Stanford PhD &
Postdoc Career Guide
Career Development Center. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
PART II: PHD PATHWAYS
Getting Started: Careers for PhDs & Postdoctoral Scholars. . . . . . . 3
Career Options Beyond Academia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Advice From Stanford PhD Alumni. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Careers in Engineering. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Career Fields by Skills. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Research Your Options and
What’s Out There. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Brainstorm Career Ideas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Investigate Options . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Gain Experience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Career Development Center Services. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Top Ten Career Resources for PhDs and Postdocs. . . . . . . . . . . .
International Students. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Additional Stanford University Services and Resources. . . . . . . .
PART I: THE ACADEMIC JOB SEARCH
Getting Your Bearings. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Dual-Career Academic Couples. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Crafting Your CV . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
CV Headings. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Writing Your CV. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Writing Cover Letters for Academic Positions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Sample Letter. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Additional Application Materials. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Research Statements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Teaching Statements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Writing Samples. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Getting Started on Your Teaching Statement. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Teaching Materials. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Letters of Recommendation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Applying to Community Colleges. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Academic Interviews. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
First-Round Interviews: Phone. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
First-Round Interviews: Skype. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
First-Round Interviews: Conferences. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
On-Campus Interviews. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Preparing for an Academic Job Talk. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Interview Questions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
After the Interview:
Thank-You Notes and Waiting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Negotiation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
36 Negotiable Items in an Academic Position. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Possible Outcomes and Looking Ahead. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Networking and Informational Interviews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Five Steps for Conducting Informational Interviews. . . . . . . . . 30
Networking Online. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
More Job Search Tips . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
The Effective Public Service Job and Internship Search. . . . . . 33
Resumes and Cover Letters. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Resume Sections. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Resume Format. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Resume Tips . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sample Action Verbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sample Resumes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sample Reference Page. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Cover Letter Tips . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Cover Letter Format. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sample Cover Letters. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Interviews. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Before the Interview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Interview Tips. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Preparing for Questions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Types of Interviews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Typical Stages of an Interview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sample Interview Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Questions to Ask Employers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Evaluating and Negotiating Job Offers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Preparing to Negotiate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Negotiating. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Accepting and Rejecting Offers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Ethics and Etiquette. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Frequently Asked Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sample Job Offer Communications. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Edited by Yuree Soh and Diana Ecker
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C a r e e r D ev e lopm e n t C e n t e r
Student Services Building
563 Salvatierra Walk
Counseling Services (2nd Floor)
Employment Services (3rd Floor)
Appointments, resource library, workshops
9 am–noon and 1 pm–5 pm
Job/Internship postings, Cardinal
Recruiting (on-campus recruiting),
career fairs, online registration
8:15 am–noon and 1 pm–4:30 pm
We would like to extend warm and enthusiastic thanks to everyone who helped make
the Stanford Career Guide for PhDs and
Postdocs a reality!
Many thanks to Kathy Campbell, who
proofread every page, and to Katharine
Matsumoto, who designed our cover. Tim
Clancy and Nan Mellem designed the
guide and guided us through the publishing
process. This guide would not have been
possible without the support of Lance
Choy and Veda Jeffries, and the contributions and encouragement of the staff of the
Stanford Career Development Center.
We are grateful to Andrea Rees Davies and
the Clayman Institute for Gender Research,
Mariatte Denman and the Center for
Teaching and Learning, and Doree Allen
and the Oral Communication Program for
generously contributing content in their
areas of expertise. We were delighted to
be able to share the list of 36 things to
negotiate for in an academic position, and
extend our sincere thanks to Jane Tucker
and Barbara Butterfield for graciously
agreeing to share this list with our readers.
Finally, the journeys, challenges, and
successes of Stanford PhD students and
postdocs have contributed immensely to
this guide in many ways. It is a joy to be
able to share what we have learned from
them with the PhD students and postdocs
reading this guide today.
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G et t i ng S ta rt e d : C a r e e r s for
P h D s & P o s t d o c tor a l S c hol a r s
You may have begun your graduate studies
with the desire to become a professor.
Or, perhaps you did not have a specific
career goal in mind but decided to pursue
graduate studies since you enjoyed the
academic environment and research. You
may have been unsure about your career
direction and wanted to keep your options
open while gaining additional training
through an advanced degree. For some of
you, the opportunity to study further at
a prestigious institution with top minds
and exciting learning opportunities was
Now that you are here, you may have
additional questions about your future
career. Perhaps you are just beginning
your graduate studies and wondering if
you should complete your doctoral studies
and where that will lead. Or, you may
have spent most of your graduate years
concentrating on your academic work and
now face a job search in a competitive
job market. Whether you decide to
pursue an academic career or options
beyond academia, it is important for you
to understand and explore the breadth
of career options available. The time it
takes to figure out your interests and
skills, learn about the world of work, and
make a match between who you are and
appropriate opportunities/employers is a
worthwhile investment for your future. The
career exploration process can complement
your graduate training and prepare you for
a smooth transition to a professional role
inside or outside academia.
The natural tendency of many PhDs and
postdocs is to vacillate between academic
and alternative careers throughout their
graduate or postdoctoral training. Your
interests, preferences, or understanding
of career fields may have changed. In
addition, the world of work also continues
to evolve and may present opportunities
that you did not know about before.
Outside factors such as limited availability of faculty jobs, especially in certain
disciplines or types of institutions, or
change in personal circumstances may also
necessitate keeping your options open.
It is helpful to have looked at all viable
options regardless of your final career
decision. Within academia, consider the
various types of institutions or the possible
diversity of academic roles. Even if you
ultimately become a professor, the process
of examining various options would have
helped you clarify why you are choosing
this job rather than suspect that you
have just taken the default path. Also,
after going through this process you will
be better prepared to advise your own
students with regard to their career exploration. Again, if your career exploration
results in an alternative career, you will
have confidence in your decision, having
weighed it carefully based on who you are
and the possibilities vetted through solid
research. This, in turn, will position you
well for the non-academic job search and
your interviews with employers.
If possible, begin the career planning
process early and use all of the resources
available to you through the Career
Development Center and other services.
View your graduate training as an opportunity to develop a broad and transferable
skill set that can take you on multiple
career paths. Take advantage of numerous
professional learning opportunities and
experiences while you are here. Make
time to test out your interests in various
careers and start developing a professional network. Regardless of where you
are in your career exploration process, a
CDC career counselor can serve as your
sounding board and help you navigate the
career decision-making process and job
search within or beyond academia.
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C a r e e r D ev e lopm e n t C e n t e r S e rv ic e s
CDC Ser vices
Our confidential counseling services are
designed to address your academic and
non-academic career exploration and job
search needs and concerns on a one-on-one
• A 45-minute appointment with a career
counselor can be scheduled online by
logging into your Cardinal Careers
account. Wait times can range from one
day to two weeks depending on the time
• Fifteen-minute drop-in appointments are
available Monday-Friday from 11 am-12
noon and 2 pm-4 pm, on a first-come,
first-served basis. These types of appointments are appropriate for resume/CV or
cover letter critiques or to answer quick
There are a variety of workshops and
special programs offered at the CDC
throughout the academic year. Log in to
your Cardinal Careers account, stanfordcsm.symplicity.com/students (go to the
Workshops/Programs tab), for details on
upcoming events and to RSVP.
Special Programs for PhDs and
• The Academic Job Search Series: This
series is designed to help you prepare for
the academic job search. Find out how
to craft an effective curriculum vitae,
cover letter, and application materials.
Learn about the academic interview
process and how to negotiate academic
hD Pathways: These workshops will
help you examine what is important
to you in your career choice, explore
options beyond academia, learn how to
find job opportunities, convert your CV
into a resume, and polish interview skills.
Participants will have an opportunity to
discuss career issues common to advanced
degree holders and learn about helpful
CDC and Stanford resources.
• PhD Career Foundations: These
workshops are specifically for PhD
students who have recently begun their
doctoral studies, and are looking ahead
to either academic or non-academic
career paths. Past workshops have
focused on strategies for exploring career
options, getting a head start on transferable skills, and drafting and refining
Other CDC Workshop Topics
• Assessment Interpretation: Group
interpretation of career assessments
such as Myers-Briggs Personality Type
Indicator, Strong Interest Inventory,
StrengthsQuest, Value Card Sort, and
Skill Scan Card Sort. These workshops
require an RSVP and completion of the
assessment (excluding card sorts) prior
to attending the workshop.
• Internship and Job Search Strategies:
These workshops focus on strategies
and resources for the full-time and/
or summer internship job search.
Topics range from broad strategies to
specific areas such as the Public Service
• Using Social Media: Workshops in this
category cover information and tips on
social networking sites such as LinkedIn,
Facebook, and Twitter which have
become increasingly popular job search
tools in today’s market.
• Cardinal Recruiting Program
Orientations: Each quarter these orientations provide procedural information
on how to participate in the on-campus
• Networking: A variety of workshops
are offered that cover tips and strategies
for networking at career fairs and other
• Resumes, Cover Letters, Interviewing,
Evaluating and Negotiating Job Offers:
These workshops provide an overview of
the essential components, tips and tricks
for the successful application process and
securing a job or internship.
Career Resource Library
The Library houses a specialized collection
of occupational descriptions, industry
information, job and internship listings,
and company directories to help you with
your career, job, and company searches.
Our hardcopy collection complements our
online collection, studentaffairs.stanford.
Letter of Recommendation
The Career Development Center has
partnered with Interfolio, a web-based
credential file management service. This
service is available to both current students
and alumni for a nominal fee. The entire
system is both secure and convenient. Visit
the Interfolio website at interfolio.com for
Cardinal Careers, studentaffairs.stanford.
edu/cdc/jobs-internships, is a key online
resource to obtaining information on jobs,
employers, CDC services, workshops,
events, programs, employer information
sessions and other topics of interest.
When registered with Cardinal Careers,
you’ll be able to:
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Top Ten Career Resources for PhDs and Postdocs
Stanford PhDs and Postdocs
“CDC Career Resource Library” <[email protected]>
Subject: Top Ten Career Resources for Current PhDs and Postdocs
2011-2012 Academic Year
Dear Scholars and Researchers,
We are pleased to list the Top Ten Career Resources for Stanford PhDs/Postdocs. These titles are based on
questions received over the years. They cover the sciences, humanities, engineering, the social sciences and
address questions from students and postdocs wanting to work in academia, industry, government, or in the
Let us know if you have a favorite title not included; it might be listed here next year!
Stanford Career Resource Library
Located online at studentaffairs.
• The Chronicle of Higher Education
News and jobs in academia and higher
education, also at chronicle.com.
• The Versatile PhD
Resources and community discussion
on nonacademic career options.
Particularly helpful for graduate
students in humanities and social
sciences. Completely confidential.
Stanford students and postdocs have
free access to the premium content
• CareerInsider—Vault, Inc.
Electronic guidebooks about employers
and career fields provided free of
charge to Stanford students and
postdocs. Choose any of the 90 titles,
such as Advice from Top Tech & New
Media Gurus / Biotech Careers /
Fundraising & Philanthropy Careers /
Top Consulting Firms / Top Government
& Non-Profit Employers.
• How to Prepare Your
Shows how to organize your teaching
and research experience, as well as
what to keep in and what to leave out.
Eight sample CVs from Anthropology,
Astronomy, Clinical Psychology,
Computer Science, Economics,
German, Mathematics, and Women’s
Located in the CDC Career Resource
• Money for Graduate Students in:
- The Arts & Humanities
- The Physical & Earth Sciences
- The Social & Behavioral Sciences
More than 3,000 funding sources are
listed. Gives the purpose, eligibility,
monetary award, duration, special
features, and deadline for programs.
• So What Are You Going To Do With
That? Finding Careers Outside
Rethinking life after graduate school;
soul-searching before job searching;
networking and transitional experience;
turning a CV into a resume; and how
to turn an interview into a job. Also at
Cubblerly Education Library.
• The Academic Job Search Handbook
Covers all aspects of the faculty job
search with invaluable tips and updated
advice. Addresses challenges such as
those faced by dual-career couples
and job search issues for pregnant
• Job Search in Academe:
The Insightful Guide for
Faculty Job Candidates
Offers case studies of candidates
who have followed both academic
and non-academic paths. Includes
issues such as those faced by minority
candidates and by scientist candidates
needing to negotiate faculty contracts to
ensure adequate lab space/resources.
Sample application letters and vitae
are included. Weblinks to sample
documents can be found at styluspub.
Also at Swain Chemistry and Chemical
• From Student to Scholar: A Candid
Guide to Becoming a Professor
Covers a range of critical issues: how
to plan, complete, and defend a dissertation; improve teaching performance;
publish research; develop a professional network; and garner support for
tenure. Also at Jackson Business and
Cubberly Education Libraries.
• Put Your Science to Work:
The Take-Charge Career Guide for
For new scientists and engineers or
those seeking a mid-career change,
this title gives you practical advice
and techniques for finding traditional or
non-traditional jobs in science. Includes
examples of resumes and cover letters,
and stories of scientists who have
moved into a wide range of careers.
Also at Branner Earth Sciences Library
and at the Engineering Library.
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• Schedule a 45-minute career counseling
• Access full-time, part-time, internships,
and on-campus job postings listings.
• Set up job search agents, which will
email you jobs of interest.
• Get activated for our on-campus
interview program, Cardinal Recruiting.
• Sign up for e-newsletters on targeted
career information and weekly events,
including a special newsletter for PhDs
and postdoctoral scholars.
• Simplify the job application process
by storing resumes, cover letters, and
iNet Internship Network
Stanford University has joined ten other
select universities to offer you a wider
range of internships through the iNet
internship database. This is a separate
registration process from Cardinal Careers,
although both are accessed from the same
initial login page, studentaffairs.stanford.
Cardinal Recruiting Program
Cardinal Recruiting is a program whereby
employers come to the Stanford to
interview current students during fall and
winter quarters. PhD students are eligible
to participate; however, postdocs are not
eligible to participate. To participate in the
program, create a Cardinal Careers account
and complete the Cardinal Recruiting
“Intent to Participate” form, available via a
link on your Cardinal Careers home page.
You will then be able to view and apply to
Cardinal Recruiting designated jobs.
During the academic year, the Career
Development Center sponsors career fairs
to enable you to interact with employers
and perhaps find an internship or job.
The largest career fair is the first one of
the academic year, the Fall Career Fair.
Throughout the year there are also many
specialized fairs such as the PhD Career
Fair, Startup 101 Entrepreneur Career
Expo, Silicon Valley Nonprofit Fair, and
the Energy & Environmental Career Fair.
See the Career Fair link (studentaffairs.
stanford.edu/cdc/services/career-fairschedule) on the CDC home page for a
complete list of upcoming career fairs and
Pursuing jobs and internship opportunities
in the U.S. may feel especially unfamiliar
as an international student. The following
resources are available to help you
manage your career.
Workshops and Programs
Some CDC workshops and programs
are specifically designed for international
students. The following workshops are
offered during the academic year:
Career counselors are excellent listeners,
problem solvers, information providers,
and motivators. Counselors can:
• Resume and Cover Letters for
• Orientation to the CDC for International
• Help you clarify and articulate your skills
• Job Search Strategies for International
• Share tips on tailoring resumes, CVs
and cover letters for the U.S. job market
View the CDC Event Calendar via your
Cardinal Careers account for specific
dates and times of these recurring
workshops and other special programs,
and to sign up for workshops.
• Provide resources for exploring options
or researching industries
• Provide tips on interviewing in the U.S.
and conduct practice interviews
• Strategize your job search
For more information and resources
on career development, job search
strategies, and resources for international students, review the section of
the CDC website specifically designed
for international students and scholars,
For an e-newsletter with resources, job
opportunities and timely information for
international students and scholars, log in
to your Cardinal Careers account, go to
Communities and then subscribe to the
International Student newsletter.
• Interviewing Strategies for International
Networking and Informational
Interviews: Stanford Career Connect
Learn from experienced Stanford alumni!
Ask career questions, get advice and
gather valuable information from alumni
by going to studentaffairs.stanford.
edu/cdc/networking and clicking the
Career Connect link. Identify alumni by
department, degree, specialty, industry
and/or location, and then ask for a brief
conversation to answer your career
The CDC does not provide advice on
legal, technical or other issues related
to your visa. Please visit stanford.edu/
dept/icenter or consult with an advisor at
the Bechtel International Center for this
Who Hires International Graduates and
Recruiting is expensive, so employers
generally prefer to hire for the long term.
Hence your attractiveness as a candidate
may depend on your potential to obtain a
subsequent work visa (e.g., H1B visa) after
you complete your practical training or work
eligibility allowed on your current visa. Some
employers sponsor international employees
for subsequent visas; others do not.
Other than the defense industry, many
large companies strive to hire the best
candidate, regardless of nationality.
Universities and other educational
institutions also generally hire the
best candidates; additionally, there is
no restriction on the number of H1B
visas they may sponsor. It is harder to
generalize about smaller and mid-sized
companies, which may be less familiar
with hiring candidates on visas.
Positions within the U.S. federal
government, most national labs and the
security/defense industries generally
require U.S. citizenship or permanent
residency. Positions within state or local
government may be open to international
candidates; however, some states may be
more international-friendly than others.
Visit myvisajobs.com to find employers
by industry, profession and location that
have historically sponsored H1B visas.
This site also has current postings for
available positions at these internationalfriendly employers.
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Addit ional Stanford Universit y Ser vices and Resources
The following campus offices offer services
and programs that complement the Career
Development Center offerings in exploring
and pursuing various careers. Please note
that for the sake of brevity, the descriptions
below focus on career-related resources of
the offices and do not reflect their complete
mission and work. Also note that user
eligibility for each office varies.
Hume Writing Center (HWC)
Vice Provost for Graduate Education
School of Engineering, Technical
Communications Program (TCP)
Offers numerous professional skills-development and training opportunities and
provides a comprehensive listing of various
on-campus resources for graduate students.
Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA)
Supports postdoctoral scholars’ career
development by providing professional
development and skill-building programs in
collaboration with various campus offices
and by providing guidelines for Career
Progress Mentorship Meetings.
Center for Teaching and Learning
Provides teaching training and resources
including consultations, classroom
observation, student small group evaluations, video-recording and analysis, and
workshops and courses on teaching topics
including teaching statements and course
Oral Communications Program
Offers oral communication workshops,
courses, and individual consultations to
improve students’ public speaking, oral
presentation, and communication skills,
including job talk and interviewing skills.
Provides extensive writing support for
graduate students through workshops,
boot camps, individual consultations, and
resources; including workshops on research
statements and individual advising on
written application materials.
Supports students’ technical writing and/
or speaking skills development through
courses and individual consulting.
Primarily serves engineering students, but
also welcomes interested students from
elsewhere in the university.
Counseling and Psychological
Services (CAPS) vaden.stanford.edu/
Rigors of graduate education or the job
search can bring up feelings of anxiety or
depression. CAPS offers a broad range
of services including individual therapy,
medication assessment and management,
group therapy, support groups, and
Other On-Campus Career
• School of Medicine Career Center
Supports the professional development
of medical and life science trainees
through curricula, professional advising,
networking/employer connections, and
• School of Education, Career
Services Office ed.stanford.edu/
• Law School, Office of Career
• Graduate School of Business,
Career Management Center
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PART I: THE ACADEMIC JOB SEARCH
G et t i ng You r B e a r i ngs
So you’ve decided to pursue an academic
job! You may already know about the
potential challenges: There may be a
limited number of openings in your field
or area of expertise. The competition may
seem daunting. Crafting effective application materials takes time and energy,
as does preparing for and traveling to
interviews. However, there is good news,
too: This process is typically very structured and there are reliable strategies that
you can use to enhance your candidacy.
You may not have control over the final
outcome, but by taking some time to
understand the process, carefully considering your own priorities, familiarizing
yourself with key strategies, crafting
compelling application materials, and
preparing strategically for interviews, you
can have much more control over your
experience than you would otherwise.
What Is Important to You?
When you started your doctoral program,
you may have had a vision of your professional future. As you progressed through
your program, this vision may have
sharpened, shifted, or changed completely.
In any case, it is important to reflect on
who you are now, what you most enjoy
doing, and what your priorities are. This
will help you identify the types of academic
opportunities that are likely to be the best
Do you enjoy research? Do you love to
teach? How do you prefer to spend your
time? What kind of department are you
looking for? What kinds of colleagues
do you hope to have? Looking at how
you prefer to direct your time and energy
can help you figure out if you are most
interested in applying to large research
universities, private liberal arts colleges,
public universities, institutions with
religious orientations, community colleges,
or others. There is no single right answer
for everyone; the goal is to figure out
where you will thrive professionally.
Family and partner considerations may
also play a substantial role as you look
toward the next step in your career. If you
have a partner, you may find it productive
to discuss your shared hopes and goals.
Are there parts of the country where one
or both of you would prefer to live? Do
you want to live in a city, a suburb, a rural
area? What other geographic and lifestyle
considerations are important? Consider
where each of you might be willing to
Yes, the academic job market is competitive—in some cases, staggeringly so. But
it is always easier and more effective to
make a compelling case for an institution
that matches your values and priorities.
Figuring out what you want may ultimately
give you more freedom to be flexible.
It is crucial to know how academic
positions are advertised in your discipline.
In many fields, a list of academic positions
is published annually. First-round interviews then take place at an annual
conference. If you have the opportunity to
familiarize yourself with postings in your
field before you go on the job market,
by all means, do so! Take note of which
postings interest you the most, and what
types of qualifications are emphasized.
Speak with faculty members in your
department. At conferences, go out of your
way to chat with colleagues from other
institutions. Seek out alumni from your
department who have already graduated
and are now working in academia. You
will benefit from their experiences, and you
may be surprised how willing some will
be to share advice for your academic job
Try to build a timeline for yourself in
advance. Simply developing a CV and
cover letter, along with perhaps a teaching
statement, a research statement, a writing
sample, a dissertation abstract, sample
syllabi, and/or evidence of excellence in
teaching, can be a time-consuming process.
Some PhD students find it helpful to begin
working on these materials well in advance
of the deadlines, which often occur in the
fall of their final year. These materials will
be addressed in greater depth in subsequent
sections of this handbook.
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Dual-Career Academic Couples
Meeting the needs of dual-career academic couples—while ensuring the high quality of university faculty—
is one of the greatest challenges facing universities today. The Clayman Institute for Gender Research at
Stanford University published the results of a national study on this topic: Dual-Career Academic Couples: What
Universities Need to Know. (stanford.edu/group/gender/ResearchPrograms/DualCareer/DualCareerFinal.pdf)
Today’s Dual-Career Academic Couples:
• Academic couples comprise 36% of American professors
• Women faculty are more likely to be in an academic partnership than are men (40% versus 34%, respectively)
• Dual hires have comprised an increasing proportion of all faculty hires over the last four decades, from 3% in
the 1970s to 13% in the 2000s
• In recent dual-hires, nearly half (46%) are assistant professors (52% women; 38% men)
When to Raise the Partner Question?
Institutional approaches to couple hiring tend to vary dramatically. Candidates should take time to investigate the
culture and climate around dual career hiring at the institutions to which they apply in order to determine the best
timing for raising the partner question.
• Candidates most often raise partner issues during interviews (57%)
• A number of candidates also raise the issue after a verbal offer (25%)
• Some candidates raise the issue in the letter of application (9%), while some do so after the written offer (8%).
Not surprisingly, this timing differs by rank
Contributed by the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University
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C r a f t i ng You r CV
A curriculum vitae tells the story of your
professional life and accomplishments in
your discipline. It may take many pages to
do so. For an academic position, your CV’s
job is to convey—in a clear and readable
format—your educational background,
your research and teaching experience, your
publications and presentations, and your
honors and awards. There may also be
additional sections, depending on your field
and professional experience.
In addition to conveying factual information about your educational and
professional accomplishments, your CV has
the potential to convey much more. For
example, it can indicate that your focus is
research, or that you are teaching-focused.
In this way, you can also communicate that
your focus and the focus of the institution
to which you are applying are the same.
How? First, the order of the sections is key.
If you place the teaching section before
the research section, or vice versa, that
will communicate to the hiring committee
that you share their priorities in respect
to teaching and research. If you apply to
a variety of institutions—i.e., both liberal
arts colleges and research universities—it
is strategic to develop multiple versions of
How do you want to describe your teaching
experience? This is another way that you
can communicate that you share an institution’s priorities and that you understand the
role. One Stanford PhD student who was
applying for adjunct positions found that
department chairs were more responsive
when she rewrote her teaching section to
include detailed descriptions of what she
did in the various teaching roles she had
held. Someone applying for a position that
emphasizes research, however, might find
greater advantage in keeping their teaching
section very straightforward.
If you have unique accomplishments,
skills, credentials, or experiences that
are absolutely required for the academic
position to which you are applying, they
must go on the first page. For example, if
the job description emphasizes that candidates must have a proven record of securing
grants and you have already experienced
successes in this area, it is essential that you
convey your own funding record on the
first page. Again, the key is to emphasize
those aspects of your experience that align
with the requirements for the position in
When it comes to CV design, typically
hiring committees prefer a simple, classic,
clean look. Unusual fonts and formatting
are generally not well received. However, a
clear and easy-to-read format will enhance
any CV. Take the time to look at several
CV formats. Draw inspiration from the
ones you like best.
See the Resources for Sample CVs section
below for suggestions of places to seek
out sample CVs. The Career Development
Center library has binders of PhD students’
CVs and other application documents
that you can browse through. Sample
CVs from PhD students and postdocs
in a variety of disciplines are available
on the CDC website. You may find it
useful to download and review CVs from
faculty members in your own department
or departments at other colleges and
Resources for Sample CVs and Other Application Materials
• Our website: Visit studentaffairs.
sample materials from a variety of disciplines. (We are always looking for new
samples, too! Contact our office if you
are interested in adding yours to our
• CDC Library: In the library at the
Career Development Center, you can
browse through a big binder of past
PhD students’ academic job application
materials (used with permission),
including CVs, cover letters, teaching
statements and research statements.
• Your department: Some departments
maintain formal or informal collections of application materials from past
students. If such a collection does
not exist in your department, consider
• Department websites: It is common
for faculty members to post their CVs
online. Browse through CVs from a
variety of faculty members in your field
to look for trends and best practices.
• The Academic Job Search Handbook,
4th Edition, by Julia Miller Vick and
Jennifer Furlong, is a valuable resource
with samples from a variety of disciplines.
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There is not a single set of headings that
would be right for every PhD student or
postdoc. Rather, base your decisions about
which headings to include on conversations with faculty and colleagues in your
field; perusal of colleagues’ CVs and CVs
of faculty in your field; job descriptions for
the positions to which you are applying;
and your own experience and strengths.
The suggested headings that follow
are general ideas, organized loosely by
category, to get you thinking about which
headings would enable you to most effectively convey the value you would bring to
a college or university:
• Education, Education and Training
• Certifications, Licensure
• Dissertation, Dissertation Research,
• Research Experience, Grant-Funded
Research, Related Research
• Teaching Experience, Teaching and
Mentoring, Teaching and Advising,
• Honors, Awards, Fellowships, Research
• Industry Experience, Related Professional
Experience, Work Experience
• Publications, Presentations, Conference
Presentations, Invited Talks, Book
Chapters, Published Abstracts
• University Service, Academic Service,
Professional Activities, Committee Work,
• Media Coverage
• Volunteer Experience, Leadership
Activities, Community Engagement,
Scholarship in Action
• Professional Development, Continuing
Education, Training, Institutes
• Related Experience, Additional
• Professional Affiliations, Memberships
A word about document length: More
pages are fine. In particular, do not
truncate relevant experience or publications
in order to “save space.” It can be helpful
to have a header or footer with your last
name and the number of pages (i.e., Name,
page 3 of 5).
Name of Department
Address, City, State 12345
(650) 123-4567 [email protected]
Typically, you would include your department and university; you have the option of
also including a home address if you would like. For a phone number, include your
mobile number if that is the easiest way for a search committee to reach you.
Stanford University, Stanford, CA
PhD in Name of Program, expected June 20XX
Dissertation title, brief summary, advisor’s name, and/or committee members may
optionally follow here. Could also appear in additional section below entitled “Dissertation,” or could be included elsewhere, depending on your preference, the conventions
of the field, and the job for which you are applying. There are times when you may also
wish to list a particular fellowship or honor here as well.
Previous University, City, State
MS, MA, etc. in Name of Program, June xxxx
Optional: Thesis title, advisor’s name
Previous University, City, State
BS, BA, etc. in Name of Program, June xxxx
Optional: Senior thesis title, advisor’s name
NEXT HEADING HERE
Choose your first heading with great care, considering the primary focus of the position.
If the focus will be research, consider a heading such as “Research Experience.” If
the focus is teaching, consider “Teaching Experience.” The level of detail with which
you address either topic should reflect the level of interest that the hiring committee is
expected to have in that area. For the purpose of this sample, examples of each follow.
In some cases, the first heading after Education will actually be “Honors and Awards”; in
other cases, this category will follow later in the CV.
Organization, Lab, or Project, City, State
Research Assistant, September xxxx to present
Concise but descriptive highlights of your work on this project follow. As you edit and
revise these descriptions, keep your hiring committee in mind. How can you describe
your work in a way that will be engaging and interesting?
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Name • Page 2 of 3
Organization, Lab, or Project, City, State
Research Assistant, September xxxx to present
Remember that when you are describing your research experience, the emphasis should
be on your contributions and accomplishments, not solely on the project itself. Make a
special effort to be mindful of verbs: Coordinated, analyzed, investigated, presented, and
Name of College or University, City, State
Lecturer, September xxxx to June xxxx
There is no single, set-in-stone format for describing your teaching on a CV. Depending
on your situation and how much teaching experience you have had, you may consider
listing it by college or university, as in this example; or you may wish to list it by course,
or by some other classification. Sometimes it is sufficient to simply list courses taught;
other times it can be tremendously helpful to include a description of your role in the
course, including accomplishments that may have been unique to you (i.e., Built an interactive website for course and moderated online discussion, or facilitated small-group
problem-solving in 150-person lecture).
RELATED PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE
If you have industry experience that will enhance your candidacy, such as consulting in
your field, teaching in other settings, internships, or other work that will contribute to the
committee’s understanding of how and why you would be a good fit for a position, consider including it as well. Again, the placement of a category like this is potentially quite
flexible. Think carefully about which experience you would like to be part of a search
committee’s initial impression of you, which experience can be deferred until later in the
CV, and which experience may not need to appear in the CV at all.
Have you served on committees, organized speakers or events for your department, or
taken leadership roles in activities on campus? Perhaps you have served as a reviewer
for journals in your field; you could re-name this section or add a new one to include that
Especially for research-oriented positions, this section may be read very carefully. When
you list your publications, you may wish to bold your name. You may also wish to
include and indicate publications that have been submitted and/or are in press. Typically
you would follow the citation conventions of your field.
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Name • Page 3 of 3
As with publications, listing your presentations is helpful as well. In some cases a candidate may choose to combine both sections into one (Publications & Presentations); if you
find that you have quite a few of each, it typically works best to keep them in separate
Of course, you do not need to include a category with this name. However, you may
have experience, volunteer work, or other experiences that do not fit neatly into any of
the other categories and have not already been addressed in the CV. Be both proactive
and conservative in finding ways to include information that is expected in your field (for
someone with a PhD in Drama, this may be a list of performances directed, for example).
You may want to have a heading for professional development, media coverage, or
other topics. Find ways to include information that will help the search committee better
understand who you are as a scholar, a teacher, and a colleague.
HONORS AND AWARDS
When you list awards, consider including a bit of explanatory text if that would help the
reader better understand an award’s significance. If there is a particular award that might
significantly elevate your application, consider finding a way to include it on the first
page where it will be noticed immediately. Sometimes specific awards can be included
right in the Education section; sometimes this entire category may be moved to the first
Memberships in professional organizations are commonly listed at or toward the end of
List your references, along with their titles and contact information, here.
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W r i t i ng C ov e r L et t e r s for
A c a de m ic P o si t ions
Like effective CVs,
compelling cover letters
for academic positions
reflect the priorities of the
institutions and positions
to which you are applying.
An academic cover letter,
which can be one to two
pages, is an opportunity
to make a persuasive case
for how and why you are
an excellent fit for that
Be selective and strategic
about your tone and on
what you choose to focus.
For example, if you are
applying to an institution
that values involving
research, you may choose
to emphasize how, in
your own work, you have
involved and mentored
you will likely not have a
single cover letter that you
send out to a wide variety
of institutions, but several
In a typical academic cover
letter, it is likely that you
will introduce yourself,
describe your research
and teaching experience,
and write about how and
why you find the position
Sample Let ter
Name of Your Current Department
Stanford, CA 94305
Name of Recipient, PhD
Name of Department
Name of University
City, State 12345
Dear Dr. Recipient (or Dear Hiring Committee, or Dear Professor Recipient):
In the first paragraph, you will want to formally apply for and express interest in the position, and
introduce yourself. You may share that you are in the process of completing your PhD/postdoctoral
fellowship in your particular discipline at Stanford University. You can also introduce your specialty or
area of focus. Ideally, you will also use this first paragraph as an opportunity to begin personalizing your
letter to this department and institution.
In the next paragraph, you can choose whether you would like to focus on your research or your
teaching. In either case, be clear and descriptive. An academic cover letter can be one or two pages, so
you are not limited in terms of space. When describing your dissertation and/or your research, provide
sufficient context to help the reader understand why your work is interesting, new, and compelling. Your
description will likely be two to three times as long as this paragraph. If a research statement has also
been requested, try to maintain consistency between the two descriptions without sounding repetitive.
In addition to your past research, your future research is also likely to be of interest to the hiring
When you write about your teaching experience, consider whether or not a teaching statement has also
been requested. If it has, you will want to reinforce your message without actually repeating it word for
word. This paragraph is not only about your teaching experience, but can also address the courses you
would like to teach, particularly at the institution to which you are applying. This will require a certain
degree of familiarity with their department and curriculum.
You also have the opportunity to address accomplishments, interests, or experiences that are relevant
to the position including, but not limited to, service to your university or your field. If the culture of the
department or institution is particularly unique or appealing to you, consider addressing that here as
In your concluding paragraph, it is appropriate to reiterate your interest in the position and to offer
thanks for the committee’s consideration. You may also make reference to the other materials you have
submitted, and let them know that you look forward to hearing from them. It can be helpful to include
your email and phone number in the final paragraph for their convenience.
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A ddi t iona l A p p l ic at ion M at e r i a l s
Depending on the position for which you
are applying, you may be asked to include
one or more of the following documents as
part of your application.
Research statements may vary quite a
bit from one discipline to another. Your
advisor and other faculty members in your
department are wonderful resources in this
area. Length of a research statement may
vary from one job application to another
and across fields; typically, they will range
from one to five pages.
However, what most research statements do
have in common is that they address four
primary areas: the context and significance
of your work, the educational and research
foundation you bring to your work, your
current and/or dissertation research, and
your research plans for the future.
Striking the right balance in your research
statement can provide a special challenge.
Keep in mind that a hiring committee will
almost certainly include faculty members
who are not specialists in your precise
subfield. Help them quickly grasp what you
study and why it matters.
When you are writing about your research
plans for the future, you may describe
both your short-term research goals as
well as broader ideas for long-term goals.
These descriptions might include plans
for funding or for future collaborations.
Ensure that your research plans are in line
with what the institution to which you
are applying can offer in terms of support
(space, technology, funds, and so on) and
that institution’s mission and priorities.
