E-mail and search functions

  • University of Illinois
  • E-mail
  • A-Z Index

Faculty and Academic Hiring

Searching for and landing a faculty position is different from looking for a job in the corporate or not-for-profit sectors. Available positions are posted in specialized scholarly periodicals, application materials are usually different, with disciplinary distinctions, and the process is also usually congruent with the academic calendar.
Securing a tenure-track faculty position is more challenging than ever before, and advance planning and organization are essential.

Understand the Landscape of Higher Education

In completing your degree, you’ve become an expert in your field. But to become a faculty member, you need to go on the job market looking like a future colleague to search committees.
Some things that can help:

Get Organized

You will likely be applying to many different positions, and you need to keep track of the different details associated with each application. Plan how you will manage dates and details BEFORE you begin. It can be helpful to create an Excel spreadsheet or maintain a log or file so you can keep track of key information and deadlines.
An expanded MS Excel template is available for download and use.
In addition to your spreadsheet or notebook, keep a dedicated file folder (electronic or paper) for each position to which you apply. Keep track of details such as:
  • The position announcement
  • A copy of all application materials submitted
  • Notes about any conversations with members of the search committee
  • Notes from interviews and relevant telephone conversations
  • Additional information gathered about that institution
  • Offer or rejection letters
  • A copy of your letter of acceptance or rejection

Arrange for Recommendations

References are very important in academia. You will need 3-5 references who can speak to your research skills, potential as a scholar, and teaching skills in the classroom.
  • In general, it is best to have references that know you well and have known you recently.
  • When requesting references, make certain that the individual is willing to be a strong reference. You might ask by saying, “I’m going on the faculty job market this year, and I'd like for you to serve as a reference on my behalf. Do you feel you know me and my work well enough to serve as a positive reference?" It’s always good to follow up on this conversation with an e-mail message confirming their willingness to serve as a reference. Your letter should also indicate that you wish for the recommender to discuss your educational performance with potential employers.
  • Supply your references with a recent copy of your CV and any other materials that might help them comment positively on your work, such as a writing sample, dissertation chapter, or statement of research goals.

Consider your Plan B

  • According to research conducted by Maresi Nerad and others at the Center for Innovation and Research in Graduate Education at the University of Washington, it can take several years for a PhD to land a tenure-track job.
  • As you prepare for your academic job search, be realistic and accept that you may need to spend more than one year on the job market. Consider how you will support yourself and remain scholarly active during the interim. Job seekers often spend the intervening years in contingent positions such as adjunct or visiting faculty, postdocs, or other non-tenure-track positions.
  • Some students may wish to simultaneously manage both faculty and non-faculty job searches. The resources on this website as well as the advice of Graduate College Career Development Office counselors can help you as you explore diverse opportunities.

Additional Resources

Furlong, Jennifer and Julia Miller Vick. The Academic Job Search Handbook (Fourth Edition), University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.
Dantzig, Jonathan A. Landing an Academic Job: The Process and the Pitfalls, http://web.mechse.illinois.edu/research/dantzig/ACAJOB/index.html, University of Illinois, 1995.
Gray, Paul and David E. Drew. What They Didn't Teach You in Graduate School: 199 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career, Stylus Publishing, 2008.