This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar, with a focus on preparing for life on sabbatical.

In a previous post, I provided three tips for candidates working with search firms. After the release of that post, myself and Interfolio staff received several comments and questions from readers about job-seeking advice and the role search firms can play in securing future employment. Given these questions, I  reached out to search firm representatives to understand, from their subject-matter-expert perspective, tips and strategies for candidates. 

I solicited the advice of Dr. Sherry Coleman, Consulting Partner with Storbeck Search and Associates and Ms. Maya Kirkhope, Senior Consultant with Academic Search. To help organize the advice provided from both experts, below I summarize insights from our interviews on how to get on a search firm’s candidate database, prepare and review required applicant documents, and engage in the phone/video interview.

Getting on the search firm’s candidate database

During my conversations with Dr. Coleman and Ms. Kirkhope, both suggested that candidates often get on their radar through: 

  • Their 1:1 conversations with professionals in the field (e.g., other search firms, higher education professions)
  • Their targeted research efforts
  • Through candidates’ own efforts, such as reaching out directly to search firm representatives

Both experts encouraged candidates to reach out to search firms. Dr. Coleman suggested that it is important for candidates to reach out to search firms to: 

“… create a plan of action… and see what’s available, what’s out there, what are search consultants looking for, what are the organizations they represent looking for so that they can better prepare themselves for the search that is of interest to them.”

Ms. Kirkhope shared similar advice to Dr. Coleman and advised candidates to reach out to search consultants because:

“I think the advice and the guidance that we can offer can be incredibly helpful. Sometimes it’s not what you want to hear. Sometimes it’s about the readiness to get onto the market. Sometimes it’s really whether the skill set that we’re looking for for this position is going to be a good match.”

Mrs. Kirkhope explained that it was important as a consultant to help inform candidates if they had the prerequisite experiences—that would make them a viable candidate for a position—before they apply. 

Through our conversations about how to get on the search firm’s radar, I found that it is equally important for candidates to research search firms.These agencies are businesses and they each have their own niche of search they typically engage in. For instance, some firms only conduct searches for senior administrative positions (e.g., President, Provost), where other firms also recruit for endowed professorships. 

Preparation and review of applicant documents

From my experience serving on faculty searches, candidates may lack in presenting carefully crafted written materials. This is often a part in the process that can quickly eliminate a candidate from consideration for positions. During my conversations with the experts, they too expressed the importance of candidates putting together strong materials. Ms. Kirkhope expressed that common mistakes with applicant materials include:

  • The candidate’s CV is too long and is not tailored directly to the position the candidate is applying for. This signals to the committee that you may not understand what the search committee is searching for, specifically to determine if a candidate is a fit for the position.
  • The selection of references are not adequate for the position (e.g., you apply for a leadership role and have no reference that can speak to your formal leadership experience).
  • The cover letter does not address how the candidate’s experience meets the qualifications of the position.

In a follow-up interview, Mrs. Kirkhope suggested that when preparing materials, a candidate could give a summary overview of areas on their CV that were not directly related to the position such as listing a sample of classes taught when applying for an cabinet-level administrator role.

Dr. Coleman also explained that when creating a cover letter, candidates should make sure it is tailored to the job position and institution to which they are applying. She explained, “So you want to make sure your materials reflect your strengths, your experiences, your ability and is it your cover letter may address some of your least experienced areas. You want to make sure that your references complete your story.”

My takeaway on job material preparation? Take the time upfront in crafting your cover letter and selecting your references. Your goal for your written materials is to have the search committee eager to learn more about you and how you are a fit for the position. In many cases, this will lead to a video interview.

Thriving on the video interview

A question many readers from my previous post asked was, “How do I prepare for the video interview?” So, I had an extensive discussion with Dr. Coleman and Ms. Kirkhope about how candidates should prepare for this event. 

Dr. Coleman suggested some very poignant steps candidates can take to succeed during the video interview:

“Well I think some people are not comfortable with sort of video conversations and I would say practice from every aspect. Where you’ll be seated, what’s in the background, how high your laptop computer is so that you present well, are there glares? If you have glasses, is there glare on your glasses? And some of that has to do with positioning. And so you want to practice that ahead on Zoom with a friend or colleague or someone who can give you feedback.”

Dr. Coleman added that search firm consultants could possibly be helpful in giving candidates suggestions for the types of questions they will be asked. She also advised that whenever possible, candidates should reach out to colleagues who hold the position they are applying to in order to understand the types of questions they should be prepared to answer. 

Ms. Kirkhope added to Dr. Coleman’s recommendations on interview preparation by encouraging candidates to make sure they are actually answering the search committee’s questions. 