If you are applying, for example, to both
large research institutions and small
liberal arts colleges, you would likely have
two different versions of your research
statement to send. If involving undergraduates in faculty research is a priority for
a certain institution, you can explain how
you would involve undergraduates in your
Always take some time to step back and
look at your research statement in the
context of the other materials you are
sending. You want these materials to work
together to provide a rich and coherent
understanding of who you are and how
you are a fit for a particular institution,
department, and position.
Sometimes called a Statement of Teaching
Philosophy, this document—typically one
to two pages—is where you bring your
teaching to life for the search committee.
Getting started is often the hardest part
of writing a teaching statement—see the
sidebar “Getting Started on Your Teaching
Statement: Questions to Consider” for
questions to jump-start your writing
process. Check the CDC’s workshop
schedule for PhD workshops taught by staff
from Stanford’s Center for Teaching and
Learning as well, including sessions on how
to write a teaching statement as well as a
hands-on clinic where you can review and
revise a draft with others.
The best teaching statements convey your
passion for teaching and include specific
examples. Sometimes applicants think that
“teaching philosophy” means they are
supposed to only describe their theories
about teaching. On the contrary, your
statement should convey your values about
teaching and students through evidence,
anecdotes, and examples. Paradoxically,
the more invested you are in teaching, the
harder it can be to develop your teaching
statement. Start early, write multiple
drafts, and do not hesitate to seek another
perspective from a career counselor at the
Dissertation Abstract and/or
Generally, this is an area where support
from your advisor and department is
very helpful. Naturally, the conventions
of your particular field, along with your
understanding of the position and the
department’s priorities, will provide the
foundation for your decisions regarding
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Evidence of Teaching
Excellence and/or Sample
In many cases, your teaching statement,
CV, and cover letter will be the primary
vehicles for conveying your teaching
experience, accomplishments, and
approach. Occasionally, you may be
asked to supply what is sometimes called
“evidence of teaching excellence,” and in
some cases, a sample syllabus. Application
materials vary by field; investigate what is
typical in your field by speaking to faculty
and PhD alumni from your department.
Whenever you teach or TA a course, save
your student evaluations! They will come
in handy later to jog your memory, remind
you of your strengths, and provide feedback
for how you can grow and develop as a
teacher. In some cases, you may want to
explore the possibility of also saving student
work (consult with your department to find
out what is acceptable). Stanford’s Center
for Teaching and Learning can help PhD
students develop as teachers in many ways
(see the resources section at the beginning
of this guide), including with the development of a teaching portfolio that may
include syllabi from past courses, assignments, and other materials. You may also
seek out CTL’s assistance with creating
a video recording of your teaching. Even
if you never actually show your teaching
portfolio to a committee, having a record in
one centralized place can be helpful both in
preparing for interviews and in your own
professional development as someone who
plans to continue teaching.
If you find your “dream job” at an institution that places special value on teaching
and your own teaching experience is not
quite as substantial as you might like, you
may want to consider developing a sample
syllabus for a course you would like to
teach. Of course, developing a syllabus is a
tremendous amount of work, but it can also
be a dramatic way of demonstrating how
interested you are in a specific job and how
willing you are to go above and beyond to
demonstrate that interest. And you would
always want to be certain that the class
you are proposing would be a good fit at
the particular institution on which you are
focusing. Developing a syllabus in advance
will also allow you to have a head start in
preparing to teach your first course when
and if you get the job!
Getting Started on Your Teaching Statement: Questions to Consider
When you are setting out to write a
teaching statement, it can be challenging
to figure out how to start. Use the
questions that follow to start thinking
about your experience as a TA, an
instructor, or in other teaching roles. Get
some thoughts down on paper, take a
break, then come back and write some
more. When you are finally ready to look
at paring down your ideas and memories,
you may decide to include all of your
answers, some, or just a few. You may
rearrange the order or take a creative
approach to your statement. In any case,
you will have a treasure trove of material
with which to work.
1.Start with your passion for
teaching the subject in which you
are an expert! What attracted you
to your field or to what you study?
What do you hope to pass on to
2.What does your teaching
contribute to your students’
education? How does what you
teach help your students grow
as learners, scholars, and/or
3.How does your research inform
your teaching—or vice versa?
4.Finish this sentence: “I feel best
as an instructor when…”
5.Think of examples or concrete
moments of your teaching. What
examples come to mind that
worked and highlight the very
best of your teaching? Why were
these examples so successful?
6.Think of a challenging moment
in the classroom that turned out
just fine. How did you handle the
challenge? What did you learn
7.What are your learning objectives? For example, think of a
specific course. What will your
students take home from this
course? What should they be
able to do at the end of your
course? Why would these goals
8.How do you know that your
students learn what they are
supposed to learn? How do you
assess their learning?
9.How do you engage your
students in the classroom? How
do you motivate them? Can you
think of examples?
10.How do you take into account
the diverse racial, ethnic, cultural,
social background, and/or
learning styles of your students?
11.Go over your teaching evaluations: What are the highlights?
Can you detect patterns in the
comments? What are the areas
students want you to improve?
12.What new courses would you like
to develop, or redesign?
13.How do you grow as a teacher?
How do you invigorate your
teaching? What do you hope
to learn about teaching in the
future? What are your professional development plans?
For more information on the Center for
Teaching and Learning, visit ctl.stanford.
Adapted from Stanford University’s
Center for Teaching and Learning
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Letters of Recommendation
When it comes to letters of recommendation, choosing whom to ask is generally
the most pressing question. Letters of
recommendation may come from your
advisor, PI, dissertation committee
members, and research collaborators,
among others. You may find yourself
considering the value of requesting a recommendation from a faculty member who is
well known in your field versus a faculty
member who knows you well. There is
no single right answer, although it can
be extremely helpful to consult with your
advisor, faculty in your department, and/or
faculty in your field. Remember, too, that
you will generally be asked for at least three
letters of recommendation, and each letter
may serve a different purpose. Think about
how those letters will work together to
paint a portrait of you as a job candidate.
Particularly if you are planning to apply to
institutions that value teaching, consider
how one or more of your recommenders
could speak to what you are like as a
teacher. If you TA a course, you may wish
to ask the professor for a letter of recommendation at the conclusion of the course,
when their recollections of your work are
still fresh. Your recommenders can speak
to your teaching in more depth when they
have seen you teach—so invite them to
observe your teaching!
Think about how you can best prepare
your recommenders to write compelling
letters that speak to your strengths. Are
there materials with which you can provide
them? Make sure they are aware of the
audience and the types of institutions to
which you are applying. It is not unheard of
for faculty members to ask PhD students to
jot down some notes or even draft a sample
letter for them to edit and revise. If you put
together such a draft, it is imperative that
you do not privilege modesty above making
a strong case. This is not the time to be
worried about bragging. Write persuasively
and generously about your accomplishments and provide evidence for your
assertions. If you still feel reluctant to “sell”
yourself, ask a trusted friend, colleague, or
classmate for help.
Applying to Community Colleges
There are many compelling reasons to
teach at a community college, particularly for candidates who have a strong
focus on teaching and an interest in
working with a diverse community of
students from a broader range of ages
and life experiences than might typically
be found at a four-year institution.
Community college hiring committees
tend to be most interested in those
candidates who demonstrate a genuine
and substantiated interest in teaching,
as well as an interest in the mission of
community colleges and the students
they serve. If you would like to apply to
one or more community colleges, devote
time and energy to understanding their
culture and priorities. For an excellent
introduction, visit the Chronicle of Higher
Education’s website (chronicle.com)
and search for Rob Jenkins’ excellent
articles on this topic. He is also the
author of Building a Career in America’s
Community Colleges, published by the
American Association of Community
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A c a de m ic I n t e rv i ews
An academic interview is something to look
forward to! Consider it an unparalleled
opportunity to share how you are a fit and
to connect with colleagues at other institutions. At the CDC, we have found that
interviewing is a skill in which tremendous
improvement can be had in a short period
of time when candidates are motivated,
have access to good strategy and helpful
feedback, and put in the necessary time and
effort. Even if you find yourself anxious
about an upcoming interview, know that
it is likely that you can improve your
performance considerably by preparing in
When it comes to preparation, in a nutshell:
know yourself, know your research and
teaching, know the college or university
where you are interviewing, know the
department, and know the position.
The emphasis of the questions may vary
dramatically if you are considering both
research-focused and teaching-focused
Don’t underestimate the value of understanding what a department is looking for
or its priorities. Talking with your advisor,
colleagues at other institutions, and friends
of friends who work in that department or
know people who do can all be helpful as
you try to understand their priorities. These
interactions can help you build a proactive
strategy that will address what is important
to the department.
In general, it is helpful to undertake some
substantial self-reflection in advance of the
interviews. Candidates often find that when
they invest time and energy in their teaching
and research statements, they are better
prepared to approach questions about those
For teaching, be ready with stories and
examples. Don’t just say that you use
technology in the classroom; tell the story
of the dynamic multimedia presentation you
rigged up for your students last quarter,
and the unexpected ways in which it
engaged the quiet student in the back.
The sections that follow address four
specific types of interviews: phone, Skype,
conference, and campus. We also look at
key questions to prepare, as well as how to
strategically approach thank-you notes and
First-Round Inter views: Phone
You may be invited to take part in a firstround phone interview. It is likely that at
the other end of the line, there will be a
search committee who has you on speakerphone. Naturally, this can be a stressful
situation! However there are a few tips that
can help. The standard advice with phone
interviews: dress up and stand up. Thinking
of yourself as a valued future colleague
and faculty member feels much easier
when you’re dressed the way you would
be to teach a class or deliver a talk at a
conference. Standing up allows your voice
to be more resonant, gives you more room
to breathe fully, and lets you pace quietly
about the room if needed. Understand that
when you’re talking to a group you can’t
see on speakerphone, there are bound to be
interruptions. Expect these and handle them
with humor and good cheer. That said, it is
helpful to minimize distractions and noises
on your end, selecting a place to talk that
is likely to be silent and, if possible, using a
landline instead of a cell phone.
During a telephone interview, it is especially
important to ensure that the conversation
feels like a dialogue. Resist any temptation
to lecture or hold forth at great length
on any topic. Committee members may
zone out, write notes to each other, and
check their email if you are speaking at
great length when not necessary. As in any
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interview, strive to build rapport right from
the start; this will go a long way to cover
minor missteps later.
It is very useful to have your materials
handy, but don’t let them capture your
attention. Remember: the answers to their
questions are not in your notes, your
CV, or printouts from their department
webpage. These materials function largely
as a security blanket—it can be reassuring
to have them close by for reference.
Similarly, it can also be useful to have a
pen and notepad handy during the phone
interview, but write only as much as you
need to—for many people that will be
nothing, or just a few words or phrases to
serve as reminders of topics to address later.
Make sure that either during the interview
or afterwards, you find out the names of
the people with whom you spoke, so that
you can send each of them personalized
thank-you notes. Use your best judgment to
decide whether the thank-you notes should
be emailed or handwritten and mailed.
First-Round Inter views: Skype
Interviewing on Skype brings its own
benefits and challenges. Be sure that you are
comfortable using Skype in advance of the
interview. Enlist the help of a friend, family
member, or colleague to assess different
backgrounds, outfits, lighting options, and
camera angles. If your own office and home
are not suitable locations, consider finding
Do what you can to minimize distractions—for example, if you are in a setting
with a landline phone that never rings,
be prepared for it to ring precisely in the
middle of your Skype interview! Turn off
the ringer in advance.
Eye contact is particularly tricky on Skype.
Naturally, there is a great temptation to
stare at your own image on the screen.
Some people have found success in closing
their own image so they are not distracted.
Then, there is the paradox: to give the
impression of eye contact on Skype, it is
necessary to look directly into the camera.
However, this prevents you from observing
the facial expressions of committee
members, which may provide clues that
would be valuable to have in regard to how
they are responding to your answers. One
approach is to aim for about 75% looking
into the camera, 20% checking in with the
committee’s expressions, and 5% taking
a quick peek back at your own image to
make sure you’re still staying in the camera
frame. It is wise to practice this in advance
to find a balance that works for you.
Finally, it can be helpful to enlist a friend
to chat with you on Skype immediately
before the interview. That way, you have
the experience of speaking online in your
natural voice and style and can carry at
least some of that over to the interview
First-Round Inter views: Annual Conferences
A number of fields hold interviews on site
at an annual conference. (For an excellent
chapter on conference interviews in the
humanities, see Kathryn Hume’s Surviving
Your Academic Job Hunt: Advice for
Humanities PhDs.) Conference interviews
can be dizzying; preparation, organization,
and planning ahead will improve the
experience immensely. If you are interviewing with various types of institutions
at the same conference, you may need to
switch gears rather abruptly from answering
rapid-fire questions about your research in
one interview to sharing engaging anecdotes
about your teaching in another interview.
If possible, find out with whom you will
be meeting, so you can anticipate possible
questions and common ground.
One notable feature of conference interviews is that your interviewers are likely
encountering many candidates in a short
span of time. Your goal is to be memorable
for the right reasons. Some experts
recommend wearing one distinctive yet
appropriate accessory, such as a tie or a
pin, to help distinguish yourself visually
from other candidates.
In any interview with faculty in your field,
you have an opportunity to represent
yourself well and forge positive connections with your interviewers. Enjoy this
On-Campus Inter views
Typically by the time you are invited
for an on-campus interview, you have
already interacted with representatives
of the department through one or more
of the types of interviews described
above. An on-campus interview for an
academic position can be a demanding
experience, combining travel, a marathon
of conversations, giving a talk in front of
a potentially challenging audience—not
to mention the pressure to make a good
impression. Here are some tips that can
help smooth the way:
Travel: A bit of planning for the worst can
go a long way. Even putting the phone
number of the search chair in your cell
phone before you set out can make it easier
to reach him or her if you are delayed.
On flights, carry on anything (clothing or
presentation materials) that is essential to
your success at the interview.
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Interviews: Whenever you are meeting with
a committee, remember not to take things
personally. The dynamics of the committee
are certain to involve issues that arose
long before your visit. This is true for the
job talk as well; sometimes listeners will
ask questions that seem irrelevant because
they are trying to make a point about a
departmental issue. The key is to treat all of
these situations with good grace and move
One of the biggest and most exciting
challenges for those interviewing for
academic positions, particularly if it is
the first year you are in the academic job
market, is the shift in role. No longer are
you perceived as a student! Many PhD
candidates have returned from on-campus
interviews remarking on their surprise at
being received as a colleague. The audience
at your job talk is not like your dissertation
committee. Be prepared for different kinds
of questions—more along the lines of
questions one colleague would ask another,
as opposed to those that a professor would
ask a student.
Common sense and courtesy rule the day
in how to conduct oneself at an on-campus
interview. Avoid or minimize alcohol
at meals (positions have been lost after
inebriated candidates made statements they
would later regret). Treat everyone you
encounter—students, staff, faculty, and
administrators—with respect, consideration, and interest. Resist the temptation to
vent or complain at any point during the
day to anybody. If the flight was tedious
or you don’t care for the campus architecture, save those details for private phone
conversations later. For some reason, the
temptation to let down one’s guard and
vent is especially great when walking from
one appointment to another with a member
of the search committee or a student. Strive
to maintain the pleasant and engaging
demeanor you had during the interviews.
Preparing for an Academic Job Talk
When you’re invited to give an academic
job talk at an on-campus interview, it’s
an exciting opportunity to enhance your
candidacy and share your work! The right
preparation will help you prepare and
deliver a successful talk.
Expectations can vary by campus and by
department, so it’s important to find out
what to expect. How long a talk does your
host expect? Who and how many will be
in the audience? Is this a seminar or a
class? Is this on your dissertation…or on
anything but your dissertation? Should
you bring copies of your talk to distribute?
If you need audio-visual technology (a
projector, the necessary cables, an LCD
screen, etc.), will they be supplied? At
what time of day will your talk be held
(and is there a way you can build a break
in before the talk, so you have some time
to catch your breath and prepare mentally
and emotionally)? Where will you speak,
and will there be time afterward to take
Your advisor and other faculty in your
discipline can be an extraordinarily
valuable resource as well. Talk to them
to find out the conventions, norms, and
traditions surrounding academic job talks
in your field. Solicit their perspectives
on how you should dress, whether you
should bring copies of your paper and/
or use technology, and to what level
you should pitch your talk. Strategically
speaking, what do your advisor and
others know about the department and
the people with whom you’ll be talking?
How can you find out more about them?
What questions should you be prepared
to answer? Are there any “land mines” for
which you should be prepared?
As you compose your talk, ensure that
you set a context, showing the importance of your research. Answer the “So
what?” question, and demonstrate how
your work is related to major issues in the
field. Indicate not only what you’ve done,
but what you will be doing in the future.
Then try to find or create opportunities
to practice your talk for others. Ask them
if they think you’ve found the right level
for the talk (one professor described it
as “sophisticated but not specialized”).
Do you seem simultaneously prepared
and spontaneous? Are you prepared to
handle questions seriously and courteously, without getting defensive? And was
the talk interesting? If you plan to use
slides during your talk, be sure to include
them in your practice as well. Talk to the
audience, not to the screen!
One terrific strategy is to anticipate
questions beyond your presentation and
develop slides (in addition to those that
you will use in your talk) “in reserve” for
topics about which you might be asked,
or for details that might be difficult to
remember off the top of your head. For
instance, if a faculty member asks, “Did
you perform any statistical analyses?”
you can say, “Yes, I did—in fact, I have
a summary of the statistical results right
here,” and put up your reserve slide. You
can put these reserve slides at the end of
your presentation, or if you are presenting
using a laptop, you can save the slides
in another presentation file entirely, so
that you don’t accidentally initiate them at
the end of your presentation. Of course,
when planning to include any type of
technology in your talk, be sure to set it
up in advance—and have a backup plan
in place if it doesn’t work.
