Job application advice

October 5th, 2014 | Posted by skolysh in - (Comments Off on Job application advice)

This is a write-up of the workshop for applying to tenure track jobs which took place on Oct 2nd 2014. 

For the Job Market event, Professors Juan Battle and Phil Kasinitiz led the meeting where two recently hired GC soc alums Laura and Calvin shared some of their experiences. Soc students then asked a variety of questions. Below is a quick summary:

There are a lot of people applying for jobs but it’s not as competitive as you may think. Our program is doing better in recent years as far as job placements. It may be better to go on the job market when the dissertation is nearly done.

The job market is earlier in the year now. Example: for Fall 2016 jobs, there will be a call out from Aug-Oct 2015 but some schools, including CUNY, put out calls in Nov-Jan. Many of your professors don’t know this timeline so it’s up to you to pay attention. Join ASA, get job bulletin.

While most jobs are Tenure Track, there are 1 year, 2 year, post-doc positions that can roll over into Tenure Track. This is especially true for areas away from metropolitan areas, where adjuncts are less available. What they’ll want: a cover letter, a CV, 3 recommendations, a writing sample, statement of research and statement of teaching. A lot of it gets uploaded online.

Hired Alum 1, Laura: She went on the job market in 2012 w/o finishing her dissertation in order to get a post-doc which she didn’t receive; in the process, she did receive a Tenure Track position and completed and defended her dissertation later on. Since she has two kids (both of which she had in grad school), which meant no time for playing around and quantitative skills, she thought she could support herself until she finds work. When she was on the job market, she had some reports published, co-authored a book chapter and had a couple of book reviews.

She mentioned that when preparing a package, you do a good job in the beginning and then tailor the package for each job opening. This way, it will be a lot of work initially but not as much work later on. She advises to make sure there are no errors and to hire a proofreader. She mentioned that all schools are teaching schools so your teaching should be first in the cover letter, then a research agenda and then service. Sometimes, the search committee will only look at a CV in order to weed out those they really don’t want and they will be looking for courses taught that they themselves don’t want to teach. Because we, as CUNY grad students, are very strong in our teaching, it is definitely a plus.

Once you book a job interview, be likeable, don’t mention your research too much and don’t mention that you have kids too much since that isn’t well received in academia, in her opinion. Instead of talking about your research, talk about the research of your search committee during mini-talks (breakfasts, lunch, coffee times). You may also give a teaching presentation to a class of students in front of their department and, if you prepare, you’ll be fine. Once, a colleague of hers made placards for the students so she can call on them by name and everyone loved that, so add more interactive elements into your teaching presentation.

There may also be a research presentation or a job talk. Keep it short: though they’ll say you have 30-40 minutes, you should only use up 15-20 and leave the rest for people’s comments and questions. The research presentation is not a dissertation defense nor is it a conference presentation. It is only a snippet of your best work from the dissertation, which you should call research/work/scholarship. Do not go over your dissertation chapter by chapter – that can get you disqualified. Dress appropriately, wear a suit. If you don’t have any publications, submit something right before your interviews so you can say something is under review.

Hired Alum 2, Calvin: Graduated in 2013, has Tenure Track job at Montclair. When he went on the job market, he put together recommendation deadlines in a single PDF for his professors so they can stay on top of things. When it came to teaching and research statements, make it no longer than 1 page, single-spaced, since no one generally reads beyond 1 page, according to Professor Battle. Make sure to use the correct school name, department and address on each document. When it comes to teaching evaluations, both faculty and student, put the top 3-4 into a single PDF document and only provide it if a school specifically asks you to provide teaching evaluations.

If you have taught many classes, make sure to note that on your teaching statement. If you do not have any publications when going on the job market, make sure you submit an article before so that you may say it’s under review or hopefully forthcoming. You can then ask the publisher to halt the date of the publication so that you can use that article in your 1st year work package. When it comes to job interviews, remember you are always ‘on’ as long as you are on that campus. When giving your job talk, mention your research and a solid future research agenda and that you can get grants and that your work can also help out undergraduate students, if possible.

During the year you are on the job market, make sure to communicate with your dissertation committee and set standards for yourself in order to get things done. That last year is difficult because you may be writing your dissertation and teaching and applying for jobs but you have to make sure to check in with your advisor. Checking in is important because a lot of your callbacks will happen because someone in those schools knows someone on your committee. Consider, too, applying to other departments besides sociology and to interdisciplinary departments.

The floor was then opened up to questions. Students were interested in what should go into cover letters. It was suggested that the top 5 things about you should go into the 1-1 ½ pages, single-spaced. Include the most recent and most important of all the things you did at CUNY. Tailor it later.

Sometimes, the search committee will only look through the cover letter, so it’s important to have a good cover letter. It is especially important to include a specific sum of your accumulated grants and funding and tuition remission, etc. Make sure to also mention publications, teaching and service. Finally, if you are willing to relocate, make sure to make that explicit and say why, so it is believable.

It is important to know what you do not want because you don’t want to take just any job. Don’t chase jobs that you are not qualified to do or departments that do not align with your research at all. Remember deadlines are very important, the due date is the absolute due date, even if it says until filled, which is usually done for HR reasons and not for you. If you are unsure, you can always call the department and see if the position is still available.

When it comes to publications, though there is a hierarchy of publications (dissertation chapters published better than side projects published; specific journals better than others, etc), any publication is better than none. Again, best to put that you have things in preparation, under review, forthcoming. Try to submit for publication as you write your dissertation chapters.

As far as your social media accounts, clean them up. Make sure to Google yourself to see what comes up. Make a website where you have a CV and other content. If you are not yet on the job market, think strategically about your topic (has to fit what is being sought out there) and committee (pick those that will go to bat for you on the job market, not just those that make you feel good.)

Research-related services

January 2nd, 2014 | Posted by kobyoppenheim in - (Comments Off on Research-related services)

Transcription: (from listserv discussion Jan 2014)

1a) I used QuickScribe a transcription company in Ghana. Their website is: I uploaded my audio files–saved under pseudonyms–via their website and/or a link they provided. (I found this company after the American transcription companies that I tried to work with did not do a good job trying to understand and subsequently transcribe interviews that included immigrants with accents (mine and the interviewees). 

I always dealt with Claude Annoh ( The general email is 
I paid $30 per audio hour; I believe it is not $40 per audio hour. Payments were done through paypal. I know that other GC students have also used QuickScribe.
1b) For a dissenting opinion of QuickScribe, I could not have been less satisfied with their output. It was fairly clear that they did little more than run my interviews through a transcription program that was, put simply, awful. Had they used the program and then had a human transcriber then go over the audio to correct the program’s errors, that may have been acceptable, but the output I received was so full of garbled nonsense that it was practically unusable. It’s going to cost me a couple hundred bucks just to basically make them go away. And the “discounted” price they quoted me was around $40/hour. Your mileage may vary, but beware. Personally I found it a very good object lesson in the dangers of globalization and outsourcing!
2) A plug for my brother’s transcription company, Transcribblers. Based in NYC. Competitive. Tell him that Kate sent you and you get an extra 10 cents off.

3) I have recently had a very good experience with Averbach

It seems to be a pretty small outfit. When I called an actual person answered and when I told them I was an academic they gave me a discounted price. Of course I checked the transcripts and I found very few errors or missteps. And my interviews had dialect and slang usage. The website it not the best interface. I had much better luck when I just called. I was really happy with the service and would/will use it again. I THINK the rate they gave me was $1.30/recorded minute but I am not sure.

Teaching Research Methods

November 12th, 2013 | Posted by chrissy in - (Comments Off on Teaching Research Methods)
Documentaries/Films for a Methods Class
Youtube Clips of Milgram
Kinsey (the movie)
Miss Ever’s Boys is a great film / play about Tuskegee.

William Whyte’s “The Social Life of Small Urban Places” is a good example of ethnography.  More micro-sociology.  A great docu, 1 hour long, and available on Vimeo:

There’s a documentary on the Tuskegee experiment called the Deadly Deception (about 1 hr long, but you could also show parts). It’s available on Youtube.  The documentary itself is a bit old (1992, maybe?), but it’s a good one. It does a really thorough job showing how many times over the tenure of the experiment subjects were taken advantage of and/or refused treatment, and how researchers justified it to themselves, even after the justifications were clearly irrelevant.

Tips on GC Spaces

July 9th, 2013 | Posted by Brenden Beck in - (Comments Off on Tips on GC Spaces)

Hi First Years!

Don’t be shy about poking around the nooks and crannies of the GC.  There are staff lounges, wellness centers, cafes, and media centers to use.   The stairwells are the #1 make out spot.  Ok, that’s a lie.

