When applying for a faculty position, you and many of the other candidates may all have the same research-type background. So how to distinguish yourself? Marty Wall, a faculty advisor at the University of Victoria’ Learning and Teaching Centre, advises grad students to work on their teaching experience.
Obviously it’s no surprise to say that if they can establish themselves in the research area that they are working in with or without their supervisor, that’s a major thing. And most graduate students, these days, by the time they get to their dissertation are already engaged in research. Most of them have this kind of experience. Some of them have even presented at conferences, or have published already – jointly or even on their own. So that’s a given.
But I think one area which is often overlooked is that when it comes to the hiring process, if you have several individuals, all of whom have great research backgrounds, and you can’t distinguish one from the other that much – you are going to start to look at other things. What, for example? Ah, teaching! The chair wants to know that you can help the department and that you have experience and that you will bring that kind of teaching experience with you. And therefore you will benefit the students and the department as a whole that way, and even play a leadership role when it comes to teaching.
Lots of graduate students don’t have any such experience; they may have been a TA at the most. But if they have a certificate program in teaching like they have here at UVic, if they’ve already prepared a teaching dossier with a good teaching narrative statement – they are well on their way. They will competitive. That is very impressive to a hiring committee, and to the chair of the department. You can be useful. It also shows that you are able to play on a team with other people very effectively. And again, as a chair, I am interested in people who can get along with others, who can operate with others in a team situation, whether it is co-teaching, or operating on committees, or whatever. And if you’ve had that kind of experience, that puts you way ahead.
The other thing is that your cover letter and your teaching dossier have to be almost flawless. Your cover letter is the first thing that anybody on the hiring committee looks at. It has to be flawless. It has to look good. It has to address the criteria that were laid out for the nature of the position. It has to look like you wrote the letter not generically, but specifically to this department. And you are addressing your experience in terms of what the demands of the job are and you meet those criteria as much as possible.