When it comes time to deliver the talk
at your interview, consider introducing
yourself individually to audience members
as they arrive, instead of isolating yourself
at the front of the room. It can be helpful
to imagine that these are friends and
supporters sitting in the audience. In fact,
these people might indeed become your
friends and colleagues one day soon!
Many students have reported a feeling
of surprise at presenting to appreciative
listeners who respond as they would to
a colleague, not to a graduate student.
In fact, sharing your research or a topic
that interests you can be a very rewarding
PhD students can get feedback and
advice on job talks at Stanford’s Oral
Communication Program, a part of the
Center for Teaching and Learning. For
more information, visit ctl.stanford.edu/
Adapted from the Stanford University Oral
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Inter view Quest ions
Talk to colleagues, faculty, and classmates
to get ideas regarding the specific types of
questions for which to prepare. Sometimes
field-specific lists of questions circulate
through departments or among friends—
these can be enormously helpful.
Broadly speaking, there are several
categories of questions that can be
• It is helpful to be prepared for genericsounding questions like “Tell us about
yourself.” At this early stage of an
interview, you likely have the committee’s complete attention. Organize
your thoughts in advance so that you
proactively focus on elements in your
background, skills, interests, teaching, or
research that demonstrate why you are an
excellent fit for this particular position.
• What do you study? Have a variety
of answers ready to address questions
about your work. You will want to have
a friendly, accessible, short version for
describing your research to questioners
who are not familiar with your field. At
the other end of the spectrum, be ready
to describe your work at an advanced
level, invoking the jargon and context of
• Importance and context: Why does
your work matter? Why is it different,
interesting, or important? Why do you
study this, but not that? Questions like
these can sometimes be interpreted by
interviewees as attacks, when in fact
they may simply be signs of interest, or
questions asked by potential allies who
want to be prepared when making a case
for your candidacy to skeptical colleagues
or administrators. Help them walk into
those conversations well-armed with
• Future research: What ideas and directions do you have for future research?
You want to convey your sense of
momentum, so that the interviewer
not only believes your interest in the
topic but your readiness and capability
in completing the work and making a
contribution to your field. Your future
plans for research should be clear and
credible. If you are in a field where
securing external funding and/or setting
up and managing a lab are an integral
part of your work, be ready to talk about
your plans and strategy in these areas as
• Examples of your teaching: Go in
prepared with specific stories, examples,
and anecdotes from your teaching
experience. Stories are interesting to listen
to and easy for committee members to
remember. They also lend credibility to
any assertions you may make about your
teaching. Identify examples of specific
times in your teaching when you encountered a challenge in the classroom and
how you handled it, when you found an
innovative way to capture your students’
interest, and more.
• Awareness of your field: What are
conventions and trends in teaching your
discipline? What are the goals of a major
in your current department? How is
learning evaluated? Your field may have
journals that are devoted to the topic of
teaching specifically in that field; you
may find it productive to investigate these
as you reflect on your teaching.
• What to teach here: Much of how
you talk about teaching is likely to be
informed by your understanding of
what you might teach at the institution
where you are interviewing. If you have
a sense that they are seeking a candidate
who would enjoy teaching broad survey
classes to non-majors, for example,
you might share different examples and
approaches than if the focus were on
graduate seminars. You may also be
asked outright which classes you would
like to teach in this department. Study
their offerings in advance and be familiar
with their current schedule (as well as
what new elements you might be able to
• Theoretical orientation: What is your
approach to teaching? How do you
think about what you are doing in the
classroom? What are your overarching
goals for your students?
• Blending teaching and research: In
some settings, there may be interest
in how your research and teaching
complement each other in various ways.
If this is likely to be a topic where you
are applying, it can be helpful to think
through these ideas before the interview.
Why This University
• Why us: Put yourself in the shoes of the
hiring committee. They want to find a
candidate who is not only well qualified,
but who understands their institution
and their department and is enthusiastic about being a great fit. Conduct
background research to understand the
institutional priorities, the history of the
department, the student population, and
other areas. Your goal is not to appear
disinterested (“You had an opening in my
field”) or awe-struck (“You’re the best
there is!”) but to come across as a well
informed and deeply interested future
• Geography: In some cases, the committee
may want to ensure that you are
interested in moving to their location.
Take the time to learn about the area,
including the climate. Find out what
this area is known for, and even track
down some key features in which you are
particularly interested, such as natural
resources, good school districts, or
cultural institutions. Remember, too, that
the committee members have chosen to
make their homes in this location. Even if
the weather or other factors are different
from what you may be accustomed to, all
of your comments and questions should
convey respect, interest, and optimism
(instead of “Wow, I can’t imagine how
you stand the snow here,” consider “I’ve
always wanted to learn how to ski!”).
Questions for the Department
• Questions to convey interest: What is the
real purpose of asking questions in a job
interview? It might be argued that the
goal is to convey interest in the people
with whom you are speaking and their
institution. For this reason, one category
of questions would be ones that you
strategically select to illustrate commonalities in your values or interests. To be
clear, these questions are not “fake” (it is
very easy to see through such questions),
but are designed to highlight common
ground. For instance, if both you and
the department value interdisciplinary
collaboration, you might simultaneously communicate this value while
learning more: “Can you tell me more
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about opportunities for interdisciplinary
• Questions to get answers: There may
be things about which you are simply
curious. Doing due diligence in advance
will answer many questions; typically,
you would want to avoid asking
questions that could be answered by a
simple visit to the department website.
That said, you may be curious about
other things. The one catch is that it
is quite likely that by the time you are
asked for questions, the committee has
already answered all of yours. If you
find yourself absolutely stumped, you
can always explain that at the moment
you don’t have any questions, because
although you were wondering about X,
Y, and Z, the committee had answered
all of your questions. This is much more
effective than simply saying, “No, I don’t
have any questions.”
• Questions to wait on: Negotiation
is a delicate process! There are some
questions you might want to hold off
on asking until late in the interview
process or even until you have received
an offer. A good rule of thumb is not to
ask questions that will make negotiation
harder for you later on. Also, consider
whom to ask what. There are some
queries that are better posed to an
individual than to a group, for example.
• Questions to avoid entirely: Never be
negative! Or, to put it differently, stay
positive. Avoid questions like “What do
you dislike most about the students?”
or “What don’t you like about teaching
here?” If you would like to understand the concerns and frustrations of
faculty and/or students, stick to asking
individuals open-ended questions and
follow up with clarifying questions.
Af ter t he Inter view: Thank-You Notes and Wait ing
It is strongly recommended that you send
personalized thank-you notes to everyone
on the search committee and to everyone
with whom you met individually. In
these notes, it is especially effective to
refer specifically to topics you discussed,
questions they asked, etc.
Drafting thank-you notes can be taxing, but
waiting to hear back is even harder. Try
to take good care of yourself during this
stressful and potentially busy time. Social
support from friends, family members, and
significant others can help as well. Remind
yourself that regardless of the outcome,
life will go on. It is natural to be worried
during this time but do your best to
preserve your health and well-being while
you wait for responses.
you need for negotiation purposes. If you
have contacts at the school or university,
consider diplomatically checking with them
to see if they can share any helpful context.
You must seek to have the resources (time,
space, equipment, staff) that you will
need in order to gain tenure, whether that
means a reduced teaching load so you can
turn your dissertation into a book, or the
resources necessary to write a successful
grant in your first or second year that will
enable you to conduct essential research.
Negot iat ion
If you get one or more offers for academic
positions, you may find yourself in a
position to negotiate not only your starting
salary, but a very wide range of other
things. Several principles dictate successful
Know Your Value
Remember what you bring to the table! If
you ask for more money or more resources,
it is helpful to remind yourself why the
value you bring to the table warrants a
higher salary than the one offered. Be
prepared to offer substantive evidence for
why your unique skills, experience, and
qualifications warrant a higher salary or
Know the Numbers
It is extremely helpful to have a sense of
your peers’ salaries. Of course, this is not
always possible. State colleges and universities publish salary information, which
helps tremendously. A number of online
surveys include salary information, but
often the information is more general than
Know Your Priorities
There are various things for which you can
negotiate, from salary to office space to
time to finish turning your dissertation into
a book. (See the list that follows for more
than 30 elements that may be negotiable.)
The key is to figure out which ones are
most important to you. Think about what
you need to thrive in your new role. For
some, family interests may play a prominent
role in your priorities, with preferences
relating to your teaching schedule taking
center stage. Negotiating is generally the
most effective when you have a clear sense
of your priorities.
View It as a Win-Win
It is to the department’s great advantage if
you can be successful in your position. If
you are looking at a tenure-track position,
being successful likely means getting tenure.
Get Absolutely Everything in
The importance of this step cannot be
overstated. The person who agreed to your
terms may leave or forget. Circumstances
may shift. It is crucial to have a written
record. One very simple way to accomplish this is to send an email following a
phone conversation in which you came to
an agreement. The email should describe
precisely what you agreed upon, and
explain that you just wanted to confirm
that these terms were agreeable. Keep
your email and the confirmation and/or
clarification(s) you receive in return in a
safe place, as you may need to draw on
them down the road.
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36 Negot iable Items in an Academic Posit ion
Appointment title or titles (all special
titles are typically renewable after
five years in the U.S.)
2.Units (for joint appointment, specify
fraction of appointment in each unit)
Starting date (January 1, September
Starting salary (options: bonuses;
additional time off for consulting;
additional contributions to retirement
Living expenses (university housing;
housing allowance; closing closts;
housing bonus; or mortgage for a
year if applying to industry)
Contributions to housing relocation
expenses (selling/buying costs;
8.Benefits (healthcare; dental;
insurance; parental leave; spousal
benefits; time off)
Child care (availability of child
care resources and referral; also
care during time for research data
collection or conferences)
10.Tuition benefits for children
11. Spousal job opportunities
12.Reimbursement of moving expenses
(may be capped at 10% of salary)
13.Travel budget (including travel
for projects and for continuing
14.Facilities / Space (amount and nature
of the space commitment. For a joint
appointment, expect only one office.
Check the allocation of space, often
15.Office furniture and computer
equipment (on campus and/or at
17.Staff support (direct and indirect)
18.Nine month or twelve month
appointment (or a variation)
19.Immigration and Naturalization
20.Research support or continuing
research support (amount, fungibility and source of start-up funds;
fungibility = degree to which money
can be used for different purposes).
Specify length of time during which
start-up funds must be used (e.g.,
first three years)
22.Research staff (full-time)
23.Additional hires in a specific research
area (for program building)
24.Reduced or free service from campus
facilities (machine or wood shops,
instrumentation centers, such as
25.Support for Postdocs
26.Graduate student fellowships
27.Normal teaching duties in the unit(s)
(option of selection of courses)
28.Particular teaching expectations (for
joint appointment, clarify distribution of teaching responsibilities
29.Number and source of summer
ninths (number paid from general
30.Number of course releases (and any
time constraints on this)
31.Center or Institute affiliations
32.Service expectations (committees—
clarify if extra pay is a stipend or
part of your base)
33. Sabbatical (any recognition of
sabbatical equity accrued elsewhere
(can take the form of a Duty Off
Campus Leave rather than early
34.Consulting release time (in academe,
industry or government based on
35.Date by which candidate should
36.Time for candidate to resign from
Used by permission of Jane Tucker of Jane
Tucker Associates and Barbara Butterfield
of HumanEd Consulting who developed
this list for their workshop on Strategic
Persuasion: Effective Negotiations, Problem
Solving and Conflict Resolution in Higher
Possible Outcomes and Looking Ahead
No matter how your job search process
concludes, in a sense, it is truly a beginning.
If you receive and successfully negotiate
an offer for an academic job, congratulations! In addition to planning for a move,
approach your next professional steps with
the same strategy you brought to your
job search. If your new academic job is a
tenure-track position, start thinking now
about laying the groundwork for tenure.
Consult with your advisor or faculty in
your department or field about how best to
do this at the type of institution where you
will be working. If your academic position
is a fixed-term visiting professorship or
an adjunct role, think about how you will
manage your time effectively to balance
your teaching commitments with other
professional activities, potentially including
research, that will continue to strengthen
your candidacy for future academic
If you do not receive an offer, or do not
receive an offer that you choose to accept,
multiple paths lie before you as well. After
the emotional highs and lows, the travel,
and the sheer amount of time devoted to
the academic job search—not to mention
to your doctoral studies—not getting an
academic job can feel devastating. Every
year, many, many brilliant candidates on
the academic job market do not receive
offers. Not getting an academic job in your
field of choice is in no way an indicator of
your value as a scholar or as a teacher.
If this happens to you, please keep in mind
that there are a variety of resources and
options available to you. Your advisor,
faculty in your department, colleagues
in other departments, and even faculty
members you connected with during
interviews may all be excellent sources for
brainstorming and strategy.
When you are ready, and if you are interested, Stanford’s CDC also offers a wealth
of options and services that may prove
useful. Whether you plan to keep your focus
on academia and go back on the academic
job market next year, pursue a postdoctoral fellowship, or explore options beyond
academia, you can make an appointment to
come in and discuss your situation with a
career counselor. We can also work with you
to figure out how to connect with alumni
of your program or similar programs who
pursued a variety of paths. These connections can be refreshing and provide a new
and useful perspective. We also invite you to
explore the parts of this guide devoted to the
non-academic job search as well. Know that
there are many ways to express the skills
and experience you have gained throughout
your education, and that the most rewarding
paths may even be ones you haven’t yet
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PART II: PHD PATH WAYS
C a r e e r O p t ions B eyon d A c a de m i a
Perhaps you are rethinking an academic
career path or may simply be interested in
learning what options exist. You may have
always wanted to use your PhD outside
of academia or have recently decided that
you need a Plan B. Regardless of your
reason, the process of exploring options
outside academia can be both exciting
as well as daunting. It certainly feels like
venturing into the unknown compared to
the familiar landscape of academic careers.
However, your graduate training will
serve you well, as the process is similar to
research work. As you well know, each new
research project requires launching into
the unknown and figuring things out as
you go along. Your ability to ask relevant
questions, locate resources, research, solve
problems and synthesize complex and
disparate information will help you successfully navigate this process.
The essence of career planning is finding
a fit between who you are and an
environment that suits you. The first step is
to assess your skills, interests, motivations,
personality, and talents. Career planning
is not a one-time event, but a dynamic,
ongoing process as you learn and respond
to change in yourself, your employer, and
As a PhD student or postdoc, you might
be concerned about your lack of skills for
jobs outside of academia. However, the
reality is that you have developed many
skills that are valued both in academia and
Advice from Stanford PhD Alumni: What PhD Students and Postdocs Considering Alternative
Careers Need to Know
“Making a change to a non-traditional
career path was the most frightening
decision I ever made. It also was the
best. The message that needs to be
passed on is that the choices look far
scarier from the inside of academia. Once
out in the ‘real world,’ so many options
“Be sure to target a number of
potential career avenues to pursue and
pursue them all until you find a good fit;
recognize that there are many meaningful
careers through which you can use the
skills and talents you’ve honed in grad
school; develop an interesting and logical
narrative that explains why you’re looking
to make a change; practice telling your
story until you feel comfortable and
natural telling it; and most important, be
“You should develop an understanding
that corporate people are interested
in the product, and that they want high
quality work, but they are not as interested in the process through which you
worked, as they are in the product itself.
Although work outside of academia may
not be as scholarly as academic work,
it is often just as challenging and more
practical. In addition, there are many very
bright people outside of the university.”
“Determine how your personality
matches the work you will do;
understand how broad and flexible the
opportunities offered by each alternative
“Be flexible, keep an open mind, and
know that your skills are transferable.
Many of the skills you have developed
are directly applicable and valued in the
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in private and public sectors. PhD students
and postdocs may have many of these traits
• Ability to learn quickly, work under
pressure, and willingness to work hard
• Flexibility, functioning independently in
a variety of environments and roles; can
handle ambiguity and differing views
• Ability to investigate, synthesize information from disparate sources, critically
analyze data using scientific methods and
statistics, problem solve, and support a
position with argumentation and logic
• Communication skills including conceptualizing, explaining, writing, and public
• Creation, design of complex studies
and projects; implementation and
management of all phases of complex
projects and follow through to
• Organization, multi-tasking, and time
Career Inventories and Worksheets
Will Help You:
• Ability to work with the committee
process, do advocacy work
• Crystallize what you want to do and
what is important to you
• Competitiveness, enjoyment of
• Improve self-understanding and build
better relationships with others
• Creativity, resourcefulness, and ability to
• Increase your chances of career success
by considering appropriate options
Interests, Personality, Values,
and Other Considerations
• Articulate your strengths in cover letters,
In addition to a personal list of your
skills, reflect on your interests, personality, values, strengths, preferred work
environment, goals, and life circumstances.
Use this information to assess your fit with
various career fields. The CDC offers a
number of career assessment tools as well
as individual career counseling to assist
you with this process.
Formal assessment tools offered through
the CDC include Strong Interest Inventory,
Campbell Interest and Skill Survey, MyersBriggs Type Indicator, StrengthsQuest, and
Skills and Values card sorts. In addition,
you can access worksheets that you can do
on your own and the Guided Career Path
tool from our webpage at studentaffairs.
Careers in Engineering
An advanced degree in engineering
opens doors to many career paths,
both traditional and non-traditional. The
following resources will help you understand and pursue the path that is right
Will you focus on basic research or
more applied research? At a university,
government lab, research institute
or industrial lab? In a tenure-track
faculty position, or as adjunct research
faculty? As a faculty or staff member
who manages a research lab, center or
To find organizations conducting cuttingedge research in a particular area:
• Confer with your thesis advisor and/or
• Look up and contact presenters and
others who attend conferences in that
• Search academic journals, trade
magazines and Google Patents by
• Search alumni directories and LinkedIn
using relevant keywords
To change your research focus, build
your network and knowledge of your
intended subject area. In this case, your
transferrable competencies, such as the
methods, tools and equipment you have
used, may be more valuable and relevant
assets than your expertise in a narrow
Do you want applied (product-oriented)
research, product design or development? Applications engineering to
help customize products to customers’
specific needs? Manufacturing? At what
size company? Who are your customers/
Gather information and advice from:
• The Career Resource Library—
• Career Insider/Vault industry and career
• Informational interviews with alumni and
others in your intended field—alumni.
