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I am a postdoc in the process of applying for faculty position in universities. Most applications require you to apply all the materials on an online portal or careers page, which I do.

Now there must be hundreds or more applications. To stand out from the rest of the applicants and to bring to attention the application to the head of the department (HOD), would emailing the HOD enhance my application or would it affect it negatively. If it helps, what should the content of the email be?

I have seen a similar question on SE: emailing contacts after applying for faculty jobs, but my question deals with an unknown person at the university.

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    It is probably better to email before you submit your application and ask, does my CV fit or am I competitive? If the HoD says no, you and him/her would have saved some time. Otherwise, he/she may remember your application when it comes through. – Prof. Santa Claus Apr 4 at 22:24
  • Maybe use a nice LaTeX letter template. Friends of mine have been invited just for the sheer look of their letters. uweziegenhagen.de/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/blog.png – Uwe Ziegenhagen Apr 5 at 5:22
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To stand out from the rest of the applicants and to bring to attention the application to the head of the department (HOD), would emailing the HOD enhance my application or would it affect it negatively.

Realistically, it does not affect your application at all. Firstly, this does not make you "stand out" nearly as much as you think it does, because quite a few people have the idea that writing some sort of personal letter to the head of the hiring committee improves their chances. Secondly, what do you expect will realistically happen? That the HoD thinks "gee, nxkryptor certainly shows initiative, better put them on the shortlist"? This is really not how academic hiring works.

The most realistic effect is that the HoD sees your email among the >100 mails of the day, exhales a short sigh, and then either directly moves it to "read" or writes you a polite "thanks for letting me know". 120 seconds later they have forgotten your name again, and it won't impact the evaluation of your package in any noticeable way.

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First, the person most involved with a search is the chair of the search committee. Sometimes this is the HoD, but often it is not. Sometimes the HoD is on the search committee and sometimes they are not. Often, and in my opinion ideally, the HoD is not involved in the search until the end.

Now to answer your question. If you know someone in the department you can, and should, email/call them that you are applying. You should also ask for whatever inside information they have. If you have questions (e.g., I am in subfield X, is that within the scope of the search), then you can email search chair (or whoever the contact point is).

Do not email the head of department, the chair of the search or anyone on the search committee in an attempt to stand out from the rest of the applicants. That is surely going to backfire.

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    I think this answer could be improved by including an explanation for the final paragraph, ie why is this going to backfire? – DreamConspiracy Apr 4 at 19:28
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    @DreamConspiracy "nxkryptor? Yeah, he or she is the one who emailed me, trying to do an end-run around the search committee." Will that do? – Bob Brown Apr 5 at 2:19
  • @BobDrown yes that. You could edit the answer to include this in a helpful and non-condescending way. – DreamConspiracy Apr 5 at 2:45
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In disagreement with the other answers: Depending on your field, there may be many people applying who

  1. Are applying for every opening without thinking carefully about it, or
  2. Are likely to receive multiple job offers.

Nobody wants to waste time offering a job to someone in those categories. An additional contact that informs the head of the search (which may or may not be the department head) that you are aware of the nature of the job and actually want it may make you stand out from people in those two categories.

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    As the former chair of my department’s faculty recruiting committee: No, the additional contact does not help. What you are describing is content for the cover letter. – JeffE Apr 7 at 7:31
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    Also: Why wouldn’t you want to interview someone who’s likely to get multiple offers?! – JeffE Apr 7 at 7:32
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Your application includes a job letter. Sending an email means that you're simply sending a second job letter. Why would they want to read two job letters from one person?

  • Since bulk of the email applications are done through online portals, I think/believe the chances for the HOD to see every application is very less (correct me if I am wrong). – nxkryptor Apr 8 at 18:43

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