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Several advices for job application, recommend to mention faculty that have similar interests and can be future collaborators. What is the best way to do that?

  • I have worked on topic T and I would like collaborate with with Dr. A
  • I believe that my work can extend the work of Dr. A

And do making such connection is valid for all schools, or can have exceptions in small departments? My concern here, is that specifying some names, may have some negative effects. Since Dr. A, could be leading a research on specific topic or teaching course C, and is not willing to allow other new faculty to compete with him.

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Imagine for a moment that Dr A doesn't want any help and would see you as competition. Would leaving off your knowledge of and interest in T help prevent Dr A from suggesting they hire someone else? I doubt it.

Now imagine that you include mention of topic T but don't mention Dr A. Perhaps they will think "this applicant doesn't even realize we have a world expert on T here already!"

Suggesting you can help Dr A may be a bit presumptive. But saying that you love topic T and are already working on it, and that the presence of Dr A in the department is one of the reasons you want to come to this group? That sounds very positive to me.

Is there a reason you aren't contacting these Dr As directly and saying "I'm thinking of applying to your department because I'm so excited about topic T; do you have any advice for me?" That seems like a good use of your time if the number of Dr As is reasonably small.

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    +1. Actually suggesting you can help Dr. A may be presumptive, but you can soften the wording a little with something like "potential opportunities for collaboration". I agree it is even better if you already know whether Dr. A would be interested in such opportunities. – Nate Eldredge Nov 27 '14 at 17:26
  • Great answers. However, do you think that Drs As will provide an advice for almost anonymous graduate? I think most won't. – Thomas Lee Nov 27 '14 at 17:43
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    They may ignore you. All you have lost then is the time it took to write. They may, feeling flattered, give you very generic advice which may or may not be of value. They may invite you to apply and let you know they want you to join their group (if the topic is obscure, your interest alone might be enough). Or they may be quite cold and kind of "scare you off" which has value too since knowing where not to apply is helpful. I think there is little to lose in contacting such people. Not a 100+ email blast, but reaching out to the relevant ones. – Kate Gregory Nov 27 '14 at 17:46
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    @ThomasLee You do not ask to get an actual advice - you ask to initiate contact! And any kind of feedback except no answer is actually useful - even if he only says "Welcome! Take a look at our homepage at ..." - that would still tell you that there are no internal reasons preventing it either permanently or currently. But making your name known could be also useful. – Volker Siegel Jun 12 '15 at 3:07
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If your work is closely related to the work of Professor A in the department, that should obvious from your research statement. The committee will likely give much more weight to research you have already done and describe in your statement then they will give to plans for future research.

So the first step is to make sure that you write the research statement in a way that directly shows how what you have done is related to Professor A.

Once that is done, you can also mention Professor A in your cover letter, and indicate that your research statement shows how your work is related. The committee can interpret that mention however they like. They may ignore it, they may view it as a sign that you would fit into the department, they may ask Professor A to look at your research statement and give an opinion.

If you can follow that advice, it can't hurt you to mention someone who you can work with. But only do that if there really is a clear relationship between your work and theirs. I have seen some job applications where the applicant claims they could work with someone, but there is no evidence on their vita or research statement that they can.

For example, they may have studied one subfield of a general field, and mention someone who works in a completely different subfield. In that case, it is not clear that the two could work together easily, and the claim in the cover letter comes off as exaggerated.

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