Find potential employers in your target
niche through corporate and networking
• Rich’s Directory—studentaffairs.stanford.edu/cdc/services/
• Alumni directories—alumni.stanford.
edu/get/page/career and LinkedIn
Find field-specific job postings at
• The website of your professional society
Ask yourself (and others!), “Who would
benefit from my specific knowledge and/
or transferrable skills?” For instance, if
you have ideas for improving equipment
you’ve used in your research, contact
your equipment supplier. If your research
project has potential to become a product,
then check the entrepreneurial section
of the CDC website (studentaffairs.
the Stanford Entrepreneurship Network
What about technical consulting?
Or management consulting? Failure
analysis? Technology transfer—moving
ideas from the lab to reality? Patents and
intellectual property? Developing policy?
Or perhaps something else?
Whatever your intended path, a CDC
counselor can help clarify your objective,
articulate your relevant strengths and
guide you to the most appropriate
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Career Fields by Skills
The skills that you have developed during graduate studies are readily transferable to a variety of occupational settings. The following
chart outlines some possible career options.
& local agencies
Arts & Other
local & int’l
int’l orgs &
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R e se a rc h You r O p t ions a n d
W h at ’s O u t Th e r e
Brainstorm Career Ideas
Once you have a sense of who you are
and what you are seeking in a career, start
brainstorming career ideas. They can be
career fields that you have been thinking
about, suggested by people who know you
well or by career assessment inventories,
or areas that you’ve stumbled upon during
your research. A career counselor can
help you clarify your thoughts during this
process. For additional ideas, browse “See
What Alumni are Doing” on the CDC
identify/alumni), search alumni directories
and LinkedIn, talk to peers, faculty (if
they are open to discussing non-academic
options), and other contacts whom you
may encounter through professional
associations, conferences, panels, industry
collaborations, or your career research.
Below is a list of additional resources for
your career exploration outside academia.
Books in the CDC Career
• So What Are You Going To Do
With That?: Finding Careers Outside
Academia, by Susan Basalla and Maggie
Debelius: Rethinking life after graduate
school; soul-searching before job
searching; networking and transitional
experience; turning a CV into a resume;
and how to turn an interview into a job.
• Outside the Ivory Tower: A Guide for
Academics Considering Alternative
Careers, by Margaret Newhouse, PhD:
A guide for any graduate student or PhD
who wants to explore alternatives to a
traditional academic career or to actively
seek nonacademic jobs. Teaches a process
of career exploration and job search.
• Put Your Science to Work: The
Take-Charge Career Guide for Scientists,
by Peter Fiske, PhD: For new scientists and engineers or those seeking a
mid-career change, this title gives you
practical advice and techniques for
finding traditional or non-traditional jobs
in science. Includes examples of resumes
and cover letters, and stories of scientists
who have moved into a wide range of
• Alternative Careers in Science:
Leaving the Ivory Tower, by Cynthia
Robbins-Roth: Looks at various alternative careers including intellectual
property, medical consulting, university
technology transfer, venture capital,
publishing, and biomedical consulting.
Each chapter covers a different career
track and includes basic job description,
qualifications, responsibilities, expectations, typical day scenario, etc.
Forums & Articles
• Chronicle of Higher Education
Runs regular columns on fresh ways
to put your PhD to work with articles
such as “Every Ph.D. Needs a Plan B”
(chronicle.com) and hosts a forum on
Leaving Academe (chronicle.com/forums/)
Below are other relevant articles:
- What Else Can I Do? And Other
- How to Do What You Love: Questions
to ask yourself when deciding on a
direction for your career
- Outside, Over There: A discussion
of web blogs and other sites for
- Where to Find Information on
- A Sample Plan: This article discusses a
one-year plan for a non-academic job
• The Versatile PhD (studentaffairs.
Resources and community discussion on
nonacademic career options. Particularly
helpful for graduate students in humanities and social sciences. Completely
confidential. Stanford students and
postdocs have free access to the premium
• Beyond Academe (beyondacademe.com)
Produced by and for historians; the tips
on this site are applicable to those in
other fields as well. The site includes an
FAQ section designed to help historians
learn more about job options outside of
academia and tips on transforming a CV.
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• Sellout (ironstring.com/sellout)
Resource for PhDs considering careers
beyond the university. Created by an
English literature PhD who works in the
• Leaving Academia (leavingacademia.com)
A blog, podcast and community that
provides insight, inspiration and information for grad students and faculty
considering post-academic careers.
• PhDs.org (phds.org)
Relevant articles on career development
and academe, as well as numerous job
• How to Leave Physics (poplarware.com/
After earning a PhD at Cornell and
conducting a few years of postdoctoral
research, Jennifer Hodgdon left academia
to work for Goldman, Sachs & Co. as a
strategist in commodities trading. Two
years later she left Wall Street, worked
as a software consultant, and is now a
• Mathematical Association of America
Offers over forty-five career profiles of
professionals who use mathematics on
a daily basis—some in academia and
government, but most are drawn from
industry. This database contains mathematicians from all degree levels, and is
especially easy to scan for position title
“Research Your Career Fields,” a collection
of career field overviews compiled by the
CDC’s Career Counseling staff, at studentaffairs.stanford.edu/cdc/research. For
individualized assistance with your career
research, speak with the CDC’s Resource
Specialist (email: [email protected]
Once you have narrowed the choices, you
can conduct informational interviews (see
networking in the next section) with professionals who are working in those fields or
organizations to delve deeper into relevant
career information and to find answers to
questions in which you are particularly
consulting, or volunteer work to test out
your interest and suitability for the job.
Gaining relevant experience will allow you
to build more confidence in your career
decision and demonstrate your employability
to future employers. Use your research
to narrow the field of options, overcome
barriers, and decide on the next step.
• Science Careers, from the journal Science
Contains career information for PhDs in
science and technology including career
profiles, advice, jobs, and more.
research scientist at MathSoft, a company
that makes mathematical and statistical
software. This site describes her experiences and the lessons she’s learned.
Invest igate Opt ions
Investigate possible career options systematically, the way that you would test out
research hypotheses. Start with a “literature
review” by reading various career publications and online resources to gain an
overview of the career field including the
industry trends, possible employers, and job
positions. You could begin by reviewing
If you are beginning your graduate or
postdoctoral program or can make the time,
take some related courses or participate
in internships, part-time, contract/project/
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N et wor k i ng a n d
I n for m at iona l I n t e rv i ews
You may have heard of the importance of
networking during a job search. However,
many of us are reluctant to utilize this
method as it provokes discomfort, anxiety,
or perceptions of barriers. You may surmise
that you don’t have appropriate contacts or
that “using people” is distasteful to you or
that it takes too much time and effort. You
might also be afraid of possible rejection.
What is networking as it relates to career
exploration and the job search? Networking
is connecting with people in a field or
organization in which you wish to work,
for information and advice. Networking,
including informational interviewing, is the
job seeker’s equivalent of market research.
It is essential, when exploring fields and
job functions, to learn about the skills they
require, jobs not publicly advertised, ways
to enter a specific field, and inside information about a particular organization’s
culture and expectations.
For PhDs and postdocs in particular,
networking is key to successful career
exploration and job search. For you, it’s
often not clear what jobs are appropriate
for your background and where you fit
into within an organization. You may be
considered overeducated for entry-level
positions but lack the experience for
senior jobs. Consider the typical case of
applying to an advertised job opening.
Human Resources is usually inundated
with numerous, sometimes hundreds of
applications. Faced with so many resumes,
they often rely on seeking candidates with
the most relevant experience and strongest
track records. They don’t have the time or
motivation to give the benefit of doubt to
an unproven candidate.
Networking, especially in the form of informational interviews, can be a low-pressure
but extremely effective way to research
career fields while giving you a chance to
communicate your skills and fit to industry
insiders. Having met or interacted with you,
they may be much more willing to give you
a chance or even create jobs to utilize your
talents. In a sense, you are bypassing the
resume screening process that may work
unfavorably for you and gaining a toehold
to interview opportunities with possible
employers. At minimum, the insights
gained allow you craft particularly effective
resumes and cover letters that will help
you stand out during the resume screening
The purpose of informational interviewing
is to obtain current information about
a career field directly from the source,
people who are working in that field. It
is about learning and researching and not
about asking for a job. If you think about
it another way, you’ve probably used this
strategy many times previously and have
granted informational interviews to others.
If you were approached for advice and
information by an undergraduate student
interested in pursuing graduate studies in
your field, would you be willing to share
Similarly, most professionals are willing and
pleased to talk about their career field or
job. For you, the benefits are numerous:
• Gather first-hand, current career
• Have control over who you’re contacting,
the kind of information that you’re
requesting, and how you present yourself.
• Observe professionals in actual work
settings and ascertain whether the
environment is right for you.
• Receive feedback, advice, and answers to
questions that wouldn’t be appropriate in
a job interview.
• Gain visibility and become known to
insiders who may be aware of job opportunities, both advertised and hidden.
• Practice interviewing skills so that you
will be ready for actual interviews.
• Begin building the foundation for a
professional network in your chosen
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Five Steps for Conduct ing Informat ional Inter views
1) Develop a List of Possible
Think about what fields you want to
explore and develop a list of contacts
relevant to your interests. Where can you
• Check your own network through
LinkedIn, Facebook, family, friends,
colleagues, professors, and others you
may know well through affiliated groups
(clubs, sports, religious organizations,
• Use Stanford CareerConnect (stanfordalumni.org/career) to locate alumni in
relevant career fields; in addition, look
through alumni databases of other institutions you have attended.
• Attend related events, including professional and industry conferences, Stanford
events, and the CDC’s networking events
and career fairs.
• Contact members of related professional
• Contact people who write blogs in your
field, who have published articles in
newspapers or journals in your area, or
whose names came up in your research.
• Be creative! Your network is all around
may have lost track of your original
message but still be interested in helping
• It is usually best not to enclose a resume
with an email, as it looks more like you
are applying for a job. Describe your
experience in your note in a brief, natural
way. If you do enclose your resume,
mention in your note: “I have enclosed
my resume so you will have some information about my background.”
3) Prepare Yourself
Read about your contact’s field and organization in order to get the most out of your
meeting as well as show your interest.
Come up with a concise description of your
background and prepare a list of questions
you might like to ask:
• “What kinds of projects do you work
• “What led you to this position?”
• “What do you like most about your
• “What are the personal qualities of
people who are successful in this field?”
• “How would you describe a typical week
in terms of the percentage of time you
spend on the various parts of your job?”
2) Ask for the Informational
• “What kinds of backgrounds do people
in this organization (field) have?”
You can do this by email, phone, or in
person if applicable. Assume that the person
is very busy but will enjoy giving you
advice. Informational interviews are often
most effective when they are conducted
in person or over the phone. An email
exchange can be very useful for setting up
such a conversation.
• “What are the most pressing needs and
issues for your department within the
• Introduce yourself and explain how you
got their name.
• Tell them you are exploring or
researching their field, and asking for
advice (not a job).
• Ask for a 15-20 minute phone or
in-person meeting at their convenience,
and assure them you know they are busy
and you value their time.
• If you don’t hear back after a week or
more, consider following up your initial
email with a second email; the recipient
• “What are typical career paths in this
• “I’ve built a target list of organizations
in this field to research. Would you be
willing to look at my list and give me any
suggestions you might have?”
• “In what other kinds of organizations do
people with your role work?”
• “Given my background and interests,
are there other organizations you might
suggest I explore?”
• “How would you advise me to get started
in building experience in this field?”
• “What organizations hire entry-level
people in this field?”
• “How do you see the next few years in
terms of job prospects in this field?”
• “Are there conferences which might
be useful for newcomers to attend? A
professional association I could join as a
• “Are there certain classes or training
programs you would recommend for
building experience for this type of
• “What is the work environment like
in terms of pressure, deadlines, new
projects, teamwork vs. independent
• “How is performance evaluated? What is
• “How do employees balance career and
• “Do you know anyone else who could
provide me with advice on this topic or
might be willing to share their knowledge
4) Conduct an Effective
Your goals are will depend on where
you are in your own career development
process, the person with whom you are
speaking, and the circumstances of your
conversation. These goals may include some
or all of the following:
• to learn more about the career path
• to present your background and interests
• to learn more about the company itself
• to obtain referrals
During the informational interview, let your
natural curiosity and interest shine through.
As an engaged listener and learner, you will
build rapport and find out quite a bit. Stay
alert—rather than letting the interview be
governed by your assumptions, be open
to hearing new and surprising things. If
the person you are speaking with says
something you do not understand, follow
up and ask for clarification. It’s much more
important to be an authentic participant in
the conversation than to give the impression
that you already have all of the answers.
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5) Follow Up
Send a thank-you note, by email and/or
handwritten, and include your address,
phone, and email, so that your contact can
get back in touch with you if they so desire.
Remember to keep track of your contacts
by keeping a record of your interaction.
Periodically you may want to update your
contact to let them know how they assisted
you. Let them know that you followed up
with the additional contacts they provided
and what outcomes resulted from these
conversations. Other ways of staying in
touch include sending them articles or other
helpful information based on your conversation or even holiday greetings.
Online processes have the capacity to
enormously enhance real-life networking,
interviewing, collaborating and career
development. Rewards in this realm
reflect your investment and your
willingness to take strategic risks. The key
is thinking the process through, gaining
basic familiarity with online tools, and
then using these tools to develop and
enhance real-life professional relationships. Writing a blog, becoming active
on Twitter, and maintaining your own
website can all contribute to your social
media presence and relationship-building.
However, if you’re just starting out, there
may be no better place than LinkedIn: a
free, easy-to-use, and professional tool
for branding and networking.
Whether you already have an account
on LinkedIn (linkedin.com) or are just
starting out, it’s important to ask yourself
• Overall Purpose(s): What are your
professional goals? What are your
• Community: With whom do you want
to interact? Whom do you want to find
• Framing Your Identity: How do you want
to be known? How would you like to
be perceived in terms of age, professionalism, confidence, affiliation(s),
personality, approachability? For what
type of expertise would you like to be
After some initial brainstorming around
these topics, it’s time to build awareness
and identify trends by reviewing the
profiles of LinkedIn members. What are
colleagues and role models in your field
doing? What keywords keep coming up?
How do the photographs vary? What
kind of tone do their profiles take? How
have they utilized the “summary” and
“specialties” sections of their profile?
To what groups do they belong? How
many connections do they have?
What additional applications have they
installed? What did they write for their
headline? By taking the time to get
familiar with these profiles, you will start
to notice nuances that make a difference.
To use LinkedIn strategically, this
knowledge can be very powerful.
Once you have considered both your own
professional goals and learned about
how others make the most of their own
profiles, you are much better positioned to
draft and revise your own profile. Connect
with friends and colleagues on the site,
and search out groups—popular choices
include alumni groups from your undergraduate and graduate institutions, such
as the Stanford Alumni Group. Adding
connections and joining groups will
fundamentally change your search results
when you begin to actively use LinkedIn
As you ready yourself to network, do not
underestimate the importance of your
profile picture! Ensure that the photo you
select is flattering and professional. If you
are currently anticipating a transition in
your role (i.e., moving from being a PhD
student to becoming a faculty member),
make sure that the photo represents
you in the role to which you aspire. It is
worth asking a friend with a good camera
to take new photos of you instead of
searching through casual candids.
The title of one popular book on this topic
is I’m on Linked In, Now What??? This
is a common question. In a nutshell, now
you revisit your career goals. It is likely,
for example, that you are seeking to learn
more about people in a particular field
or fields. LinkedIn is an excellent way
to find people with interesting positions
and contact them for informational interviews (see the section on Informational
Interviews in this guide for more details).
The easiest way to begin finding whom
you might contact is to type words or
phrases of interest into the main search
box, which at the time of this handbook’s
printing was set to “people” as the default.
This will turn up people in your network
(including your connections, their connections, and members of your groups) who
also have these phrases in their profile.
LinkedIn has excellent and efficient tools
to help you filter your results. On the
left-hand side of the page, you will see
that you can streamline your results to
focus on people who live in a specific
geographic area, attended a particular
school, and more. Once you find
someone with whom you would like to
chat, simply send them a brief message
in which you introduce yourself, explain
why their background was interesting to
you, and request a brief phone conversation to ask them more about what they
do, their own career path, and advice
they might have about entering their
field. For those who reply, take the time
to put together a list of 10 questions to
guide your conversation. After the phone
conversation, remember to follow up with
a personalized thank-you note.
Social media is not an end in itself, but a
way to find and get to know people who
share your professional interests and
perhaps your values, goals, and skills.
Take it one step at a time, and you may
be amazed at how much of its power you
can harness to move your own career
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M or e J ob S e a rc h Ti p s
• Schedule time for your job search: As a
graduate student or postdoc, spare time
is hard to come by. Set aside time in
your busy schedule to devote to career
exploration and the job search. Make
concrete, realistic goals (e.g., work on
polishing resume and have it critiqued
this month, print out business cards to
use for networking, conduct 1-2 information interviews per month) and check
your progress. Partner with someone you
trust and hold each other accountable
to work on career issues. You can also
check in with your career counselor on a
regular basis to assess your progress and
to strategize your next steps.
• Customize your resume/CV and cover
letter: Evaluate the job description,
and organize the information on your
resume to highlight the knowledge, skills
and abilities the employer is seeking.