Don’t worry about walking the wrong way when you get out of the elevators.  We all still do it.  Sometimes when I realize I’m walking the wrong way I just commit and pretend like I meant to. It might help to remember that the doors that are the shorter distance from the elevators lead to the soc lounge because “shorter” and “sociology” both start with “s”.  Mnemonic!

The Sociology Lounge
Lounge/read/work/eat on the couches and at the long table there.  It’s our space to use. Remember who is in ear-shot though.

The computers behind the Soc Lounge
I don’t think I walked back to where the six computers are until my second month at the GC.  Those computers are for students to use.  Sometimes the vibe back there can be more “study break” than “laser-like focus”, but as sociologists we know spaces’ norms and behaviors can shift, so who knows what the vibe’ll be fall 2013.

DSC Rooms
The Doctoral Students’ Council has two rooms on the 5th floor that can be reserved and relaxed in. See the DSC services page for info on the rooms and browse the DSC website for info on lockers, the wellness center, and other spaces.  There was some drama at the end of the Spring ’13 semester with the administration when they suggested those rooms might get taken away, so this info might be dated.

The Thesis Room
Is that closet-y room across from the mailboxes with the blue books in it.  You can reserve the room to use.  I think.  I’ve never done so.

The 6th floor kitchen
It’s a kitchen.  Use it!  Label your food though obvs.  That little boiling water spigot is great.  You might run into David Harvey there refilling his water bottle.

The library is great.  There are three floors (basement, first, second).  Walk around ’em all to find your fave spots.  Don’t make the leather chairs along the 35th street window your fave spot, though.  I totally called dibs.  Another joke!  The computers in the basement and on the second floor are the most useful because they can print and have all the software.  The computers right there when you first walk in on the first floor are less helpful.

The 8th floor cafeteria
Definitely the sunniest indoor lunch spot in midtown.  I’ve been told there are food deals at the cafe.  There is definitely a salad bar.  Even if you bring your lunch, it’s a chill zone.

The 1st floor auditoriums
Sometimes there are events in these though often they are not related to the PhD programs.

1st Floor Café
It has an offish name that I forget.  The tables and chairs are back there and open to all and the #1 vending machine choice for me is the vanilla crème cookies.

The C Level
Where your orientation probably was I needn’t elaborate.

Other floors besides the 6th
Where the other programs are!  Explore them at your own peril.  I hear Educational Psychology has free iPads and a fountain of liquid chocolate in their lounge.

Hope this helped.


The FMC isn’t scary.

June 27th, 2013 | Posted by erins in - (Comments Off on The FMC isn’t scary.)

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. I was one of the student reps on the FMC this past year (2012-13) and will be on the committee again for 2013-14. I’m happy to talk to anyone about the FMC process, email me at But read below first:

– The FMC holds most of us up a bit (or a lot). I did my orals in fall 2010 and did not bring my proposal to the FMC until Feb 2013. That’s a long time. I took the do-research-first approach that I think can really work for some people, especially those doing qualitative work that will involve interviews and field work. Trying to write a proposal that gives detailed information about what you’re doing and why without first having done some research was, for me, really hard. At the same time, the is supposed to be a proposal, not an introductory chapter. What the FMC members want can be a bit difficult to navigate, but they generally seem to want you to propose your research while also having a strong background in what you plan to do.

– BUT! No matter how you decide to do your proposal, remember to think of this as a useful exercise in a) concise writing, b) a start of an intro chapter, and c) great practice for taking criticism. No everyone will like your work, but just about everyone is giving helpful and supportive feedback on the terms of your project (not totally judging it based on their work or field). Go into the room with responses to the key points the committee members made (especially if multiple members commented on similar issues), and keep it short (5-10min MAX). Treat it like a conversation similar to orals.

– The page limit is 15. Don’t go over 18, but don’t go any shorter. Again, what the committee wants can make this difficult to negotiate. Your longest sections should be the methods (be as clear and complete as possible… explicit) and what you’re doing, what you’re looking at, and why it matters. Keep the literature/theory section short but fairly comprehensive in order to situate your work, but don’t go crazy here. It’s a great section to work a lot on, even getting 10 pages of just lit/theory, but know you’ll have to cut it. But it’s great to have so you can insert it back in for the start of an intro chapter.

