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Notes from the Nursing Faculty Search Process - Reflections from a Search Chair

I recently served as the Chair of the Search committee for my College. It was a great experience and very enlightening to be on the "other" side of the search process. We had a very successful year of recruitment and I learned a lot.

Here's some tips if you're considering entering the academic job market in nursing. Most of these will apply largely to Research I universities, but may apply elsewhere.

1.  Do your homework: Come to the interview showing that you have done some research about the place where you're applying. Know the faculty members who might be good collaborators or mentors. The interview process is as much about you feeling a place out as it is about them figuring out if you're going to be a good match. Well prepared candidates always get more positive feedback than those who are not.

2. Identify where you can teach in their programs - and not just in the PhD program: Reality of most US nursing programs is they need people who can teach core courses at all levels. When you identify only PhD level courses you can teach, it limits you as a candidate. This presents a probl if you do not have a lot of clinical nursing work experience. Students want teachers that have patient care stories they can share as part of their instructional techniques. It gives you credibility that goes beyond what your research produces. And with faculty shortages, you never know where you might need to fill in for a class.

3. Present your research as what you've done, where you want to go, and how collaborations at the place you're interviewing will help you get there: The days of the lone wolf researcher are over. It is less and less possible to become an independent researcher without first gaining experience on research teams. You also need to publish, lots, to help you get funding these days. If there are natural collaborations that would happen at your new place, the odds of more funding coming in for all increases and that adds to your faculty application. As a new assistant professor, you also need a mentor--everyone does. The best place for you will have one available that is a good topic area or methods match for you.

Exception: Sometimes places are rebuilding. Depending on your experience, you may need to be more of a self-started with the idea of growing teams as part of the development of your program of research.

4. Never, ever, ever speak negatively about people you've interviewed with during your interview day or the place itself: Faculty interview days last for 6-8 hours and sometimes you might even get dinner out with your potential new colleagues. It's a long day and sometimes, you get tired and maybe feel a bit cranky. If you are critical of someone you interviewed with to another faculty member, critical of the facilities in a way that is off putting, or just generally being negative, that will get back to the committee. Those behaviors will put off the search committee from your candidacy and will affect the hiring recommendation that goes to the Dean.

5. Nursing is a very small world, your reputation may precede your visit: After awhile you learn very quickly that academic nursing is a very small world. Your reputation begins to build as a graduate student and can carry forward from there. There will be people who have amazing credentials, but if they are known to be difficult to work with, places are becoming increasingly reluctant to hire them, no matter how good they are at what they do. People get to know you through all those professional activities we have to do as part of the job. Your reputation is built there too.

Now, to be fair, people can have bad periods in their life (PhD study seems to bring those out) and that may just be temporary. Don't be afraid of those times. If someone brings it up, acknowledge the period and talk about what you did to overcome those times. People have lots of respect for self awareness and it adds to your credibility as a candidate overall.

6. Have a plan that addresses the weaknesses in your CV: No candidate is perfect. Some candidates have lots of publications but little funding; others, the reverse. Increasingly, there are more PhD graduates in nursing with minimal clinical experience and that can be very job limiting for some (per above). Whatever yours are, the fact that you've been asked to interview is a good sign that the place is interested in you and your work. Candidates that demonstrate a modicum of humility throughout the search process and awareness of their strengths and limitations do well overall during the interview process.

7. Trust your gut reaction to a place and the people you meet: As stated above, the interview process is a two way street. If you don't have a good experience with the interview process, if you're just not gelling with the people you meet, if the vibe just doesn't feel right, it's not the right place for you. And that's OK. Odds are you'll be at your first academic job for between 7 and 10 years. You really want to make sure it's a place you can succeed.

So, those are a few thoughts for those of you going out on the academic search process. There's plenty of other interviewing advice out there that all apply as well, but these were the most salient points I took away from the last year. Hope they're helpful!


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