Open the Chronicle of Higher Ed and other such higher education journals and there are plenty of openings for tenure-track positions.This does not mean that it is easy to find a job! Finding a job of your liking in a school of your choice is both an art and a science.
Candidates are anixous and eager to find an ideal job. Search Committees, on the other hand, tell horror stories about candidates, from the arrogant to the flippant, from the well-prepared to the clueless, that could have had the job had they not blundered their way through the interview. Having served on more Search Committees than I care to confess, here are a few thoughts for the newly minted Ph.D. seeking the perfect job, or just a job.
Letterman style, here is a list of Top 10 Things to do to get your ideal job!
- Do a Spell Check. If there is a spelling error in your resume or cover letter, it is a strike against you. Why? Search committee members may come to many conclusions, none of which are flattering to you: candidate is not serious, is unprofessional, is mass mailing resumes, has no attention for detail, has no pride in his\her work, or did not graduate from high school!
- Provide accurate contact information. Candidates forget to include their phone number or email address or even worse, the last digit of the phone number is missing or the email bounces back. If you wish to be reached by the Search Committee, make life easy for them.
- Don’t insult the institution. If you are mass mailing your cover letter and vitae, take the time to change the name of the school on the cover letter. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen cover letters from candidates addressed to another school!
- Cover letters must be customized to the institution you are applying. Cover letters are not a summary of your accomplishments, but instead an opportunity for you to clearly articulate why you want a job with THIS department at THIS college in THIS University. This means you have to do your homework. You have to research the institution on the web and incorporate your findings in your cover letter.
- Read the job description, please! If your skill set does not match the requirements in the job description, it is unlikely you will be offered the position. Blood and sweat, besides political battles, go into drafting a job description. As a candidate, you should at least read it!
- Dress appropriately. An unironed shirt, a dirty tie, an untailored suit, noisy jewelry, dangling earrings, mini skirts, ungroomed hair are all distractions. If you want the full attention of the Search Committee to be on your accomplishments, and not on you, dress professionally and conservatively.
- Don’t interrupt. Many a promising candidate got the boot because he or she was rude and kept interrupting others. Speak only when the platform is yours. And when you get a chance to speak, keep your answers short. Long winded answers get you in trouble!
- Be enthusiastic. Some candidates walk in the door as if they are attending a funeral. They appear disengaged and expressionless. Although this may be because they are nervous, it can send the wrong message.
- Ask the right questions. When given the opportunity to ask questions, ask thoughtful questions. Ask questions that show your interest in the future of the program, the department, and the college. Ask questions about students, pedagogies, tenure and promotion, and service. Avoid questions about salary.
- Treat the staff well. Candidates sometimes will brush aside the department secretary in their eagerness to meet the Chair or Dean. It will be one of the most expensives you make, whether you get the job or not!