“A lot of times people think they are answering,” Ms. Kirkhope explained, “but one of the biggest mistakes candidates make is they get very general in their responses. They don’t provide examples, or they talk incessantly and they spend 20 minutes on the first question. When interviewing you typically have 4-5 minutes per question.” 

She further explained that not answering all of the questions impacts candidates at decision time. Search committees may not have candidate responses to key areas that are germane to their position, thus they may be less likely to move forward in the search. 

My takeaways? When thinking about a video or in-person interview, candidates should prepare ahead of time, solicit the feedback of a trusted colleague, and think intentionally about specific examples that allow you to thoroughly answer a question.

What thoughts come to you after reading this post? Are there any lingering questions about working with search firms? Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter. 

I would like to personally thank Dr. Coleman and Ms. Kirkhope for their time in serving as experts for this piece.

Author Bio: Dr. Ramon B. Goings is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Loyola University Maryland. His research examines gifted/high-achieving Black male academic success PreK-PhD, diversifying the teacher and school leader workforce, and the student experience and contributions of historically Black colleges and universities to the higher education landscape. Dr. Goings is also the founder of The Done Dissertation Coaching Program which provides individual and group dissertation coaching for doctoral students. For more information about Dr. Goings’ research please visit his website www.ramongoings.com and follow him on Twitter (@ramongoings) and for more information about The Done Dissertation Coaching Program visit www.thedonedissertation.com.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

It’s “busy season” for those on the academic job market—a stressful time that lives up to its name—so we have launched live chat within the Dossier application. 

We know that many of you only have a minute or two during your jam-packed Dossier user session to ask and get a question answered. You may not have the time to call in, or need a more immediate response than an email reply can offer. We heard this loud and clear! Providing support across multiple channels enables you to focus on the work you’re doing, and allows us to serve you more quickly. 

Here’s how to get in touch with us over live chat. 

  1. Once you’re logged into your account, look for the green “Chat with us” button in the bottom-right of your screen to start speaking with a live agent in real time.
  2. You’ll be prompted to provide your name, email address, and a description of your question or issue. To note: It’s helpful to make sure the email address you provide is the one associated with your Interfolio account. This helps us pull up your information quickly.
  3. Share with us as much detail and specifics as possible to help us expedite the conversation.

If you click the chat button and get a message that no one is available, know that we aren’t ignoring you! It means that all of our agents are currently speaking with other users and we should be available soon. You can refresh the page to see if an agent has come available at any time. If you can’t catch us on chat, you can always give us a call at 877-997-8807 to speak with someone on our team.

We’ve already had over 7,000 chats with our users and we look forward to supporting you over chat soon! And remember, Scholar Services is now available on phone and live chat from 9:00am – 6:00pm and email from 5:00am-10:00pm U.S. Eastern Time for Dossier users.  


Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish, and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

This blog post continues our series, Scholar at Large, written by an academic who is now on the tenure track at Nevada State College.

Graduate programs are increasingly modernizing their professionalization toward a more inclusive humanities job market. This is definitely promising for upcoming and recent PhDs, even while many of these programs are still being taught by faculty who have little to no experience beyond their academic silos. At the same time, is this shift exacerbating a gap between generations of academics? What can current faculty do to incorporate more inclusive humanities work into their own practices, and enhance their abilities to speak to humanities work more broadly?

Recently, I was reminded of how conferences can provide scholars at any level, and with any title, the opportunity to “learn new tricks.” I presented at both the American Studies Association and the National Humanities Conference (a collaboration between the National Humanities Alliance and the Federation of State Humanities Councils), occurring concurrently in Honolulu.  Both spaces were largely composed of professionals with the same credentials—scholars, academics, educators with advanced degrees. Yet I was struck by how distinct the conversations felt between these two communities. 

This difference was very generative for me and reminded me of the work I did while exploring non-traditional academic careers: 

  • I was able to make the way I relay my research more inclusive (and thus generate better ideas from the conversations)
  • I was forced to push the agility of my thinking and communication
  • I broadened the way I approached building my networks in my field  

I walked away from that week wanting to encourage current faculty and graduate students to approach conferencing more creatively than we tend to be trained to do. Creative conferencing is a great way to boost your knowledge of broader humanities work—and in turn to connect with humanities practitioners that will make your scholarship more robust (and have more sustaining impact). At the same time, you’ll be actively practicing the same skills that you want to instill in your students.

Creative conferencing helps us understand what being an “agile thinker” means in practice

At traditional academic conferences, there is often an assumed “starting position” of knowledge, of politics, of priorities. While that shared starting position is an important part of how knowledge is developed in a field, it can also perpetuate a field’s insularity. Bringing my work to two different kinds of conferences gave me access to more inclusive and challenging conversations, which in turn sharpened my ideas and the contributions I make to my field.  

