Annals of Improbable Research, Vol. 7, No. 3 , pg. 16.

How to Write a Job Application

by Eric Schulman
Charlottesville, Virginia


Applying for jobs occupies a significant amount of time for recent PhDs, yet they receive little or no guidance on how to secure positions that are commensurate with their interests and talents. In this paper we propose a solution to this important problem.


In order for recent PhDs to write good applications for appropriate jobs, they must first be completely discouraged from applying for inappropriate jobs. This tends to happen after about the sixtieth rejection letter:
Thank you for applying for our faculty position. It is my unfortunate duty to relate that, though your credentials are interesting, we will not be considering your application further. We wish you success in securing a position commensurate with your interests and talents.

Sample Application for an Appropriate Job

NAME: Eric Schulman ___ ___ ARE YOU 18 OR OLDER? |X| YES | | NO, enter birthdate: ~~~ ~~~ HAVE YOU WORKED IN A ___ ___ McDONALD's RESTAURANT |X| NO | | YES, enter dates: BEFORE? ~~~ ~~~ SCHOOL MOST RECENTLY ATTENDED: The University of Michigan LAST GRADE COMPLETED: 5th year of graduate school ___ ___ GRADUATED? | | NO |X| YES, list diploma: Ph.D. in Astronomy ~~~ ~~~ SPORTS OR ACTIVITIES: Assistant director of the University of Michigan Astronomy Outreach Program. THREE MOST RECENT JOBS: REASON FOR LEAVING: Jansky Postdoctoral Fellow Three-year postdoc National Radio Astronomy Observatory ended Charlottesville, Virginia Instructor One-semester University of Virginia Department of Astronomy position ended Charlottesville, Virginia NASA Predoctoral Fellow Graduated University of Michigan Department of Astronomy Ann Arbor, Michigan ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: 60+ publications and presentations on topics in astronomy, astrophysics, computer science, science education and outreach, science humor, and scientific and technical writing. Member of the editorial board of the Annals of Improbable Research. Listed in Who's Who in Science and Engineering, 3rd Edition. Applied for, was awarded, and managed a $66,000 NASA research grant. Graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, with College Honors, and with Highest Departmental Honors in Astrophysics from UCLA. 15+ years of computer experience.


Applications such as the one shown above are relatively simple to write, yet the odds of getting the job are quite good (typically 70-95% instead of the 0.5-2% rate more characteristic of academic jobs). In such a position, recent PhDs can make new friends, receive great pay and benefits, have a work schedule that fits their needs, have opportunities for promotion and career growth, learn new and different skills, interact with a diverse group of people, and contribute to the success of an industry leader. It's time for universities to stop training their graduate students for the academic jobs that only a few will receive, and start preparing them for the careers that most PhDs will enter after graduation.