So, the title of this post comes directly from an article in yesterday’s Chronicle of Higher Education. As a post-secondary educator, I find that I definitely need to cultivate my news from a variety of sources. So, I appreciate the Weekly Brief that pops up in my inbox every Monday morning. As the curator of the UGA Graduate School social media presence, I’m always looking for articles and resources of interest to the greater graduate community on campus. Thus, the article “Your Official Job-Application Checklist” by David D. Perlmutter definitely caught my eye.
I immediately read through the article for a couple of reasons. First, I want to make sure that it’s appropriate and timely for the audiences with which I plan to share the article. Second, and probably most important to me, as a PhDc on the market, I want to make sure that the processes and tasks I’ve been completing are in line with what’s recommended. Thankfully, I have been surrounded by fantastic mentors. As a result, everything I read in the article is exactly what they’ve been telling me for years (and more or less what I’ve been doing). But, what caught my attention the most was the #1 item on the checklist; “Create a System; Follow It.”
Back in July, just as the position openings in my field began to post, I was chatting with a student colleague at Purdue. She offered to share with me a spreadsheet she got from a former classmate who had graduated and taken a position at St. John’s University in New York. As soon as I received the file, I opened it in Excel and began to brainstorm on how I could work this in to my “to be determined” system of tracking and applying for jobs. Being a disciple of Google (which, I might add, I’m slowly becoming disenfranchised by my chosen “church”), Google Docs (now Drive) came to mind.
Create a Google Form; for the benefit of my student colleagues who may be reading this, here are the fields that appear in said form:
- Hiring Institution (text)
- URL of ad (text)
- Search Committee Contact (text)
- Mailing Address (paragraph text)
- Position Type (check boxes)
- Discipline Area (text)
- Position Rank (radio buttons)
- Open Rank
- Application Deadline (text)
- Required Materials (check boxes)
- Letter of Interest
- Teaching Statement
- Research Statement
- Writing Sample
- Reference Names
- Reference Letters
- Online HR Application
- Transcript Official
- Transcript Unoffical
- Trancripts (All) Official
- Transcripts (All) Unofficial
I started by setting up saved job searches on both The Chronicle and HigherEdJobs (sometimes positions will post on one weeks before the other, which can make a huge difference if you’re working under deadlines). I have my settings configured to send me emails when new jobs are posted that fit my search criteria (so, if you’ve wondered how or why I’m always posting a new position the GSA Facebook group…now you know!). This is a great point for me to mention that your search should be broad enough to capture any job for which you might be qualified to apply. Once you read the posting, you can then decide whether or not it meets all of your personal criteria (discipline area, preferred requirements, geographical location, etc.) before posting it to your form.
This is where organizational skills come in handy. To the far right of my form’s spreadsheet, I manually added columns for tracking my submissions and search status as well as identify which references I’m using for the position.
- Date of Online Submission
- Date of Email Submission
- Date of Mailed Submission
- Search Status Updates
- Institution Hiring Decision
- Reference 1
- Reference 2
- Reference 3
- Reference 4
- Reference 5
This is where you also need to consider color coding. If I have completed a packet, but have to wait on ordering transcripts or letters of reference, I set the row to a shade of yellow and make a note in the Updates column. Once a packet is complete and submitted, I change the row to green. If there’s something urgent or deadline approaching, I set the row red. I’ve even begun to add a color to indicate positions where I have begun the interview process (blue). For positions that I am not invited to interview or an announcement is made, I plan to change the row to a dark gray color. Color coding helps me see at a glance where I am in the process and plan accordingly.
Continuing with the organizational skills theme, my rule of thumb is to contact my references when I write the letter of interest for a specific opening. Let me back up here and briefly talk about how I’ve selected my references. Back at the beginning of the school year, my advisor and I had a discussion where we listed out every faculty member here at UGA I could call upon for a reference and a few individuals I’ve worked with in the past who would be relevant. We then went through and indicated which types of jobs would be appropriate for each reference. For example, I have the instructor coordinator here at UGA and the Associate Division Head back at Blinn College I can ask when the job description emphasizes teaching. If the position talks about conducting research and methodologies, I can ask one of my committee members who is also my “methods person” and has worked with me. Keep in mind that, in a good year, you could be applying for dozens of jobs (I’m currently at 16 packets submitted and it’s still early in the season). So, you want to have a rich list of references from which you can pull and rotate.
Back to contacting references. As I mentioned earlier, as soon as I have completed my letter of interest for a position (which ideally happens 2-3 weeks before applications begin review), I email the references I’ve identified for that position. The subject of the email is always the same :”Reference Request for [Institution Name].” In the email, I:
- Include a link to or attach a PDF of the position description
- Provide a link to my current CV online
- Identify the specifics of the request; i.e., do I only need to provide their contact information at the time of application or do I need a letter of reference — and if so how (online system, email w/recipient’s address, or snail mail, with an offer to provide a SASE) and when it needs to be submitted
The email needs to be concise and clear. Here’s a quick actual example of the email I send (note that the bracketed items are fields pulled directly from the Google Doc):
The next position I’m applying for is at [Institution Name]. This position is for an [Assistant-Assistant/Associate-Open Rank] Professor of [Discipline Area]. The job posting is available online at [URL to job ad]. My CV is available at [link to my CV].
For this position, the search committee has asked that letters of reference be mailed directly to them at:
[Contact Person & Address]
Please note that the search committee is chaired by [Search Committee Chair if different from person who collects applications]. The deadline for this application is [Date search committee will begin reviewing applications]. I’ll be happy to provide a stamped, addressed envelope at your request, and will send a reminder about this request on [Date approximately 8-10 days before deadline] if you have not notified me that the letter has been sent.
If you do not currently have your CV hosted online, I recommend you find whatever service works for you and use it. This will become an easy way to share one of your most requested documents. Options? Use Dropbox and host it in a public folder. Post it on Scribd. Or, my personal favorite, set up a Visual CV.
Lastly, I also use the far left column of my Form to help me set the order of application. You can change the sort order in Google Drive, but sometimes the cells get out of alignment. So, I number the rows to indicate which applications I need to work on first (obviously, you want to set priority based on when the search committee will begin reviewing applications for each specific position). I can also use that column to help me keep track of how many total jobs have been submitted. It never fails. Just when I think I have a firm grasp of the positions that will be reviewed soon, someone posts an opening with a deadline/review date only a week away. So, you have to be flexible enough to adjust your priorities if that is a job for which you want to apply.
I’d often been told that applying for a tenure-track position could be a part-time job in and of itself. They weren’t kidding. I started out by trying to work on application packets whenever I found free time (or wanted to procrastinate from some other task — you know, like reminding my dissertation study participants that they need to complete the course survey). Now, I’ve found that I really like dedicating Sunday afternoons to checking my spreadsheet and working on application packets as needed. This lets me focus on the task and dedicate my full attention to detail. You don’t want to be that applicant who forgot to change the name of the search committee chair in the greeting or institution name in your closing paragraph — I’m sure I’ve made mistakes along the way, but I hope not too egregious.
So, now you know my system. You’re welcome to take my advice with a grain of salt or follow it to the point that works for you. If you’d like a copy of my Google Form, just drop me an email ([email protected]) and let me know what address you use for Google Accounts. I don’t mind sharing, and if adapting my system works for you, then all the better!