January 2013
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Reviewing and Creating Job Applications

Today, the EECS department sent out a mailer which advertises 2 open positions to the Intro to Programming course, which I am teaching. When I asked the department if they had funding for the positions, I included a description specifically drafted so that it could be copied into the advert. Unfortunately they did not pick up on my intent. However, the advert does say for which course, and the course website is available through websoc.

So, when I check my inbox this morning I see a collection of applicants interested in the position. About half of them can be summarized as

It would be great if you hired me, because I need funding.

It’s a simple, straightforward, direct plea, with a strong flavor of desperation. Not to mention the fact that, even in so brief a message, some had obvious grammatical errors. But, since many students are ESL, I’m not going to hold that against them; at least not too much.

What invalidates their plea, is the lack of reflective thought. They did not pause to think about what I wanted from an applicant. They did not visit the course website and look at the programming projects they would be grading.

The other half of applicants did much better. They sent resumes along with the plea for funding. At least from that, I can discern whether they have experience in Python, or previous experience as a TA/reader.

Finally, the best applicant, not only gave me a resume, but took the time to suggest ways in which they were qualified.

I am a PhD student in Computer Engineering. I have good experience in programming. I know C, C++, Visual studio, and Java. I am working as tutor at www.example.com. I have more than 150 hours experience of teaching to college and university students. I enclosed my CV for more information.

Now, I didn’t do a perfect job in this process either. It wasn’t until after I read the application that I started deciding what I wanted from the reader. I really should have sat down and thought about how I would perform the task myself and then generated a list of questions, which could be used to rank the applicants on how well they fit the position.

  • Experience with Python.
  • Experienced enough to develop automated testing script. Ideally I’d want the candidate to volunteer this, because it shows they recognize that it improves their efficiency.
  • Available to handle grading disputes with students.
  • Workload is known and clear: how many assignments, due dates, feedback times, etc.
  • Workload fits within applicants quarterly schedule.

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