Following the opposite factors described in answers to the question What makes securing faculty positions difficult?, I came to conclusion that an application for an academic position should be balanced. It is understandable that there is a high competition for faculty positions, and a qualified applicant may be not even invited for interview; thus, everyone tries to even overestimate his/her achievements.

However, the interesting points in answers to the above-mentioned question was that too good application might scare the committee, then preferring not to take a risk. Thus, an exceptional application will be simply ignored.

In addition to obvious evidences in the CV, how to highlight exceptional features in the cover letter? For example, potential research achievements, which are not obvious in the CV, promising plans, etc.

Or the strategy must be in this direction to convince the committee that this superstar applicant is a good chance for your department!

  • how to highlight exceptional features in the cover letter? — Nobody reads cover letters. I think you mean your research and teaching statements.
    – JeffE
    Mar 6 '13 at 19:52
  • @JeffE what about an administrative role such as department chair or dean? Then, there is no research and teaching statements, but a cover letter stating administrative experiences and abilities.
    – Googlebot
    Mar 6 '13 at 22:50
  • I was on the committee for with my department's last head search. Yes, applicants most definitely submitted research statements, along with other statements describing their service/administrative experience and their vision for the department/field. I don't remember if there were cover letters.
    – JeffE
    Mar 7 '13 at 6:10
  • @JeffE then it would be useful if you post an answer describing your experience for dealing with exceptional cases (as quoted on the question). Real experiences can reveal vague points in this issue (whether being too good is bad?)
    – Googlebot
    Mar 7 '13 at 8:54

One non-surprising way to help your application rise to the top is to have your advisor or another letter-writer contact a colleague they know at a school you're interested in and give you a good word in person (obviously not always an option).

If you are really in the position where you are "too good," then you should follow the advice in the other thread you mentioned, and explicitly spell out in your cover letter why you want to work at a particular institution.

  • 2
    Your first paragraph stated a very subtle and important issue. This means that personal trust is still more effective than formal documents.
    – Googlebot
    Mar 6 '13 at 22:53

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