Notes on the job search process

“Many PhDs who have trouble getting tenure-track jobs have similar and (chairs of hiring departments attest) commonly occurring problems: teaching experience without a research agenda; publications without teaching experience; publications and teaching experience with narrow qualifications in an overcrowded area; qualifications in a variety of needed areas without clear presentation of the candidate in the cover letter or interview; clear presentation of the candidate who is qualified for a different job than the one advertised (Green; Papp, “Stars”). 704

This was certainly my experience this last year. At one college I didn’t put forward a strong enough research agenda (because I didn’t have one) and at another I did a clear presentation for a job other than the one ultimately advertised (because I applied before they had finished their presentation. It was up but they changed the focus after my application was in) and the third one I gave too much emphasis to research, when it was a community college and not interested in that.

“Hiring departments put great stock in an individualized application letter that talks about the needs of the institution; an interview that displays interest in teaching the institutions demographic of student; the job talk; and the teaching demonstration.” (704)

I went with the individualized application letter and the interview I think went okay, except about my research agenda. However, I hadn’t realized the school was planning on doubling in size over the next five years and one of the things I said I liked about the school was that it was fairly small.

What should you do if you want a job? He recommends

“…choosing or broadening your scholarly and teaching expertise with a sense of the practical needs of institutions of different types, planning an ambitious and convincing research path, and seeking advice on how to apply for jobs from the sort of people who hire…” (704)

This is what I am trying to do in terms of actually getting conferences done and writing some papers that are published. Right now I am concentrating on conferences, but as soon as I have been accepted or turned down at all of those, I am going to work on two papers for refereed journals.

“A large proportion of applicants—sometimes one-third to one-half, hiring chairs report—remove themselves from contention with cookie-cutter application letters, interview missteps, and poorly targeted talks and teaching demonstrations.” 704

I also messed up the teaching demonstration at the SLAC. I honestly had never done one before and hadn’t attended one in over twenty years. I didn’t know what I should be doing and I didn’t find out beforehand.

from Papp, James. “Gleaning in Academe: Personal Decisions for Adjuncts and Graduate Students.” College English 64:6 (Jul. 2002): 696-709.
Published by: National Council of Teachers of English

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