I'm applying for a tenure-track job in a small humanities field at a good, well-respected university. As you might expect, the ad says that candidates should "demonstrate a strong commitment to research, teaching and service". I have written a cover letter that is very much research and teaching focused, but am finding it difficult to fit in a paragraph on service. I think I've seen advice on the internet that suggests committees don't look for discussion of service in the cover letter - but I wonder if that's true (and also wodner what counts as service - for example, I've already mentioned I am (of course) willing to teach introductory courses as well as those in my specialization.) I'm not short on service experience (and I honestly enjoy it) - I have served on a handful of departmental and university committees, mentored students, contributed to curriculum reform, lots of outreach work, etc. - but most of these are already in my CV.

I suppose my underlying question depends on whether "demonstrate" means over the course of the application materials or in every job document: I would appreciate any thoughts on this.

TL;DR: Should I make room in the my cover letter for a service paragraph or can the CV take care of the service element?

1 Answer 1


It's not generally necessary to include a paragraph about service in the cover letter. If the applicant doesn't have much to say about it, there's no need to waste space writing "I've sat on a committee once and I can do it again when I have to."

But it could be useful in a few situations:

  • If there is a particular type of service you are especially experienced with, and it helps you stand out from the crowd, then it could be worth highlighting this in the cover letter. For example, if your whole field is in a moment of big curricular change, in this context it may be worth highlighting your prior experience with curriculum reform.
  • A well-tailored mention of service could help you show that you understand the kind of institution you're applying to. For example, if applying to an undergrad-only liberal arts college, it could be helpful to highlight your prior experiences mentoring a diverse population of undergraduates; but it might hurt to express your eagerness to advise PhD students, since that wouldn't be part of your job there.

Even so, you might not need a whole service paragraph. With these examples (curricular reform or mentoring undergrads), you might be able to note them briefly in your teaching paragraph.

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