I am applying for a tenure-track position at my current academic institution. Presently, I am a Visiting Assistant Professor, but I have enjoyed my time at the university so much that I have decided to seek a more permanent position there.

I have several questions about what is appropriate / "best practice" in this situation, but perhaps those can be answered in the context of the primary goal of this post. Explicitly, my question is as follows.

How does one write an effective cover letter that is addressed to one's own department chair?

I find that my initial instinct is to write as if I have no knowledge of this person: I would introduce myself in the letter as if I were a complete stranger to the chair of the search committee and the other members; however, this seems to disregard the inherent advantage I have in that the members of the search committee have plenty of experience working with me. Consequently, I fear that to ignore the existing relationships between the committee members and me would lead to wasted space on the cover letter. (Who wants to read a paragraph of background information they already know?)

Ultimately, I am seeking advice on how best to leverage my current role in the department in the context of writing a cover letter. I would appreciate any comments, suggestions, or observations on how to tactfully use my connections.

1 Answer 1


A general rule would be to put yourself in the shoes of the Chair, and to imagine what (s)he would want to hear from you.

For example, you won't damage you case by stating, wholeheartedly, that (a) you are enjoying the style and atmosphere of the department, and have learned a lot from your colleagues; and (b) you feel that you are able to contribute to the collective work carried out by the department members, and to support the tradition (or smth like that).

The rest of your letter will depend on the particular pecularities of your department. For example, if you are at a research university, and if the Chair or/and some committee member(s) have a favourite range of research topics (or wish to develop new lines of research) -- then it will be advantageous to emphasise how your area overlaps with those topics, and how fruitful your input would be.

Unrelated to this letter, striking or intensifying scientific collaboration with the Chair or/and committee member(s) would certainly add you points in their eyes. (Again, put yourself in their shoes.)

Good luck with your application.

  • 1
    I appreciate your reply very much. I am finishing up my cover letter, and your comments here have been invaluable. Commented Oct 28, 2023 at 19:56
  • @DylanC.Beck Good luck ! Commented Oct 29, 2023 at 4:18

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