As a department chair for over a dozen years, I have had the opportunity to coach hundreds of part-time faculty and the pleasure of watching some blossom into major campus players as full-timers internally or externally at other institutions. I often see this as a shared goal because most part-time faculty are hoping to land a full-time position, and a part of my role as a chair is to support the professional development of the faculty I supervise. I also have had full-time positions to fill.
Over this same period, I have been the hiring manager or search committee chair at least sixty times. However, the downside to this is that I have also seen some worthy adjuncts miss out on a potential full-time offer for legitimate reasons that are not typically shared in the standard “how to find a job” resources. I have often thought: “If they only knew…”
Therefore, here they are: my top six secrets to help part-time faculty obtain a full-time teaching position.
Give Me What I Want
I mean it. Do not submit the generic cover letter and resume you’ve been sending to every other position you’ve applied for during the last decade, especially if you haven’t even bothered to change the job title to the one you are applying for currently. Take the time to really consider how you meet the potential employer’s needs. Include something to account for each of the qualifications listed in the job posting. Show me you can focus your thoughts clearly and express them concisely. Make me believe you are not only the one we need now, but that you can bring something else to the team in the future.
Keep the Fluff
I mean this, too. Avoid lapsing into the rookie mentality that the longer your application is, the better. I do not need to know every single class you have taught over the last three decades. I don’t need to learn how many cats and dogs you have or that you are also a “people person.” Stick to providing concrete information about your skills, qualifications, and talents.
Similarly, do not exaggerate your role in projects or on committees, especially if you are an internal candidate. Chances are good you did not single-handedly launch the online course offerings at a university nor are you a curriculum expert if you set up your own classes. This sort of fluff and hyperbole is actually distracting, and hiring committee members are not impressed by them.
As a way of documenting your skills and talents, offer professional examples. For instance, can you share a link to your instructional YouTube videos? A podcast you created? A paper evaluated using media rich feedback? Have you completed online instructor certification at any of your previous positions? Sharing these sorts of concrete evidence will do much to let potential employers know who you are and what you would bring to the position.
Offer Something New
The harsh reality is that when we apply for an open position, we often feel we are well qualified. Some internal candidates who have been with a school for a few years may even feel entitled to the full-time position and approach the interview as if the job is already theirs. However, full-time positions are highly competitive. For every open position I have chaired a hiring committee for, there were anywhere from three to six dozen good candidates. What will usually make you stand out from the crowd is to not only demonstrate that you meet and exceed the requirements of the position, but that you also bring something unique to the table. It may even be something the hiring committee hasn’t even thought about.
For example, when applying for positions in composition, after showing that I could meet and exceed the expectations of the position, I would add the unique quality that I also hold a master’s degree in Classics. Rather than just studying rhetorical theory within the standard graduate English courses, I have also examined the works of the original masters like Aristotle, the Father of Rhetoric, and Cicero in their original languages. This has provided me with a greater depth of understanding, and though some writing faculty consider the Classical Rhetorical Theory to be outdated, all understand its significance as the foundation of the theories that have followed historically, its time tested validity, and the uniqueness an in-depth knowledge of the evolution of rhetorical theory could offer a program. In other words, I offered something unique that perhaps the committee hadn’t thought about before.
Express Genuine Interest/Awareness
A common interview technique is to turn the tables toward the end of the conversation if the hiring committee asks you if you have any questions. One of the worst responses is, “No.” Express interest by coming to the interview with some questions. Pay attention to the sorts of questions the interviewers are asking, and ask related questions. For instance, do a lot of the questions seem to have to do with your technical fluency? Then ask a related question like: “Are there any other technical needs of the position or department that this position could assist with?” Even some general questions are fine and can show interest in the job. Ask the committee members something like: “What do you each think is the best part of working for this university?”
Although there is debate about this and it’s wise to wait until this end point in the interview, I like to hear a candidate ask about salary and benefits. Part of the reason is that I have gone all the way through a hiring process for part or full-time faculty only to have the candidate turn down the actual job offer because the salary or benefits are not what was expected. This causes additional delays in getting a position filled.
The other reason I like to hear a candidate ask is that realistically, we work to earn a living. We are taught to keep our personal lives out of the work place; however, we all know that a job must be a good fit both professionally and personally, otherwise a potential hire or even a faculty member who begins the job may quit.
The final reason I suggest asking questions at the end is because if the position as described is not a good fit for you, there may be a bit of wiggle room. In part, I started teaching online when I was offered a full-time teaching position at a university that was an 80-mile commute from my home. Professionally, it was a perfect fit; personally, as a single father of two, it was not. The salary offered was a bit lower than I had expected, too. I couldn’t afford the daily commute in time or cost. However, I asked if the position could be done partially online. Fortunately, the response was favorable, and I only had to make the commute two days per week during the time my kids were in school.
Get Us at Hello
It’s understandable that an interviewee will be nervous; however, often those doing the interview are too. Therefore, just as in any other social situation, it’s vital that you do your part. Extend your hand, be friendly, and help the interview feel more like a conversation than an interrogation. This is also important in that it helps the members of the hiring committee see how you will interact as part of the team and how you will handle yourself in stressful situations. During the interview, it’s helpful to make connections with others as you slowly discover who they are at the institution. Do be sincere and try make it seem like you are a part of the team during the time you have together. Use the shared goal of finding the right person to fill the needs of this position; make that person you.
The above tips are not all there is to obtaining a full-time teaching position if you are currently part-time; however, after being the chair of about sixty such hiring committees, these are the ones candidates tend to forget about or be unaware of. Those who do follow the above recommendations are the ones who have typically received the job offer.
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