Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Applying for a community college job: Minimum qualifications

[This is post 3 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.]

The first thing every applicant should do is read the job ad and campus's application packet thoroughly. Assume that lots of thought went into writing the announcement, and (if possible) attempt to decode what the campus is looking for. Looking through the department's course offerings and catalog can often help with this. Analyzing the job announcement is critical, because virtually the entire application process (up to the second interview) is centered around this ad.

It is critical that you do everything that the job announcement requests, no matter how unimportant or ridiculous it might appear to be. Read every sentence, and pore over every word. Why? Paper screening. In this step, a few overworked faculty members will read skim over every single application and confirm that the applicant meets the advertised minimum qualifications. There are usually dozens and sometimes hundreds of applications turned in for each job. Thus the work involved in searching for minimum qualifications is time-consuming and tedious; this might be just a rubber-stamp step, or it might involve faculty members aggressively trying to whittle the field. The faculty probably realize that they'll have to read over all these applications again (when they rank the candidates), and they may be looking for excuses to eliminate applicants. Don't give the committee any reasons to cut you; if you dot every i and cross every t (and are actually qualified for the job), you should be able to get through this step easily. If you fail to submit even one piece of documentation, or leave even one question blank, you may be eliminated from the pool of candidates.

A large problem with meeting the minimum qualifications is interpreting the requirements, especially when the job announcement includes “or equivalent experience” for certain qualifications. Applications often include specific forms for applicants to detail their prior experience and explain how it is equivalent to the minimum qualifications; if you think it is at all possible that you might need to qualify via the equivalent experience clause, obtain and fill out any required equivalent experience paperwork. If you don't fill out this paperwork, you might not be able to be considered under the equivalent experience clause, and thus may be disqualified even if you do meet the minimum qualifications of the position.

For example, if the application lists that having taken a zoology course is a requirement of the job, and you have worked as a vet for thirty years and also volunteered at the local zoo, but have never taken a course titled “zoology”, you will likely have to file as having equivalent experience and explain how your experience is equivalent to taking a zoology course. The reason is both technical (you haven't taken a zoology course) and also more general, as committee members may take the worst possible view of your experience: they may assume that as a vet you worked (and were trained) on only cats and dogs, and that you distributed fliers at the zoo, and thus clearly don't have experience equivalent to taking zoology. If, instead, you've worked as a vet specializing in invertebrates, and treated every animal in your local zoo, you need to say that.

Another example is that if the ad requires a degree (Masters, PhD, etc.), and you do not have that exact degree in hand at the time you turn in the application, you should probably fill out an equivalence form (if one is available).

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