The Job Search

Information on this page includes:

Research and Self-Assessment

Before staring the academic job search, it is wise to pause and reflect on your long-term career objectives, your strengths and weaknesses, and your notions of job and personal satisfaction.  Not only will this reflective process help you make career decisions you can live with in the long run, it will also enhance your performance on the market as you express your professional goals, teaching philosophy, and interests in your cover letter, CV, and interviews. Although you may want to explore numerous options when on the job market, this reflection process will help you direct your efforts in an intentional manner as opposed to sending mass quantities of generic applications that are not tailored to the institution and your interests.

For the academic job search, ask yourself the following:

  • What are my “dream schools” and why?
  • What types of positions and institutions am I qualified for?
  • Do I prefer certain geographic areas?
  • Do I have a stronger preference for teaching or research?
  • What courses would I like to teach?
  • Do I prefer to teach certain kinds of students?
  • Are there personal and lifestyle issues that may influence my search?


Approach and Organization

The academic job search can be overwhelming.  You will more than likely cast a wide net by applying for multiple positions.  Good information management and organization is therefore imperative.  Get off to a good start by creating an organized filing system.  Maintain records of position announcements(be sure to keep a record of not only the job advertisement link, but also the job description text), jobs you apply for, materials submitted, and research on institutions.  Keeping a master log of dates organized by position will serve you well in prioritizing applications, meeting deadlines, and reducing stress.

Below is a list of information you may wish to record in a master log:

  • Institution and contact information
  • Specialization sought or preferred for the position
  • Application submission deadline
  • Date materials sent
  • List of materials sent
  • Date acknowledgement received
  • Date additional materials requested
  • List of additional materials and date sent  
  • Record of interviews (conference, phone, etc.)
  • Names of interviewers/contacts
  • Date thank-you note sent for each interview
  • Record of travel arrangements and itinerary for campus interviews
  • Record of reimbursement for expenses
  • Date offer/rejection notification received
  • Date your acceptance letter/letter of decline sent

Below is a list of materials you may wish to keep on file for each position:

  • Position announcement
  • Application materials submitted
  • Acknowledgments received
  • Notes from interviews and other relevant exchanges
  • Information collected about the institution
  • Receipts for expenses to be reimbursed
  • Offer/rejection notifications
  • Your acceptance letter/letter of decline



The academic job search differs from the job search process in other sectors of the economy in that set of protocols determines the procedure for advertising positions, collecting application materials, and screening and interviewing job candidates.  For tenure-track positions the process is usually much more involved than other job searches because the investment on the part of the hiring institution is greater.

Academic Timeline Visual


Tenure-Track Positions

For most American institutions of higher learning, the academic year begins in late August; institutions operating on the quarter system start a bit later, usually in late September.  Most institutions start the hiring process for permanent positions one year before the beginning of the appointment.  Openings are advertised nationally as early as the summer and into the fall.  Search committees often begin to review applications in the fall to allow for screening interviews at national conferences in the winter.  Most (though not all) campus interviews occur in the spring with the goal of extending an offer and concluding the hiring process by the end of the spring semester.  There are many exceptions to this timeline, however, as institutions can have unexpected needs and circumstances.  Keep looking.

Part-Time and Visiting Positions

Occasions arise for institutions to search to fill teaching positions on short notice, on a part-time or short-term basis.  The hiring process for these positions can sometimes be much later and shorter—as short as several months, if not weeks, before the start of the term.  In these cases, time constraints may prevent widely publicized announcements and formal searches.  Candidates may be interviewed by telephone and may or may not have a formal interview in person.  An individual who previously submitted an unsolicited letter of interest in working with the department may be a prime candidate for such a position, as may be an applicant to another position in the department who was not hired.


Finding a Job

Most tenure-track positions are advertised nationally through multiple sources.  General resources are listed below.  Job candidates will also want to tap into the networks within their discipline, such as scholarly newsletters and journals, job email alert services, and fresh postings at conferences where a job seeker may have the opportunity to make a solid first impression on a departmental representative.

General Resources



Making connections within a profession is widely known to be the most effective way to find a job.  While this is especially the case for job markets beyond academe where the search process can be less systematic and formal, getting connected within the academic profession is still useful in securing a position.  Some graduate students discount this practice and expect to stand out solely on the merits of their CVs.  Although search committees place the greatest premium on high-quality work, as they should, human nature also comes into play.  You will do well to carry yourself less like a student and more like a professional and colleague as you near the end of your program.  Maintaining good relationships with your adviser and other faculty members in your department can easily give you a boost on the market.  Attending scholarly conferences provides valuable opportunities to meet other scholars who may show interest in you and your work.  Academic circles are small, and making a positive impression on the people in your field can increase your chances of getting attention on the job market.

U.Va. Networking Resources

  • UCAN: Alumni Network The University Career Assistance Network (UCAN) is a career networking tool developed by the Alumni Association to help connect you with other U.Va. alumni. over 18,000 alumni have agreed to serve as career contacts to help U.Va. alumni and students with informational interviewing and networking. UCAN's alumni career contacts come from a broad range of professions and fields, and provide advice and eprspectives regarding career paths, job search strategies, and companies. UCAN, a free alumni career resource, is a searchable database which is a component of the HoosOnline community. UCAN is available to ALL students. To access this resource you must register with HoosOnline. For more information, contact Hoosonline Support or call (434) 243- 2012.
  • U.Va. Alumni LinkedIn Network
  • U.Va. Career Networking Community
  • HoosOnline