Job Search

This section of our web pages is intended to provide information for students preparing to go on the job market. You should work with your adviser, the faculty of Comp. Lit., and the Job Search Committees of your chosen field to do your search.


Because of the number of Ph.D.s on the market, you should not go out on the market before you have at least half of your dissertation written. Even then, you should consider that the choices you will have without the "degree in hand" will be much more limited than the choices you will have with the degree. Therefore, while you might land a job without your degree finished, chances are that it will not be as good of a job as you would have gotten had you waited a year. Thus, a year more at UNC-Chapel Hill polishing the dissertation and doing some publishing could work to your advantage and save you the costs of one search (see below).

Organizational Prep

To prepare for a job search you need to buy one thick 3-ring binder with a pocket, a 3-hole punch, a medium 3-ring binder, and a set of dividers. The thick binder will be for putting all your communication received and for storing your job list (in the pocket) with your scoresheet of who has been sent what. The smaller binder is for storing information for the job interviews you do land (including your letter to that school, web page printouts, booklets sent, contact names and info, etc.). If you are to keep your sanity and some sense of control, you will need to have effective ways of managing paper.

You will be sending out packets that contain various combinations of information, including:

  • specialized job letters
  • CVs
  • dissertation abstracts
  • teaching approaches
  • teaching portfolios
  • writing samples

You will want to think about how best to store these items for quick assembly of your final packages. UNC Career Services in Hanes Hall will be sending out your dossiers (sets of recommendations from your committee members and others); be sure to have all of your recommendations updated in that file by September 15. The Career Services Pages will explain how to set up a reference file. You can also request dossiers to be sent on-line. Unfortunately, you still have to appear in person at Hanes to mail transcripts.

Comparative Literature students participate in the job search preparation sessions held by the departments of English and Foriegn Languages, and the Curriculum holds mock interviews

Students can have access to the MLA Foriegn Languages and Comparative Literature job lists through the curriculum and can consult the English Department's MLA list of vacancies in departments of English


You should anticipate spending between $300 and $500 responding to the October job list. Many students are surprised--and frankly unprepared--for the financial aspects of the job search process. Given that many institutions (60% of my 1998 applications) are now requiring dossiers and many (18%) are asking for writing samples up front (in spite of the MLA's specific request not to do this on an initial search), the cost of responding to the job list has jumped significantly.

1998 Job Search Costs

(Of the 82 jobs applied to on the 1998 October list, 49 requested dossiers, 14 required transcripts, and 15 wanted writing samples up front.)

  • $20.00 MLA membership (required to attend conference)
  • $25.00 UNC Career Services fee
  • $70.00 transcript fees (14 @ $5 each)
  • $200.00 dossier fees (50 @ $4 each)
  • $50.00 paper and envelopes
  • $108.00 mailing/postage (writing samples weight packages)
  • $21.00 copying writing samples
  • $494.00 TOTAL

These costs assume on-campus resources for printing; if you have to pay to print CVs and letters, costs will be higher. As schools continue to expect more and more with the initial applications, candidates will have to pay more up front with less info along the way.

You will also need to figure in money for airfare to MLA, hotel costs, food expenses while at the convention, and money for interview attire (if you need it).


Try to schedule your MLA interviews with at least two full hours between schools. You will need time to review the information you have collected to prep for the next interview, to walk to the next hotel, to negotiate crowded elevators, and to get something to eat occasionally (don't forget this!). It makes it simpler to have one notebook with all of your information on the various interviews stored in it. Former student and graduate, Jill Craven, made a worksheet with contact info, main strengths of the schools, questions, etc., that was invaluable in last-minute prep.

Here are a dozen questions you might think about in preparing for the interviews:

  • Describe your dissertation (a 10 minute version, a 5 minute version, and a 2 minute version).
  • Describe connections between your research and teaching.
  • What scholars/theorists have most influenced your research?
  • What scholars/theorists have most influenced your teaching?
  • How would you teach a content-area (lecture) course? What texts would you require?
  • How would you teach a writing course or an introductory Foreign language course? Why? What texts would you require?
  • {For depts. with grad programs} How would you teach a seminar in your area of specialization? And why? What texts would you require?
  • What's your research agenda for the next five years?
  • If you could put an ideal teaching schedule for your first year as an asst. prof., what would it look like?
  • What's your perspective on emerging instructional technologies?
  • Why would you like to teach at this particular school?
  • What do you like about teaching? What do you dislike about teaching? What are your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher?