Tis the Season…To Be Job Searching!

While the holidays are over, a new season is fast approaching for many entry and graduate candidates in Higher Education.  As we get closer to the major job placement conferences , I want to share my top five strategies for job searching.  As the recruiter for professional staff in my department, I have seen first-hand how these simple tactics consistently result in success.

1)      Do your homework: Create a file folder for each school that interests you.  Include their departmental website, mission and demographic statistics about the institution.  Go on their admissions page and ask for more information to be sent to you as a “prospective student”.  You can learn a lot about the culture of the university by seeing the message they send to the incoming freshman class. 


2)      Have 2-3 individually crafted questions prepared for each school:  Subscribe to their daily/weekly student newspaper on-line to really get a feel for what is happening on their campus.  Asking “I see that you are building a new Student Union next year, how do you think this will impact the campus community?” is an informed question.  Asking “What do you like about working here?” is generic.  Don’t underwhelm employers-“Wow” them!      


3)      Cover letters matter: Every year I get several cover letters addressed to “Mr. Klotz” or the candidate will express excitement to apply for the job at “Loyola University.”  Well, I’m definitely not male and I work a few miles away from Loyola.  The point is—take your time with this document because it reflects who you are as a professional.

 Also, your resume is a list of what you are responsible for within your job but a cover letter shows me how you will take those experiences and add value to our department.  Tailor each letter to fit the unique institution.  Demonstrate that you did more than simply change the name of the job and the institution before sending it to ten different schools. 


4)      Have strong answers prepared for the “strengths and weaknesses” question:  We don’t expect perfect candidates, we expect trainable ones who will improve over time and with experience.  Do not tell us that your weaknesses are that you “delegate too much,” “take too much on at work,” or “have a hard time saying no.”  Be honest.  Share with us how your future supervisor can help you to make progress in your weaker areas.   Each of us knows what we need to work on—say it and demonstrate your commitment to improving in this area. 


5)      Know your non-negotiables from the start of your search:  What are those things you have to have in the next position?  Know them from the start and do not pursue jobs that don’t fit into these guidelines.  Be realistic and know that while there is typically no perfect job, what are the 2-3 things that are critical to your success in this position?  Define them and use it as a measuring stick when deciding if you want to apply or not. 


Finally, the most successful candidates are the most prepared ones.  Make a plan now to ensure that you are showcasing  the best professional version of you!

 What are some of your tips for a successful job search?  Share them here!


Follow me on Twitter at: @annmarieklotz

About annmarieklotz

I write about all things education, personal & professional development and growth. Once is a question, twice is a discussion and three times is a blog post! Born and raised in Detroit Michigan but currently calling the Pacific Northwest home. I work at Oregon State University and belong to a fantastic community of higher ed professionals around the globe! Lover of theater and the arts. Live your best life!
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14 Responses to Tis the Season…To Be Job Searching!

  1. Jeff Lail says:

    Ann Marie,
    Good stuff overall, but I disagree on your point about questions ready to ask the employer. I think many people don’t utilize those questions in an effective manner. Given that I’ve gotten two jobs in student affairs now, I advise people to combine #2 and #5. Some jobs are just not good places to work because of a work culture or a staff member that makes everyone’s life difficult. You can’t tell this in a job posting! I use my opportunity to ask questions to get an idea about the kinds of things you need to know that you might not be able to tell without reading between the lines. My go to questions are:
    1) describe your office environment and office culture
    You can get a good idea of not just what people do but how they do it. The how can greatly contribute or detract from your happiness with your job. Even if they don’t answer it directly, that in itself is an answer.
    2) Tell me something you think you’re doing really well right now and what you would like to improve.
    Great insight into not just what’s going on, but how their office decides if something is working. Again, it’s insight into what it might actually be like to work there.
    3) Fill in something specific and tailored that you actually WANT to know.
    I’ve utilized this to ask about how something worked there, or to pick their brain a bit about changes at the campus. I’ve found that even for jobs I didn’t get, I was able to utilize these answers for my own professional development.

    • Great points, Jeff.
      While these are just some basic guidelines, each school is different and individual candidates have to decide what works best for them.

      Love this question: “Tell me something you think you’re doing really well right now and what you would like to improve.”

      When I applied for my current job my (transparent) soon-to-be supervisor just offered those things up right from the start which was fantastic, but yes it is very good to ask!

      Thanks so much for reading! -AMK 🙂

  2. Thanks, Ann Marie! I will share with those I know job searching this year. I especially love the point about paying attention to detail. We’ve gotten resumes and cover letters applying for Campus Activities position! For, depending on the Loyola, they have mistaken DePaul for, it could be a few miles to a few hundred. Not even close! Enjoyed, thank you!

  3. Thanks for reading, Amy! I know that in the rush to send out applicaiton materials in a timely fashion these small detials can be overlooked but I just think they are so important. Have a great weekend! -AMK

  4. Pingback: How You Leave Matters Too » Defiant Musings

  5. RC Stabile says:

    Great article!! I think along with looking their current newspapers following their twitter accounts both departmental (if available) and University wide assists with seeing what they are proud of and what they are working on 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!!

  6. Knowing your non-negotiables is important. I also LOVE your point about being honest about weaknesses & frame them in a way that demonstrates a desire to grow in those areas!

  7. Thank you for putting this post together, Ann Marie. I will definitely take your advice to mind in my search. I especially liked your guidance on cover letters and describing your weaknesses honestly, but demonstrating that you reflect on ways to improve. Great tip!

  8. Thanks so much for reading, Adriane! Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂 Good Luck in your job search!

  9. Bob Griffith says:

    As a current job searcher, I greatly enjoyed your article. Thanks! What are your thoughts about about using Ms. as a salutation? I have always thought it best to use because you are never sure of a person’s status. Thoughts?

  10. Thanks for reading, Bob! I think unless they specify (i.e. Dr., Mr., etc.) it’s best to not use a salutation. That way there is not and confusion–especially if there is a name in question where you cannot tell the exact gender. Hope this helps!

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