's national association's annual meeting. Candidates might be asked to provide secondary material before the interview such as a writing sample. Conference interviews usually last 20-30 minutes and will take place in a hotel room, suite, or cubicle in the conference centre. If the field doesn’t conduct conference interviews, first-round interviews will be done over video. Regardless of the format, the candidate will be asked about things like their dissertation, publications, plans for future projects, teaching, and course development. After these interviews are complete, the search committee will narrow down the shortlist. The remaining candidates are then ranked by the entire department and the top three are flown out for individual on-campus interviews.

The Campus Interview

Each of the top three applicants will be invited to spend a day on two on campus. During this time, they will have several one on one meetings/interviews with the search committee, departmental faculty, the department head, and even the dean. Each candidate will give a “job talk” lecture on their research to the faculty, graduate students, and sometimes undergrads in the department. The job talk is followed by a Q&A and often a reception. Many campus interviews will also include a teaching demonstration, where the candidate will prepare a sample lesson for undergraduate students. During the visit, the candidate will get a tour of campus and also eat meals with members of the faculty and search committee.

Making an Offer

After the campus interviews are complete, the department will make its final decision. Once they get permission from the administration to make the offer, the chair will contact the successful applicant and offer them the position. The candidate will then receive the full offer letter and contract and the time frame to accept. If the candidate turns down the offer, the department may make an offer to their second choice candidate or there may be a failed search.

If the candidate accepts the offer, the chair of the search committee will contact the other finalists and let them know that the position has been filled.

By Academic Positions  ·  Published 2019-10-24

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