I’ve been serving on a hiring committee for my small, rural community college, and I can now identify the biggest mistakes I’ve seen in applications.
1.) Focus on your teaching, not your publications
Most community colleges don’t operate on a publish or perish model. We care about your teaching– your passion, your dedication, your innovation. If you can’t speak cogently about teaching composition, this may not be the position for you.
2.) If you can talk about community colleges, great, but don’t force it.
Whatever realistic connection you can make to the community college experience in your cover letter will enhance your resume, but we don’t want a bunch of hot air.
3.) Nobody cares about your dissertation.
It sucks– after so many years and buckets of wine and two new nervous ticks, you want to talk about this mammoth undertaking, but unless it’s directly relevant to your teaching, nobody cares.
4.) Manage your tone
It is obvious when a person feels the position they’re applying for is beneath them. Why even bother?
5.) Don’t have egregious grammatical errors
I feel like this one should be obvious, but here we are.
6.) Tailor your cover letter to the college you’re applying to
Another point that seems obvious, but I read so many form cover letters that were clearly being sent to every available position. Say something specific about the institution you’re applying to. It is more work, but if you get a call back, it’ll be worth it.
7.) But when you do tailor your cover letter, don’t shoot for the moon
While I appreciate you scanning our catalog for classes you can teach, don’t just identify all the upper-level classes. Classes are usually taken by seniority, so you will probably have a lot of composition classes to begin.
8.) If you don’t get a call back, don’t take it personally. There are dozens and dozens and dozens of applicants for a single position, all with amazing credentials.
It’s tough out there for higher ed faculty, especially in English. But every little bit helps, right?