Overall job search timeline

  • Early Start:  Two years before graduation. 
    Submit Abstract to at least 1 conference.
  • Job Search Year 
    Attend at least one conference at which preliminary job interviews are conducted. 
    Present paper at appropriate conference(s) 
    Submit papers for publication. 
    Submit CV for School mailing to all schools 
    Prepare all your portfolio materials and keep them constantly updated. 
    Keep a folder with all job announcements of interest. 
    Research potential jobs. 
    Schedule yourself for interviews at several institutions.
  • Offers/Negotiations 
    Initial response to offers. 
    Issues/questions for negotiation process. 
    Follow-up response when not offered a position.


Early start

Begin your preparation 2 years before graduation (i.e., 1 year before job search).

If your overall timeline is a 4-year PhD program, submit an abstract to SSWR or some other relevant conference during your 2nd year in the program so that you will be in the conference proceedings during your 3rd year. [SSWR seems to be the best job-connection conference for many of our students.  CSWE may also useful as may be more specialized conferences.]


Choosing institutions that are right for you

 Research WEB sites of potential institutions:

  •  Mission statement and any document stating institutional focus/learning goals
  •  Curriculum (online info about course content)
  •  SSW faculty research/teaching interests
  •  Any UW alumni to contact
  •  Potential for interdisciplinary research
  •  Community relations/service

 [Note:  Keep detailed record of information for each institution and use the information during pre-interview contacts and any interviews.]



Pre-selling yourself through contacts 1 year before you will go on market

Contact UW alumni and/or individuals in your area of research at institutions you are interested.


Emails should not be more than two paragraphs: one to introduce you and one to state what you are asking them to do.

  • Introduce yourself, give a very short description of your research/teaching interests, state your progress in program and expected graduation date, and state your dissertation topic (give a working title if possible).
  • Ask one general question about the culture of the institution and about school's relation with practice community.
  • Ask about opportunities for the kind of research (collaborative/interdisciplinary) and teaching you wish to undertake.
  • Ask about the individual contact's assessment of their experience as a teacher and researcher at the institution.
  • Try to set up informal meetings with your contacts at conferences during the year.
  •  Check to see if Deans or Search Committees wish to do early interviews during this year.


Preparing for and Conducting Interviews/Job Talks

Do further investigation of institutions your are interested in:

  • Collect detailed information about overall institutional advantages/disadvantages, community/political climate, interdisciplinary opportunities, and other factors of particular interest to you.
  • Do more extensive WEB site searches of the overall faculty research, salaries, benefits, etc. of the institution.  The more knowledge you have of these issues, the less time you will need to spend talking about them during your interview time, which means more time to talk about your work.  You just note the information you have collected in advance whenever appropriate.
  • Avoid detailed discussion about financial issues during the initial interviews.
  • Research interdisciplinary and community contacts at each institution; do outreach yourself to show initiative and guide search committee in setting up meetings with members of other departments or other institutions in the community whose interests are linked to yours.

Set up interviews in advance and on-site at conferences:

  • Prior to conference contact dean or search committee head at institutions that have positions of interest and even at those who don't yet have positions advertised if you are very interested in them.  Sometimes you can set up specific appointment times in advance.  Others ask that you call and set up the appointment upon arriving at the conference.
  • Also consider contacting non-Search Committee faculty members in advance and try to connect with them informally during a conference: e.g., those who might be in areas of research/teaching similar to yours or who have been described as a good information source by a mutual acquaintance.

Update your materials before every conference/interview:

  • Additions to CV
  • Appropriate letters of reference
  • Teaching and research portfolios
  • Teaching portfolio should contain copies of any syllabi you've prepared and possibly course materials and evaluations.
  • Research portfolio should contain any papers under review/in press/published.
  • Packet with extra copies of CV, teaching and research portfolios, note paper, envelopes, clips (everything you can think of for facilitating communications).  This should be with you at all times during conference or when visiting an institution.  Don't give everything to everyone.  Assess what might be useful information for whomever you are talking with; these interviews are your opportunity to portray who you are and in what ways you're special.  Leave one complete notebook in the Dean's office during your visit to a institution.
  • Binder (or some system) for you to keep your notes on responses to your questions.

Preparing for interviews at conference and for job talks during site visits:

  • Be aware that interviews are often "back-to-back", so you may be waiting in the hotel hallway or interviewing in a noisy location.  Be flexible, prepared, and focused.
  • Develop questions to ask that are specific to each institution and general questions that you use for all places (to help you compare and contrast opportunities).


