A thought-provoking article in this week’s Chronicle has given me the topic for this week’s blog and it’s a question that I really don’t know the answer to, so please help me (and thousands of jobseekers) out! Should you include information in your application about hobbies to make you sounded like a rounded, personable individual? Or should you pretend that you only live for your academic work and spend all your waking moments thinking about your research?!
My immediate reaction, and indeed that of a lot of commentators on the original piece, was under no circumstances should you include information about your quirky personal interests on an application form. Your chance to sell yourself as a real human being will come in the interview, should you be lucky enough to get that far. Anything else will only serve to put doubts into the hiring committee’s mind that you are not 100% dedicated to your career.
However, on the other side of the argument is the view that as academics we must try to show our individual creativity and demonstrate that we can fit in to a department with all its complexities of personality and faction. By giving away a little bit of yourself on the application form you show that you are employable and not, to quote the original piece, a ‘droid’!
I am not sure about this, hence the appeal for help from any readers of this blog. I am fairly conservative about these sorts of things I suppose. If you are desperate for the chance to show the hiring committee that there is a real person in there somewhere at application stage, then try contacting the head of department by email to ask about the job personally. They will remember you as keen and independent-minded and you have the chance to present your human face.
The danger with straying away from traditional information about teaching, research and administration on an application form is that with the increasing use of online applications and perhaps even automated sorting of applications, you run the risk of not including the right keywords. Your application should be a direct response to the person specification for the job, not a monologue about what a great human being you are. But maybe I am a little over cautious…if you have had success in the job market by telling the hiring committee about your passion for ferrets or whatever your hobby may be, then do let us know!