Feature

Looking for an academic job? To find the one that fits you best—and optimize your chances of getting it—there are several factors you need to consider. First, make sure you're looking at the right time of year. Most academic jobs are posted from June to December. Second, where are these job ads? Here are some top sources:

  • APA Monitor. The Monitor features PsycCareers, a classified job section for all psychology jobs, located on the web at www.­psyccareers.com. An advantage of this site is that it enables job-seekers to set up alerts so that targeted jobs are automatically sent to them. Seekers can also post their curriculum vitae (CV) for potential employers to review.
  • ChronicleVitae. This service of the Chronicle of Higher Education allows users to search for faculty and research jobs in various fields, and lists some non-academic positions.
  • The Higher Education Recruitment Consortium. The consortium's member institutions include more than 600 colleges and universities, as well as hospitals, research labs and government agencies. A unique feature is its section for dual-­career searches, helpful for when both partners in a couple are looking for faculty positions.
  • Listservs. To conduct a more targeted search for an academic job, join the email listservs of specially focused groups. Be sure to check out APA's 54 divisions, each of which has a website, meetings and special events. Many graduate schools also have their own listservs.

  • Networking. Professors and mentors can be invaluable sources of advice and insight when it comes to the job hunt, so be sure to let them know what kinds of jobs you are interested in. Also, attend conferences to meet faculty at other institutions and learn which may be planning to recruit for open positions.

  • LinkedIn. A benefit of this social media site is that it enables you to see if anyone in your network is at an academic institution where you want to work. If someone you know works there, email them to find out more, and ask for an introduction to someone in the department you're interested in.

  • Psychology Job Wiki. This nontraditional, crowdsourced site encourages users to post job information anonymously, offering insights that may not be found elsewhere, such as whether offers have been made on a job that's still listed. Note of caution: Since the site offers anonymous postings, it may not always offer the most up-to-date or accurate information.

How to respond to a job ad

Once you have zeroed in on jobs that seem right for you (consult your advisor or colleagues to help determine which may be good fits), the next step is to respond effectively. First, read the job ad thoroughly to determine exactly what background, area and skills the department is looking for. Use that information to craft a cover letter and modify your CV to focus on why you are a great fit. Tailor every sentence of the letter: Departments are looking through stacks of applicants' materials, so those that are clearly form letters, or not specific to the department's needs, are often weeded out. To make sure your application stands out:

  • Do your research. Examine the program and institution carefully. Consider how your research interests relate to those of other faculty or fill a gap, what training you could provide to graduate students, and what courses you could teach (whether existing courses in the catalog or new ones that you would develop). Find out if you know anyone at the university through LinkedIn and by checking with your professors and mentors.

  • Assemble a comprehensive marketing package. You'll be asked to send a CV and may be asked to send copies of publications. Typically, you'll also send a cover letter, names of references, and a statement of interest or philosophy.

  • Proofread. Given how competitive the job market can be, avoid anything that will automatically disqualify you, such as mistakes on your cover letter or CV.

Keys to compelling CV

A CV that's detailed, easy to read and well-crafted is crucial to getting the job you want. Here are some helpful tips for creating one to showcase your strengths:

  • Make it clean and well-organized. Organize the information into sections such as "Education," "Awards and Honors," "Publications," "Volunteer/Service Work" and "Professional Affiliations." List your awards, grants and research chronologically (many prefer reverse chronological order) and use the APA citation style. Use a simple font and make it easy to read, keeping language clear and concise. For guidance, check out the CVs of successful people in your field, many of whom post their CVs on their university websites. A sample psychology graduate student CV from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is available online.

  • Don't bury the lead. Right up front, describe the distinctions, awards or special skills that make you stand out as a candidate. If it's a teaching job, put your teaching experience up front. If it's a research position, lead with your research skills, publications and grants. Do the same with your cover letter.

  • Don't exaggerate. Do not pad your CV by being unclear about your previous education or positions or your role in a study, or by suggesting that unpublished work is published.

  • Ask seasoned pros you trust to look over your CV. Get feedback from mentors, professors or the director of graduate studies. Don't just rely on the opinions of your peers.

Polish your cover letter

Your cover letter works as a companion to the CV to present you as an excellent candidate for a position. To be sure your letter stands out:

  • Emphasize the key points of your CV. Many employers will not read your entire CV, so be sure to spell out the key take-away factors at the beginning of your letter, such as your research interests or your unique skill sets.

  • Highlight why you would be an asset. Emphasize how your accomplishments, goals and interests would complement the program, both by linking to other faculty's work and by filling in gaps or bringing in new approaches.

  • Keep it short but specific. A cover letter should include details about your experience and interests without being overwhelming. A good rule of thumb is to make it no longer than two pages.
  • Show your fit with the institution. Hiring faculty is a big investment, so most schools do not want someone who's looking for a stepping stone. Spell out why you think the particular institution is a good fit for you.
  • Show that you are forward-thinking. Talk about your goals and where you see your specialty area or subfield going in the next 10 years.
  • Point to other strengths you would bring. It is important to emphasize the experiences or skills you have that would help meet other departmental needs, such as those related to improving administration or an expertise in technology. 

For more insights on cover letters, go to www.apa.org/gradpsych/2015/11/cover-letter.aspx.