Employers initially spend around 20-30
seconds scanning your resume. Make
sure your most relevant and impressive
experiences easily catch the attention of
the reader. Depending on the career field,
you may need to convert your CV into a
resume or create a CV/resume hybrid.
• Hone your interviewing skills: Learn
how to respond to various types of
questions and direct the employers to
your strengths and relevant experiences.
Describe your experiences in succinct
and effective ways including the problem
you faced, the action you took, and the
results you achieved. Be ready to address
why you have decided to leave academia
and how your skills transfer to this career
• Tailor your job search: Research your
target employers and find out the best
ways to secure employment. Many
industries and small organizations
(entertainment, venture capital, small
nonprofits) do not post jobs on the
internet and require proactive job search
strategies. Other organizations may rely
on college recruiting as their primary
hiring strategy (consulting, investment
banking, etc.) and you will need to familiarize yourself with their recruitment
schedules and processes.
• Learn how to effectively search for jobs
online: Accessing jobs posted on the
Internet is convenient and easy to do.
However, big, highly visible job boards
make it difficult for job applicants to
distinguish themselves. Studies show that
only 4% of users find jobs through these
sites. Focus on niche websites or go to
the company website when possible. The
CDC’s job posting database, Cardinal
Careers, is small but about 50% of the
jobs are exclusively posted to this site.
The CDC also recommends the job site
Jobcentral.com as it searches and aggregates jobs from company web sites as
well as other job boards. For additional
recommended sites, visit studentaffairs.
Use keywords to search for jobs, and
gradually add more search criteria to
narrow your results. Experiment with
each search engine to get the best results.
• Target employers directly: Whether
employers have openings or not,
contacting employers directly, though
intimidating, can be extremely
effective. Job seekers need to research
the organization thoroughly before
approaching the employer and tailor
their resume and their cover letter for
• Participate in Cardinal Recruiting:
Cardinal Recruiting enables employers
to schedule interviews with students
on-campus (not available to postdocs).
Employer representation tends to be
fairly narrow, primarily technical,
consulting and finance organizations, but
you should take advantage of this service
if you are interested in these fields.
• Attend Career Fairs: If you are interested in looking for a job or finding out
more about a potential career, this is a
convenient way to connect personally
with various employers in one location.
CDC sponsors more than a dozen career
fairs each year (studentaffairs.stanford.
including a PhD Career Fair, and
provides a list of participating employers
before each fair through your Cardinal
- Research who will be present and
target employers accordingly. Have a
plan of action.
- When getting dressed for the event,
keep in mind the industry and type of
position you desire.
- Prior to attending a fair prepare a
30-second pitch to engage recruiters.
The goal is to connect your background
to the organization’s need. In less
than a minute, you need to introduce
yourself, demonstrate your knowledge
of the company, express enthusiasm and
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interest, and relate your background to
the organization’s need, and end with
a relevant question. This is meant to
be a dialogue, not a monologue. Keep
in mind that this is your opportunity
to interact with a company insider,
collect valuable information, and make a
- Bring copies of your resume (prepare
several versions if you are targeting
different industries) for employers who
wish to collect them to take notes and
remember you. It’s standard for most
employers to ask you to submit your
resume online. You may choose to
gather pertinent information during the
fair to enhance your application.
- Job fairs can be stressful for attendees,
who often find they must wait on line
to speak to employers. Demonstrate
professional behavior and etiquette at all
stages of interaction with an employer,
even while waiting. Be both assertive
and respectful to those around you.
- Keep track of those organizations and
representatives with whom you spoke.
If appropriate, send thank-you notes
to those representatives you wish to
pursue. This will set the stage for future
The Effective Public Service Job/Internship Search
Nonprofits tend to advertise openings
only 2-3 months before the job will start.
• Fall: Start researching and networking
• Winter/Spring: Apply to posted jobs/
internships/fellowships and follow up
with contacts made in Fall as they may
now know of available opportunities
• Exceptions: Fellowships, larger national
nonprofits, organizations that always
need help (tutors, family/mental
health services) may have earlier Fall
Government agencies can take several
months to hire if a background check
is required as part of the application
• Start in Fall for larger agencies that may
hire in volume
• Apply when you see a posting. Smaller
offices may have more jobs open in
• Follow up directly with the office, if
The following are some key strategies
and resources for finding a nonprofit or
Nonprofits tend to hire one person at a time
so they alert their employees and ask them
to contact colleagues in the field and friends
to spread the word about a job opening.
Don’t expect networking to result in instant
job leads. The likelihood of the person you
talk to knowing about a job opening on that
exact day is low. The purpose of networking
is to gain advice, tips, and establish
relationships so when jobs eventually
become available you are already on their
“to contact list.” Below are a few key groups
to help expand your network:
• Young Nonprofit Professionals
10,000 members in over 12 cities. The
website lists jobs, events, and email
list subscriptions for topics such as
• Young Women Social Entrepreneurs
This organization, with chapters in 5
large cities, provides an environment
in which young women social entrepreneurs’ visions and goals are affirmed,
supported, promoted, and propelled.
• Net Impact (netimpact.org)
Net Impact is a global network of
leaders who are changing the world
Career Fairs (studentaffairs.stanford.edu/
Organizations that come to career fairs
tend to be those who have money and
time to send staff out of the office for an
entire day and know their hiring needs
well in advance (6 - 9 months). Nonprofit
and government organizations that attend
career fairs will be those whose services
require multiple hires and need to hire
frequently (teaching-related, family/mental
health services, Peace Corps, State
Dept., etc.). One exception is the CDC’s
annual Nonprofit Career Fair in March,
which fits well with nonprofits’ hiring
Online Postings (studentaffairs.stanford.
If nonprofits decide to post their positions
at all (they may just use word-of-mouth)
they will use targeted job sites such as
idealist.org or opportunityknocks.org.
Federal government positions are listed
on usajobs.gov or on specific agency
websites. State and local opportunities
may be centralized on one site such as
calopps.org, but more likely you will
need to search by agency or city/county.
CDC Connect: Public Service Careers
Weekly email contains job/internship
postings, events, resources, and other
tips related to all types of public service
Public Service Careers Website
Find information on nonprofit and
government organizations, career paths,
networking resources, fellowships, and
job search strategies. In the Fellowships
section you will find a PDF with information on the following fellowships:
• The Christine Mirzayan Science &
Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship
• Presidential Management Fellows
• Google Policy Fellowship
• John A. Knauss Marine Policy
• American Institute of Biological
Sciences Graduate Student Policy
• Targeted Congressional Fellowship
• AAAS Science & Technology Policy
• American Chemical Society Science
• John Bahcall Public Policy Fellowship
• California Science and Technology
• The Hellman Fellowship in Science and
• American Political Science Association
Congressional Fellowship Program
• USAID World Learning Democracy
• Jefferson Science Fellows at the U.S.
Department of State
• Aldo Leopold Leadership Program
• Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Health Policy Fellowships Program
Making the Difference (makingthe
Federal Government Information
World Bank (go.worldbank.org/
Young Professionals Program
Asia Development Bank (adb.org/
Young Professionals Program
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R e su m e s
When applying for jobs outside of
academia, you will typically need to submit
a resume instead of a CV. A resume is
not just a CV minus the publications. The
language and value system of academia
often no longer apply. The process of
converting your CV into a resume requires
you to see and present yourself in a new
way and can be both exciting as well as a
little painful. It can be difficult to edit hardearned academic credentials, publications,
and experiences from your CV. Although
it will be tempting to leave as much as
possible and let the employers figure out
what might be useful, keep in mind that
your readers will not have the time or
motivation to do so.
Employers often say they initially spend less
than 30 seconds reviewing a resume. Unless
you quickly and clearly demonstrate how
your graduate training and other experiences allow you to bring value to their line
of work, they would rather move on to the
next resume. You will need to translate
your skills from academic jargon into the
C ov e r L et t e r s
language of the field for which you are
The resume is a marketing tool and in order
for you to write an effective one, you need
to 1) know what you have to offer (skills,
knowledge, experience, achievements), 2)
know the market or employer’s needs and
3) demonstrate fit in an attractive and clear
format. It needs to be written to let the
reader know why you can do a particular
Resume Sect ions
Name and Contact Information
• Your Name
• Address (personal mailing address, not
your institutional office address; can
leave it out for privacy and security
reasons if circulating the document
• Phone Number (list the number that
you’ll answer; make sure your voicemail
greeting is appropriate)
• Email Address (avoid using your “fun”
address name, list your simple, professional one)
• Website or LinkedIn address (if pertinent)
• Optional; needs to be clear, concise and
• Can include the specific position you are
seeking, skills you wish to use on the
job, field or organization type in which
you are interested, or a combination of
all of the above (e.g. Seeking a position
in museum administration requiring
strong research and writing skills and a
background in art history).
• Listed in reverse chronological order,
with the expected or most recent degree
• Include institution, location (especially
if overseas), degree, field of study,
graduation date or expected date of
What is the difference between a CV and a resume?
The curriculum vitae (also referred to as
CV or vita) is a comprehensive record
of your scholarly credentials, research
and teaching experiences, and has
no limitations in length. It is used in
academic or research settings to apply
for jobs, tenure, grants or fellowships.
A resume, on the other hand, is a
concise (1-2 pages) and selected
summary of your most relevant skills
and experiences as they relate to
a particular employer’s needs. The
language, value system, and format of a
resume differ from an academic CV and
align more closely with the position and
company to which you are applying.
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• Can also include research focus (keep the
description broad unless the employer
would be interested in your exact area
of specialization), relevant courses, study
abroad experience, selected honors.
• Listed in reverse chronological order,
with the most recent experience first.
• Include name of organization, location
(optional; be consistent in usage with
other sections), position title, dates
(include month if appropriate).
• Describe your accomplishments,
starting with action verbs rather than
using passive language such as “duties
included” or “responsible for” (see
sample action verbs on the pages that
follow or Google “resume verbs” for
• Use either past or present tense as applicable and keep your format consistent.
• Leave out personal pronouns such as “I,”
• Quantify and highlight results and
accomplishments whenever possible (e.g.,
Received fellowship awarded to 5% of
applicants, Increased efficiency by 40%).
• Include paid jobs and any non-paid
experience (internships, volunteer
community service, relevant academic/
extracurricular projects, and professional/
student activities) that relates to the job
you are pursuing.
• Divide experience into two or more
sections, when relevant. Possible section
headers include Relevant Experience,
Additional Experience, Research &
Project Management Experience,
or Leadership & Communication
• You can choose to include other
optional sections if they are relevant
and can provide helpful information
to prospective employers. Sample
headings may include: Summary of Skills,
Computer/Technical Skills, Languages,
Activities, Honors/Awards, Professional
Affiliations, Professional Development,
Interests, and Additional Information.
There is no single way to format your
resume. Choose a resume format that will
best present your strengths.
• An arrangement of your qualifications in
reverse chronological order, starting with
your most recent.
• Most familiar to employers and often
• Best for someone with a clear history of
directly relevant experience.
• Highlights specific skills and experiences,
which are listed in reverse chronological
order and categorized under relevant skill
or experience headings (e.g., Research
and Writing, Public Service, Leadership);
offers flexibility and strength of both the
functional and chronological formats.
• Familiar to employers and easy to follow.
• Helpful for candidates who lack a linear
history of related work experience but
have experience that can be grouped
under relevant headings.
• Highlights your skills by function rather
than work experience and conveys skills
and abilities possessed even if they were
not used in related work settings.
• Not as familiar to employers and less
• Useful for career changers, candidates
with very limited or no experience.
• Make sure the way you prioritize information reflects the priorities of the
organization to which you are applying;
consider placement on page, order of
bullet points, and number of lines.
• Use limited amounts of bold, italics,
CAPITALS, and underlining strategically
to bring attention to the most relevant
• Balanced use of blank spaces and margins
is important. Don’t make your margins
and font size too small. Keep margins to
around .7 to 1 inch and font size to 10
or 11 point (adjust as needed for various
• Don’t include personal information such
as marital status, photo, or physical
characteristics unless you are applying to
jobs outside of US and Canada and this is
the norm for that country.
• When sending emails electronically, attach as a PDF file to preserve
formatting and name your file clearly to
allow employers to easily identify your
resume (e.g., Your name_Resume).
• References do not need to be listed
unless they have been requested. Instead
of using space to include the line:
“References available upon request,”
have a separate list ready for submission,
typically during the final stages of your
interviews (see Sample Reference List
later in this Guide).
• Have your resume critiqued by several
people for content and grammar. Bring
your resume to the CDC to have it
reviewed by a career counselor.
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Sample Act ion Verbs Listed By Funct ional Skill Area
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Giancarlo (John) Marconi
563 Salvatierra Walk • Stanford, CA 94305 • Cell: (650) 123-4567 • [email protected]
Summary of Qualifications
• Five years experience modeling, designing, testing and optimizing wireless networks
• Proven ability to work on teams, communicate effectively and manage projects
PhD in Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
MS in Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA GPA 4.0/4.0
BS in Electrical Engineering, Politecnico di Milano, Milano, Italy GPA 98/100
Research Assistant, Ginzton Lab, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
• Developed energy-efficient routing protocols, data collection algorithms and collision-free scheduling for
multi-cluster wireless sensor networks for use in smart environments
• Envisioned new vision-based applications for camera networks. Initiated collaboration with 2 professors and
3 students to demonstrate proof-of-principle
• Modeled convex and combinatorial optimization problems in wireless sensor networks
• Proposed practical, near-optimal data collection and scheduling algorithms
Wireless Network Intern, ABC Technology Center, Palo Alto, CA
• Evaluated heuristic algorithms under different network assumptions. Improved the network delay and
lifetime tradeoff up to 50 percent for wake-up scheduling
• Worked with 2 team members to develop and evaluate efficient node supervision and scheduling algorithms
for wireless security/fire alarm systems
• Presented findings and recommendations to Chief Technology Officer
Research Assistant, Politecnico di Milano, Italy
• Evaluated and improved multi-rate multi-user OFDM-CDMA systems, including multi-modulation,
multi-code, variable-spreading-length, and bi-orthogonal schemes
• Published 7 technical journal articles and presented 2 conference papers; 2 patents pending
• Assisted in writing and editing 2 research proposals, resulting in a 2-year $500,000 grant
• Teaching Assistant for 3-quarter graduate-level networking course series
Treasurer, Graduate Student Council—coordinated 5-person team that raised $6,000
Programming: Matlab, C/C++
Technical: OFDM-CDMA systems; familiar with IEEE 802.11g/n standards
Languages: Italian (native), English (fluent), Japanese (conversational)
Nokia Wireless Design Competition—2nd Place
IEEE, Stanford IEEE Student Chapter
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ELEANOR J. BANKS
PO Box 94305
Stanford, CA 94309
To apply my demonstrated research, writing, and editing skills to a research analyst position
Stanford University, Stanford, CA
PhD in English, expected 6/20XX
Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
B.A. in English (6/20XX)
Studies Enterprise Research, Palo Alto, CA
Consultant: Researched and wrote reports on small business education
needs. Developed curriculum and audiovisual materials in business
education. Conducted 5 workshops for 100+ teachers and the California
Texas Commission on Economy and Efficiency, Austin, TX
Writer/Editor: Analyzed data, wrote, and edited commission reports on the
state personnel system and computer services
South Educational Development Laboratory, Austin, TX
Technical Writer: Researched and wrote monthly publication on
educational technology issues. Developed curriculum materials used by
Texas Education Agency
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Austin, TX
Research Analyst: Researched and wrote quarterly reports on Texas
business trends. Monitored legislative meetings relevant to economic
issues. Conducted research on cost-cutting measures
Computer: Publisher, PowerPoint, Word, Dreamweaver, Drupal, Photoshop, Mac/PC environments
Languages: Fluent in Spanish, conversational skills in French
Interests: Education, biking, hiking, reading, travel, and social networking
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Sample Reference Page
REFERENCES FOR JORDAN HOSAY-BATES:
Prof. Richard Choksi (Dissertation Advisor)
Department of Chemistry
Stanford, CA 94305
Jennifer Chen (Internship Supervisor)
Business Analytics Manager, Google
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043
Michael River (Internship Supervisor)
Director, New Ventures
400 Main Street
Palo Alto, CA 94315
Cover Let ters
Cover letters provide you with the opportunity to:
• initiate contact and introduce yourself
• respond to job postings or inquire about
• personalize your resume and show enthusiasm and interest in the job
• highlight information that addresses the
needs and interests of the employer
Bear in mind that the letters you write
not only convey your interest and qualifications, but also give the employer an
opportunity to observe how you communicate and present yourself. What you
choose to include in the letter and how you
choose to say it reveal much about you,
from your attentiveness to detail (including
spelling and grammar) and professionalism
to the overall quality of your writing skills.
The following tips and guidelines are
provided to help you craft an effective cover
letter. Please remember that sample cover
letters should not be used as scripts to copy
but as examples to help you compose your
Cover Letter Tips
1. Focus on the employer’s needs rather
than your own. Ask yourself: “What
are they asking for, why do I want this
position, and in what ways do I meet
their qualifications and needs?” “What
value can I add to this company?”
Address these questions in your letter.
2. Tailor your letter for each employer.
Generic letters do not make good
impressions and are usually ignored.
For practical purposes and limitations in
time, plan to at least prepare a tailored
letter for each different type of job (e.g.
one for consulting, one for industry
research) and customize 1-2 sentences
for each employer.
3. Keep it concise, typically only one page,
and in business letter format.
4. Demonstrate your knowledge of the
organization. What attracts you to this
5. Highlight your skills and abilities and
go beyond or expand on your resume
content. Be clear about your objective
and communicate your top 2-3 skills or
experiences as they relate to the position.
6. Ideally, address the letter to the hiring
manager, including a specific individual’s name, title, and organization (all
correctly spelled). Use “Dear Hiring
Manager” as an alternative or when
preferred by the employer.
