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How not to ask about a position

I moderate the SIGCSE-members mailing list. Among other things, the SIGCSE-members mailing list is a destination for advertisements of faculty jobs in CS. Recently, I posted a message for a colleague about positions at Swansea. I made it clear that I was posting for someone else. Hence, I was surprised to receive the following message [1].

Hello Sir

I am [Firstname Lastname], a graduate student pursuing Masters in Computer Science form University of [State]. My research has been in Computer Science Education and HCI.

Would you consider a Masters student for the position of Lecturers? Please let me know!



I’m polite [2]. I responded that they had sent the message to the wrong person. I also checked the ad and provided information from that ad. But what I really wanted to do was explain what was wrong with the message. Then I thought, What a great topic for a musing! [3] So, let’s take apart the letter and context point by point.

First, in a professional letter, one should greet the recipient by name. Hello Sir is better than nothing and certainly better than Yo Dude, but Dear Department Head Beckmann would be so much better [4]. Furthermore, if the writer had spent the time figuring out who they were addressing, they would have realized [5] that it shouldn’t be me.

Second, one should take care to make sure that the grammar and spelling in the letter are correct. Let’s see … The writer has used form instead of from and Lecturers instead of Lecturer. The article before the first instance of Masters also seems to be missing. Were I hiring, I would immediately put this person on the Reject pile.

Third, the posting contained at least four open positions, at least two of which might be of interest to a candidate with a background in HCI and Computer Science Education. It would be helpful to indicate which positions one is asking about.

Fourth, it appears that the letter writer did not bother to look at the advertisement. If they had, they would have seen the following requirements.

Essential criteria

  1. A PhD in Computer Science or equivalent
  1. A developing publication record in Computer Science commensurate with a Lecturer
  1. An understanding of research funding mechanisms and processes, including industry cooperation

OMG! The ad answers the writer’s question! They didn’t need to bother anyone. Not me. Not the people who posted the original advertisement.

Oh well, at least they sent me a nice thank you message for replying to them.

[1] The message also included the full text of the posting I had distributed. I have removed it because I don’t think it is necessary for this musing.

[2] Okay, I can be polite.

[3] Maybe my muse is back.

[4] Beckmann’s name is on the advertisement.

[5] Or realised.

Version 1.0 of 2017-03-27.