Online Teaching Blog

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Online Teaching Jobs: Cold-Calling Deans or Administrators to Get Professor Jobs

Online Teaching Jobs: Cold-Calling Deans or Administrators to Get Professor Jobs

by Dani Babb
June 29, 2015

Finding online teaching jobs isn’t easy – human resources systems and time-consuming job applications can be prohibitive. The old practice of cold-emailing university administrators is back, and it is working for our professors.

In the “old days” of applying to industry jobs, it was common to find the name of the hiring manager and fire off snail mail or an email with your letter of interest and resume. Back in 2005 when we started helping professors find teaching jobs, most of our candidates used this method: they sent emails off to deans and administrators they had contact information for, and were either sent a rejection note or a reply with information on how to proceed with candidacy.

When job boards became more prevalent, schools organized their job searches, using human resources systems to screen applicants. Candidates applying to jobs through online HR systems experience something like this: upload your CV and cover letter, watch the HR system attempt to parse the data, and then re-enter every single thing you just uploaded into little boxes (be sure to put the .00 at the end of the Western Governor’s apps!). Sound familiar?! If you are using a big job board site for your job leads, you may be competing with hundreds (or more) of applicants for the same job (one of many reasons we recommend our own leads – we do not look at the job boards and find jobs few are aware of). You may or may not actually reach the hiring manager/dean in the process.

Recently we noticed a trend – we had a few clients (those looking for on-ground and online jobs) ask us to help them locate a dean or human resources rep at a school they wanted to work for, and they fired off a cold-call email introducing themselves and attaching their CV and transcripts – old-school style. The response was interesting: while many received emails like “please go to our HR site” or “how did you find me?” or “please do not ever email me again”, others received messages such as “thanks for your interest, can we chat on Monday?” or “I was looking for someone to teach English, I am glad you messaged me.” I am paraphrasing of course, but the point is that the old method of cold-emailing human resources or dean is back – and it’s working. Are some administrators annoyed at the extra email? Yes. But our clients are telling us it is worth it.

I recently asked a few deans who are receptive to the idea why this method has had some success for our clients and the response was simple: turns out some deans aren’t so happy having to filter through hundreds of CVs uploaded into an HR site either, and that puts the candidate and the dean on the same side.

When this method of searching was mentioned in our Facebook group, the responses were controversial. Some deans went as far as to say they would be irritated at the query and likely never hire the candidate. Some said one more email is one more annoyance. But, others said they respect and appreciate the interest and ambition. As a result, I think it’s important to cover the pros and cons of cold-emailing.

First the advantages:

  • You will reach deans who others are likely not contacting,
  • You will get your CV into the hands of the person who hires,
  • It works for online and on-ground jobs (you can target who you send the email to),
  • You can indicate interest in developing courses or mentoring students,
  • It is fast – the administrator will receive your interest note quickly,
  • You can custom tailor your interests in your letter,
  • It is fast and easy to send off your interest letter,
  • The person receiving it may forward your CV onto someone else, who is hiring,
  • You may get a job you didn’t even know existed.

Now the disadvantages:

  • Some deans may be upset you found them/contacted them/emailed them,
  • You will have to see more rejection letters than you see with automated HR apps,
  • It can be difficult to find contact information (we can help with that part!),
  • You may not get a job and be blacklisted if the dean is particularly upset.

To me, the pros far outweigh the negatives; (partly because I am okay with rejection), and because I have seen so many clients successfully land positions that no one knew were available. In many cases, deans have created positions or new curriculum from interest letters.

If you decide you’d like to pursue this route, how do you go about it? Here is a step-by-step list of what to do and what to send, from our experience:

  1. Draft a cover letter you can re-use, just changing the name and the university or area of discipline you’d like to teach/develop in.
  2. If you do not have a specific name, you can write To Whom It May Concern or Academic Administration in the “to” line.
  3. Paste the cover letter directly into the body of the email, not as an attachment.
  4. Proofread the cover to be sure you changed relevant fields.
  5. Include at the bottom of the cover the word “Attachments:” and note what you are attaching, which should at least be your CV and graduate transcripts.
  6. Attach your CV and graduate transcripts.
  7. Keep track of the administrators you contact – don’t repeat communication to the same person.
  8. Click send!

Don’t be surprised or disappointed at the rejections – remember how many apps you submit that you never hear back from again (the indirect rejections). Don’t be surprised if you have an incorrect email address; people move on and email addresses are changed, just look for another one. Don’t be surprised if some recipients aren’t happy you sent a note; you can apologize or just delete it and move on. If you’d like help with getting contacts, we would be happy to help you get started!

What do you think? Has this worked for you? What best practices do you find useful when sending a cold inquiry? Please comment below – and as always - Happy Job Hunting!