Finally. You get it.

The job interview you have been waiting for. Everything seems to be going well, and then... you receive the Dear John letter. You did not get the position. The reason why is vague at best. You want answers that you probably won't get.

Over the past months, as clients let me know what they do (and do not) get hired to teach, I have been querying deans and department chairs to find out what faculty are doing in job interviews (or after) that was a deal breaker for them.

Also keep in mind two important things:

  1. Not every job posted will be filled by an outside person. Sometimes schools post positions for a required number of days having a strong “feeling” who they will already hire from inside the school. I know this is less than ideal for those of us who are outside candidates, but it happens and you should be aware of it. (one of many reasons it's important to have job applications going all the time! We have services to help you!
  2. Try not to take the Dear John letters personally. This has been a topic of conversation on our Facebook forum. If a Dear John letter says that you are not qualified but you know you are, chances are the HR department used a form letter to respond to you.

Which begs the question: “Should I email HR and tell them that I am qualified?” You can, but you run the risk of running into the #1 complaint I hear below. I personally find it's better to just apply to something else again later and leave those HR folks alone.

Please note that this is not everything – and it also does not apply to every job and every hiring manager. These were the most common comments I have heard; the version without any sugar coating.

  1. Too much follow up. We have been told since high school career counseling to follow up after a job interview. While that is generally a good rule of thumb, too much of a good thing is not always so good. A nice “Thank you for the interview, I am excited at the possibility of joining your team” may do. One of the top responses from deans and human resource managers when asked why a candidate did not get a job (even if they interviewed well) was excessive follow up. What defined excessive? That varied, but more than one email in a week after the interview. The wheels in academia (sometimes) turn slowly. To keep from hitting the send button too fast, you could store your follow up in drafts to be sent at a later date. There is a fine line between following up and being annoying.
  2. A lot of back and forth conversation immediately following the interview. You hit it off with the dean on the phone, you thank him or her for their time, they reply in kind. You then reply (again) asking if they’d like copies of your work, what you can do to expedite the process, etc. The hiring manager replies something like “we will let you know” or “we are not quite to that point yet.” You reply “okay let me know when you are, in the meantime can I send you articles I am working on?” Err – no.
  3. Trying to become social media buddies right away. LinkedIn is a great tool for connecting and sharing with colleagues. Friending the hiring administrator on Facebook right after the interview is a different story. When you have been colleagues for five years and met in person a few times and shared pictures of your children, that might be another story. For now, keep it professional.
  4. Demanding too much or too little money. This is a tough one. You do not want to undersell yourself, but you also do not want to ask for so much money that you are disqualified. A simple “I am open to various degrees of pay based on the work requirements and your pay scales” and then asking what their pay scales are is appropriate (if you are to that point in the conversation). If HR does not bring this up, I recommend saving it for the dean to get past the HR department. Some institutions use HR to screen for salary and employment history before moving a candidate on.
  5. Not doing your homework. A dean told me that she was interviewing a candidate for a faith-based institution and asked how the candidate integrates her personal faith into the classroom. The candidate responded with something like “faith? Why would I do that?” Check out institutions online - at least their mission, vision and philosophy - before the interview.
  6. Not supplying information right away when asked by email. You have a great interview, HR gets back to you and asks for unofficial transcripts by email and for official transcripts to be mailed. Yes this is a good sign. Then, you wait a week to send unofficial documents, and then have the transcript processor send official transcripts by email. First, you waited too long. Second, the HR person asked for them by mail, not by email. Don’t ask questions, just send items the way the representative asks for them. Too much back and forth falls into #2 and also makes the HR person’s job much harder. The goal is to make it easy and pleasant for them to hire you.

What else? Are you a Dean, work in HR or run a department? We would love to hear your feedback on the forum! You can also read my interviewing tips on the Online Teaching Blog

Happy Fall!

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