Open letter to an Indian student

Open letter to an Indian student

Every once in a while I receive an e-mail from a student willing to do a McS or PhD thesis in my group. Most of the time they are students from India. They are extremely polite and quite often they have attractive CVs (well, occasionally people forget to actually attach the CV). However, I have never answered such a letter. Those of you who are wondering why, please, go on reading.

The reason why I do no reply to such e-mails is because they look much as spam to me. I know they are not spam, but, in a way, they are. Or at least one gets the impression he or she is being spammed. One gets the impression, right or wrong, that the candidate is sending hundreds, maybe thousands, of such letters every week without much caring about the identity of the recipient. And one does not even need to be a Sherlock Holmes to reach to this conclusion because:

1) The name of the recipient is never written on the e-mail.

2) Nor it is the name of the Department/Institution.

3) There is no specific reference to the research the recipient is carrying out.

4) There is no specific reference on why the candidate is interested in that particular area or research.

5) The candidate does not provide specific information/examples on how he or she thinks he can contribute to the particular activities of the research team.

6) The CV is not tailored for the particular position he/she is applying for.

7) I am not Dear Professor, please, stop calling me that.

I my humble opinion, from my own experience, it would be much more effective to send a smaller amount of targeted letters:

0) Carefully select a few teams you are really interest to collaborate with.

1) Make sure to mention the name of the person as well as that of the institution (if you are lazy, write a small script to do so).

2) Give the impression you know something about the research projects being carried out by the group. Mention explicitly those that are more appealing for you.

3) Do not hesitate to propose your own project, if you have any idea for one (you can send some ideas in an annexe).

4) Explain, maybe with specific examples, how do you think you can contribute to the research activities of the team (once again, be as specific as possible, within the limits of brevity and clarity).

5) Tailor your CV to the specific position your are applying for (rearrange it, remove irrelevant stuff and highlight the most relevant, namely publications which maybe of interest for the recipient of the letter).

6) Make sure you are writing to the right person(s) from the department/team.

7) Be as brief and clear as possible.

8 ) Preferentially, choose a more portable format such as PDF, rather than DOC/DOX.

I guess this takes a bit more work than just spamming. However, not only you will be increasing your chances or being contacted, but, in case you are, you will also have more chances to end up being involved in a more interesting research project in a more pleasant environment.

Good luck.