I want this awesome job... I think
June 20, 2007 5:46 PM   Subscribe

I've heard about a job that sounds amazingly perfect. How can I go after it without being obnoxious? And how can I reconcile the two different descriptions of it?

The other day I saw a job posting on LinkedIn for a position that overlaps, I think, with both my professional background and several of my personal passions to a degree I would have thought impossible. The position is in "my network" meaning that the hiring person and I know a few of the same people. But those people are pretty popular [famous in the field]... they have networks of hundreds of people. It's not like I know the hiring manager's college roommate.

The position is at a major university, and one can only apply via the university website. The detailed description I found there has a different angle on the position, talks more about research, and even indicates that an advanced degree is preferred. This is very different from the LinkedIn description, which has a more practical focus. I'm worried that the university screening process may screen me out [research is not in my professional background].

I'd like to campaign for this position. But beyond that, I'd like to figure out *if* I should even mount a campaign. The position as described on LinkedIn is one I would succeed in, the university description is somewhat scary. But every time I've seen a university job description in my field is reads scary... maybe that's just how they write?

Is the university description more likely to be correct? And does anyone know if the university hiring process is much different from the corporate one?

Is it obnoxious to e-mail the person who posted the position on LinkedIn to seek clarification about the position and express passion for the project?[their e-mail is public on the project website]

The industry heavy-hitters that we both know are name brand people, and they are familiar with me and my work. Should I ask them to put in a good word? If so, at what point in the process? Or should I figure that if the hiring individual wants their opinion he'll ask them?
posted by Mozzie to Work & Money (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
20-year victim of university bureaucracy here.

University hiring is very different from corporate, especially at a public institution. Often the advanced degree requirement/preference is necessary to get the position classified in a better salary range (which can still be 20-30% below market - you know that most universities pay crap, right? they're banking on you being in love with the atmosphere and intangibles).

Most public university searches require a lot of documentation and justification: who's on your short list and why, who you are bringing in for interviews and why, who you are requesting to hire and why, are you looking at the diversity of your applicant pool? Also, at a public Usually the hire has to be approved by one level above the person who makes the offer.

Private universities tend to have more leverage on these issues, but often the pay is even worse than public, unless they're top-tier.

That being said, I don't think it's obnoxious at all to email the person who posted the position to get more info. Definitely ask about the salary range before you get your hopes up. As far as the industry references, hold those cards until you get an interview scheduled, then have your contacts put in a good word before you get there, if at all possible.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:21 PM on June 20, 2007

I just escaped my university IT job! (Just time for a change.)

You should apply, most certainly. While HR had a consultive place in the hiring process, the ultimate decisions were made by committee among the HR rep, the Director of IT Services, and the future supervising manager.

The reason that individual posted the job on Linked In was to reach people who'd normally not respond to an official university posting... in my department several jobs were posted on Craigslist specifically to catch people via less formal, more tech-oriented means. In my experience people in the field (ie. the actual department you'd work in) are well aware that high-level tech people often have unconventional backgrounds (blessedly.)
posted by loiseau at 7:23 PM on June 20, 2007

You also might want to talk to your inside connection about union or other hiring rules....some can be quite brutal (some universities make public postings, but are obliged to first offer the job to ANY internal candidate who meets certain on-paper qualifications....at least one private university I know is like the federal gov't--again, due to union rules--in that the actual hiring department only receives applications from candidates whose resumes "hit" certain checkmarks like, B.A.? Check...no M.S.? filtered out by a computer and never crosses the desk of your would-be boss, despite work experience that isn't so easily quantified. A big flag for this is having to submit the application online to HRonline.biguniversity.edu instead of the actual department head.)
posted by availablelight at 10:52 PM on June 20, 2007

Yep, seconding the idea that the ad appeared on LinkedIn because they were looking for less conventional applicants. And they only want to shortlist people who are really keen -- so go ahead and contact them.

I would certainly contact one or two of your big-name acquaintances and ask if they will act as a reference or if you can mention their name -- they will usually be flattered. If they don't know you well, you can offer to send them your CV so they can be sure they are being accurate in what they say. You can also indicate what you think are the important things they could include -- "you remember that xxx project? I think saying I can do yyyy may be useful"
posted by Idcoytco at 1:06 AM on June 21, 2007

Research "reponsibilities" are sometimes included in senior admin/technical jobs in universities so as not to discourage applications from people who are currently working in more academic parts of the university system who do not want to give up their research work. For example, I have often seen this in the job specifications for posts like head librarian or director of IT. My impression is that these are usually options, rather than requirements - the idea is to say "if you are currently active in research, then by taking up this job we will allow you to spend some of your time still doing research, we don't expect you to give it up completely," rather than research being something that is expected of the candidate regardless of background.
posted by Jabberwocky at 1:46 AM on June 21, 2007

Does it list the degree as a requirement or preference? Universities often list a preference for degrees. Our product is education; it makes perfect sense to value it highly. You might get higher pay with a better degree, but don't let it stop you from applying.

Go after it. If it turns out not to be the perfect job, nothing lost.
posted by theora55 at 6:38 AM on June 21, 2007

Response by poster: Wanted to post an update that I never heard anything at all about this position, and the contact never replied to my e-mail. I did find a position that was perfect in a different way, but I'll probably always wonder "what if?"
posted by Mozzie at 9:20 AM on October 11, 2007

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