Though I presented the same core material at each conference, I had to think differently about how I framed my work. I was placing my work in conversation with different kinds of humanities practitioners (not just professors, but folks who work with communities and K-12 teachers, folks supporting initiatives like The Lemon Project), which encouraged me to draw new connections between others’ work and my own. I had to practice recognizing and making my work relevant for the different starting points, pressures, and stakes related to doing humanities work for each audience.

Creative conferencing helps us identify new modes of academic collaboration

Despite the fundamental overlap in the commitments and the backgrounds of the attendees of each conference, the conversations at each conference tended to remain siloed in either the theoretical or the pragmatic. I found this gap astounding; it seems that there should be no reason for it other than the ways that professors determine “academic work” to look and sound like something very particular. Purposefully going to conferences that enable us to meet with and collaborative with other humanities practitioners is a great way to close that gap. My own work will only improve the more I am able to think of its theoretical components and pragmatic applications as inextricably co-formative (as praxis).

Creative conferencing reveals networks we didn’t know we had (or even needed)

Conferencing across these venues also helped me think differently about how and who I was networking, and toward what ends. In one conference I’m connecting with folks who may expand my knowledge of my scholarly fields or pedagogical praxis, or who might potentially publish my book. In another I’m meeting and connecting with folks who, for instance, have expertise in public engagement work, who are starting institutes at their universities, or who are running initiatives related to equity in search committees. Working and dialoguing across these networks made me consider how I think about the different sectors of my own work—how they overlap and how I may be more creative in integrating them. 

Now that I’ve started my job as a professor, I find that my academic and intellectual investments are shaped by pragmatic and institutional issues in a way that I simply was not cognizant of while attending a well-endowed and large university for graduate school. The more that I am able to understand my academic work in these terms, the more potential I have to both be good at my job and enrich the work of the humanities as a whole. The “alt ac” moves folks are talking about right now are not just for those coming up in the academy; they’re for all of us already in the tower, too. 

Author bio: Dr. Molly Appel is an Assistant Professor of English at Nevada State College, where she teaches courses on composition and literature. Her work focuses largely on how literature works as a space of teaching and learning for human rights and social justice in the Americas. You find her on Twitter @mollyappel.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

Last week we launched a new Dossier product feature in our ongoing quest to save our user’s time, and so that we maintain our exclusive offering as a full-service Dossier. We received feedback that the process of requesting a letter of recommendation through Interfolio could be confusing and unintuitive. In response we’ve enhanced the user experience working with our product design team.

Here are the changes we’ve made:

  • Instead of having a blank “Recommender” search field, you will now have two options: “Choose Existing Contact” or “Add New Contact.”

requesting letter of recommendation through Interfolio

  • In the default option shown, when you select “Choose Existing Contact,” a drop-down menu will display all of your existing contacts.
  • The “Add New Contact” option will allow you to add a new contact. 

We’ve made this change due to user feedback—it clarifies that a letter request has to go to a particular contact.Once you’ve selected the contact that you want to send the request to, you are ready to do so.

We encourage you to add more detail and personalization to the request, but the only requirement of sending a request for a letter of recommendation is providing the contact information of your recommender. Here is a link to a help article that fills in more of the details.

How do these changes impact me?

First and foremost, it saves you time. It is far more convenient to simply select saved information than to type it in from scratch for every request. In addition, it helps to avoid errors in email addresses and names. Requesting and sending letters of recommendation is a stressful but necessary part of applying to many scholarly positions and other opportunities. Let Interfolio help you manage this portion of your to-do list, confidently and confidentially.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish, and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

If you’re in the process of applying to medical school, you might need help navigating medical school letters of recommendation. We’ve included some advice on how you can ask for and submit the ideal recommendation letter, all while using Interfolio’s Dossier as a valuable component of the application process.

Who to ask for a medical school letter of recommendation

First, you’ll need to figure out exactly who should write your letters. This choice is an extremely important part of the medical school application process; the right recommendation letter might give keep your application competitive with applicants with similar credentials (high GPAs, MCAT scores and a thorough resume of extra-curricular and community-based activities). Think strategically about whom to ask for the most effective evaluation of your intellect, work ethic, and potential.

The best individuals to contact for letters of recommendation are professors who know you personally because you have taken a class (or multiple classes) with them. While a department head or academic advisor you’ve met with several times may be able to speak to your character, a professor who has worked directly with you in a classroom setting will be able to comment more thoroughly on your academic abilities.