7. Address specific skills and interests
without copying them verbatim from the
8. Have several people proofread your
letters to avoid errors. An effective cover
letter requires careful research, strategic
thinking, and multiple revisions. Bring
your draft letter to the CDC to have it
reviewed by a Career Counselor and
to discuss your specific situation and
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Cover Let ter Format
Your Street Address
City, State, Zip
City, State, Zip
Dear Mr./Ms./Dr. Last Name:
Who are you and what do you want? Your opening paragraph should briefly introduce you and
your interest in the organization or position. If you are aware of a specific position or opening, refer
to it now and how you learned about it. This paragraph could also mention the name of an individual
who recommended that you contact the employer, or cite other research that prompted you to write.
It is important to indicate why you are interested in their organization.
Why are you a good candidate? The middle paragraph(s) should consist of a selection of highlights
from your background that would be of greatest interest to the organization and consequently
create the notion of “fit.” Focus on your top 2-3 skills and experience and include supporting
evidence for any claim of skills or accomplishments. Again, try to display knowledge of the field
and organization. Use action verbs to describe relevant skills and expertise and mention specific
knowledge you may have (i.e., lab techniques, computer applications, etc.) that would be needed in
the work. You can also touch on a particular topic that seems important in the job description that the
employer developed. Whet the employer’s appetite and entice them to read your resume in detail and
schedule an interview.
What will you do next? Your closing paragraph should outline next steps. Express your willingness
to provide additional information and desire to further discuss the position in an interview. Include
your phone number and email address. If you will be in the area, let them know. Thank the reader(s)
for their time and interest.
(Your signature; may omit extra spaces if sent electronically)
Your Typed Name
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Sample Cover Let ter #1
P.O. Box 12436
Stanford, CA 94108
March 10, 20XX
Dr. Yolanda Lee
Director, Admissions Office
University of California, Berkeley
University Hall - Room 21
Berkeley, CA 94022
Dear Dr. Lee:
It is with great enthusiasm that I submit my application for the position of Student Affairs Specialist
with the Admissions Office of the University of California at Berkeley, which I saw listed in The
Chronicle of Higher Education. Currently I am completing a PhD in Communication at Stanford
University. I would like to continue to work in a university environment, especially within the
University of California system, and believe that my past experiences as an employee and a student
of the University of California will enable me to succeed in this position.
As a Graduate Intern with the Dean of Students Office at Stanford during this past year, I assisted the
Dean of Students on a number of research projects. I also served as a Graduate Program Coordinator
with Residential Education at Stanford, where I was able to develop a “Speakers on Campus”
program and supervise student assistants. This program brought alumni/ae speakers to the residences
to conduct presentations regarding their experiences in arts, law, medicine, and business. As a
Resident Assistant during my undergraduate years at the University of California at Los Angeles,
I enjoyed the freedom to plan a variety of stimulating programs to best suit the needs of other
students. I was able to successfully juggle the details of complex schedules while attending to the
personal attention the students and staff needed to provide a well-organized program. I am confident
that these skills transfer to the fast-paced environment of an admissions office.
I work effectively with diverse groups of people. While serving as Conference Host with the
Hayward State Summer Housing Program, I interacted closely with international students and
enjoyed both introducing them to the university environment and referring them to resources. I also
collaborated with a staff of 22 hosts, where we supported and encouraged one another. With the
College Readiness Program at Hayward State, I had the opportunity to encourage students of color
to pursue educational opportunities and establish learning goals.
I look forward to further discussing my qualifications and enthusiasm for this position with you
and members of the search committee. I can be reached by phone at (650) 123-4567 or by email at
[email protected] Thank you for your time and consideration.
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Sample Cover Let ter #2
1483 California Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94302
December 14, 20XX
Ms. Patricia Morisette
Manager, Corporate Administration
2604 Calderon Ave.
Mountain View, CA 94040
Dear Ms. Morisette:
In response to your advertisement on Stanford’s Cardinal Careers for a Systems Analyst, I have
enclosed my resume for your consideration.
As a Physics graduate student at Stanford University, I have developed extensive programming
experience through assignments using C++, JAVA, and other programming languages in both Mac
and PC environments. Through these projects, I honed my programming skills and learned a great
deal from my peers in a project team setting. The collaborative potential of the Systems Analyst
position, combined with Corvie Systems’ significant advances within the tech industry, is what most
attracts me to this position.
Through my internships at both Klavin, Inc. and Interbold, I acquired the necessary capabilities to
successfully handle the responsibilities of a Systems Analyst. Through these opportunities, I have
gained considerable experience with telecommunications applications, database management,
spreadsheets, and graphics software.
I have a high degree of initiative and am able to learn new concepts quickly, which proved
invaluable to the fast-paced environments in which my internships and education were completed.
Further, I believe that my analytical skills and enthusiasm for the work that I do would positively
contribute to the systems strategy department of Corvie Systems.
Please find attached my resume for your review. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss my
qualifications in person and to learn more about the opportunities at Corvie Systems. I can be
reached at (650) 123-4567 or [email protected] Thank you for your consideration and I look
forward to hearing from you.
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I n t e rv i ews
Whether you have just been contacted for
an industry interview or are preparing in
anticipation of possible interviews, you
may have questions about non-academic
interviews. What can I expect in terms of
interview format or questions? How much
do I tell them about my research? How
do I convince the interviewer that I can do
the job even though I have limited work
experience in this area? How do I handle
difficult questions? What do I say if they
ask why I’m leaving academia? How can I
best prepare for the interview?
Interviewing well is a skill that most of us
have to practice and develop. It’s natural
for you to feel nervous or uncertain about
the process. However, the following guidelines and tips will help you prepare to do
Before t he Inter view
1. Review your resume/CV, past work and
accomplishments, academic and extracurricular experiences.
2. Develop a checklist of the most relevant
skills and experiences that you have
to offer. Also, be prepared to reassure
employers about areas of weakness in
3. Recall concrete examples to demonstrate
each of your top skills or qualifications
4. Consider working with a CDC career
counselor to identity your skills,
interests, personality style, and values as
they related to your career choice.
Research the Position/
1. Match your qualifications to the job
description. What are their needs and
interests? If a job description does not
exist, research the career field and review
sample job postings.
2. Review the organization’s website as
a starting place for your company
research and search for additional news.
Find out key information about their
business, company structure, leadership,
culture, recent news and issues, and
how they are doing. If possible, conduct
information interviews with company
insiders, current and past employees, for
additional information and advice.
3. Research current industry trends and
news. Figure out who’s who in the
industry, including key players and
competitors. Learn about the challenges
and opportunities facing the industry.
Practice, Practice, and Practice
1. Most of us are not used to talking about
our accomplishments. Finding the right
vocabulary, wording, and tone does not
come easily. Practice articulating your
skills and providing clear examples.
2. It’s not enough to think about your
answers. Practice saying them out loud
and if time permits, with someone else.
3. Attend one of the CDC’s many interview
workshops conducted throughout the
year. Meet with a CDC career counselor
for a mock interview and receive
individual feedback. We can also help
you strategize your answers and present
yourself most favorably in an interview.
4. Videotape yourself. Although it can
be painful to watch yourself perform,
it’ll provide very useful feedback. The
Oral Communications Program at the
Center for Teaching & Learning offers
videotaped mock interview sessions for
Inter view Tips
• Employers are seeking two major criteria
bility: Can you do this job? (skills
it: Are you a good fit with the organization? Are you motivated to do this
job? Will you remain committed to
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this company? (personal qualities,
motivation/interest, and goals)
• Based on your research of the employer’s
needs, plan your answers ahead of time.
What information needs to be communicated to ensure that the employer
will have confidence in your abilities,
motivation, and fit?
• The interview is a two-way conversation.
Keep in mind that you are interviewing
your potential employers as much as they
are interviewing you. Observe carefully
and ask thoughtful questions to help you
to determine whether this is the right job
and organization for you.
• Work to create a positive impression
and build strong rapport. Interviewers
remember their impressions of you,
how you answered the questions and
conducted yourself, rather than exact
content of your answers.
• Ask for clarification if you are confused
by a question. This shows poise on your
part and allows you to answer questions
• Be yourself. Do not exaggerate, give
insincere answers, or memorize perfectly
scripted answers. Interviewers prefer
candidates who are authentic, focused,
Preparing for Quest ions
1. Whenever possible, answer questions
using specific examples to support your
response. Think of the acronym STAR
(situation, task, action, and result):
• Situation/Task: Describe the situation
• Action: What action did you take?
(Even if it was a team scenario, identify
YOUR contributions and action steps)
• Result: Discuss the outcome of your
action, making sure to mention accomplishments or improvements resulting
from your action
Link this example back to how it relates to
the requirements of the job.
4. Speak in positive terms about previous
experiences and employers.
2. Emphasize the most relevant and
impressive aspects of your background
and qualifications (paid work, research
experience, projects, extracurricular,
volunteer experience, specific skills).
5. Talk about your accomplishments and
skills (remember what you don’t tell
an interviewer, she/he won’t know).
Also, don’t assume they have read your
resume in depth or remember it in detail.
Walk them through your most relevant
experiences and explain how they have
prepared to you to handle the responsibilities of the new job.
3. Stress and clarify how skills you have
developed in the past are transferable to
the employer’s organization.
Types of Inter views
These are usually shorter interviews,
approximately 20-30 minutes, used for
the purpose of conducting a brief evaluation of a candidate. Employers are usually
looking to verify qualifications, check your
communication skills, and to form a quick
impression to help them decide whether to
move you forward in the interview process
or to screen you out. These types of interviews are often conducted over the phone,
Skype, or on-campus through Cardinal
Take screening interviews seriously and be
ready to discuss your relevant qualifications for and interest in the position. If you
receive an unexpected screening phone call,
it is important to remain composed. If the
timing of the call is inconvenient, let the
employer know and ask if you can return
their call. Arrange to take the call at a
private and quiet location and if possible,
consider using a landline, rather than a
cell phone, for a more reliable connection.
Make sure your voice projects (sit up or
stand up) and conveys your enthusiasm for
the job. Even though your interviewer will
not be able to see you, consider dressing up
for the phone interview to put yourself in
the right frame of mind. Arrange to have a
copy of your resume, cover letter, and notes
in front of you to use for reference.
For Skype interviews, in addition to
dressing appropriately, plan out how to
optimize your environment (quiet and
private location, suitable background
and lighting, right camera angle) so that
you’ll be viewed in the most positive way
possible. Work out any technical issues
beforehand and practice using Skype with
a friend and/or career counselor until you
feel comfortable using this medium for the
These interviews are quite common and
involve the candidate being questioned by
This scenario involves a panel of interviewers each with questions to ask. These
interviews are common for government,
academic, and some corporate positions.
It is important to maintain eye contact
and build rapport with all members of the
Behavioral interview questions are based on
the premise that past performance is a good
predictor of future behavior. You will be
asked to talk about specific examples from
your past that demonstrate characteristics
and skills that are important to the job.
Prepare by anticipating employer’s needs
and thinking of relevant past examples.
Use the STAR format (see Preparing
for Questions section) to organize your
Case Study Interviews
Some organizations, especially management
consulting firms, rely on case study or
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situational questions to evaluate a candidate’s analytical skills. The CDC Resource
Library has extensive resources to help you
understand and prepare for case interviews,
including practice questions.
Second Round or Site
Often, the interviewing process entails
several rounds of interviews. If you are
considered a serious candidate, after the
first interview you may be contacted for
a second on-site interview with other
members of the organization. If travel
arrangements are involved, usually the
company will pay for your expenses and
make the necessary travel and lodging
arrangements. Site interviews usually
consist of a series of interviews with several
individuals including your potential supervisor, co-workers, and higher-ranking
management staff. These interviews can
range from very casual to very technical.
You may spend a half or whole day
interviewing, which may also involve a
luncheon, dinner meeting, or social activity.
Although interviews can be nerve-racking
in general, some are designed to cause the
applicant stress. The interviewer may ask
confrontational or particularly difficult
questions. It is important to remain calm and
think carefully about your answers. Don’t
be afraid to take time to think through your
answers and don’t get tricked into losing your
cool. The purpose of these types of interviews
is to evaluate your behavior and maturity in
difficult situations. Stress questions are most
commonly used for those positions in which
your reaction to stress is critical.
Typical Stages of an Inter view
The First Impression
1. Introduction and greeting
2. Small talk (brief, informal conversation
on a topic of mutual interest—keep
3. Employer is looking for appearance and
dress appropriate to the organization,
a firm handshake, eye contact, ease in
social situations, good manners, and
poise. Arrive on time, bring extra copies
of you resume and don’t forget to smile
and be yourself.
Discussion of Background and
Employer will be asking a variety of
questions to better understand and assess
your education/training, experience, and
skills as they relate to the job requirements. It’s important for you to review
your resume and be ready elaborate on any
aspects of your background. Plan ahead
what information should be shared with
your interviewer based on your research of
Determination of Your Career
Employers will want to know whether this
job aligns with your future career goals and
whether you will be motivated to do the
work. You want to convey a strong understanding of the job/industry and how this
work fits with your own goals.
Demonstration of Your Interest
in the Organization
Through the ways in which you both
ask and answer questions, show your
knowledge of, and genuine interest in, the
organization. You can ask informed and
relevant questions to learn more about the
employer at any point in the interview, and
especially at the end.
1. Next steps in the interviewing process
are discussed—ask for the organization’s
time-line in the decision-making process
if one is not mentioned
2. Volunteer to provide additional
3. Thank the interviewer for his/her time
4. Ask for a business card—this will be
helpful when sending a thank-you letter
Send thank-you letters to everyone with
whom you interviewed. Email them
promptly within 24-48 hours. For a special
touch, you may also follow up with a
handwritten note. If you have interviewed
with many individuals in one day and do
not have everyone’s contact information,
you could address the thank-you to the
person who served as your main contact
or coordinator and ask him/her to convey
your thanks to the others. The letter
provides an opportunity to demonstrate
your professionalism, build further rapport,
and reiterate your qualifications, interest,
Review how the interview went. You will
use interviewing skills again and again
during your professional career. Learn from
your mistakes and build on your strengths
Sample Inter view Quest ions
• Tell me about yourself.
- Keep your answer brief and relevant,
one or two minutes. Offer highlights of
your qualifications, goals, and interests
as they relate to the job.
• What are your top 3 strengths?
- Of your many strengths, choose ones
that are important for the job and back
up your assertions with clear examples.
• What is your weakness?
- Identify a weakness that is not too
detrimental to the job and discuss what
you have been doing to overcome or
- If appropriate, present a weakness that
can also be a strength.
• What is your expected salary?
- If possible, defer salary discussions until
after a job offer has been made. You
may want to state that you are more
interested in establishing a good fit
between you and the job at this point
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and would be happy to discuss salary
when an offer is presented.
- Be ready to offer a salary range based
on market research but defer actual
negotiations until job has been offered.
• What did you enjoy most about your
most recent job experience?
• Please elaborate on your most relevant
• What do you see as your major strengths
as they apply to this position?
• Why are you interested in this position/
industry? In our organization?
• Why did you choose to study ______?
• What motivates you?
• How do you deal with pressure?
• Describe a frustrating or challenging
experience you’ve encountered and tell
me how you dealt with it.
• Who was the most difficult person you
have ever dealt with, and how did you
handle the situation?
• Discuss some of your past leadership/
teamwork roles and your accomplishments in them.
• Think of a specific situation that reflects
your ability to show initiative/handle
conflict/work in team. Describe it.
• What else would you like us to know
• How have your studies/training prepared
you for this position?
These questions seldom have right or wrong
answers. Even though the questions may
not seem to be job-related, employers may
try to determine your confidence, values,
and/or creativity through your answers.
• If I asked your friends or colleagues to
describe you, what would they say?
• If you could be any tree, which would
you choose and why?
• What is your preferred supervision style?
• Think about your favorite product. Now
think up five better names for it.
• Give me an example of a time when
you had to deal with unreasonable
• What are your long-term career goals and
how are you preparing to achieve them?
• What do you see yourself doing in 3-5
• Of what accomplishment are you most
• Why should our organization hire you?
Why are you the best candidate for this
• How would your friends describe you?
Some companies are known to ask
brainteasers during the interview. They
serve two purposes. One, employers
want to see how you react to unexpected
questions and think on your feet. The
other is to gauge your cognitive abilities in
solving these questions. Rather than trying
to silently come up with a solution, “talk
through” these problems so that the interviewer can follow your thought process and
offer help. The interviewer is often more
interested in how you solve the problem
than the answer itself.
Quest ions to Ask Employers
It is important to have prepared questions
to ask of each employer; these questions
will indicate your interest in the position
and organization. Additional questions
may occur to you during the course of the
interview. Conversely, if your questions
have already been answered by your
research, contacts with the company,
or even by the interviewer during the
interview, you can also tell this to the
employer while summarizing what you
have learned and mentioning key points.
Otherwise, lack of questions on your
part may convey a lack of interest in the
company or job.
About the Organization
• How would you describe your organization’s culture?
• How would you describe your organization’s style of management?
• What are some of the challenges the
organization is currently facing?
• What do you see as your organization’s
strengths and weaknesses?
• How will industry trends affect this
organization within the next 3-5 years?
• Where are the areas of future growth for
• How are goals established for areas of
• What is the method of feedback/evaluation used by this organization?
About the Position
• Can you describe recent projects on
which a person in my position has
• What are the common career paths for
people entering the organization in this
• What skills or qualities are especially
important in order to be successful in this
• What projects would be given to a
successful candidate within the first six
months of starting the position?
• How are people trained or brought
up to speed with regard to their
• How and when is performance
Do not ask for information that is readily
available through the company’s website or
literature. It will be obvious that you have
not bothered to do your homework. You
should also initially refrain from asking
questions about benefits, perks, and salary.
