Getting a Job

September 27th, 2012 | Posted by gciwg in
Wikis > 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 Interfolio.com. 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.

CVs

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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