... from someone who has helped thousands get work as an online professor.
Having worked in online education for over 15 years and working with thousands of clients while maintaining the confidence and anonymity of deans and administrators, I have learned a lot about why candidates don’t get that interview or get the job they were a perfect fit for. In this article, my goal is to share with you this candid feedback – even when it hurts to hear (or just shouldn’t be that way!)
I know… we are in academia! We are online professors! We are free from the handcuffs of a desk job, working for “the man” and having to make our way into the office or classroom every week. We have vast experience working with students from a variety of backgrounds and demographics, cultures and experiences. Our bosses are tolerant, accepting and quirky, just like us. We have hobbies others might find strange, and (some of us) alternate between daytime and nighttime “working clothes”, also known as pajamas. Our bosses understand, which is why they rarely hold video-required web calls. But, sometimes we just don’t get that interview for a job we were perfect for. Or, are interviewed and, despite being told we were a perfect fit for the position, we didn’t get the job.
Certainly lots of factors play a role in whether we get an interview or a job. We have covered these in many other articles. Someone even more qualified may have applied for the spot. The position may have been posted with a specific candidate in mind. The school wanted someone with a different degree, or your CV and documentation wasn’t quite ready for primetime. Nepotism could have even been at play.
While all of these factors (and more) play a role in whether we land new work, there are many factors we don’t often think about. We have learned from years of working with candidates and deans (and matching the two) in the online education industry, and my goal is to share a lot of what we know with our readers to help you be the most successful in your search for employment as you can be. We help candidates write their curriculum vitae’s, prepare their cover letters and solicit letters of recommendation. We also help candidates apply to jobs - and we have probably seen it all when it comes to documentation. But most importantly, we ask deans for their candid (with confidentiality guaranteed) reasons they didn’t hire someone – or didn’t even call them for an interview – when they seemed like a perfect fit.
Do any of these sound like you? If so, now is the time to fix it!
- While we think of education as liberal and accepting, appearance matters. Your interviewer is likely to search for you online before interviewing you. If your profile shows your tattoos and body piercings, as cool as they are, it may impact what the interviewer thinks of you - and yes - it does impact jobs. Coming from someone who likes her tattoos and piercings, you can find a way to cover them up and look professional – or decide you don’t want to work for schools where this plays a role in hiring – just don’t be surprised that it does. Image still matters and you represent the school to students. I take a risk even admitting I have any in the article!
- Cutesy email addresses – or worse. Imadoglover1969 at (your favorite server) may seem cool when you got your first pup in the 1960s and your email address when Hotmail first started handing them out, but it doesn’t appear like a professional email address. Some deans will chuckle; others will think you were too lazy to get a professional email address or you just don’t care. We have seen it all; from email addresses (these are just examples, not the actual addresses – but you get the idea) like tiredofbeingburnedbymen at yahoo to dontexplectivewithmetoday at gmail. Just. Don’t. Do. It. If you have to, get an email address that has your respectable name and possibly title and use it just for interviews. Yes, we have seen administrators, even high ranking executives, come in with some funny/quirky ones too that they forgot to leave off of their CV they last updated in the 90s.
- A criminal record. When we apply for people, we have to know if you have a criminal record. Be honest. If you can get your record sealed or expunged, work with an attorney to do so. Many deans will agree something you did in your early adulthood shouldn’t reflect your ability to get a job in your 50s after 35 years of responsible citizenry, but it does sometimes.
- Not completing employment applications all the way or providing half complete applications. Yes, it’s redundant. Yes, it’s in your CV. No, you should not write “see CV”. Enough said on this one.
- Not providing requested information and documents when asked – whether you’re filling out an online form, our team is doing it for you, or an interviewer/HR person/dean emails you asking for additional information. Whatever you do, if you are contacted, please do not say “did you open my CV?” or something implying this. Yes, we have had deans (many in fact) report that candidates do this. Guess what happens to that email?
- Badgering HR or the deans for the status of your application. If you have received a positive, non-automated email or confirmation that the school has interest, follow up in two weeks. If you’ve had an interview, email a thank you. The end.
- Poor writing skills in emails and on other documents. Review your work now and again, use spell check, read your work out loud, whatever it takes to find errors. How can you grade student work if yours is full of mistakes?
- Poor quality transcript copies. Keep high quality scans to upload to employment systems and send by email when requested. Don’t complain about having to pay for transcripts. Write it off as a job search cost if your accountant says you can, and move on. Making money means sometimes spending money.
- Unprofessional social media that is open to the public. By unprofessional we mean “weird/unconventional” photos, highly controversial political statements (save that for people you actually know online – friends and such!), posts that make it clear your hobby after grading is hitting the wine bottle or anything else that depicts you in a less than optimal way. I’m not suggesting you water your profiles down so much as to appear boring or lacking personality, just use the inherent security features in the tools to not overshare with the public.
- Proofread your LinkedIn profile. This one is self-explanatory.
- Openly complaining about your students (in an unprofessional way) in an online forum. Yes, online forums are often used as water coolers. Yes, our students are saying probably far worse things about us. Yes, you are welcome to vent. Just know who may be reading/watching and that if you overdo it, you could be impacted financially.
- False expectations. Being candid here, getting a job takes time. On average it takes 80 to 120 applications per interview with variables such as popularity of your degree, availability of jobs, timing, materials you’re using to apply etc. It also takes 2-3 months, on average, just for each of those applications to be reviewed. Sometimes years. Treat it as a sales funnel and keep new apps in the queue.
- Rude, negative attitudes. Negative energy comes across on email and in social media and yes, deans and hiring managers can tell and yes, they have shared this with us. Some savvy clients have asked us things like, “how do I come across to you by email?” We are candid and honest, and asking these kinds of questions of people you trust is useful. We can tell when a client is rude/short with the folks helping them get jobs that they could be rude/short with others – this attitude comes across in your communications and it isn’t helping you land a job. Even if you didn’t sleep, the dog just ate your favorite shoes and you’re stressed on time, find a way to filter that in your communications.
- Not having a sense of humor. Life is tough sometimes, but our jobs are pretty awesome and some funny (and simultaneously stressful) things happen. Laugh about them.
- Too narrow of a search or focus. You are academically qualified to teach a subject area that you have 18 graduate hours in. Each school will have their own requirements. A dean who really wants you to work for him/her may even bend those rules – or – as we are told – interpret graduate courses differently than another dean. Your degree may be in Finance, but did you have 18 hours of HR and Management too? We aren’t suggesting that you apply in an area you don’t want to teach. Passion is vital. But don’t narrow your search so much that you keep yourself from landing a job. Cast a wider net and you may find out that the interviewer has other positions available that are an even better fit for you. This happens often.
- Getting flustered or frustrated with the application process easily. It takes time and it’s frustrating sometimes! Perseverance pays off here in big ways.
- Having your start/stop dates on your application not match your CV and/or LinkedIn. Edit for accuracy – all three.
What do you think? What would you add to the list?