Monday, March 10, 2014

Commandments for academic job candidates

Finbarr Curtis has come down from the mountaintop with a dozen pairs of eternally binding commandments for academic job seekers:
1.  Make sure to use last names and formal titles when addressing your interviewers.  You don't want to seem disrespectful.

1.  Use first names.  You want to seem like a colleague, not a grad student.

2. Make sure to thoroughly research the department to which you are applying before an interview. Learn the research interests of your interviewers and highlight in detail how your own work will complement the existing strengths of the program. 

2. It will creep out the search committee if they learn you are googling them.  You'll seem like a stalker.

3.  Highlight your scholarly breadth and interdisciplinary interests.  Hiring committees want to know you are flexible and able to teach a variety of courses outside of your area of specialization.

3.  Don't be a dilettante.  Hiring committees have specified an area of specialization because that is where their needs lie.  Make sure to focus on your ability to do the job you will be hired to do.

4.  Show initiative by including teaching portfolios in every application regardless of whether they are solicited.  If a job ad asks for three letters of recommendation, send five. You don't want to seem like you'll just do the bare minimum.  If committee members don't want to read your materials they are free to ignore them.

4.  Make sure to send the hiring committee only those materials they specify in the job ad. People don't have time to read extra material they haven't requested.  You need to show you can follow rules and guidelines.

5.  Have a glass of wine or beer when you go to dinner with the search committee. No one wants to hire a teetotaler.

5.  Don't drink alcohol at dinner.  You are still being interviewed and need to be mentally sharp.  You don't want to seem like a lush.

6.  It is rude not to send hand-written personalized thank-you notes to every member of the search committee after an interview. 

6.  A cordial thank-you note emailed to all the search committee members is fine.  No one has time to read these anyway.

7.  A three-page cover letter is too long.

7.  A two-page cover letter is too short.

8.  If a job ad doesn't specify the name of the search committee chair, get in touch with a department staff member to find out to whom you should address your letter.  No one wants to read a letter that begins "Dear Committee."

8.  Don't bother the department.  There are hundreds of applicants and the staff does not have time to respond to preliminary inquiries from all of them 

9.  Don't reveal that you have a spouse.  The college is in a small town and there are few job opportunities for spouses.

9.  Don't reveal that you are single.  The college is in a small town and there is no social life for single people.


10.  Read a carefully prepared manuscript for your job talk.  You want to demonstrate that you are a serious, rigorous scholar.

10.  Don't just read your job talk. You'll bore your audience.  

11.  Sell yourself! You have to convince the search committee that they should hire you over hundreds of other brilliant people.  The interview is your chance to draw attention to your accomplishments.

11.  Be humble.  Let your curriculum vitae and your letters of recommendation speak for you.  No one wants to work with a colleague who reminds everyone how smart he or she is.

12.  Start a blog.

12.  Don't start a blog. 
Read the whole thing here.

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