Postdoc application tips?

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In our newest “how can we help you?” thread, a reader asks:

I find postdocs to be the most opaque jobs to apply for in terms of what criteria might be used to assess my application. I’m specifically talking about postdocs, fellow, or JRF-type jobs that are not focused on a specific/defined research project. Often, these job ads are very short and the department websites can be more undergrad-focused, which makes saying anything about working there or what I would bring to the table speculative and genera at best.

Are there any specific things that committees look for? Any things you would include or mention in those applications’ cover letters or research statements? (To clarify, I don’t have publications to highlight yet. So, I know that would be an obvious thing to highlight. I’m looking for less obvious things to mention.) Does having fewer research programs discussed in more depth the way to go or is it better to have many projects? (The second strategy may increase one’s chances of having something catch a committee’s eye. But, the first strategy could be better in many other ways.)

It would be very helpful to hear tips and advice from people who were successful in landing postdocs like this (e.g., Society of Fellows, MIT’s Stalnaker postdoc, etc.). Also, if any search committees have any suggestions for applicants (or their pet peeves to signal *what not to do*), that would be great too!

Good questions! Another reader submitted the following reply:

You absolutely have to have publications for post docs, and especially the Society of Fellows, etc. Alternatively you have to come from an Ivey league school – Harvard, Princeton, Yale. You are not competitive for these elite post docs without a great track record upon graduation.

Maybe this is true, though I guess I’m doubtful that flat generalizations like these tend to be true. Anyway, it might be helpful to hear from others, particularly those who (as the OP notes) have been successful in landing postdocs, but also from people who hire postdocs. Any helpful tips for the OP and others in their position?

Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More

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