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PhoneOver the past 20+ years in academia I have chaired and served on over 12 academic search committees.  These search committees have included positions for deans, department heads, professors, assistant professors and non-tenure track faculty.

During that time, how many applicants were too aggressive? How many annoyed the department head or search committee chair because they called on the telephone and asked to talk about the job?  How many search committees discarded academic applicants because they were too eager?

ZERO.  That’s right – I have yet to encounter a single academic applicant who was too aggressive in the job search process.

What is the lesson here?  If you are searching for an academic position, it is not difficult to get a closer, second look.  Simply give the search committee chair or the department head a phone call and discuss the job. Let them know why you are interested.

This past semester our school had a tenure track job opening.  We had over 160 applicants for the position.  How many applicants picked up the phone (or asked for a phone interview via email) and proactively asked to talk with the department head about the position?  Two.  Two applicants out of 160.  Guess what – both applicants got a close look.  One of these applicants was ultimately our hire.  The entire department is positive about this hire because we feel certain about his desire to be at our university.

I am convinced that I got my first job by picking up the phone.  I had been on a school visit that did not go particularly well.  I really liked the school but I wasn’t in top form during the interview process.  I was told two weeks later that they had made an offer to another candidate.  After a few days of being miserable, I picked up the phone and called the department head and we talked.  A few days later the other candidate turned down the job and I was offered the position.  The department head knew that I wanted to be there.  It was a good hire for the school.  It was a good hire for me.

Moral of the story: If you see a job in academia that you really like, pick up the phone and call the search committee chair and/or department head.  Each phone conversation is a learning experience which will hone your interviewing skills.  Be sincere.  Be yourself.  Who knows – maybe you will land the big job.

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