Blog Archives

Why didn’t I get that teaching job?

Few things in life are more frustrating than going through all the work of applying and interviewing for a position that you really want and feel you are very qualified for…and not getting it. Fortunately, I was blessed with a position at Western pretty early in my job-hunting career, so I haven’t experienced this as much as most. But, I feel your pain.

If this is happened to you, or if you think it might happen to you, Timothy Larson Larsen from Wheaton College offers some insight into why you didn’t get that teaching job, by addressing the four most common questions people ask when they didn’t get that teaching position they so badly wanted. I can’t imagine actually asking the first question (out loud), but the others are ones I’ve heard more than once.

  • Given how eminently well qualified I am for this position, how can you possibly justify eliminating me so early in the process?
  • I know I was eliminated over a month ago, so why have you not had the decency to tell me so?
  • How in the world can you expect someone applying for an entry-level position to already have a handful of research articles in major peer-reviewed journals and a book contract with a leading university press?
  • What did I do wrong?

His answers are well worth reading if you an insider’s look at how the hiring process works at a major Christian college.

Flotsam and jetsam (1/5)

  • Adam Copeland offers a discussion between a Twitter lover and a Twitter skeptic on Twitter Theology.

    I’m saying the Twitter community is one way—and a very helpful and cool way—of experiencing, showing, and living out those connections of our Church-connected theology.

    Somehow, however, as we have left allegory behind, perhaps killing it off precisely because of its religious origins, we have ended up leaving viewers and readers with oddly literalistic interpretive skills.

    So yeah, the coffee tastes a little burnt, it’s often hard to find a table, and occasionally they play Willie Nelson. But I’m sticking with it, because for all the prayers I’ve prayed, the conversations I’ve had where I felt the Holy Spirit move, for all the significant moments on my journey that I’ve had and am yet to have at St. Arbucks, I’m grateful.

    • Bill Mounce discusses “church nice” – our tendency to ignore sin for the sake of “peace.”

    Isn’t it interesting how explicit Scripture is? If you have something against someone, it is your responsibility to go to them (Matt 18:15). If you know your brother or sister has something against you, it is your responsibility to go to them (Matt 5:23-24). It is always yourresponsibility.

    Flotsam and jetsam (12/13)

    • Roger Olson argues that Arminianism and Calvinism are “incommensurable” systems that should not be viewed as occupying different places on the same spectrum:

    On the crucial issues of the nature of God’s election to salvation, the extent of the atonement and whether grace is resistible or irresistible  (the three main ideas that divide Calvinism and Arminianism) the divide between any and every version of Calvinism and any and every version of Arminianism is deep and wide.  So much so that it is really not possible to put them on the same spectrum.

    • Cynthia Nielsen reflects on Foucault’s understanding of “biopower” and its significance for understanding (post)modern society and the (post)modern self.

    With the transition from the ancient and medieval monarchical model of absolute power to the modern model of biopower, power is no longer centralized around the person of the king but is distributed in a net-like fashion operating, invading, and permeating the social body far more efficiently and effectively than the previous model.

    Okay, maybe Calvinism doesn’t lead to universalism inexorably–as if every Calvinist must become a universalist.  However, many leading universalist theologians are/were Reformed and believed that their Calvinist concepts of God’s sovereignty eventually compelled them to embrace universalism.

    Advice on applying for a teaching position

    In a recent Inside Higher Ed article, Thomas Wright offers some job-search advice based on some of the mistakes he made when applying for a teaching position. Let me summarize his main points and offer some of my own thoughts.