– You will feel so much freer once you have done your proposal. You are then officially ABD and on your own! It’s a great feeling. You’re then only working and writing for you (and your committee, but they probably already like what you do) and don’t have to worry about so many other opinions.

– Relatedly, one final note on writing – keep really topic-specific jargon to a minimum. Seriously. Don’t get overly theoretical, or overly methodological, or overly anything. You’re speaking to a wide variety of knowledges.

I’m happy to talk to anyone about the FMC, or look over proposals, send you mine, anything you need. But don’t spend a year writing it. I think I spent about 2-3 months putting semi-serious time into it (as much as someone who teaches and does lots of other things can). Do it and move on! Take it seriously as something that can be useful for you (not just a hoop to jump through), but don’t let it slow you down.

(Posted by Erin Siodmak 6/27/13, also under Level 3 Advice)

June 27th, 2013 | Posted by erins in - (Comments Off on )

Tips from a 3rd year student

June 16th, 2013 | Posted by skolysh in - (Comments Off on Tips from a 3rd year student)

Tips for First Years

I write this as an almost 3rd year student so I’ve had some time to reflect. I remember feeling very positive feelings towards the department during my first semester though I was becoming increasingly frustrated with how precarious our financial situation is, given unstable adjunct teaching and lack of consistent funding. By the end of my first year, however, many of my positive feelings were gone. Instead, I became more level-headed, cautious and focused on getting through the program as quickly as possible. I no longer saw rainbows everywhere but was, in retrospect, better at being a PhD student. Here are my tips for First Years:

1. Think of yourself as an independent scholar with worthy ideas right away. I know it is easy to think, ‘Oh, I have some years of coursework, I will take lots of classes and people will help me along the way and I will be inspired and some day later on, I will start writing my own work and get my own results and/or create my own theory.’ But the time to think of yourself as a productive member of the academe is RIGHT NOW. It was my professor of Intro to Queer Studies here at the GC that nudged me to consider my thoughts as already sociological and valid and to not hide behind literature reviews. He encouraged me to reflect on my own experiences (where relevant), to expand my own analysis of whatever issue I was writing about and to always think of my papers as stage 1 projects – that is, papers that can be turned into publishable work. I kept thinking, ‘But I’m not THERE yet.’ And just like with considering children, you’ll never really feel ready so you might as well begin building your confidence. You are going to need it. Because I want you to present your papers asap and I want you to start attending conferences asap and I want you to become immersed in it all asap, so that it does not overwhelm you at some later point, when you will actually be doing a wider range of things/projects with your time.


2. Now, having worthy ideas is one thing. Being able to write them down in a coherent fashion is another. And let’s face it – no one is really going to teach you how to write while you are here at the Graduate Center. The assumption is that you are perfectly capable of churning out 20-30 page papers for 3-4 classes/semester; not only that, but the writing will be of graduate-level quality and provide insight. Regardless of your previous academic career or field of study, figuring out how to accomplish any of these goals will hit you hard, like a brick. Most of your energy will be spent on actually getting all your stuff in on time, with appropriate lengths. A lot less of your energy will be spent on making sure what you’re writing about makes sense throughout the paper, that all the paragraphs are necessary, and that your paper is offering something new to the field. You’ll think, ‘it’s just a final paper, no big deal.’ And maybe you didn’t even like what you wrote. However, if you remember my tip # 1 above, these papers CAN and SHOULD be reconsidered and re-written for publication. It’s taken me some time and lots of advice from Barbara Katz-Rothman to realize that nothing I write is a throw-away project; everything should be turned into something. ALL of your final papers, including the ones you write during your first year, should be presented at conferences and submitted for publication. It does not matter if they are accepted or not, it helps you get into the spirit of things, into always thinking of your work as worthy of sharing.


