I recently received the following request related to teaching-focused institutions and the job market. Given the mysterious aspects of the job market, some input from those who've recently served on hiring committees would likely be useful to many grad students in our profession.
For those of you at teaching-oriented institutions, how do you rank the importance of the various elements of an application: Cover letter, CV, letters of recommendation, teaching philosophy (or teaching portfolio), writing sample? I’ve been told (from someone in my department) that focusing on the cover letter is a waste of time, but all of the general advice I’ve seen regarding cover letters (e.g. in books on the academic job search and in the Chronicle) is that they are quite important, particularly for non-research institutions. I just had a dean and faculty members from local 2- and 4-year institutions (one in philosophy, two in science) tell me that they don’t look at anything else unless they like the cover letter. They like to get a sense
of voice and a sense that the applicant understands their institution (as well as addressing the requirements listed in the job ad). Is this your experience as well, or do you weight things differently?
We’ve also been told by recent speakers (who work at research institutions) that if we’re interested in teaching-oriented colleges, that we should be careful to avoid publishing in top-notch journals, because that will hurt our chances of getting an interview. That seems quite
counter-intuitive to me, but I wonder if that is more true if you are sending out a generic cover letter.