1. Donna Kienzler © 2009
Director, Preparing Future Faculty Program
Assistant Director, CELT
The Job Search
• Know the job market:
o Professional associations and publications
o CHE (for academic jobs)
o Specific institution or organization
• Know yourself; you are marketing yourself; you are the Product.
• Read job ads NOW so you can shape yourself in attractive ways.
• Start vita/résumé NOW and keep it up to date.
• Participate thoughtfully in professional forums and listservs. Doing so enables people to
recognize your name favorably when your application arrives.
An active job search takes huge chunks of time for months, making it hard to accomplish much
on your research or dissertation. Plan accordingly.
Resources (see separate handout)
• Major professor, POS committee members, department
• Fellow students
• Professional associations
• Professional contacts NETWORK
• Internet (separate handout)
Not all resources are current and accurate. In particular, be careful of .com sites: some are good;
others are not. And even good sources can have advice that is bad for you. When advice
conflicts, choose the advice which is best for you.
• The job letter and vita/résumé should be written from the employer’s perspective, not
yours; they should show what you can do for a particular institution, not why you want
• Gimmicks, such as unusual fonts or colors of paper, are considered risky.
Vita or Curriculum Vitae/Résumé
Vitae are used to obtain jobs in higher education, as well as for some research jobs in
government and business. Résumés are generally used to obtain jobs in business/industry, non-
profits, and government. Because of their different audiences and purposes, vitae and résumés
have some distinguishing characteristics:
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2. • Length: Vitae are longer, sometimes many pages longer. Résumés are frequently
confined to 2-3 pages.
• Focus: Résumés are focused for one specific audience and include content to impress that
particular audience. They also focus on the most recent and pertinent information. Vitae
include content for all audiences and include more information, hence their longer length.
• Organization: Vitae are generally organized in a reverse chronology by conventional
content areas; so are some résumés. However, some résumés are organized around skills
sets needed for a particular job.
• Content areas: Generally, résumés include two content areas not found on vitae—the
career objective and summary of qualifications.
Content to omit
• Generally, personal data—such as date of birth, marital status, number of children, social
security number—are not included.
• Most if not all information about your college career should be omitted. Employers are
interested in your graduate career.
• Generally, academic vitae do not include career objectives. Such information is put in the
cover letter. They also generally omit Summary of Qualifications.
• Name, address, phone (where you can be reached during business hours), email
• Do you need two sets? Home and office? One for now and another after graduation? Is
your university office information adequate as your sole contact information? Do mail
and phone messages get delivered? Is the privacy adequate?
• Do you want an email address dedicated solely to job correspondence?
Career Objective (being replaced by Summary of Qualifications on some résumés)
• Keep your statement brief—two to three lines.
• The best career objectives are targeted to a specific job at a specific company.
• Use the job title that appears in the job posting.
Summary of Qualifications
• Show your knowledge of the field and its terminology.
• Use specific, quantifiable achievements.
• Sometimes you need to show key personality traits, such as initiative, leadership, or
• Use key words from the job ad.
Education (generally comes before Experience on a vita)
• Reverse chronological order
• School, city, state, degree, major/minor/emphasis, and date for all 3 degrees; thesis and
dissertation titles, major professors
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3. • For Ph.D., give your expected graduation date, such as May 2009
• May add short paragraph (2-5 lines) about dissertation
• Postdocs generally also go under education
Honors and awards
• Honors and awards are wonderful if you have them, but not everyone will.
• If you have only one or two honors, include them in your education section.
• Will everyone know what your scholarships or fellowships are? If not, defining words
can be included in brackets. You particularly want to give details if your honors were
highly selective or remunerative.
• Include fellowships but not assistantships.
Experience (generally comes before Education on a résumé)
• Teaching, work experience, and research are major sections; if you have enough material,
make them separate sections.
• All three are generally arranged in reverse chronological order.
• If a particular section is long, use subheadings (such as consulting, fieldwork, or
• Give employers, positions, dates and location for all your experience. Format
consistently, and start with the item—generally employer or position—that makes you
look best. If all of one kind of your experience is at one place, you can indicate that in
your heading (e.g., Teaching Experience at Iowa State University, Research Experience
at Mero Corporation).
• Stress your accomplishments, not your duties. Give good details and numbers about those
o Developed web component for junior-level thermodynamics course
o Supervised 7 TAs
o Designed new machine to test vibrations in X
o Created new software to search X for Y
o Developed new testing procedures that cut testing time 20%
o Developed new testing procedures that cut testing expenses 15%
• If you have extensive volunteer experience that is relevant, include it under Experience,
• Readers expect to see bulleted items, which are easier and faster to read than paragraphs
and generally are not complete sentences. They may be put off by paragraphs and not
• It is traditional to avoid using “I” in your vita.