  • [Note:  See Appendix for list of potential questions for you to ask.] 


  • Use triangulation strategy:  Ask many people the same question.
  • Develop 30-second, 2-minute, and 5-minute versions of your status in each of the following areas: recent research, overall substantive interest and research program, interest in and preparation for teaching.  Practice these blurbs with colleagues and/or into tape recorder before you go.
  • Anticipate how to proactively deal with tough, sensitive, or inappropriate questions.  Network with your colleagues who are interviewing to find out what kinds of difficult questions might be out there.  Practice careful respectful responses to questions that ask for information you consider inappropriate in the circumstances; don't assume such questions will not be asked (e.g., plans for a family).
  • Prepare to talk specifically about the courses you'd be expected or would like to teach (e.g., the structure of the course, some of the readings the school currently uses for such courses and additional readings you would recommend, and experiential teaching components.
  • Practice job talks well in advance.
  • Videotape yourself and have those you trust help you analyze your performance.
  •  Do rehearsals with faculty and peers in a colloquium setting.  Ask for feedback re substance, delivery, fielding questions.
  • Consult with CIDR to practice talk.
  • Get psyched up to do several interviews a day.  You may have back-to-back brief, intense appointments.  You'll see weary interviewers with piles of CVs.
  • Have fun by enjoying the opportunity to meet new people.  Look forward to receiving useful input on your research topic and dissertation development.  Demonstrate that you'll be a good colleague by showing yourself as approachable and open to other's ideas.
  • When at a conference:  Check messages frequently at general center and any room set aside for job searchers.
  • Do not spend a lot of time in the "job searchers" room; anxiety, rumors, etc run rampant there.


  • Consider personal needs re sleep, food, exercise, relaxation.
  • Build in support contacts and free time.  Make sure you have some alone time to just wander around.
  • Ask if you can do a tour of the city (maybe your hosts will already think of this on their own).


Post-interview follow-up & negotiations

Initial response to offers:

  • Send written thank-you notes to anyone you met with formally.
  • Email notes might be appropriate for those you had informal conversations with.
  • Wait ? weeks before contacting Dean/Search Committee re status of your application.

Issues/questions for negotiation process:

  • See Appendix for section on negotiation questions.
  • Follow-up response when not offered a position.

[Do people just never have further communication when an offer is not made?]



Potential questions for you to ask during interviews

Note:  Some questions will not be appropriate for all types of institutions or in all types of interviews.  Do not get deeply into administrative/salary/other money issues during early informal interviews or the initial formal interviews unless the topics are brought up formally by interviewers.  Such questions should arise at "exit interview" meetings with deans or search committees and certainly after you have been given an offer and are in the negotiation process.

Consider the Dean or search committee contact person your ally.  Ask these individuals whatever questions you think are important before, during, and after your visit.  Do not shy away from potentially sensitive questions if they are valid concerns of yours.


General Questions

  1. How would you describe the culture and climate of the school relative to . . . (insert factors that are of interest to you, such as school governance, school and community relationships, diversity issues, interdisciplinary working relationships).
  2. What do others in the college/university/institutional community (e.g., administration, non-SSW students and faculty) view as the role of social work as a scholarly discipline and as a profession within the overall responsibilities and goals for teaching and research within the academic community?
  3. What is the make-up of the social work and larger institutional student body (diversity of students in relation to physical abilities, socio-economic classifications, gender, sexual orientation, age distributions, and cultural/ethnic background).
  4. How would you characterize the school's relations/interactions with the practice community in its geographic region?
  5. What is the general political climate like in the state now, particularly vis-a-vis social services and higher education?
  6. For your MSW program, when is your next accreditation review and what process do you follow for preparation for it?
  7. Where do you see your SSW going during the next decade or beyond: what are your dreams re research, teaching, community collaboration?