Other than professors, there are many individuals you may want to get in touch with for a high-quality recommendation letter. Some top choices include mentors, community leaders, doctors you’ve shadowed, research professionals with whom you’ve collaborated, or other health care professionals who can comment on your skill with patients.

There are some letters that won’t be taken seriously by medical school admissions officers. Because it’s such a specific field that requires a high level of skill, letters from family members, friends, and other people who have never worked with you on an academic or professional level will not be given the same respect as letters from the types of individuals we listed above.

Asking for a recommendation letter

You might know the proper protocol surrounding how to ask a trusted colleague, professor, or acquaintance for a recommendation. But if it’s been a while since you last requested a recommendation and you need a refresher, we’ve got the information you need.

Time frame

First, the time frame for when you plan to ask for recommendation letters is crucial. You want to give your contacts enough time to create a well-crafted letter. We know it takes about 12 days from when a letter is requested to when it is uploaded into our system. Of course, this could vary based on the letter writer; some might have the time to submit it the day after you request it, while others need several weeks notice, especially if they are providing letters for more than just one student.

The absolute minimum amount of time we would suggest giving your med school recommenders is two weeks. With less notice, your contact may not have enough time to write a comprehensive letter that truly reflects your capabilities. Or, you may not be able to get a letter from this contact with such short notice if they have too many prior commitments. When you give too much notice, on the other hand, you run the risk of the contact forgetting to write the letter. If you decide to ask for a recommendation months in advance, you’ll want to follow up with your contact a few weeks ahead of the deadline to remind them of when it’s due.

How many letters you’ll need

The exact number of letters required depends on the MD program you’re applying to. Typically, med schools require between two and five letters written on behalf of the applicant. However, they may welcome additional letters you want to include in your primary application. According to The Savvy Premed, some med schools will only take three letters, while others accept six or seven and some even take up to 13 recommendations!

Components of the medical school letter of recommendation

In your letter request, you should lay out exactly what medical school admissions committees are looking for in their applicants. This is especially helpful for recommenders who haven’t written a medical school letter of recommendation before. In addition, providing this information will make their argument on your behalf much stronger, thus improving the quality of your med school application

What are some important points recommenders should touch upon in the letter? The Association of American Medical Colleges offers some guidelines for developing the perfect medical school letter of recommendation:

  • Explain the relationship between the recommender and applicant, including how many years you’ve known the applicant.
  • When discussing their character, focus on how their behavior will contribute to their expected success in medicine.
  • Include any obstacles the applicant has overcome in relation to their professional development and education.
  • Describe how the applicant is competent in the following areas that are necessary for med school:
    • Critical thinking
    • Quantitative reasoning
    • Scientific inquiry
    • Written communication
    • Competencies in the sciences, such as life sciences and human behavior
    • Social skills
    • Teamwork
    • Oral communication
    • Ethical responsibility
    • Adaptability
    • Dependability

By providing the letter writer with a framework from which they can develop their recommendation, you’re ensuring they touch on the major points med school admissions officers want to see. It might even be a good idea to send them recommendation letter examples to help give them an idea of what makes a strong med school recommendation letter.

The length of the letter

Letter writers may not know exactly how much or how little they should write in their recommendation. Generally, these letters tend to be approximately two pages. While the letter should be no less than a page and no more than three pages, anywhere in this range is acceptable. It’s important that the letter writer prioritizes quality over quantity. If a one-page letter has all the content needed for an excellent recommendation letter, there’s no need to add to the word count.

How to submit a confidential recommendation letter

Oftentimes, those who write a letter on your behalf would prefer to have this information transmitted confidentially. If you need to submit a confidential letter and make sure it’s approved by AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service), you can submit your letter in any one of these ways:

  • Directly to your school
  • Via AMCAS or a related health profession’s delivery service
  • Interfolio’s Dossier Delivery

If your institution’s pre-med advising offices provide a letter of evaluation service, you may be able to have all of your letters transmitted as an AMCAS application through that office. If you choose to use Interfolio, however, you will receive the following benefits with your account subscription:

  • A lifelong place to request and store your letters
  • A quality control check on all letters as they are scheduled for delivery, making sure that they have a signature, official letterhead, and the names of the applicant and letter writer
  • Guaranteed letter content confidentiality for your letter writer and you
  • A customer service team ready to field all your questions

No matter what avenue you choose to deliver your letters, keep our advice in mind during each step of the recommendation process. Ask the right people, give them enough time, make sure they’ve provided the right content, and deliver the letters on time and in full.

This post continues our series by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large, on how to keep your career materials current.

You don’t want to find yourself in the position of needing to rustle up syllabi, statements, CVs, teaching evaluations, and reference letters when you’re in the throes of applying to a job. Do your future self a solid and try to keep an updated archive of those materials in between searches. Here are some ways to do that.