• Bulleted items need to have parallel structure (e.g., if one bullet starts with an “ed” verb,
they all must).
• Use strong verbs such as “managed,” “developed,” “created,” “wrote.”
• Bulleted items should have regular sentence capitalization (capitalize first word and
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4. • Be explicit about teaching stand-alone courses. Use descriptive course titles if actual
titles are misleading; do not use course numbers.
• If your teaching experience is in areas outside your professional interests, you may want
a brief (2-3 lines) Teaching Interests entry. You may also want to list specific graduate
courses you have taken that show your preparation to teach those courses.
• Explain any gaps in your history so employers know you are not trying to hide a shady
• Skills/Functional résumés replace Experience sections with Skills sections.
o Include 3-7 skill sets.
o Include skills from areas such as work, education, service, and grantsmanship.
o List paid jobs in a brief Work History near end of résumé.
Research interests (if you are not submitting a separate document on this topic)
Technical or professional skills; computer software or technical equipment skills
• Generally publications are listed in reverse chronological order. That way, when your
publication list becomes pages long, the most recent (and presumably most interesting)
publications will be first.
• Frequently the list is also sorted by type: books, articles, papers, poster presentations, as
well as refereed vs. non-refereed.
• Generally people list only items already published or accepted for publication, since
items under review or in preparation may not be accepted. One common exception is a
scholarly book. Technically, articles under preparation are not publications. A safer
heading might be Scholarship.
• Generally dissertations are not considered publications unless they have been published
by a recognized journal or press.
• Papers and posters: Generally, your audience will be interested in conference
presentations you have made, not conferences you have attended.
• Even teaching schools and businesses might want to see a few presentations, so if you
still have time, look for opportunities to present papers or posters.
• Résumés generally condense this section. If you have an impressive collection, you may
want your complete list as a separate document.
Extras: Patents, Shows, Performances
• Clearly distinguish between those applied for and those awarded
• If you have no grant writing experience, now would be a great time to get some
Languages and degree of facility
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• Proficient in English, French, and Chinese
• Read German
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6. • Basic speaking ability in Spanish
• Rudimentary knowledge of Japanese
• Academy (such as departmental committee work)
• Profession (such as reviewing for journals, helping plan conferences)
Keep service section short and relevant to the position you want to get
References (generally a separate document; not part of vita/résumé)
• Use 3-6 references. Vita generally use academic references, one of whom is your major
professor, and all of whom are full or associate professors, if possible. Résumés should
have at least one non-academic employer.
• Try to use people who are well known in the field. However, if you have to choose
between big names and people who know you well, the most frequent advice is to choose
the people who know you.
• Make sure you have their permission to use them as references, that they know your work
well, and that they will say good things about you. If anyone shows the slightest
hesitation when you ask them, approach the issue directly: “Do you have any reservations
about writing a positive recommendation for me?” or “For what kinds of jobs could you
strongly recommend me?”
• Give references a current vita/résumé, pertinent job ads, and other documents if they
• Also give references a clear description of what a particular employer is seeking
(especially the teaching/research balance for academic jobs). This is a key step. It allows
you to be proactive in achieving excellent letters of recommendation.
• If you will be posting your vita with references online, let your references know.
Specifically ask if they want to make changes in any of their contact information. For
instance, some references may request that you change their phone number from their cell
phone to an office phone. In these days of web trawlers, privacy issues concern many
• If you are applying to a teaching school, include a reference who can comment on
• Use 12-point type of a traditional font, such as Times New Roman. Remember that most
employers and search committee members are tired; many have old eyes. Be kind and use
the regular font size!
• Do not right justify; it creates strange word spacing.
• Single space: It is traditional to single space the vita. Sometimes breaking traditions helps
you to stand out; other times it makes you look uninformed.
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7. • Use some form of spacing (add a space between items, indent first lines, use hanging
indents) to help distinguish between items in lists.
• Be aware of white space. Use it well to make vita/résumé easily readable.
• Your vita/résumé will look less cluttered if you use fewer type faces. In particular, try to
limit your use of italics.
• List items vertically, rather than running them together in a paragraph, to give them more
emphasis. Research shows that readers, who are almost always rushed, tend to skip large
blocks of text, thus the advice to use bullets.
• Limit the number of headings; try to group items into larger blocks so vita/résumé does
not seem so fragmented.
• Check to see that like headings are formatted consistently for spacing, font,
capitalization, centering, etc.
• It is considered poor form to have a section with just one entry. Try to move single
entries somewhere else or drop them.
• Traditionally vitae/résumés avoid the pronoun “I.”
• Spell out acronyms the first time you use them.
• Put your last name and a page number on all pages after the first.
• Check for awkward page breaks (a heading with nothing after it or a stranded single line
• Keep your formatting choices consistent throughout your document.
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