This conversation should wait until it is
clear that they want to hire you. Your focus
should be on explaining how you can add
value to their organization and on gaining
a better understanding of the job and
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E va luat i ng
Job Search Endgame
As a PhD or postdoc, you’ve invested
considerable time and effort in your
education and job search, and now it is
about to pay off. It is an exciting time, but
potentially confusing and stressful. We offer
these brief guidelines to address common
concerns related to anticipating, weighing,
accepting and/or negotiating job offer(s).
Receiving the Offer
Thank the person extending the offer
and express enthusiasm for the position.
Reiterate how important this decision is for
you and ask for some time to think it over
in order to make a good decision. If it is a
verbal offer, ask about getting the offer in
writing so there are no misunderstandings.
Ask when your response is expected.
An offer letter, at minimum, states your
job title, salary, expected start date and
your department or supervisor’s name. It
may further enumerate your benefits and/or
briefly describe your responsibilities.
Managing Multiple Employers
You have a job offer in hand. Or you may
sense an offer is imminent; sometimes an
employer will tell you outright, “We plan
to make you an offer.” This is a great time
to reconnect with any other prospective
employers that are still considering you
as a candidate or finalist. Contact those
employers to inquire about the status of
your application and their timeframes for
N eg ot i at i ng J ob O f f e r s
making a decision. Reiterate your enthusiasm for the position, alert them that
another offer is in hand or seems imminent,
and ask about the possibility of them accelerating their hiring process.
First, Evaluate the Big Picture
Ask yourself the following questions about
the position(s) you are considering. It may
be helpful to compile your answers in a
spreadsheet or similar document. If these
factors are not a good fit, it will be difficult
or impossible to rectify them through
negotiation. Think carefully whether you
want to accept or decline the offer.
Revisit Your Values and
What do you find important and fulfilling
about your work? What are your values
and priorities? How do you prefer to work?
What work environments do you prefer?
And finally: How well aligned is your
job offer with your goals, values and
Assess the Organization and
Research the financial stability, growth, and
trends of the industry and organization.
What growth or trends are happening in the
How financially stable is the company? Has
it had significant layoffs recently?
If a startup, is it well funded? Is it likely to
meet milestones to secure future funding?
Will you have appropriate resources and/or
budget to support your work?
What are the opportunities and expectations about publishing your work?
Is there a budget for conferences, travel
and/or professional development?
• The Vault/Career Insider at studentaffairs.stanford.edu/cdc/services/
career-library offers informative industry
• Google Finance has profiles and news
feeds for most businesses
If you have questions, address them with
the organization contact before accepting
Review Your Role and
Review the responsibilities and daily activities of the position. Consider additional
information you gathered while going
through the interview process. Does this
position seem interesting and engaging?
How does it fit with your long-term goals?
Evaluate the Offer
Ultimately, you will accept, reject, or try
to negotiate changes to the offer. After
determining the industry, organization
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and position are a good “fit,” evaluate the
details of your job offer.
The Overall Compensation
• laptop computer and/or technical
Salary and Market Value
Salary is only one part of a total compensation package. Your package might include
any of the following:
• flexible work schedule
Salary doesn’t necessarily correlate with the
value you add or the contribution you make
to society. It’s what the market will bear to
purchase your services, which include your
skills, expertise, knowledge, and special
talents. Check studentaffairs.stanford.edu/
cdc/jobs/salary, your professional society
or the NACE Quarterly Starting Salaries
Survey in the CDC Career Resource Library
to determine a range for your market value.
Often recent graduates don’t have the
experience or expertise to warrant a higher
salary. However, exceptions that may
justify a higher salary include:
• Proven expertise in a specific and soughtafter area
• Relevant work experience through
previous industry experience, internships,
or summer jobs
• A written offer for a higher salary from
• base salary
• signing bonus and/or relocation expenses
• medical, dental, and vision insurance
• life insurance, accidental death insurance
and disability benefits
• 401(k) or other retirement plans (and
perhaps matching contributions from the
• pretax contributions for child or elder
• bonuses based on performance and/or
• stock; discounted stock purchase plans
and/or stock options
• paid sick leave, holidays and vacation
time and/or sabbaticals
• reimbursement for future education
• extras such as commuting allowance,
parking subsidy, health club membership,
Ask your HR representative to explain
the benefits package before you make a
Some organizations offer a fixed package
that is not negotiable; other organizations
may be willing to negotiate on salary,
bonuses, stock options, date of salary
review, relocation costs, or extras.
Though many people focus on the base
salary, these other items may significantly
impact your income and/or quality of life,
both now and in the future. One position
may offer free meals and a higher salary in
San Francisco, an expensive city. Another
may offer a lower salary but match
contributions to your retirement plan in a
different city with a lower cost of living and
less expensive housing. You will need to
conduct a cost/benefit analysis to determine
which is better for you.
Preparing to Negot iate
Do You Want or Need to
The only reason to negotiate is to get fair
market value for your skills, experience
and knowledge. You are not obligated to
negotiate; do not negotiate for negotiation’s sake. Some job seekers believe they
are expected to negotiate, or that salaries
should be negotiated as a general principle.
Although organizations respect employees
who can articulate the value they add,
recent grads (or anyone else) can quickly
alienate potential employers if they are
inappropriate or go overboard in negotiating to “get a fair deal.”
Organizations, large and small, generally
establish salary ranges for each position
based on standards and general practices
for the field. Organizations determine
where an employee falls within the salary
range based on experience and special
expertise or knowledge. Recent graduates,
with limited experience in entry-level
positions, generally will be paid in the
low- to mid-range, reserving the midpoint
salaries for more experienced individuals.
It’s in the organization’s best interest to
compensate you fairly. Organizations
want to hire and retain good employees.
Hiring and training new workers is costly.
Organizations do not want to make low
offers that are rejected and then have
to repeat the recruiting process. Nor do
they want you to leave to work for other
offer better compensation.
have specific ideas about how you will
add value. You will be able to confidently
state that you are worth $5k more because
of your ability to create specific software,
design the new manual, or write the
necessary grant proposal.
• You have decided that the overall opportunity is a good fit.
• The offer does not reflect the fairmarket worth of your services in this
field. Research salary ranges for your
role and industry. These facts will help
you determine if the compensation is
reasonable, and support your argument for
a higher salary. You’ll be more persuasive
if your negotiation is based on verifiable
evidence. Familiarize yourself with the
entire package before initiating negotiations; employers who can’t offer a higher
salary may instead offer “perks” such as
extra vacation days or free parking.
• You understand how your skills benefit
the organization. This may be difficult to
assess with limited work experience. In
this case, try to identify the needs of each
person who interviewed you. How are you
a solution to their problems/challenges?
Then, when you’re negotiating, you will
• You are clear about what you want and
what you need. What aspects of the
job offer are essential for you, affecting
the tipping point of whether or not
you accept or decline the offer? What
aspects are sweeteners, but won’t change
your decision? Where are you willing to
When Should You Negotiate?
• After you have received a formal offer,
preferably in writing. Having detailed
discussions about compensation before
this point could eliminate you prematurely from consideration.
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compromise? What is your “walk away”
point—the barest minimum you need
for the offer to be acceptable? Envision
your ideal (yet realistic) outcome from
the negotiation. At the same time, identify
several backup options that are acceptable
should your first request be denied.
• You know your alternatives in case
negotiations fail to produce the changes
you seek. If your negotiations produce all
the changes you requested, you should
be prepared to accept the amended offer.
If your negotiations produce some of
the changes you requested, you’ll have
to decide whether it adequately satisfies
your needs and exceeds your threshold
for accepting the position. If negotiations
fail to produce changes that will make
the position acceptable, you will probably
decline the offer—but talk to a career
counselor or someone you trust before
you do. It is important to clearly assess
your alternatives. If negotiations fail,
what is your next Best Alternative to a
Negotiated Agreement (BATNA)? Do you
have other offers? Will you hold out for
another employer to make an offer? Can
you sustain your current employment (or
Negot iat ing
Negotiation is a process for reaching an
agreement on what an organization will pay
for your skills, knowledge and expertise.
Your success in negotiating for higher
compensation (and the only reason you
should be negotiating) depends on evidence
suggesting your market value is higher
than that reflected in the offer. Contrary
to popular belief, this is not an adversarial
process. It is in your best interest and
the organization’s to come to a mutually
beneficial agreement. Adopt a Win-Win or
No Deal mentality.
You will usually negotiate with your
Human Resources representative, but
sometimes the negotiation is conducted
directly with your manager. If you are
unsure, you can ask.
What to Say and Do During a
Ask the employer to explain how compensation is determined, and then listen. Ask
how your distinguishing and exceptional
strengths and expertise were accounted for.
State clearly and succinctly the evidence
suggesting your compensation should be
higher, and then listen.
Here is a sample script for the negotiation
Student: “I want to say again how
extremely pleased I am to have
the opportunity to work with you
and this organization. However,
I would like to discuss the
If the salary is not negotiable, suggest the
next option from your backup plan (such
as a higher signing bonus, if applicable, or
early performance review,) then move on
to any other part of the job offer that you
would like to negotiate.
HR Rep: “
Sure. What questions do you
For further help with negotiation, consult
Perfect Phrases for Negotiating Salary and
Job Offers by Matthew J. DeLuca and
Nanette F. DeLuca in the CDC Resource
Student: “First, I’d like to know how your
organization structures salary
ranges to understand how this
salary was determined. I want this
to work for both of us.”
Listen to the response.
Student: “What flexibility is there with the
Listen to the response.
Student: “I understand the organization
prefers to bring inexperienced
graduates in at the lower end
of the range for this position.
However, I feel this offer does
not reflect the experience and
perspective I gained from working
in this industry prior to starting
my PhD.” (If you have other hard
salary data from your research,
diplomatically mention it here.)
Negotiating Other Elements
Salary is important, but other elements of
the job offer may be important to you as
well. Some of these items will be negotiable;
others not. Perhaps you have already
committed to a much-needed vacation after
you complete your dissertation. Adjusting
your start date or arranging for extra time
off could be very important to you. Things
that mean a lot to you may incur little or
no cost for the employer. For example, if
reducing a long, stressful commute improves
your quality of life, ask about telecommuting
(working from home) for one day a week.
Negotiate creatively, but always in good
faith and with a Win-Win attitude.
Accept ing and Reject ing Of fers
If you and the company have come to a
mutually satisfying agreement, ask for
something in writing that reflects your
mutual understanding. If negotiation
produces changes to the original offer, ask
for an amended offer letter so all parties
are clear about the revised offer. To accept
the offer, sign and return the (amended)
offer letter by the agreed-upon deadline.
We recommend including a short job
acceptance letter as well (see the sample in
this section, as well as others in the CDC
Career Resource Library). You will likely
phone or email your contact to enthusiastically accept the offer, and inform the
employer that the signed document is on
If negotiation failed to produce a mutually
satisfactory agreement, you must make
your decision based on the employer’s final
offer. In this case, you would generally
phone your contact to express gratitude for
the consideration and offer, but to politely
decline the offer. Follow up this call with a
formal written letter or email that declines
the offer in a clear, polite and professional
manner (see samples in this section).
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Et hics and Et iquet te
Candidates and employers have a joint
responsibility when accepting or extending
a job offer. The CDC expects recruiters
will abide by its policies and by the ethical
standards of the National Association of
Colleges and Employers. These guidelines
include the statement that employers “will
refrain from any practice that improperly
influences and affects job acceptances . . .
including undue time pressure for acceptance of employment offers.”
The CDC expects students to observe
similar ethical practices, including the
following code of conduct:
• Once you accept an offer, you have made
a commitment to that employer and it is
your ethical responsibility to discontinue
interviewing with other employers. After
you accept an offer, you are no longer
eligible to interview through the CDC’s
Cardinal Recruiting Program.
• If you accept an offer, and later a better
offer comes along, remember that
you have made a significant personal
and professional commitment to the
first employer; you should honor that
commitment. Reneging on a job offer is
highly unprofessional. If you are unsure
about accepting a job offer, it is always
better to negotiate for more time to
make your decision than to accept the
offer prematurely and later rescind your
Consider the reverse situation:
An employer offers you a job and later
a stronger candidate comes along. How
would you feel if the employer called you to
withdraw its original offer to you? Clearly
that would be unacceptable. The recruiting
and hiring process works best when all
parties adhere to ethical and behavior.
(In rare cases, a candidate who has already
accepted an offer may find him- or herself
in an unusual position with extenuating
circumstances, such as a family emergency;
CDC career counselors are available to
meet with you one on one to discuss your
Frequent ly Asked Quest ions
Q: W hat do I say if I’m asked for my
salary requirements before I have
received a formal offer?
Q: How committed am I to a job
offer I have accepted, if a better
offer comes along?
Q: W hat if I don’t understand
something in the employment
A: You’ll generally defer discussing your
specific requirements until a formal
offer has been made. Early in the
interview process, you may reply, “If
it’s okay with you, I’d like to defer that
question for now and focus first on the
content of the work. I’m interested in
knowing more about the specific duties
and responsibilities of the job.” If the
hiring manager insists, you might say
something like, “I assume a range has
been established for this position and
wonder what the organization has in
mind?” or “A salary competitive for this
position and industry.”
A: First, if you are unsure about accepting
a job offer, it is better to negotiate
for more time to make your decision
than to accept the offer prematurely
and later rescind your acceptance.
Second, it is very important to honor
your commitment. Backing out of the
agreement is highly unprofessional and
reflects negatively on you and Stanford.
It may taint your reputation in your
chosen field now and in the future. If
you signed a contract that included a
signing bonus, check the contract for a
clause requiring you to pay back the full
signing bonus if you leave the organization before the stated duration. The
signing bonus amount that you receive
will be the total amount, minus taxes,
but the amount you must repay will be
the full amount of the bonus.
A: Organizations are usually happy to
clarify or answer any questions about
the job offer. Students may also seek
legal advice regarding job offers,
employment contracts and other professional commitments through the ASSU
Legal Counseling Office for Students at
Later in the interviewing process, as a
finalist, you may need to provide an
actual range (not a single number) for
your desired salary. You might say,
“Based on [objective salary survey], I
believe [$ range] is the fair market range
for this position.” Make sure you have
done your homework!
Q: W hat do I do if all my requests
are rejected in the negotiation
A: You must decide to accept or reject
the position based on the terms of the
Q: How do I request an offer in
A: If a verbal offer is made, you can say,
“I’m very excited about the opportunity
to work with you and this organization.
Since this is such a significant decision
for both of us, I’d be more comfortable
if the offer was in writing and I could
look it over.”
The CDC has compiled a handful of salary
websites at studentaffairs.stanford.edu/cdc/
The CDC Career Resource Library contains
helpful information for job offers and
• Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make
$1000 a Minute by Jack Chapman
(If you have time for only one book, this
is the recommended one.)
• Next-Day Salary Negotiation: Prepare
Tonight to Get Your Best Pay Tomorrow
by Maryanne Wegerbauer
• Ask For It: How Women Can Use the
Power of Negotiation . . . by Linda
Babcock and Sara Laschever
We recognize that juggling job offers and
employer deadlines can be daunting for
s t u d e n t a f f a i r s . s t a n f o r d . e d u / c d c | C A R E E R D E V E L O P M E N T C E N T E R 5 1
you. Since each individual’s situation is
unique, we encourage PhDs and postdocs
who have questions about managing
offers or negotiating for time or additional
compensation to meet with one of the
career counselors at the CDC. For urgent
matters, we offer short 15-minute meetings
daily—no appointment necessary. Longer
45-minute appointments may be scheduled
in advance through your Cardinal Careers
Contact ASSU Legal Counseling at (650)
375-2481 for legal advice regarding job
offers, employment contracts and other
Sample Job Of fer Communicat ions
Dear Ms. Gonzalez,
Thank you for offering me the position of
Research Scientist with XYZ, Inc. However, I
regret to inform you that I cannot accept your
generous offer at this time. After carefully
evaluating all opportunities available to me, I have
accepted another position that seems a better fit
for me at this point in my career.
Declining a Job Offer
I truly enjoyed meeting and speaking with
you and other representatives from XYZ.
Thank you again for your consideration.
Best wishes for the continued success of
I hope this email finds you well.
I am writing to inform you that I will unfortunately not
be accepting the generous offer of Assistant Director
at ABC. I really appreciate the care and hospitality
extended to me during this time. Foremost, I am
grateful that ABC granted me an extension so that I
could fully consider my options.
At this time, I feel that ABC is not the best fit for me.
It was an extremely tough decision for me to make, as
evident in my request for an extension. I again want
to thank you and everyone else at ABC for this great
opportunity and for your help and support through this
5 2 C A R E E R D E V E L O P M E N T C E N T E R | s t u d e n t a f f a i r s . s t a n f o r d . e d u / c d c
Sample Job Of fer Communicat ions
Withdrawing Your Candidacy
Dear Mr. Polanco,
I enjoyed meeting with you and your colleagues last
week regarding the position of Project Manager.
Thank you for your time and consideration during
While I am not sure where the hiring process
stands, I wish to inform you that I must withdraw
my application from consideration for this position.
I have accepted a similar position at another
Thank you again for your consideration and best of
luck in completing your search.
Accepting an Offer
Dear Ms. Fuqua,
It is with great excitement that I accept the
offer for the position of Senior Analyst. I
have included the signed offer letter as you
Thank you for your employment offer for
the position of Program Coordinator. I
would like to reconfirm my acceptance of
this position. As I mentioned earlier, I look
forward to joining ZZZ and am confident
in the contributions I will make to your
organization. I am truly excited to apply my
passion and skills to this position.
I have been communicating with the
relocation company and am currently in the
process of moving to Seattle. I expect to be
settled in by the end of the month and ready
to start in early August.
I will contact you as my start date
approaches. Please feel free to contact me
if you have any questions. I look forward to
my new position at LMN.
Per our phone conversation, I will start work
on Monday, August 22. I will be out of town
until mid-July but can be reached by cell
phone at (650) 123-4567.
Thank you again for this opportunity.