Writing an Enticing Higher Education Department Job Posting

Many articles have been written about what constitutes a good university job posting; actually, there is a very simple way to look at it – write five (5) paragraphs, covering what we were all taught in Grade School when writing an essay.  Incorporate:

  • Who
  • What 
  • When
  • Where
  • Why

The "Who" is actually one of the hardest parts to write. Rather than say “The biology department at XYZ University seeks an Associate Professor with skills in…” try:

Our department is undergoing exciting opportunities for change due to retirement.  We are currently hiring an individual with charisma and a love for both university research and teaching upper-level undergraduates.  In particular, “biology of invertebrates” is one of the key “centers of excellence” we lost with the retirement; having this knowledge can propel you to the top of the recruiting pool.

What” generally extends from “Who,” although it also takes into account the nature of the university job.  Explain what drives the higher education department, the school and university job posting.  Sell it hard!  Continuing from above:

We are a global university of 34,000 students, 21,000 who are undergraduates.  61% of the faculty members live within four (4) miles of the campus; carpooling is encouraged for all higher education professionals, and spousal interest clubs are promoted.  Our world-renowned biology department delivers state-of-the-art laboratory experiences to students at all levels of higher education, with particular goals of preparing the next generation of teachers, researchers and professors.

When” can both be short and straight-forward in its delivery:

Because our department at the university has a job opening due to a professor’s retirement, we promoted from within, allowing us the flexibility to take our time hiring the right candidate.  The position will commence higher educational activities on August 23, 2017, although university privileges will begin August 1, 2017.  Note that we are leaving the faculty position open until filled, but candidates who apply before December 21, 2016 will have the best opportunity for consideration……

Where” actually can be tricky if you do not plan the logistics of how to receive the applications.  If applicable, it is always advisable to include a name and email address of the Department Search Committee head, and keep wording simple, particularly when redirecting higher education job applicants to your own website.  There are basically three (3) types of delivery methods:  Links to a university job application portal on your website [the most popular]; emailing with particular data required; and regular mail to a specified location [old school].  Examples of each include:

  1. Please click on the LINK to apply.  You will be directed to an Apply Online screen with specific login instructions.   Make sure you identify which university job posting you are interested in.
  2. Email your CV, three recommendation contacts, a cover letter outlining why you would be good for this higher education job, and a summary of research undertaken [or writing samples for the humanities] to Wiley U. Wickets, Chair-Biology Department Search Committee at WUW_B17@XYZ.edu.
  3. Mail your CV, three recommendation contacts, a cover letter outlining why you would be good for this higher education job, and a summary of research undertaken [or writing samples for the humanities] to Wiley U. Wickets, Chair-Biology Department Search Committee at Biology Department, Room 123-Monty Hall, XYZ University, State College NB  12345.

Why” may seem a bit odd in characterization, but it covers why someone will fit your specification:

We are seeking someone with 5+ years experience in the following areas: ………………………  Your experience should include ………………………………………….  In your cover note, tell us why you fit what we seek.

Earlier, we mentioned to include five paragraphs in a university job posting; that actually is the best way to start writing the advertised description; however, many schools, depending on amount of the advertising budget and the medium they are using, may find better ways of ordering (e.g., What, Who, Why, When, Where), or even combining paragraphs.  The most important thing is to address all 5 Ws in the university job posting.

Rick Friedman is President of ScholarlyHires.com

originally written June 3, 2011
updated  May 17, 2016

Share in LinkedIn facebook Email to a friend Bookmark this page Print