Keep it all together.

In 2019, it probably makes the most sense to maintain your career materials in digital form—with ample backup on hard drive and in the cloud, of course. (Using a third-party system like Interfolio’s Dossier service makes this easier.)  If you have some items in paper form, scan them. A bit of annoyance now can save you from a lot of confusion later—not to mention a strained back from carrying those files up and down stairs.

Consider using tags or folder structures to categorize materials.

Depending on where you’re keeping your documents, you might want to enlist metadata to help you remember which documents would serve for which purposes. The most basic way to do this is to create a folder structure that stores documents by type, by subject matter, etc. If you use a system that offers tagging, take advantage.

Start a habit of scheduled maintenance.

Pick a few times when you’re under a little less pressure at your job—possibly the end of the semester, between grading and travel?—to survey your career documents folder and make sure everything is up to date.

Keep a checklist:

  • Have I published any new articles?
  • Have I taught any classes with student evals, and do I have the results here?
  • Did I change my syllabus, and if so, do I have a copy of the new one here?

Take a moment to update your CV, too, even if you’re not using it to apply to anything at the moment.

Note contacts you might want to ask for a reference later.

Maintain a little list of people you meet along the way who might be good candidates for letter-writing in the future. Set a goal to develop those relationships; make notes in this list to indicate your progress (“November 2019: Read her chapter and offered feedback”). That way, if and when you do ask a contact to write a letter for you, you can consult your notes before you write that email asking for the favor. An email that says exactly why you think your colleague would be the best person to write the letter, and suggests which areas of your relationship you think the letter-writer could address, is far preferable to a generic ask.

Take notes for your future self.

If you don’t feel like writing a new teaching philosophy statement (for example) while you’re happy at your current job and not planning to move, try to leave yourself a little help. Jot a few things down at the end of each semester, during your scheduled maintenance times, that you think might make good additions to your next version: stories about student responses to projects; observations about discussions that were particularly successful. Human beings are forgetful; your notes will make it a lot easier to add color and depth when you do end up updating that document.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

This post continues our series by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large, on how to constructively define a faculty mentorship.

Philosophy professor Kevin Richardson’s recent Twitter thread on the lack of clarity around faculty mentors had many academics nodding along. There’s huge asymmetry between the support given to mentors in the academy (and the accountability demanded from them), and the importance of mentors to graduate students and new tenure-track faculty. Sometimes, these relationships work out; sometimes, they become toxic; sometimes, they start with a well-intentioned coffee and peter out into nothingness.

So, how can conscientious faculty members who find themselves in the position of becoming mentors to graduate students or younger colleagues change this dynamic? There are a few ways.

Make your plans for mentorship clear to your mentee

The mentor-mentee relationship is often extremely unstructured, and that puts some mentees at a disadvantage. “Many minority and first-gen folks find it especially difficult to navigate these informal mentor-mentee relationships,” Richardson points out. It helps to be very specific about what you can do to help the new student or faculty member succeed. Strive for an ethos of transparency, rather than untouchability.

Act like a coach, not a guru

In an Inside Higher Ed series on mentoring new faculty, Kerry Ann Rockquemore, a specialist in faculty development, argues for for more coaches and fewer gurus. The “coach” mentor performs the functions of a good teacher, who tries to help students figure out how to direct their own learning and progress.

  • A “coach” can break down tasks with his or her mentee, keep them accountable for finishing those tasks, and ask provocative questions to help them reframe problems.
  • A mentor for a new faculty member, for example, could help that faculty member strategize ways to continue to research and write during the semester, and then check in (in person, or over email) to make sure the mentee is on track.
Think about where you’re both coming from

How does your prospective mentee’s background compare to yours? Are there things about their biography and history that you think may affect the course of their integration into your program or institution? Do you feel equipped, for example, to advise a new tenure-track hire from an underrepresented group when they’re trying to determine how much diversity- and inclusion-related service they should do? Do you feel equipped to advise a young parent on the department’s policies around sickness and school snow days? You might not be! But they still need that help.

Figure out how to get them connected

Rockquemore argues that mentors should be helping mentees build a network, rather than simply answering their questions when they arise. Part of the mentor’s job should be to identify what help the mentee might need, and to strategize ways to connect her with it. Consider the examples above. If you’re not from an underrepresented group, you may want to suggest that another faculty member who is could be a good person to ask about this particular issue. Provide contact information, and suggest angles of approach. The goal is to provide your mentee with a distributed base of support in your institution, rather than trying (and, usually, failing) to give them all of that support yourself.

