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Casting Your Bread Widely – Deciding When and Where To Apply

An application does not constitute a commitment to take a given job. With virtually all application materials transmitted electronically these days, the marginal cost of applying for additional jobs is virtually nil. The only job you have absolutely no shot at is the one you never apply for.

Don’t assume that the job ad reflects either an unambiguous description of what the department knows it wants, or a fixed set of criteria that will determine who will get hired. In many instances, the published job description may be more a reflection of expedient political compromises necessary to get it out the door or past the administration. Is there a chance that your letter will be pitched because you don’t fit the ad’s profile: certainly. However it is difficult if not impossible to know beforehand which departments are married to their ad and which have a much broader interpretation. Don’t make their job any easier. For more on the use and abuse of job announcements access The Hiring Process From the Other Side – The Job Announcement.

Even if your areas of expertise don’t exactly align with the job description, if a position is otherwise of interest based on location and/or type of institution, apply anyway. Think about how you can recast your credentials in a way that makes you a credible candidate. Don’t lie or make statements you wouldn’t be able to defend in an interview, but also remember the purpose of an application is to elicit sufficient interest to get the interview. At that point, all bets are off.

If you aren’t sure whether you can honestly claim to have the background and training necessary to teach in a given area, remember that the level of expertise required to teach undergrads is very different from your normal frame of reference, graduate seminars at Berkeley. It’s easy to psych yourself out of applying for a position because the job ad asks for expertise in specialties A, B, and C; and you only do C and half of B. Since there are so many PhDs on the market, so the logic goes, of course they can find someone who has the exact sub-fields they are looking for. Yet, every year I hear at least one story from a grad student who applied for a job that asked for different fields than her/his specialties who nonetheless got the offer. More applications are better than fewer.

Where To Find Job Listings

The primary source of academic job listings is your discipline’s scholarly association. Some scholarly association websites offer free access while others are password protected and require payment. If you are unsure about where/how your scholarly association advertises jobs in your discipline ask the graduate advisor in your department.

Not all jobs are posted through scholarly associations. The Chronicle of Higher Education job site lists hundreds of jobs in a wide range of fields. Unlike the rest of the website, Chronicle is free for non-subscribers, and is also a pre-eminent source of administrative and student services positions in academic settings. In STEM fields, jobs are posted and available for free on the job sections of major journals such as Science Careers and Nature Jobs.

Below are some other useful sites especially for finding job ads from smaller institutions that do not always advertise in larger, and more expensive national sites.

Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC)

If you have a strong geographical preference or constraint in your search, the Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC) is the site for you. HERC features 19 different regional HERC sites that bring together all job offerings within a given area (e.g., Northern California or New England) from community colleges to research universities. In addition to a searchable national/regional jobs database, HERC also offers a raft of job search-related webinars and career advice on topics ranging from cultivating resilience to the dual career couple search.

H-Net Job Guide

Another source of job announcements is at the H-Net (Humanities and Social Sciences Online) site maintained by Michigan State University. Part of a larger site that creates and coordinates interdisciplinary networks or Commons which function as electronic discussion platforms in over a hundred subject areas ranging from African expressive arts to women’s history.

Within the arts, humanities, and social sciences, the H-Net Job Guide lists positions in fields ranging across the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Rhetoric and Communications (including composition and other related fields). H-Net specializes in smaller schools that may not advertise in an association newsletter or the Chronicle as well as replacement or temporary jobs. It also lists many academic jobs from Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the UK, and a number of quasi-academic jobs in research centers, museums, libraries etc. that may be of interest.

Times Higher Education

Further afield, there is the UK-based Times Higher Education UniJobs. Many field names and job titles differ from their US equivalents. Most of the positions listed are in the UK, Ireland and other Commonwealth countries, but others range from Norway to Fiji.

Academic Jobs Wiki (Social Sciences & Humanities)

As the “wiki” moniker implies, the Academic Jobs Wiki site hosts a series of links to crowd-sourced web pages about the posted job ads in dozens of different fields. What is different about the wiki, is that as the application/review cycle progresses, individuals will post updates on the status of the search. For example, an applicant will edit the entry for a given position by noting that on Nov 27th, requests were received for “additional materials” by candidates still in the running or on Dec 5th the committee began to contact candidates for phone screens.

If you scroll down a few screens, you will see a series of links to pages that list openings by field for a few dozen disciplines. Some are very broad (e.g., English Literature, History) and some are very specific (Piano and Theology). If you scroll further you will see the link to last year’s listing for the field. Some years there is a separate wiki for Postdocs in the Humanities & Social Sciences.

HigherEd360 (formerly job listings include a broad range of student advising and academic administration jobs, as well as, faculty positions.

Christian Higher Education

A very different source of academic listings can be found under Job Postings at the Christian Higher Education website sponsored by the Coalition for Christian Colleges and Universities. They list jobs from all around the country. Many, though not all, look for qualified applicants who are “in agreement with the college’s theological and lifestyle requirements.”

California Community Colleges Registry

California is home to 112 two-year community colleges which share a jobs database (the California Community Colleges Registry) that is searchable by district, region, and keyword. In addition, every year the registry hosts two faculty job fairs, typically in January, one in Northern California and the other in Socal. Many other states also offer a similar state-wide, web-based tool for finding openings in their community college systems.