How to Conduct an Advising Job Search

Alison Hoff
Mastodon Advising Center, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne

Nancy Crone
Department of Kinesiology and Sport Studies, Eastern Illinois University

Reposted from the NACADA Clearinghouse

Does the economy create concern about finding an advising job? What steps are needed to move into a position that will be more rewarding and challenging? In this article we offer strategies and tips on how to land a first job or move to a new position in academic advising.

Self Assessment
Start the job search process by completing a self-assessment. Think about the many facets of a potential job and give serious thought as to what is needed and wanted from the job (Walsh, 2007). “Needs” include those things that are a “must-have” for the job seeker including such things as new challenges, working with a specific type of student (e.g., adults, honors, at-risk), the opportunity to conveniently pursue a doctorate degree at a discounted rate, supervisory responsibilities, or relocation to a different geographic region.

Think also about “wants” or preferences that would be nice to have but are not “make or break” in declining a job offer. Current academic advisors should consider which present position responsibilities that are enjoyable and which are not (e.g., advisors serving as the sole advisor in a department may desire a position within a larger department). Putting these preferences in writing makes it easier to compare job descriptions and can serve as discussion points during an interview.

Document Preparation
Several documents should be prepared during a job search including a resume, a cover letter, thank-you notes, and a list of references.

A good resume helps secure interviews. An effective resume summarizes personal information and abilities. It is important to develop one all-inclusive version that may be drawn from to create a shorter document tailored to each position description. Resumes should condense important information so that it can be found quickly – within 20 seconds.  Resume samples can be found on the NACADA Member Career Services website. When the resume draft is complete, have mentors and colleagues review it; it is imperative to have an accurate, professional, and error-free resume. Use action verbs and quantify information (e.g., number of students advised or the number of attendees at a planned event).

A cover letter should be included whenever a resume is submitted, whether applying by mail, in person, or online (Walsh, 2007). The cover letter should express why the job seeker is the best candidate for the job. Use a cover letter to highlight a few items from the resume that are particularly pertinent to the position. Make sure to address the cover letter to an actual person such as the search committee chairperson, the supervisor of the position, or a particular representative of human resources.

Send a thank-you note after the interview to reiterate an interest in the position and to express appreciation to the interviewers for their time. Letters should be sent to those met at the interview within 24 to 48 hours. The candidate’s note should include specific comments on what was liked about the office/institution and identify the qualities and skills the candidate can bring to the position. The thank you note can also identify strengths or include information that may have been forgotten during the interview. Candidates should send a hand-written, legible note, type a letter, or send an email.

Reference lists should include three to five professional and/or academic colleagues. Make sure to contact these individuals and ask their permission before listing them as a reference. If someone hesitates at this request, consider listing someone else. Choose references carefully since providing a sincere, glowing reference is imperative. List references and their contact information on a separate sheet of resume paper so it can be either submitted with the resume (if requested in the position announcement) or sent at a later date when personally requested. References should not be friends or family members.

The Job Search
The actual job search builds upon the self-assessment. Being aware of “needs” and “wants” can save time.  Apply only for positions that match the “needs” and hopefully also provide for some of the “wants.”  There are many job search resources available, and using more than one provides a wide range of position opportunities. NACADA Position Announcements can be found in the Services area of the NACADA website and at the annual conference career services booth. If specific institutions have been identified as possible job sites, bookmark each institution’s human resource/employment website.  Other sources include the Chronicle of Higher Education, other higher education professional associations, and various websites that have been included in the annotated bibliography.  Additional employment websites are also linked through the NACADA Position Announcements webpage.

Networking is defined by Darling (2003) as “the art of building and sustaining mutually beneficial relationships” (p. 2).  Job searchers can utilize these connections to expand their professional and career opportunities.

NACADA offers its members a diverse number of high quality networking opportunities. They include participation in the Emerging Leaders Program (each selected participant learns from a seasoned NACADA member who serves as a mentor), involvement at regional and national conferences), and participation in summer, assessment, and administrator institutes (develop personal connections with other professionals through small group interactions).  Other suggestions include enrolling in coursework through Kansas State University’s graduate certificate and master’s program in academic advising, participating in NACADA listservs, and connecting via NACADA’s Facebook page just to name a few.

