How to Get In and Show Up During the Hiring Process
Applying for a college or university job can be daunting: thick application packets, lengthy timelines, and multiple rounds of panel interviews are all common. The hiring process is a lot, I know; I’ve seen the process unfold from the perspective of an applicant, a hiring committee member, and a hiring committee chair.
There is a method at work here; the hiring process is an important expression of a higher education institution’s commitment to its educational mission and shared governance model for decision-making. This means it is to your benefit as an applicant to think about how to show up throughout the process. Foremost, it is important that you build and maintain the confidence and trust of the members of the hiring committee. Read on for a few tips about how to do so.
Do write a professional and error-free resume and cover letter // Don’t assume your comprehensive cover letter will be sufficient to get you the job
Your candidacy will be judged first based on the quality of the documents you submit in the hiring process. These documents are your initial opportunity to show — rather than tell — the committee members that you are qualified. So, your resume and cover letter should be comprehensive and error-free. Please note that some institutions may disqualify you from getting an interview if your documents are not professional in appearance or if they show errors in grammar, spelling, formatting, or punctuation. This goes for any other materials you submit too, such as slides and lecture notes.
Next, your cover letter must do more than just express your interest in the position. Ideally, it will provide substantial evidence of how you meet or exceed all the requirements of the job. In my experience, it is common that the cover letter written by successful candidates will be 3 or 4 pages in length. This should allow you to address each and every aspect of the position description without losing your audience.
Finally, remember that the committee can ask questions about anything you put down on paper. If you submit it in writing, it is fair game for the interview.
Do research the students, the college, and the program // Don’t think that all colleges are alike; each higher education institution is unique
After you decide that you want to work in a college or university, take the time to decide which specific institution you want to work at. Then demonstrate your interest by familiarizing yourself with the institution’s mission statement, main initiatives, and the demographics of the student body. Read the website! During the interview, you can distinguish yourself by showing that you have thought about how you will contribute to the college’s efforts to achieve its mission and initiatives and how you will interpret your role and responsibilities in light of the student populations served.
Do consider what your role is in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion // Don’t ignore your role in building an aware, welcoming, and supportive culture
As part of the process of applying for a job in higher education, you will likely be required to write a statement that explains your experiences with and commitments to serving diverse populations of students. This is one of the most important parts of the application, both for your own self-reflection and to prove that you are qualified and eager to support all students. There are many useful guides online on how to write a diversity statement and I suggest you read them before you begin to write your own. Use this statement as an opportunity to demonstrate that you have the desire to work with diverse students and the desire and level of humility needed to hone this aspect of your craft.
Finally, an education employee’s first responsibility is to students. Whether your role requires you to work in or out of the classroom, your success should ultimately be judged by whether you enhance the learning environment.
In this article, I have tried to share a few of the ways you can focus on this aspect of the job in your application process. I hope the lessons I’ve learned in my decade of sitting as a panelist on hiring committees in higher education will be useful to you as you pursue a college or university career. Happy job hunting!
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About the Author: Jesse W. Raskin, J.D., State of California Single Subject Teaching Credential, is a student-centered Professor at Skyline College in San Bruno, CA, where he received the Meyer Excellence in Teaching Award. Professor Raskin teaches across disciplines in Administration of Justice, Business Law, Paralegal Studies, and Political Science. In addition, he has served as the faculty lead for professional learning and has presented across the state of California on topics including Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice and Career Education for 21st Century Students.