How can you tell if advertised academic positions are legitimate?

Have you ever wondered if advertised faculty jobs really exist, or if academic search committees are “really hiring”?

Believe it or not, we’ve all wondered this from time to time. Nothing is more frustrating than receiving sterile rejection letters stating, “Because we could not find a suitable candidate...” What do they mean by we could not find a suitable candidate? Aren’t we suitable candidates? Objectively speaking, we are.  However, in the subjective world of university employment or college employment, even Nobel Laureates could be deemed unsuitable.

Why?  Very good question... Perhaps a better question is whether higher education positions are advertised for the purpose of hiring someone, anyone, best qualified to fill a need, or create extra “busy work” during faculty search season?

How can you tell if a search is legitimately committed to hiring or not?  Research your prospective employer.  Investigate web sites for employment and academic departments, see if any historical track record of canceled or suspended searches exists.  Graduate students at least a year before degree completion should start researching and saving advertised faculty jobs in an archive.  When ready to start applying and interviewing for academic positions, go back into those advertisement archives and see if a new ad looks too familiar.  This is how we collect valuable data on professional fields and patterns of “employment behavior” by different institutions of higher education and academic departments.  Sometimes jobs are advertised with no intention to ever fill them, or with very unrealistic expectations of the ultimate candidate for hire.  Sometimes a faculty job has chronic misfortune of attracting very unsuitable applicants, or being a cruel revolving door with little stability and security. Sometimes job searches really are legitimate but other factors sabotage hiring.  

We’re applying for academic positions for our academic careers. Always do some research before applying.

Wheelchair Wisdom -- Insights about academic employment from a former chemistry and physics professor impacted by a spinal injury.

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