Resist the urge to wax anecdotal, or pontificate

This temptation can be strong, especially when somebody younger is looking to you for wisdom! But your own experience, or the experience of your advisor, or the experience of your graduate cohort, may or may not apply in this different time and place; your opinions on departmental and university politics may or may not be relevant. Try to stay humble, and helpful, when you can.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar.

Congratulations! You have made it through a grueling application and interview process and beaten out dozens (if not hundreds) of applicants for your new teaching position. However, now that you are in charge of your own classes, how do you prepare?

As graduate students, we are often taught the intricacies of how to conduct and publish research. However, for many who have not had the experience to serve as a teaching assistant—or had any prior teaching experience at all—we often lack the preparation to serve as the main instructor for our own courses.

For this post I provide a few suggestions based on my first time teaching a course. Additionally, I highlight the perspectives of a few colleagues in the field who provided advice they would give to someone teaching their first class.

Preparing for the minutia of teaching

During my first time teaching, I found that managing minutia was challenging, such as:

  • Ensuring you have your university email established
  • Having login credentials for the learning platform (e.g., Blackboard, Moodle, etc.)
  • Knowing who to contact when the projector bulb blows out in your room on your first day

After experiencing difficulties such as those previously mentioned, I developed a cheat sheet with contact information (emails and telephone numbers) of the various university personnel who could help solve these types of issues. More importantly, I made sure I developed relationships with folks from the IT and facilities department to ensure that I had friends who could help when needed.

Navigating classroom interactions as faculty of color

As a Black male I experienced some instances when teaching my first classes where students:

  • Felt comfortable with calling me by my first name (even when witnessing them call White professors by their proper titles)
  • Outwardly expressing their shock to me of having someone who looks “young” teaching the course
  • Challenged me by assuming they had more knowledge of the material than myself as their professor.
  • While some may assume my experience is unique, there is a litany of research that explains the prevalence of these negative encounters for faculty of color. To navigate these experiences, I found it critical to develop a group of trusted colleagues that I could discuss these encounters with and develop strategic responses.
Never start developing a course from scratch (if possible)

Part of the challenge of teaching a course for the first time for me was feeling that I had to develop my class from scratch. However, for accreditation purposes departments should have copies of previous syllabi for all courses taught in your program. Thus, once you find out you are slated to teach a course I would suggest you get a previous syllabus for your course. While perfection may be a concern of yours, when teaching a class for the first time, be ok with mistakes. As the instructor you can learn from those mistakes and make changes for the next time you teach the course.

Talk to your fellow teachers

Along with my insights, some of my colleagues had the following suggestions on preparing for your first class:

  • Send students an email before the semester begins sharing a brief introduction about yourself and ask students to share their professional goals, along with why they are taking the course.
  • Always come to class early to set up lecture visuals such as PowerPoint, Keynote, videos, etc. I try to arrive about 15 minutes before class begins to work out any snafus with technology.
  • Make sure that your syllabus contains office hours and location and policies about special needs, sexual harassment, academic misconduct, and respecting differences.

– Dr. Donna Y. Ford, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor, Vanderbilt University

  • Something that helped me was making sure my syllabus was as detailed as possible (especially in areas of turning in work, late work, makeup work, etc.) and having policies about absences and tardiness if that’s important to you (it was for me).

– Ms. Robin Brandehoff, Doctoral Candidate, University of Colorado Denver

  • On the first day of class, be sure to own your space and declare a) who you are; and b) how you expect to be addressed, i.e. Professor Charfauros (include phonetic spelling as appropriate).

– Professor Antoinette Charfauros McDaniel, Independent Scholar/Founding Faculty Member of the Comparative American Studies Program (now Department) of Oberlin College

For the readers who have experience teaching, what advice would you give someone who is preparing to teach a course for the first time? Feel free to tweet me (@ramongoings) with your tips and suggestions using the #InterfolioTeachingTips to continue the conversation.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

Author Bio: Dr. Ramon B. Goings is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Loyola University Maryland. His research examines gifted/high-achieving Black male academic success PreK-PhD, diversifying the teacher and school leader workforce, and the student experience and contributions of historically Black colleges and universities to the higher education landscape. As a writing coach and editor, Dr. Goings enjoys supporting the scholarly development of doctoral students and professors in higher education. For more information about Dr. Goings, please visit his website www.ramongoings.com and follow him on Twitter (@ramongoings).

Interfolio’s Dossier began in 1999, and back then, our delivery structure of sending materials to an opportunity was pretty straightforward. We processed deliveries via USPS, FedEx, fax, and a few by email. Our main clients were faculty members, or those applying to faculty roles. We continue to serve scholars seeking tenure-track faculty positions, but now our online products serve people in a much wider range of situations, including social workers, surgeons and even several football coaches.