    1. Get to know the school. This just makes good sense. You can’t even put together a compelling application without getting to know the school, and you’ll look like an idiot in your interview if you don’t have some sense of its mission, purpose, history, student body, denominational ties, etc. You don’t have to spend months on this, but at least familiarize yourself with what’s on their website and in the school’s catalog.
    2. Don’t be afraid to apply for a position. I’ve made this mistake. You see the description of the position and you don’t think you really have a chance. Now, sometimes you’re right. If the description calls for 10 years of higher ed experience and you’re just getting started, don’t bother. But, sometimes you’re fully qualified for the position, but for some reason you don’t think you’ve got a shot (e.g., the school is too “prestigious.” Don’t sell yourself short. If you’re qualified for the position and you think you’d like to teach there, go for it. The worst that can happen is that you’ll contribute to the growing deforestation problem and global warming.
    3. Don’t be too humble. I hate this one, but it’s true. When you’re applying and interviewing for a job, this is not the time to reveal your tendency to turn everything in late, mock student questions, or dress as Little Miss Muffet every Halloween. It is the time to highlight everything that you do well. You’ll have to come up with at least a couple of “weaknesses” so you don’t sound too arrogant (e.g., I work too hard, I care about my students too much, etc.), but your main focus is to sell yourself. Usually, no one is going to do it for you.
    4. Proofread everything. Seriously, if you send in a CV or application with typos, you deserve not to get the job.
    5. Personalize your letters. This goes along with the first point. Take the time to find out who will be receiving your application and address your cover letter to them. It shows that you’ve done your homework and you’re not just blanketing the academic world with random applications.

    There are a couple of things that I would add to this list if you’re applying for a position at an evangelical college/seminary in America, since that’s the context I know best.

    1. Read the doctrinal statement carefully. This one is probably the most obvious; but it’s important. And, beyond making sure that you could actually sign the doctrinal statement, I would pay particular attention to how the statement is constructed. Are there things in the statement that you don’t think should be there? If so, does that suggest an approach to things that will be narrower and more restrictive than you would prefer? Or, have they excluded things that you think are very important? If so, does that suggest anything about the direction of the school (current or eventual)?
    2. Find out about theological hotspots early. This can be difficult if they don’t make it explicit in their doctrinal statements (and they often won’t), but the best way is usually just to ask around. If a school has really staked out some territory on a theological issue, people usually know about it. You should also check out the list of faculty and do some internet searches to see if any particular issues pop up. And, don’t just do this in your area. Even if you’re a NT specialist, if there’s a hot-button issue among the faculty, they’ll expect you to know about it and have something intelligent to say.
    3. Check out the academic/ministry balance. Every evangelical school worth its salt has to deal with the balance it wants to strike between academics and ministry. Some will lean more toward one or the other, but most try to develop what they think is the best synthesis of the two. You want to identify that mix for two reasons. First, you’ll want to know if you resonate with that approach and will be a good fit for the school. Second, you’ll want to make that the way you present yourself is consistent with that perspective. Again, the best way to do this is to ask around. But, you can also get some good hints by reading between the lines on their website and in the catalog. Pay particular attention to what they’re not saying.

    And, of course, the single best way to apply for a teaching position is to have the inside track from the very beginning. Name recognition works in academics every bit as well as it does in politics. The more people you know, the better positioned you’ll be when the time comes. Take advantage of every opportunity to meet people and get your name out there.

    Flotsam and jetsam (5/26)

    Tips for the ThM – Part 13 Writing the perfect resume(s)

    Most of us will at some point need to find a job. Sad, but true. In academic circles, there is no doubt that the best way to land the right job is to know someone involved in the process. (That’s how I got mine.) Lacking that, you need a good resume. Actually, as this post points out, you’ll probably need a couple. The market for academic positions is so competitive that you really need to be able to present yourself as a viable candidate for various kinds of positions (i.e. don’t focus exclusively on positions for specialists on the book of 3 John). But, to do that effectively, you need to tailor your resume to highlight your qualifications for different kinds of positions.

    Suppose that you’ve done extensive work in both Old and New Testament studies, but your preferred job would be in New Testament. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, unless you don’t mind waiting a while to find a job, you probably won’t want to exclude Old Testament positions (or multi-disciplinary positions) as well. However, you don’t want to distribute a resume focusing on your New Testament skills if the school is looking for an Old Testament professor. So, you will need different resumes that will highlight different areas of your background.

    And, that’s what the author of the above post wants you to do. She argues that you need to balance the need for multiple resumes tailored to highlight the most important aspects for your academic (and ministerial) preparation with the limited amount of time you have available. So, she recommends that you approach the job hunt with at least two active resumes. If you try to create too many, you’ll burn yourself out. Approach the process with just one, and you’ll limit your opportunities.

    But, to go back to what I said at the beginning, you are your best resume. If you are hoping to find a job at the end of your academic journey, get out there and meet people. Attend conferences, present papers, kiss babies, hand out candy, and buy advertising space on billboards in Times Square. Or, just make sure that you are networking effectively. The more people you know, the better your chances of finding the job at the end of the rainbow.