Research Questions

  1. What is the overall place of research within your institution?
  2. What are the major research areas your faculty members are currently engaged in?
  3. What kinds of grants does your faculty and institution have?
  4. Are there active working collaborative research groups?  Research center? Is there active interdisciplinary collaboration between SSW faculty and faculty from other departments?  Is consultation available with these groups?
  5. What kind of school/overall institutional support is there for grant submission?
  6. Examples:  Grants/contracts office functioning, helpfulness, workshops; in-house mentoring assistance with grant preparation and budget accounting;
  7. What support infrastructure exists for supporting research activities of junior faculty?
  8. Examples:  School or other (e.g., graduate school or university) funds for work-study RA's; fully funded PhD student RA's; seed funds for new research projects, carry-over project funds; supplies budget (copying, phone/fax, mailing, etc)?
  9. What opportunities do you see for community-based research?
  10. How would you describe the track record of your department and university in obtaining grants from submitted proposals?


Teaching Questions

  1. How would you characterize the institution's basic philosophy on teaching?
  2. What process exists for curriculum evaluation and revision?
  3. Are there interdisciplinary teaching opportunities?
  4. Does your school now have a distance learning program or is one in development?  What are the expectations and opportunities for junior faculty to be involved in it?
  5. What are the teaching requirements for new assistant faculty members during the first couple of years?  How many courses per year? Expectations to teach across programs?
  6. How is workload negotiated?  What procedures exist for teaching work-load buyout? Is there credit for tutorials with PhD students and for participating on Dissertation Supervisory Committees?  Do any types of time-intensive community service commitments count toward work-load requirements?
  7. Do instructors of core courses use the same syllabi?  How much flexibility is there for some personal input on course content?
  8. How is teaching evaluated?
  9. In what ways do faculty members participate in continuing education of the local practice community?  Do you have a Continuing Education unit in which faculty participate in course planning and teach, and do they get some form of recognition (workload credit) for doing so?


Community Service Questions

  1. In what ways is the school involved generally in community service to organizations within or external to the university?
  2. What are the expectations for faculty, staff, and students in terms of community service commitments (e.g., serving on committees, work-groups, volunteer opportunities in the community at large?)
  3. Can you think of examples of research or teaching projects that contained community service components?


Contract and Tenure/Promotion Questions

  1. What is the standard initial contract period and what is the standard renewal period?
  2. What criteria are used for promotion and tenure?  What relative values are placed on committee work, practicum work, community liaison duties, advising students, research publications, and teaching?
  3. Is tenure consideration simultaneous with the first promotion?
  4. May I have a copy of the document that describes the review process and tenure policy?
  5. Is release time given to prepare for tenure consideration?
  6. What would you say are the main reasons for individuals being denied tenure during recent years?
  7. What percentage of your full-time faculty is in tenure-track positions?
  8. What percentage of tenure-track faculty is recommended for tenure when first voted on, and what percentage of those recommended by the faculty are granted tenure by the University?

Administrative and Resource Questions

  1. What travel budget is there for faculty for conferences, grant development, recruitment (faculty and PhD student)?
  2. Release time and sabbaticals:  How is release time negotiated?
  3. How many faculty are permitted sabbatical/leave per year.  Who may apply?  Are sabbaticals paid (at what percentage) or unpaid?
  4. What are the school/university facilities like?


  1. Computer resources: computer center and access, consulting services, software modifications for local use, statistical packages available, support staff? 
    Library facilities:  Social work library, telecommunications support, on-line search resources, staff support? 
    Media facilities:  classroom media technology available, distance-learning technology, staff support? 
    Conference facilities:  Does the school have access to adequate space for supporting relatively large conferences and events for the practice community?


Negotiating an Offer

After you have been offered a position, make sure you intensify your investigation of the school, university, and community at large.  Re-contact individuals both within the school and in other departments with more specific questions you may still have about the institution and the socio-cultural-economic environment of the city.  Timelines can get very tight for competitive offers. Resist being prematurely pressured to make a decision if you have other schools with which you are interviewing.  Work with the dean or director to establish fair and reasonable time-frames for decision making.

Negotiation Issues.

Salary/benefits issues:

  • Range?  What were the last three appointees offered?
  • How are salary raises decided?
  • How are the amounts decided?
  • Are there opportunities to augment income?
  • Is it a 9- or 12-month appointment?  (What possible conflicts can the extra 3 months entail)
  • Fringe benefits:
  • Medical/dental?
  • IRA, TIAA/CREF, 401K?
  • Faculty housing or subsidy programs to help with purchasing housing?
  • Transition benefits:
  • Moving expenses paid?
  • Other sources for assistance with moving expenses?

Lifestyle issues:

  • Cost-of-living in area?
  • Schools?
  • Cultural and environmental aspects of region that are good/bad for your personal needs?
  • Commute/transportation?