At the core, our mission has stayed the same—putting our users first by providing them with consistent tools for their career. To a significant degree, Dossier Deliver exists to deliver materials to jobs, grants, fellowships, grad school, etc.

Below we explore the various types of deliveries including the intricacies of each type.

Email delivery

What is it? Use this when you wish Interfolio to send your materials directly to an email address.

Sometimes a search will want materials sent to a specific individual instead of a group email address. For example, “You can send your materials/application to me at firstname.lastname@school.edu.”  

Other times a search wants those materials sent to an HR or department address. For example, “Apply to this position by emailing your LORs & CV to hr@school.edu.”

Either way, when creating your delivery through your Dossier account, you’ll need to provide us with the name of the institution and the correct email address.

Issues with your delivery?

  • Was your delivery cancelled? If so, reach out to us and we’re happy to explain why that happened.
    • If we are not able to verify the email address, you can forward us proof of a conversation with that individual that explains they are expecting materials from you.
    • Or, provide us with an URL that includes the email address where those materials need to be sent. You can do this during the delivery creation process.
  • If you have received a confirmation from us that your delivery was sent but your delivery recipient has not received the email, the first step is for the delivery recipient to check their spam folder. If it’s not there, reach out to us and let us know. We’ll be able to resend the delivery to help ensure it gets to the intended recipient without any problems.

Tips & Tricks

  • You can include as many documents you want in an email delivery. So, if you’re looking to send MANY documents that are hundreds of pages long, we encourage email delivery.
  • You have the ability to “order” the materials in your email delivery, meaning to arrange them in a sequence of your choosing. This allows them to be read in a certain order by the intended receiver. You can do this during the delivery creation process.
Mail Delivery

What is it? Use this when you wish Interfolio to mail physical copies of your materials to a destination. Different institutions have different requirements.

Issues with your delivery?

  • Was your delivery cancelled? If so, reach out to us and we’re happy to explain why that happened.
    • If we were not able to verify the address, you can forward us proof of a conversation with that individual that explains they are expecting materials from you.
    • Or, provide us with an URL that includes the address where those materials need to be sent.

Tips & Tricks

  • There are a number of shipping methods to choose from. Included in your Dossier Deliver subscription is the “USPS First Class” option—there is no additional cost to you for this shipping option. All other options have an additional cost associated with them. This is a good reason to stay on top of deadlines—so you can avoid rush delivery and the additional cost.
  • If you want tracking for your mail delivery, sending FedEx is the only option. FedEx deliveries have an additional cost.
  • You have the ability to “order” the materials in your mail delivery, meaning to arrange them in a sequence of your choosing. This allows them to be read in a certain order by the intended receiver. You can do this during the delivery creation process.
  • If your destination address is a P.O. Box, you will need to select a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) shipping option.
Confidential letter upload

What is it? The trickiest of the bunch. Use this when you wish Interfolio to upload your confidential letters of recommendation into another online application system.

This type of delivery takes one of two forms: either the external system provides you with a link to pass along to your letter writers, or the external system asks you for your letter writers’ email addresses.

When the external system provides you with a link to pass along to your letter writers:

In this situation, you simply follow the Confidential Letter Upload instructions when creating a new delivery in your account. You paste in the upload link and indicate which letter you’d like us to upload, and we go and upload it there. Simple!

When the external system asks you for your letter writer’s email address:

In this situation, Interfolio can substitute for your letter writer. (Except sometimes, unfortunately, when we can’t; see below for exceptions.)

Suppose you are applying to Demo University and have been asked to provide them with the email addresses of three letter writers. Normally, the school would reach out to your letter writers via those email addresses, asking them to upload a letter of recommendation. If you have letters stored in your Interfolio Dossier account, however, Team Interfolio can often stand in for your letter writer and upload letters on their behalf.

In order for Team Interfolio to process these deliveries, we automatically generate a unique email address associated with each letter of recommendation you have in your Dossier account. When the external online application system asks for your letter writer’s email address, you can substitute the unique Interfolio email address associated with that writer’s letter. Once you submit that request, you’re all done. We’ll take care of the rest.

Issues with your delivery?

  • We may have to cancel a delivery due to required questions within the application that we do not know the answers to. Unfortunately, if we run into questions that have to be answered on behalf of your letter writer in order to upload the letter, we cannot legally do this. Some possible personal questions that prevent us from processing the delivery:
    • Rank the applicant among other students in recent years?
    • As a graduate student the applicant is likely to be?
    • How long have you known the applicant?
    • How well do you know the applicant?
    • Please indicate your overall endorsement of the applicant?
    • Apparent Intellectual Ability?
    • Potential in Field?
  • We also cannot complete a delivery when a user is prompted to upload the letter of recommendation themselves. In these situations, users will provide us their login information to upload the letters of rec. We cannot accept that information from the user. It’s a liability for us to have that information.
  • If confidential letter uploads are ever cancelled, we suggest you reach out to the institution directly and explain why. Often times, they can provide you with an email address to send materials directly and then they upload the letters to your application. (See email delivery above!)