3. So, how does one improve their writing when most faculty are unwilling to go through each of your papers, paragraph by paragraph? Short of getting professional help, get together with another colleague or a group of your peers so that you can look over each other’s work, edit each other’s work and figure out each other’s writing flaws and pluses. We did this a lot in our Writing for Publication class but, because that class is not required, not everyone learns its lessons. It may seem like a lot to ask of your peers but I firmly believe in helping each other get through the PhD program, in encouraging each other and putting in time for other people. Of course, it is hard to have another person look over your writing but remember everyone thinks their stuff is not the best unless they are completely arrogant and, therefore, misinformed about their work. So, find a person that is kind and will offer constructive criticism and listen to their advice. If you do not like their style of writing, editing or advice, listen to it anyway. I learned that lots of different kinds of people will interact with your work, through peer-review and the such, so you have to figure out how to cater to them all, in a way. You also have to figure out how to write for your project or your source. Writing an op-ed is different from writing an article which is different from writing a fellowship grant proposal. Another thing to remember when trying to improve one’s writing is to keep reading and to read prolifically. That is, you have to read a lot of things in your discipline to get a feel for how people write and to read a lot of things outside your discipline to get a feel for how other humans write and what other humans read. Everyone in sociology always complains about incomprehensible writing and how language should be accessible. Regardless of your position on either point, you should figure out how to write for different audiences. And trust me, take the Writing for Publication course, preferably in your 2nd or 3rd year.


4. Learning how to write well or how to write better is in direct conflict with managing finals week and having many papers due. At that point, you are panicked and grumpy; it doesn’t matter to you if you are going to at some point submit this article for publication. You just want to be done with the semester. If you are a full-time student taking 3 or 4 courses, there is a good reason to feel that way. It is incredibly overwhelming. And still, my advice is to go hard on coursework that first year – I highly recommend taking 4 courses a semester even though I know quite well that it is very difficult. I’ve been there, done that. And yes, I know you also have required courses that you need to get good grades in and there is preparation for the first exam. Do it anyway, you will feel incredibly far along in the program once you have those first 24 credits out of the way. If you are also transferring credits from your Master’s program, you are even better off because you know what? In my opinion, getting a PhD is not about your coursework, at all. The coursework is good for becoming aware of general schools of thought and meeting professors you like but unless you are getting something out of those finals papers, that 60 credit number can be daunting. Eventually you will reach the point of course saturation – there will come a point when you will say, ‘No more, I don’t want any more courses, I don’t want any more final papers, I don’t want any more exams.’ And, for me, that point came very early on, once I finished my first year. I was able to transfer some credits, which saved me another semester. Part of the reason I was so done with coursework was because my mind was on moving along, getting to my Orals, figuring out my dissertation topic, etc. Why was I thinking about any of that at the end of my first year?


5. Thinking about future goals before you are ready to face them helps with the actually facing them. Sure, nobody expects you to know your Orals areas or dissertation topic right away (and if you do, congratulations, keep it to yourself until you’re in your 2nd or 3rd year, have some mercy for your peers) but why not think about it? Thinking about something is not a commitment, it’s just a process. You do not have to be married to anything that you think about. Your interests will probably differ from what you expressed in your graduate essay but, after your first year, you should have a general idea of 2-4 areas in sociology that you keep hovering around. For your orals, you can create your own areas or follow sections set up by the American Sociological Association. (ASA) BTW: if you can, join the ASA or SSSP or ESS or SWS in your first year, to get a handle on what’s going on in all of these organizations. And it’s good to put on your CV. Speaking of your CV, you should write one up in your first year as well even if you don’t have much to put on it, just yet. A CV is different from your resume and you can google ones that assistant professors in sociology have and just follow a format you like. You’ll be glad you did. Especially when applying for teaching jobs, which you should also consider doing as soon as possible. Preparing to teach Intro to Soc or other courses can help you in figuring out what you areas of interest are and once you make several syllabi from scratch, you can easily transfer texts you keep using into your Orals lists once it comes time to make them.


6. Now, a little bit about your dissertation topic. What you do have to remember is that your topic will not randomly come to you ‘once you’re ready.’ There are not enough courses you can take or enough books you can read, you will always kind of feel unsure. And that’s OKAY, that’s how it actually feels when you’re done with your coursework, like you’re in constant quicksand. The sooner you realize that, the better you’ll feel. I picked a topic (or a small portion of what is not my topic) because I wanted to teach the issue in my Intro to Women’s Studies course but couldn’t get a lot of academic articles or anything on the matter and realized it wasn’t really studied all that much. Well, you figure, if there is no literature, make some. Eventually, my topic grew into a bigger monster (I say that lovingly) but it all began kind of randomly. That is to say, there is no one way we stumble upon our topic and you should not wait several years before thinking about it. Again, it’s okay to start throwing ideas around, making up titles for your PhD, making a google doc entitled ‘PhD File,’ etc. Most of your years after the first should be spent towards taking courses, writing papers that can HELP your dissertation along. Want to try a pilot project? Take ethnography. Want to check out a literature for something you’re thinking about as a topic? Ask a professor in one of your classes if you can angle the final paper to that. Most of the time, they will agree. Oh, and a sidenote on faculty: you should write down contact info and a little bit about each professor that you interact with and make sure to follow up/keep in touch. If you liked a professor and they worked well with you, they might end up on your Orals or dissertation committees. Or they might need to write your fellowship/grant recommendations. Start thinking strategically right off the bat and make yourself known to as many faculty as possible. All right, these are some of my first year tips, email me with questions at


