Monday, November 14, 2005

Applying for a community college job: Dealing with problems & minor application points

[This is post 7 of 9 in a series exploring how to apply for a full-time community college teaching position. See this page for links to all the posts in the series.]

Dealing with problems

You may have something in your past professional experience that could be viewed as a negative. Maybe you got exceptionally bad grades in your field as an undergraduate, maybe you were let go by three different institutions, or maybe you don't have much teaching experience. In any case, something is wrong.

There are two potential paths to take: attempt to hide the problem, or deal with it openly. If you can put a positive spin on your potential problem, I'd recommend the latter approach, primarily because someone on the committee may either already know about the problem, or may discover it by reading your application carefully. Once someone discovers the problem, they'll likely talk about it with the other committee members, and speculation will become rampant. This speculation can easily overshadow (or taint) your other qualifications, even if it theoretically shouldn't. But if you describe the potential negative, and then explain it away, it will (hopefully) be a non-issue, and your other qualifications will shine through.

Minor application points

There are also some minor points to keep in mind while filling out the application. Human resources (or some administrative person) will likely collate everything, and after being collated your application will be put into a folder with all the other applications. To facilitate this step, try to ensure that all the materials you submit are a standard size (8.5” x 11” paper, or whatever the application specifies, if anything). Using a different size of paper will make your application stand out from the rest, but not for good reasons, as it will mess up the folder, make all the applications difficult to handle, and make your application much more difficult to read. For instance, including legal-size paper with your application will force HR (and all faculty that read your application) to fold the paper so it fits into a folder designed to hold 8x5” x 11” paper, entailing more work and likely messing up your application. The last thing a committee member wants to do at 1am as they're reading over their fiftieth application is fold and unfold odd sizes of paper.

Also, human resources will probably black out any personal information that technically shouldn't be considered (e.g., marital status, age, religion), so don't bother including them except where they're explicitly asked for.

Wherever possible spend time trying to show that you've spent time on the application, as that may be important to some faculty. Many community colleges have standard forms that you must fill out; if at all possible, type your answers on these forms. Most forms are now available as PDFs, which can be written on using the full version of Adobe Acrobat. If you don't know how to type on the form, either learn how or use a typewriter. Make sure your entire application is neatly formatted and printed on good paper, and don't hand-write anything unless required.

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