Tips & Tricks

  • Make sure you are submitting the document email address found in your Dossier account when the application asks for your letter writer’s email address, and be sure to submit that request! Going through the CLU delivery process via the Delivery page on your account alone does not create the requests. You have to make sure you are entering in that information and submitting it on the application website.
  • Haven’t received confirmation that we’ve received the request? Give it a little time. We do receive requests instantly. Unfortunately, we have no control over when the application sends the request to the document email address you entered. If you think it’s been an appropriate amount of time since you submitted that request and you still haven’t received confirmation that we’re working on the delivery, reach out to us and we’ll double check to see if we’ve received the request or not.
  • Need to submit your application before you’ve received the letter in your account? Reach out to us and we can provide you with that information.
  • Our 1-3 day turnaround is once we received the request, not once you submit the request on the application. Sometimes there is a delay from when you submit the application/request and when we receive it.

Running up against a deadline? As always, we can expedite most delivery types for you. Just send an email to help@interfolio.com with your delivery number letting us know you need it expedited and we’ll get to work on that ASAP.

Last year, we processed 323,068 applications. Trust Team Interfolio with yours.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

This post continues our new series, The Smart Scholar, which explores the attributes and qualities that make a successful academic applicant.

In my two previous posts, I discussed the under-appreciated skills for scholars on the job market and two practices that are useful for underrepresented scholars in the academy. While these approaches will certainly support your ability to be an ideal candidate, it is equally important to explore how you manage multiple applications. Thus, for this post I would like to focus on the actual job search.

Below are three tips on how you can enhance your organizational and logistical approach to your search for your next academic position.

Keeping up with where jobs are posted and shared

Do you know where to find jobs for your discipline? If not, start by reaching out to your scholarly village and learn where you can find opportunities. Generally, academic positions are listed on university websites. However, because of the amount of work it takes to look at individual university websites, there are many job forums that cover jobs across disciplines:

  • Higher Ed Jobs
  • Chronicle Vitae
  • Inside Higher Ed

In addition to general job boards, there are discipline-specific venues to find jobs.  For instance, in my field of education, job seekers can find positions on:

As an applicant you must allocate time to learn where jobs in your discipline are located and keep them bookmarked on your web browser.

Develop a tracking system to keep up with due dates

If you are open to a variety of opportunities, you may be applying to 10 or more positions during the job season. Given the quantity, it is vital that you have a tracking system to keep up with the various due dates. When I work with my dissertation clients who are on the job market I have them keep an Excel spreadsheet with headers (like the example below) in order to keep up with all of the requirements. Additionally, in order to ensure I did not miss a due date I would review the document every day.


Apply for jobs where you are a fit

When searching for jobs, conventional advice may be to apply for as many openings as possible so you have the greatest chance to secure a job. I would caution against this mantra when searching for academic positions. As a faculty member, I can observe that being on a search committee takes a lot of work. Search committees are responsible for:

  • Screening applications
  • Conducting phone and in-person interviews
  • Taking candidates on tours of the university and city
  • Deliberating to make a hiring recommendation

Given the amount of time involved in the search process, it is in your best interest as an applicant to apply to jobs that are a fit for your skillset as well as your career aspirations. I suggest taking this approach because if you are not a good fit for a position, the odds are your application will not proceed past application review. Due to the competitiveness of the job academic market, there are many applicants who are a direct fit for the position and meet all the criteria. This competitive market ultimately leads to search committees weeding out applications early in the process. My suggestion? As the applicant, your first job is to do your homework on a role and confidently apply only if you are an ideal candidate for a job.

Do you have a system you use to stay on top of your job search? If so, feel free to share it with me on Twitter (@ramongoings) as the academic community would love to hear about innovative ways to stay organized on your job hunt.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

Author Bio: Dr. Ramon B. Goings is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Loyola University Maryland. His research examines gifted/high-achieving Black male academic success PreK-PhD, diversifying the teacher and school leader workforce, and the student experience and contributions of historically Black colleges and universities to the higher education landscape. As a writing coach and editor, Dr. Goings enjoys supporting the scholarly development of doctoral students and professors in higher education. For more information about Dr. Goings, please visit his website www.ramongoings.com and follow him on Twitter (@ramongoings).