Resources on the Campuses

February 1st, 2013 | Posted by jensloan in - (Comments Off on Resources on the Campuses)



You can get a PAC (Physical Activity Card) with access to all facilities for free as a faculty member. You have to sign up at Health Services (somewhere in the North Building).


Gym access is FREE to anyone with a CCNY ID (including adjuncts):

Queens College:

Faculty (including adjuncts) have to pay an annual fee to use the gym; if you have a QC student ID you can use the facility for free.

Study Spaces


Music Library in Shepard Hall Room 160

QUIET space, large tables, cubicles, few students around.

Queens College:

The 5th and 6th floors of Rosenthal Library are designated quiet study spaces with large tables and views of the Manhattan skyline.  Gorgeous at sunset.




Where to Make Course Packets


How to organize a workshop/conference

1. FUNDING: Apply for the DSC grant, Two types of grants. The regular award of up to $750. Goes through review process and needs to be submitted by these dates:

  • September 27, 2012 (for the October 4 meeting of the Grants Committee)
  • October 22, 2012 (for the November 1 meeting of the Grants Committee)
  • November 26, 2012 (for the December 3 meeting of the Grants Committee)
  • January 24, 2013 (for the February 7 meeting of the Grants Committee)
  • March 25, 2013 (for the April 4 meeting of the Grants Committee)

Or the start up grant of $150 (is being raised for next year, 2013/2014) which undergo an expedited review process.

2. FUNDING: Find other centers, student organizations, and departments to sponsor your event (in name only is also good for outreach)

3. LOGISTICS: Find a room. You can use DSC’s lounges 5414, 5409 for large events or the smaller room (15 people or less) 5489. If the DSC don’t fit your event’s requirements (i.e., you need computers) or they are already reserved, any GC student can reserve a room at the GC for free (as long as its on the weekday?). You need to reserve a room through Rati, who will contact room reservations for you. Provide title of event, date, time and room requirements. You can also request use of the Sociology Lounge or Thesis Room.

4. LOGISTICS: For room set-up, contact facilities at

5. LOGISTICS: Advertise. There is a printing press for flyers on the ground floor, near the mailroom. There are costs but is cheaper and more convenient than Staples.

6. For food and refreshments check out the Where to Eat section of this website, You can use an off-campus catering service or bring your own food if the event are in the DSC rooms or in the Sociology Lounge. Anywhere else you have to use Restaurant Associates.

Getting a Job

September 27th, 2012 | Posted by gciwg in - (Comments Off on Getting a Job)

Much of this is from a conversation on our Yahoo discussion forum. Particular thanks goes to Christopher Gunderson who so generously shared this advice. This info is also available as a Google doc.

So far, this document contains the following sections.

Getting Started

Some Useful Links

Finding Job Announcements

Straightforward Q&A

  • When should I apply for a job?
  • How much time does it take to apply for a job?
  • What are the main documents for applying for a job?
  • Using Interfolio
  • Cover Letters
  • CVs
  • Reference Letters & Interfolio
    • Can recommenders upload letters personalized to a specific job, or can we only send out generic letters?
    • Did you have any issues with recommenders (particularly ones who are not very tech-savvy) using Interfolio?
    • It seems this is the case, but just to check: can interfolio send out paper applications as well as electronic applications?
    • I am guessing Interfolio cannot send applications for jobs that need to be submitted through a specific HR/employment system. Is that correct?
    • They charge even for electronic delivery, on top of having an account!  Definitely seems a bit pricey overall – did you think it was worth the expense?

Getting Started

So you want a to find an academic job. You may want to begin by reading Bill Helmreich essay on how to land an academic job in Inside Higher Education.

And you might want to pick up The Academic Job Search Handbook sooner rather than later. IMHO it should be required reading in the proseminar in the first semester.