Other networking opportunities abound. Job seekers should consider opportunities that may be found at their current institution of employment (committee work, informational interviewing, volunteering with an advising office) or within the local community (associations for young professionals, leadership associations). Consider getting involved in state allied advising associations, other higher education professional associations such as Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA), College Student Educators International (ACPA), and National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletes (N4A), or with one’s local alumni association.

An academic advising interview may take several different forms, including phone and on-campus interviews. In some searches, phone interviews are used as a first interview to narrow down the applicant pool. Many times, day-long or multi-day on-campus interviews follow a phone interview and may include a candidate presentation. If the interview includes a candidate presentation job seekers should impress the audience with a well-chosen topic that reflects the institution, advising office, and student population to be served. Before agreeing to an on-campus interview, always remember to ask the potential employer about any reimbursement for travel and meal expenses for the trip (Hoff & Parker, 2008).

When interviewing for an academic advising position, in addition to being asked questions, candidates should ask questions of their potential employers. Ask a variety of questions regarding both the specific position and about institution-wide issues to show the employer an understanding of higher education and how it functions as well as academic advising specifically. Consider the following list of potential question topics (Hoff & Parker, 2008):

  • What is the retention/graduation/persistence rate of the students at this institution?
  • What is the advisor-to-student ratio?
  • What is included in the strategic plan of the office and institution?
  • Is the institution experiencing budget growth or cuts?
  • What is the expected campus committee involvement level?
  • What decision-making responsibilities are included in the position?
  • What kind of professional development opportunities (and funds) are available?
  • Does this position report to student affairs or academic affairs?
  • What are the health insurance and other benefits at this institution?

As in any interview process, remember to dress professionally, send individual thank-you notes, and make sure that the position and the institution feel like a good fit for you and your family. If relocating, take an extra day to explore the area (Hoff & Parker, 2008).

Considering an Offer
It is customary for the successful candidate to take up to a week in considering an offer although the timeline may be negotiable (Heiberger & Vick, 2001). During the offer process, ask for clarification regarding the potential for relocation funds or an increase in base salary to offset these costs. Ask for more detailed information regarding healthcare plans and consider speaking directly with a representative of the Human Resources department. Consider any additional cost-of-living expenses (e.g. parking, commuting, car insurance), local schools, and area home or apartment prices (Hoff & Parker, 2008).

Concluding Thoughts
Even those not currently job searching should consider finding a supportive mentor in the field. This person can provide job search advice, networking contacts, and encouragement. In preparation for a future job search, advisors should focus on resume enhancement. Offer to co-teach a class, give professional presentations at the local, state, and national levels, volunteer for new projects, join professional listservs, and stay current in the advising field through NACADA and other higher education organizations. Also consider creating a portfolio of professional accomplishments to be used in updating a resume (Hoff & Parker, 2008).

This article presented tips and strategies that have been effective in academic advising job searches. Whether looking for a first position as an advisor or searching for a position that offers more responsibility, this information offers advice to job seekers as they pursue their next opportunity in the world of academic advising.  Good luck!


Darling, D. C. (2003). The networking survival guide. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Heiberger, M. M. & Vick, J. M. (2001). The academic job search handbook. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Hoff, A. & Parker, J. S. (2008). How to conduct an academic advising job search. Presented at the NACADA annual conference. Chicago, IL.

Walsh, R. (2007). The complete job search book for college students. Avon, MA: Adams Media.

Useful links
Hoff, A. (2008). Career Services corner. Academic Advising Today, 31(3), 12.

How to Become an Advisor

NACADA Member Career Services website

NACADA Position Announcements

Advising-Related Graduate Programs

Lynch, Patrick. (2004). A new adviser’s journal. The Mentor

The Chronicle of Higher Education website

Academic Careers

IPFW Career Guide

Eastern Illinois University Career Services

Higher Ed

ACPA (College Student Educators International)

NASPA (National Association of Student Affairs Administrators)


Cost of living

Cite this resource using APA style as:

Hoff, A. & Crone, N. (2011). How to conduct an advising job search. Retrieved from

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