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I was talking to some colleagues at work and they strongly advised me to contact people that I know at the universities I applied and let them know that I submitted my application and have interest in joining their departments.

I thought about writing a message but I struggle on what I should ask them specifically. I don’t want to look as I am asking for a favor or being inappropriate. Any 'example' or comment on this will be very valuable.

  • I read and was told by some that it may be better to avoid such letters since many are sending them. – Thomas Lee Feb 10 '15 at 19:46
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It is a good idea to reach out to your connections at the places you apply. You want to

  • let them know that you are applying,
  • express your enthusiasm about the place,
  • remind them briefly about your research,
  • ask them to bring the application to the attention of their colleagues on the search committee.

For example:

Dear Susan [or Dr. Williams, if you are not on a first-name basis],

I was intrigued to see the recent advertisement for a faculty position in the area of cosmological neuroeconomics in your department. While I have a year left on my postdoc, your program matches my interests so well that I did not want to pass up the opportunity to apply. Moreover, I've always loved New England and would leap at a chance to move back to the area.

I know we had a chance to talk about my work on hypothetical ultimatum games in extraterrestrial populations at the San Francisco meeting last summer, but you may not know that I've started to move into the area of inflationary neuroimaging. I have [list a few findings or directions here]. As such, I feel that I would bring an important set of skills to your department that is already so strong in this area.

If you think that I might be a good fit for your department, I'd be most grateful if you would bring my application to the attention of your colleagues on the search committee.

Best wishes and see you at AACNE in Chicago next summer.

Sincerely,

John Smith

You are not asking for a special favor or doing anything inappropriate. Instead, you are doing your colleague a favor by letting her know that your application is in the pool, and you are doing their department a favor by helping them sort through the hundreds of applications that a department may receive.

  • 1
    I would try to keep such an email much shorter. – Kimball Feb 10 '15 at 3:16
  • I don't think it is worth contacting people who you are not on a first name basis with, but maybe that is because in my field everyone uses first names. – StrongBad Feb 10 '15 at 9:37
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In some ways you have waited too long. Having contacts in a department are most valuable before you apply when they can tell you things that let you tailor your applicant. They might have classes they need taught or may be looking to expand into a particular new research area or strengthen an existing area.

You say you are not asking for a favour, but that really is what networking is about. It is not inappropriate to ask someone to put in a good word for you, and after the application is submitted, that is really all they can do. In order for the person to be able to out in a good word, they are going to need to know your research, or potentially teaching if it is a teaching heavy university. Sending them your research statement and CV would let them look it over and be able to make a comment about you to the search committee. Telling a search committee "I know Marco from conferences and he seems like a nice guy" is not as useful as "I know Marco from conferences and while he hasn't used the technique we are really looking for, the techniques he used in his XXX paper are relevant and the work is really strong."

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