Finding Job Announcements

Then you may want to visit the GC Career Planning and Professional Development center.

Here are some good places to look for a job or job announcements:

Straightforward Q&A

When should I apply for a job?

I started applying for jobs way before I actually should have. As a result I’ve applied for a lot of them and learned the mechanics of doing so efficiently the hard way.

I urge everyone to start looking at job announcements as soon as they can and to start sending out applications well before you defend. They are unlikely to get you a job, but they might and more importantly they will enable you to refine your application materials.I cringe when I think of the materials I sent out for my first applications, but the materials I sent out this year were considerably better as a result of that early start.

How much time does it take to apply for a job?

Different applications will take different amounts of time, but the more you are able to automate your process the less time any individual application is likely to take. When I started each one took me between 10 and 15 hours. Now I can generally crank them out in 2 or 3. I got 1 interview last year (before I defended) and 5 interviews this year (after I defended).

What are the main documents for applying for a job?

Applications ask for a variety of documents. Some are essentially universal (cover letter, CV, and reference letters). But you should be prepared to provide the following as well:

  • Statement of Teaching Philosophy (2-3 pp)
  • Statement of Research Interests (2-3 pp)
  • Statement of Teaching and Research Interests (2-3 pp)
  • Evidence of Teaching Effectiveness (a presentation of student and faculty evaluations and any other recognitions you might have received)
  • Sample syllabuses
  • Graduate transcript
  • Writing or publication sample (one or two PDFs of your best work — published articles, conference papers or a dissertation chapter)

Using Interfolio

The first thing you want to do is to set up your account with The GC has an arrangement with them and it is easy to use once you get the hang of it. Interfolio is an online dossier service, which is to say that you can use them to have ALL of your application materials sent wherever you want. In addition to regular post and FedEx, they can also send them electronically. In those occasional cases where a school wants to contact your reference and solicit your references you can provide them with an individualized Interfolio generated e-mail so that your letter writers only have to work through Interfolio (and you know when and whether or not they actually submit your letters which can be helpful). The point is that time spent learning all that Interfolio can do will be very quickly repaid in time saved on your application process.

Applications ask for a variety of documents. Some are essentially universal (cover letter, CV, and reference letters). But you should be prepared to provide the following as well:

  • Statement of Teaching Philosophy (2-3 pp)

  • Statement of Research Interests (2-3 pp)

  • Statement of Teaching and Research Interests (2-3 pp)

  • Evidence of Teaching Effectiveness (a presentation of student and faculty evaluations and any other recognitions you might have received)

  • Sample syllabuses

  • Graduate transcript

  • Writing or publication sample (one or two PDFs of your best work — published articles, conference papers or a dissertation chapter)

If you prepare all of these documents in advance and put them up on Interfolio, putting together an application will generally consist of soliciting letters from your references as far in advance as possible and tailoring your cover letter for the job before having Interfolio send the whole package out. Occasionally you will find yourself modifying some of your other documents and over time your Interfolio account will fill up with different versions of various documents tailored for different kinds of jobs. In practice you may assemble your collection of basic documents as jobs come up that ask for them, but the more you can do in advance the better off you will be when you actually have to send in an application.

Your key documents are your cover letter, your CV and your reference letters.[advice!!!]You should ask to look at the cover letters and CVs of people you know who have had successful job searches and borrow shamelessly from them.

Cover Letters

It is important to tailor your cover letter for the job you are applying for, but much of what you say in each letter will be the same, talking about your research, teaching experience, and publications. Often I just rework the most recent letter I’ve written for a similar job, changing names, dates and addresses and addressing the specific requirements mentioned in the job announcement in the opening and closing paragraphs. Your cover letter will repeat and highlight some of the information that appears in your CV.


I don’t have much to say about CVs except that they are very important. Some people on search committees may only read your CV, so designing it well matters. Have faculty look at it, preferably not just your committee members or people your are close to. I benefited greatly from having Juan Battle go over my CV. He was not kind, but I wasn’t looking for kindness. I was looking for how to make a good impression on someone who is not particularly interested in my work and Juan graciously provided that. Think of whoever in the department is most likely to be dismissive of your work and get their opinion of your materials. You might also ask them to look at a sample cover letter. I showed my CV and a sample cover letter to four members of the faculty in addition to my committee members and every one of them said something that helped me improve my materials.

