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HERC Job Search Guide: Applying for Staff & Managerial Positions in Higher Education

By Higher Education Recruitment Consortium
February 9, 2018
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Why work in higher education?

If you want a fulfilling career that positively impacts your community, consider a job in higher education. Working in higher education blends elements of the corporate and nonprofit experience, and provides lifelong learning opportunities. Colleges, universities, affiliated hospitals, and research labs need diverse professionals with a variety of skills, perspectives, and experiences to drive innovation and empower student success.




What kinds of jobs are out there for me?

Think about any position you’d need to run a small city. Colleges and universities need people with all levels of experience — from the recent graduate to the experienced professional. Here are just a few examples of the types of jobs you'll find:


•Doctors & Emergency Responders

•Facility Managers

•Lab Technicians

•Legal Experts

•Student Advocates

•Marketing & Communications Managers

•Recreation Professionals

•Technology Staff

What is unique about applying for jobs in higher education?    

Keep in mind that many positions in higher education require working across departments and with multiple stakeholders – include information about your soft skills, like communication and collaboration, in addition to your hard skills. And be ready to address how your experience will help advance the mission of the institution or department. Also, you may need to provide a Curriculum Vitae (CV) instead of a resume — read on for CV tips.

Sign up for higher education job alerts at, so you will know when schools are looking for talented people like you!

Quick Job Search Checklist

  • Create a custom job alert(s) at to learn more about the jobs that are out there
  • Outline your accomplishments so you know what jobs you’ll have the most success applying for
  • Create an expanded version of your resume
  • Activate your personal and professional networks to serve as references and make introductions
  • Create a free account on to easily apply for jobs with a tailored resume

What will I need to apply for higher education positions?

Applying for positions in higher education is a lot like any other job search – you’ll create a strong cover letter and resume tailored to the position, fill out an application, and prepare for the interview. Here is a list of the basics you’ll need, and some advice on how to make your materials stand out!

Focused Cover Letter

  • Focus on how your unique skills and experience will help to advance the school's mission and back up your promises with evidence.  
  • Address the minimum qualifications of the job
  • Slow down before applying and proofread carefully! Spelling, grammar, and consistency issues are unacceptable in a higher education application.

Scannable Resume

  • Tailor your resume for each application using keywords from the job description. For each keyword, you focus on, give a short example of how your work ties to that strength or skill.
  • Highlight relevant and quantifiable accomplishments.
  • Include internal promotions in your resume to demonstrate growth and leadership potential.
  • Give your resume to a friend to do a “10-second review” to see if your resume is easy to read and important information is easy to find.

Interview Preparation

  • Research the institution and department. Understand their function, structure, and mission.
  • Think about what drew you to apply. What about the institution impressed you?     
  • Prepare examples from your work or volunteer life that are related to the job responsibilities. Give tangible examples.
  • Bring questions about the job or school to the interview! Asking questions shows you are well prepared and eager to make sure this is a good job fit for both you and the institution.     

For academics applying to staff and management positions:

  • You may need a resume in addition to / in place of a CV. This requires more than new headings and re-ordering your information. Re-frame your experience to focus on job responsibilities, accomplishments, and transferrable skills.
  • Tap into your professional network just as you would during an academic job search.
  • Finally, there are great careers in higher education outside of the tenure track. Find an aspect of academic life you particularly enjoy and forge a career path that excites you.

Download a copy of this guide here.

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