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Job applications and recruitment processes

Regardless of whether your postdoc chooses to stay within or move beyond academia, as their manager you can help support them to make their next step.

On this page you’ll find resources designed to help you to guide your postdoc to navigate job applications and recruitment processes. You aren’t expected to know everything, but being aware of the things your postdoc should be aware of when it comes to applying for jobs can make a huge difference to your postdoc’s chances of success.

Recruitment processes

Understanding how the recruitment process works will enable you to support your researcher in their next career move. The recruitment process can vary considerably, especially when considering the differences between academia and jobs in other sectors.  

Your postdoc might feel overwhelmed with the amount of information that can be found online, so directing them to some of the resources available on Prosper can be a good start

Resources in the Act sectionArrow pointing right

This short video gives you a flavour of some of the steps they may have to go through, and some conversation prompts for you to support them in their search. You should keep in mind that:  

  • There are numerous ways for postdocs to find their next job, including job sites, recruiters, LinkedIn and identifying and targeting specific organisations. 
  • Recruitment processes differ within and beyond academia, although a CV and a cover letter or supporting statement is the typical first stage. 
  • Interviews can take a variety of formats and knowing what to expect is crucial in performing well. 
  • Discussing with postdocs their approach for job hunting and their applications is a resource-light method of support. 

Curriculum vitae (CVs)  

Curriculum vitae (CVs) lie at the heart of almost every job application and there are easy things that PIs and line managers can do to help their postdocs produce an impressive CV for any application. The most important thing to know is that there are different CV types for different sectors and submitting an incorrect CV type will strongly reduce your postdoc’s chances of success. 

We’ve highlighted the three most relevant types of CV to be aware of below, expand the crosses to find out about them: 

CVs can be very different

As you’ll be aware, CVs can be very different depending on the role, sector and country they are targeted at – is your postdoc aware of these differences?
Most university careers development and advice services focus on CVs beyond academia and can be a resource for postdocs looking for CV support for roles beyond academia. You might be the best source of information on academic CVs for your postdoc, particularly for the specific field you work in. You can also signpost your postdoc to Prosper’s Postdoc ACT section where they can access resources on how to create the perfect CV for any role.


Does your postdoc know the differences between CV types? You could offer to review their CV for them – even a 30 second skim can identify what stands out for the reader. Are they missing any of their key skills or attributes? 

Further information on CVs for managers of researchers

For a manager’s guide to CVs and suggested conversation prompts and exercises, download our 1-page CV Briefing. 

You can also watch our brief CV video aimed at managers of researchers below:

Cover Letters 

A cover letter should be sent with every CV application unless the employer or job advert states not to. 

Where a CV demonstrates skills and experience, a cover letter puts this into the context of the job role, showing motivation and ability to perform the job. It should show enthusiasm for the organisation, informed by research the applicant has done on the hiring organisation. 

As a manager you should be aware that your postdoc will likely need to write a cover letter and that there are some differences between cover letters for academic roles and those for roles beyond academia. We’ve summed up the main differences in the table below but Prosper’s Postdoc Cover Letter section has lots of information for postdocs looking to write cover letters for roles within and beyond academia. 

Academic cover letterNon-academic cover letter
Maximum length2 pages1 page
ContentExplains applicant’s interest in role and provides detail on applicant’s research interests and experience. Explains applicant’s interest in the role and organisation, and how they’ll benefit the organisation and team they’d be joining. 

For academic cover letters there can be differences in employer expectations of cover letters between disciplines and between countries. You are best placed to know any particulars within your own discipline and your postdoc should do their research if looking to apply for an academic role in another country.  


Is your postdoc aware of the differences between academic and non-academic cover letters? You could signpost them to Prosper’s Postdoc Cover Letter resources. You could also offer to read and provide feedback on any cover letters your postdoc writes for applications – are they selling themselves short? 


Dolan, R. (2017) When targeting non-academic jobs, does your resume communicate the right message? https://doi.org/10.1093/femsle/fnx063  

Ladders (2018) Eye-tracking Study. https://www.theladders.com/static/images/basicSite/pdfs/TheLadders-EyeTracking-StudyC2.pdf 

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