Reference Letters & Interfolio

Reference letters are often the most vexing part of an application because you are essentially at the mercy of your letter writers. Remember that they have other obligations and need sufficient advance notice to get letters in on time. Some will be more diligent than others, and some will require constant pestering. Having them submit their letter through Interfolio is important because it enables you to always know who has actually submitted what letter (unlike the documents you put up, you can’t read the letters, but you can see whether or not they are there). They can either submit their letter electronically or by sending it in with a request form that you print out and give them. The first method is, of course, preferable, but if your reference has weak tech skills, the second may be necessary.

In general the more that a letter writer can tailor a letter for a particular job, the better. In practice most letter writers will only do a little such tailoring. Some will prefer to write single generic letter that they can send in or upload to Interfolio and be done with you. In all cases you want to make it easier for your letter writers to write good letters for you. One way to do that is to provide them with a two page narrative about you and your research written in the third person that they can borrow from as they please. You should be careful to write a completely different version for each letter writer so that your letters don’t all look the same and you should tell your references that you have done so as well, so that they feel free to make whatever use of what you have written about yourself as they please. You should also give them a copy of your CV.

Can recommenders upload letters personalized to a specific job, or can we only send out generic letters?

You can do both. I have two letter writers who will write personalized letters for me and two who gave me generic letters. When I see a job announcement that I am interested in, the first thing I do is go to my Interfolio account and request a letter from the two who will write personalized letters. Interfolio sends an e-mail to my letter writers and they then are responsible for uploading the letters.

Did you have any issues with recommenders (particularly ones who are not very tech-savvy) using Interfolio?

Yes, but I was able to iron them out and it was worth the grief. Interfolio is pretty much idiot proof, which makes it almost professor proof. You aren’t the only person with a tech-challenged committee member and Interfolio has anticipated your problems. If you have a complete Luddite on your hands you have the alternative of having them snail mail a hard copy your letter to Interfolio along with a pre-printed form that you download first from Interfolio. This is obviously easier to do one time with a generic letter than every single time you apply for a position, but remember that the Luddite used to snail mail everything anyway. The best thing to do, however, is to train them to upload the letters. By teaching them this elementary skill you will also be doing a good deed for their future students.

It seems this is the case, but just to check: can interfolio send out paper applications as well as electronic applications?

Yes. Most of the applications I have submitted have been paper. They print them out and ship them off.

I am guessing Interfolio cannot send applications for jobs that need to be submitted through a specific HR/employment system. Is that correct?

It depends. Most online application systems just require you to fill out various forms and upload a few documents. That is a simple thing to do and Interfolio can’t really do anything for you there. What they can do is help you with letters. Specific HR/employment system will either ask you to have your references send in their letters (often with a choice of e-mail or snail mail). You can manage those with Interfolio just as you would any others. In some instances they ask for a specific e-mail address that they can expect to receive a letter from. Here you can also use Interfolio which will generate a specific e-mail address for each such letter that you can then provide to the employer. In still other cases the system will ask for an e-mail so that that can contact the reference directly and solicit a letter from them (apparently often with specific questions that make it difficult for the letter writer to just modify an already written letter). Here we encounter the limits of Interfolio, but I’ve only encountered a couple of these. A final note here is that a growing number of colleges contract out the collection of applications to third party online services. Interfolio has arrangements with every one of these I have encountered, enabling you to send your letters and other materials through them.

In short, if there is a possible way for Interfolio to facilitate the delivery of your application materials they almost certainly have a way to do it. In any event, before you presume they don’t you should always make sure because it will probably save you grief. They have a helpdesk that was very helpful the one time I needed it (the first time I had to use a third party online application service).

They charge even for electronic delivery, on top of having an account!  Definitely seems a bit pricey overall – did you think it was worth the expense?

It is totally worth the expense. I don’t know if the GC still does this, but I got a hundred dollar credit when I first signed up. After my first batch of apps went out I was hooked. The alternatives are just so much more time consuming and aggravating. If you are good about getting the apps out early and don’t have to overnight anything, the costs are not so bad. The cost for the electronic and online applications are $6 each. Obviously you could just e-mail or upload your own documents directly free of charge. But by having your letter writers upload all of their letters to the same site and getting confirmation of both Interfolio’s reciept of said letters AND of their successful delivery, you avoid worrying over whether or not a letter writer flaked on you. That is worth a lot more than $6 to me. In any event most of applications are still not online.

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