Spotlight on Jobs for English Majors: Getting the Interview


Literal Landscape, 2011 Stanford Kay

Literal Landscape, 2011
Stanford Kay

Picture this: you’ve applied for a teaching job, you’ve sent emails to follow up, and still haven’t been invited for an interview. What’s a person to do? Here are some thoughts on best practices for getting your timing right for receiving that coveted call to show up in the flesh:

Keep in mind the cycle of academic year when you contact employers. As a student, you remember what’s it’s like to be busy at certain peak times in the semesters. When departments staff courses they  abide the same cycle you did as a student.  Here’s example of what the staffing timeline looks like for the Fall and Spring semesters:

Fall: first round of staffing decisions are made March-April before classes start in late August/September; second round is made in June-July.

Spring: first round of staffing decisions are made October-November before classes start in mid-January; second round is made in December. Staffing in the Spring is usually slim pickings, though, so you’re more likely to get a teaching job starting in the Fall.

Make sure to email the person who does the hiring. If you apply through a job posting then it’s likely your materials will go to the Human Resources department, who then forwards them to the person doing the hiring. This can take a while and it’s possible your materials will get lost in the shuffle. What’s more, the HR person isn’t often likely to feel the same kind of urgency to follow up with applicants because he or she is not a member of the academic department where you will be working.  It’s always better to directly write the department chair and/or director of writing. These email addresses can be hard to track down because college and university websites are designed for the audiences of prospective students, not job seekers. You will want to search for the academic departments and look at faculty and staff titles to determine who’s the department chair and who’s directing the writing program.

Don’t take it personally if you get ignored. The truth is that employers, who are often overextended department chairs and writing program directors, often have a long list of responsibilities and hiring new instructors is one of their many jobs.  Many departments do not have protocol in place to contact applicants just to acknowledge that an application was received. It can take weeks or months for them to write people back.  What’s more, job postings are sometimes out-of-date or even perfunctory. In other words, the department has a candidate on the inside (i.e., someone moving up through the ranks or someone in the network of existing employees) who is slated take on the position. Why even post the job opening, you ask? Legally they have to do so. This happens a lot, especially in academia.

“Ok,” you say.  “What about when you do all of the above and still get nothing?”  Then it’s time to try something new. We’ll talk about that in the next post.