As you likely know from search committee work at your own institution, an initial review of applications will include dozens or even hundreds of candidates. This initial evaluation is based heavily upon conclusions and opinions derived from reading your materials.
Furthermore, the résumé rather than the cover letter is the first document reviewed by shrewd search committee members and search firm consultants. We begin with the résumé to determine whether you meet the minimum requirements for the position, such as an earned doctorate or terminal degree, and/or a specific number of years of experience.
- All titles, dates of employment, and educational degrees as well as other details (articles, presentations) must be accurate and verifiable. Frequently, finalist candidates are surprised during background checks when dates of employment are off by a month or two (a minor issue) or degrees are not verifiable (a major concern!).
- You likely have a basic CV or résumé already, perhaps one that complies with your institution’s format preferences for tenure or other performance reviews. If you are looking toward administrative roles, however, move your relevant experience to the front of the résumé, immediately after your degrees, rather than several pages into the document.
- Bear in mind that search committees tend to be composed of a wide range of constituents. Each one—faculty member, trustee, staff member, student, community representative—will bring a slightly different perspective to the review process. Each one brings a different perspective on higher education. His or her experience may be focused on a single institution. Don’t assume that every committee member will be familiar with your current (or previous) institution, even if it is prominent or highly ranked.
- If your institution has some degree of “name recognition,” a committee member's perceptions of it may be outdated, erroneous, or limited to a specific, well-known program or athletic team.
- We recommend that you include a brief description of your institution in order to orient the reader. The description can include Carnegie classification, enrollment, location, and other distinguishing characteristics, as appropriate, such as external research funding, number of campuses, highlights of the institutional mission, accomplishments, and/or highly ranked programs.
- For example: “XYZ institution is an urban research university enrolling more than 30,000 students as part of a state system of higher education. It comprises 12 colleges, including the state’s only medical school. Annual external research funding exceeds $ZZZ million.
- Likewise, include a full description of the position in which you currently serve. Too frequently, we see résumés that include only a title and a brief (if any) description of responsibilities, leaving committee members unclear or even puzzled as to the duties and scope of authority. As you are probably aware, even standard position titles such as “Chair,” “Dean,” and “Vice President” are used for positions that are defined very differently from one another.
- For example, explain that, as Chair, you have budget responsibilities on your campus; or, that as Executive Director, you report to the president and are a part of the senior staff; or that as Dean, you are the chief academic officer at your institution. We encourage candidates to include details such as: reporting relationships (whom you report to and the number and/or titles of those reporting directly to you); scale of the division, department, or office you oversee, such as the size of faculty and/or staff, size of the budget, and other important statistical metrics; and primary position responsibilities and duties.
- Don't forget to describe your accomplishments while in the role! These can be solo accomplishments, or team accomplishments, or even efforts that you oversaw in your leadership role. Think of this list as describing the results of your leadership and your contribution to the role and to the institution.