Brown Bag Panel: Applying for Full-Time Faculty Positions

On September 17 and 18, 2012, two panels of full-time faculty members from various disciplines explained the hiring process, offered general advice, and fielded questions. Here are notes from the discussion. Please note that all advice is the opinions of the panelists based on experience, and some of the requirements, procedures, and recommendations may not apply in every case.

Please also click here to download “Getting Past the Gatekeepers” by Dr. Nola Hadley-Torres and Edy Chan, a document produced for the Faculty Diversity Internship Program in 2008 full of helpful tips.

General Advice:

  • Carefully read the minimum and desired qualifications in the job announcement
  • Do research on the institution, both online and by walking around campus physically.
  • In CV, cover letter, and interview,  highlight parallel skills (e.g. grant writing, budget experience, conference presentations, etc.) even if they’re not exactly teaching.

Hiring Process:

  1. Hiring committee writes rubric of desirable answers based on minimum and desirable qualifications for the particular job.
  2. Applicants submit forms to HR, and HR determines eligibility. Adjuncts in Peralta automatically get first interview
  3. Sometimes there is a second round of interviews with teaching demo
  4. 0-3 finalists are ranked by the hiring committee and sent on to final round with president, hiring committee chair, and academic senate president.

The president makes the final decision.

Application Forms

  • Clarify exactly what type of institutions you have worked in and exactly how long and in what capacity you worked where
  • Make sure all forms are clear, legible, current – have someone else proofread
  • Double check that HR has received your application

Curriculum Vitae/Resume:

  • When collecting info for CV:
    • 2 bucket folders: 1 for applications, letters, etc. and one for ongoing activities
    • Dates & institutions
    • Flag or otherwise collect emails related to any possibly applicable activities so you don’t forget anything
    • Update CV continuously

Cover Letter:

  • Highlight qualifications: educational background, what classes have you been teaching/what classes are you prepared to teach immediately?
  • Clarify: What is your teaching philosophy?  What is your goal in the classroom?  Use appropriate terminology, but avoid unnecessary jargon.
  • Have you had community college experience?
  • Diversity: think in the broadest possible terms – race, gender, class, disabilities, LGBTQ students, learning disabilities, etc. – highlight groups you’ve worked with
  • What have you done outside the classroom? Colleges want to know they’re hiring people who have experience with curriculum development, advising students, TLC- type activities, assessment, anything that helps grow the college community
  • Brief statement about academic standards
  • Have a separate paper about teaching/grading philosophy, but don’t fill cover letter with it.
  • Particular contributions: e.g. service learning, specific department growth ideas
  • No more than 2 pages


  • Don’t come with hair wet at last minute – arrive early, compose self
  • Turn off phone!
  • Put hands on bottom of table rather than fidget
  • A little nervousness OK – expected
  • Be yourself  – if you aren’t the one they want, you don’t want them
  • Familiarity – resist impulse to be chatty or familiar with any friends or colleagues on the hiring committee – keep everything at a high professional level. Act like interviewers are total strangers – essential to tell them everything even if they already know you.  They can only score you based on what you say on the application and during the interview, not on what they already know about you. For legal reasons, hiring committee deliberately avoids giving verbal or nonverbal feedback during interviews.  Be prepared for stone faces and don’t take it personally.   Can be off-putting or confusing and may be even more extreme by panelists who know you, in order to demonstrate their impartiality. You need to remain animated and interactive and still attempt to connect, even in the face of this.
  • Don’t make stuff up to fill space – save breath for questions you can wow them with
  • Don’t do phone interviews if you have a choice
  • Be humble – make sure you seem like someone they can work with for years because you will help the department, be a good teacher, and are active in your field.
  • Focus always on teaching: frame publications and outside interests in terms of how they help your teaching/what you bring to the college community
  • Remember where you are applying – do research on the program or department – what classes are offered, who are the faculty – align with goals of program and school and think about what is realistic in community college
  • Practice a lot – role play with friends
  • Make sure you answer all questions, and that you really answer the questions asked! Your responses are scored on a rubric for thoroughness and being on-point – no points if don’t answer – rubric is constructed from minimum and desired qualifications in the job announcement
  • Ask to have a copy of the questions.
  • Read each question and take a moment to think about it – formulate a thoughtful response, and ask for clarification if necessary
  • You can go back if you forget something, or say “can I come back to that one?”
  • You can also refer to previous examples from other questions to save time and get points in multiple sections of the rubric
  • Keep it positive in all application-related interactions before, during, and after the interview, including any small talk while entering or leaving the room.
  • Avoid the temptation to complain about being a part-timer – it’s a given.
  • Time management.  There is a prescribed amount of time to answer all questions. Do not spend too much time on one question.  Usually there is a timekeeper. If not, feel free to time yourself. Sometimes each question has allotted time, and sometimes there are several questions and one set amount of time for all.
  • Have your resume or an abbreviated copy if in hand for reference, but don’t recite resume.  Instead prepare stories about successes & highlights, challenges, skills – be ready to use and modify according to the questions asked to make you memorable
  • Hiring committees often ask the same types of questions including skills, challenges, and behavioral questions. Typical questions (look up more typical community college questions on web):
    • Degree, academic background
    • Leaders in field
    • Experience with technology
    • Diversity experience
    • Work outside classroom
    • Vision for college/department – where you see the department/college in 10 years
    • How are you going to teach a kid who comes from high school and is unprepared?
    • Books you’ve read
    • Current events in education
    • Do you have any questions for us? Do not ask about pay, schedules, etc. – have 5 or 6 questions in case some of them have already been dealt with. Here are some winners: tell me about the students, what are the expectations for tenure-track faculty here?

Teaching Demonstration:

  • huge – may be the most important part of the interview process
  • 10/15/20 minutes: Sometimes given topic for demo, sometimes given a choice. Your goal is to give sense of broader class in very short window: focus on one very small piece – bring in other materials to show how it’s embedded
  • do as much as possible in the allotted time – get straight to the real thing – many candidates run out of time after setting up the context and never get to the real thing. Don’t waste time saying “I normally would do this” – just provide a sheet and point them to the relevant part
  • Use technology, and demonstrate some student interaction or activity
  • Some science instructors have used this technique for the teaching demo: pass out completed lab homework (as if it’s the panelists’ homework) & review it to show how you explain material/correct errors
  • Treat the committee like students- stay in character during teaching demo
  • Be prepared for deliberate curveballs – panelists interrupting, acting like problematic students
  • Maintain professional credibility while admitting you don’t know everything – emphasize willingness to find answers/learn from students
  • sometimes there is a mock student conference – only respond to cues that make sense – here’s what they’re looking for: are you willing to investigate and take the time to show you care? You can reference student services in mock conference

Final interview:

Prepare to talk about other-than-teaching experience plans – how will you contribute to assessment, curriculum, shared governance, other committees that drive the school? Visit the school’s website so you are familiar with institutional goals and the President’s background, vision, and priorities.

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