Higher Education Faculty Job Search

The following information may help you get started on your faculty job search. Note that your academic department will likely be a prime source of information regarding the typical job-search process in your discipline. You may also meet with a Career Advisor about your job search.

Higher Education Faculty Job Search Timeline

The higher education job search “season” for tenure-track teaching and research positions runs from fall into spring. Jobs may open up later, usually in response to a faculty member’s decision to relocate, but many of these are one-year positions. If you intend to begin a tenure-track position in a college or university in the fall, the time to look begins early in the fall the year prior to your employment goal.

August › December Job postings listed
October 15 › February 1st Application deadlines Although many include statements like, “Review of applications will begin November 1st and continue until job is filled,” it is understood that applications submitted before the review date will get the most serious consideration.
December › January Preliminary interviews at winter meetings, or over phone and Skype
Mid-January › March On-campus interviews
March › May Job offers made, negotiated, and accepted
Not all institutions follow this timeline, however, most adhere to them in order to attract the largest number of qualified applicants.

Getting Started

For a job in the fall, prepare for the application process during the summer a year in advance:

  1. Research: Meet with your advisor to discuss your options, preferences, strategies, and to find out about the practices and productive job listings for your area of study. You may want to have similar conversations with other faculty with whom you’ve closely worked.
  2. Define goals: Decide the type of job you want and learn the pertinent characteristics of jobs in your field at the different types and levels of colleges and universities. Things to consider: Do you want to teach undergraduate or graduate students? What mix of teaching and research are you seeking? Which classes are you prepared or willing to teach? Are there geographical limitations on your job search? What family issues must you consider?
  3. Search: Look at job postings in higher education resources, such as Academic360.com, The Chronicle of Higher EducationHigheredjobs.com as well as those for the professional organizations in your field.
  4. Evaluate where you want to apply: Look closely at your preferred institutions. Comb their websites, look up the faculty in the department you’re considering and see what work they are doing. Some schools post course descriptions and syllabi. Call or email anyone you know who knows the department or school.
  5. Prepare your application materials very carefully. Have your advisor and other knowledgeable friends go over your C.V. and application letters to help you craft them into documents the search committee will want to look at carefully. Make an appointment with a Career Advisor for further help.
  6. References: Talk with your advisor, professors, and anyone else you may have write letters of recommendation for you. Discuss your search, and let them know what you are looking for. Ask them what they need from you to write these letters: they will probably want at least a copy of your C.V. and copies of any job postings they are addressing. Some professors will write letters to individual institutions, and others will want to write one letter for you to send out as part of a credential file.
  7. Send out your applications. Schools want a variety of documents; make sure you satisfy the particular demands of each application. Depending on your discipline, universities may ask for research writing examples, portfolios, professional statement of goals, teaching philosophy, etc.
  8. Continue to work on your dissertation and publications, so that when you get that opportunity to interview, you can share your progress and accomplishments.

The Faculty Job Interview

The job interview is a vital component in the higher education job search. Each discipline’s approach to the candidate search varies. However, there are a number of similarities among disciplines. The interviewing process can include two steps, short informal interviews at meetings and the on-campus interview. Though the meeting interviews may lead to an invitation to campus, the critical stage in the hiring process is the on-campus interview.

If you are still working on your dissertation, it is very important for you to have a clear idea of when you will be completing your work. It is highly likely you will be asked this question before any visit to campus is discussed. Some schools will make this a condition of hire, and others may specify a different appointment level if your work is not completed at the time of hire.

The Faculty Meeting Interview

Many disciplines hold annual meetings and may provide opportunities for interviewing at these meetings. The level of support differs depending on the size, region, and discipline. Large national meetings may have very formal services, including a listing of available candidates and position openings, a site for interviewing, and/or a message service for contacting schools and candidates. At smaller meetings this may consist of a booklet listing job openings and available candidates.

Most interviews at meetings are short, usually less than a half hour. They are generally conducted by one person or a very small departmental group. If you leave a good impression on this group, you will most likely improve your possibilities for an invitation for an on-campus interview. In order to prepare for these interviews, you should have a good idea of answers to commonly asked questions, bring multiple copies of your CV, and possibly a one- or two-page summary of your dissertation.

The Faculty On-Campus Interview

Most on-campus interviews are held in the spring. Interviews are generally scheduled for two days. Your visit will most likely include individual meetings with each faculty member and perhaps with some graduate students. At a small liberal arts college you may meet with undergraduates as well. Other meetings may also include a formal search committee interview and a research presentation. In most situations you will also meet with a dean or someone in a similar administrative position.

There will most likely be additional informal opportunities to meet with faculty as well, such as for meals or departmental social gatherings. These settings give both you and the hiring institution an opportunity to evaluate each other on a more personal level. Therefore, be prepared for more personal questions to be raised. In your preparation it is vital that you learn as much as you can about the community.

Be certain to allow adequate time between interviews if you are scheduling multiple meetings. Some meetings may be scheduled during lunch or dinner. Be sure to get all the information you are interested in about the school and not concentrate too heavily on the food. Also, if you are asked to meet for drinks, it may be best to stick to soda, or slowly sip one drink.

Commonly Asked Questions:

  • Could you briefly describe your dissertation?
  • What do you feel are the contributions you have made to your field of study?
  • What interests do you currently have for future research?
  • In your teaching experience, what subject areas are you most comfortable presenting?
  • What interests you about our institution?
  • How have your education and training prepared you for this position?
  • In what specific way will our institution benefit by hiring you?
  • Who has served as your source of inspiration? In what way has this guided you?
  • In your opinion, what attributes make for the ideal educator?
  • What contributions have you made to publications in your field?
  • What’s your idea of success?
  • What plan of action do you take when facing a tough problem?
  • Do you feel you would be able to take issue with your department chair or a member of your department in presenting an opposing point of view?
  • What do you think makes you unique, and how can this quality be utilized by our institution?
  • What do you find most satisfying in academia? Most frustrating?
  • What was the toughest problem you had to solve?
  • What was your most important course in college?

Faculty Salary Information

If you are negotiating salary after a job offer has been made, it can be helpful to have information about faculty salaries at different universities. Additional information about faculty salaries is available through Higheredjobs.com.  If it is a public institution, salaries are generally made public in a directory maintained by the state.

Additional Resources

  • The Graduate School at UW-Madison website provides resource links for professional development and career development, both in and out of academia. Job search workshops are also offered periodically.
  • The Higher Education Recruitment Consortium offers resources about dual career searches as well as job postings.
  • Meet with a Career Advisor to discuss your career path and job searching strategies.