Differences between job applications in academia and in business
Job applications in academia and business in Germany
What helps you succeed in applying for a management position in the private sector might be a deal-breaker at university – and vice versa. In what way do applications in academia differ from those in business?
Application processes at universities differ in several respects from recruitment in companies. Here’s what you should always pay attention to in your application:
Applying from academia to business
What should your covering letter for jobs in business look like?
When submitting a written application for a job in a commercial enterprise, the most important thing is to present yourself as a person with your own qualifications and skills in a convincing yet individual way. Your covering letter should also reflect your motivation and enthusiasm for the particular position and activity. It should be formulated concisely on a maximum of one page, avoiding the usual clichés and phrases. Establish a relationship with the employer and present strong arguments that speak for you as the ideal candidate.
Try to attract the recipient’s attention and curiosity with a strong opening sentence, which may even be quirky or unconventional depending on the industry and job offered.
What should be considered in terms of your CV when applying for jobs in businesses?
Your CV forms the key element of your application if you’re applying for a job in the private sector. In contrast to the covering letter, the CV makes your application profile more specific and conveys the “hard facts” of your qualifications for the actual job.
It’s vital that your CV in tabular form is clearly laid out and well structured on a maximum of two pages – typically using the following categories: personal details, employment history, specialist knowledge, personal interests.
Your CV should always be kept up-to-date and adapted to the requirements of the advertised vacancy. It shouldn’t leave any gaps. Any period exceeding three months should be covered.
What attachments should I include in my application to a business?
A complete application to a company must include relevant attachments, which you should enclose with your documents.
It needs to contain any diplomas, (employment) references, certificates of further training and additional qualifications, evidence of any voluntary work as well as testimonials that emphasise that you as an applicant possess the decisive qualifications and competences for the job profile.
What happens after I’ve submitted the application documents?
If your written application has convinced the employer, they will usually contact you in good time and invite you for a second (and possibly even a third) round of interviews before the relevant personnel managers make their selection decision.
If you haven’t received any response or feedback of any kind within about three weeks of submitting your written application or even after your personal interview, it might be worth politely inquiring about your chances and about the status of the selection process. Making a personal phone call to the company demonstrates clear interest and initiative.
Applying from business to academia
What should the letter of application for jobs in academia look like?
In contrast to applications to commercial enterprises, covering letters written in an exuberant and quirky manner generally come across as rather dubious for academic roles. This is because universities and research institutions are on the lookout not for “edgy” executives but more for serious scholars qualified primarily by their academic knowledge and experience.
When it comes to your written application documents, especially in the case of appointment procedures, it’s not really worthwhile having an elaborately colour-coded layout for your documents designed to attract attention, since the folders are rarely browsed through by all the commission members themselves. Instead, appointment committees are guided by specially prepared synopses, i.e. tabular overviews that contain key information (e.g. age, research focus, number of publications, level of third-party funding acquired, etc.), allowing them to directly compare the individual applicants.
What do you need to bear in mind when writing your CV for jobs in academia?
When submitting your tabular CV for an application in academia, you should fully focus on your previous academic career. Focus on your research background and present it in a clear and comprehensible manner, so that all essential information about your qualification can be directly identified.
Especially when it comes to applications for a professorship, the rule of concision that’s so important in the private sector doesn’t apply to the same rigorous extent. Instead, the more projects and tasks you have in research and teaching, the more impressive your credentials will be. A multifaceted scholarly profile can easily fill several pages in a CV.
In contrast to applications in the private sector, having a career in academia without gaps in your professional biography doesn’t necessarily mean that each of your previous employment contracts must have followed on seamlessly from one to the next. It’s considered quite normal in many disciplines that there are also (shorter) phases of non-employment between two employment relationships, during which, for example, an application for follow-up funding is made.
Personal hobbies, commitments and memberships, i.e. the categories that signal to personnel managers in companies you have the “soft skills” that suit the job profile, are hardly relevant for scholarship. In many academic disciplines there’s a culture that there should basically be nothing in a serious scholar’s life besides their subject.
What attachments do I enclose with my application?
When applying for a position in academia, your application should include relevant diplomas and references from education and employment as well as a list of your scientific publications, projects, prizes and awards (with samples of your work where applicable), a list of supervised theses, proof of your teaching activities, a list of your teaching courses, a teaching concept where applicable and a list of third-party funding.
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What happens after I’ve submitted the application documents?
There are a number of procedural differences between applications in business and academia. Whereas businesses usually have an interest in filling vacancies relatively quickly, the wheels in the public sector tend to turn more slowly. It may well take one or two years after a professorship is advertised before the start of employment, although the personal assessment of the individual applicants is the least time-consuming phase. As opposed to businesses, the appointment committee is often satisfied with a one-off presentation of the candidates at the university so that it can get an idea of their qualifications. The travel expenses arising from interviews and job presentations are rarely reimbursed by universities, whereas this is a common practice in business.
It’s considered positive in many companies to follow up after the interview by calling to ask, for example, about the status of the proceedings. This practice is, however, quite uncommon at universities and colleges; it’s considered inappropriate and downright intrusive, especially in the context of university appointment procedures – restraint is therefore called for here. Detailed feedback on how well you performed and why your application wasn’t successful in this case is unfortunately still an exception in many sectors of business and academia.
academics - February 2019
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