Killer apps for the academic job search



Managing an academic job search is often said to be a full-time job all on its own. To be sure, it’s a time-consuming process but there are some simple tools you can use to save time and stay organized. Here are three that I’ve found particularly useful.


Plenty of scholars already use Evernote as their reference manager of choice. Evernote’s builders bill it as a digital “workspace,” and you can use it to communicate about projects or implement the GTD method, but I chiefly use it to “clip” pages from the web as I’m organizing my job search. When I sit down to tailor a cover letter for a new job application, I go through the department and university websites and clip the profiles of any faculty I foresee collaborating with, along with programs and initiatives to which I could contribute. I tag all of those pages with the institution’s name, and file them into a “Get Job” folder in Evernote. The program’s browser plugin makes that easy to do — even from an iOS or Android device. Having my notes all together makes writing a cover letter easier, and if I get called for a Skype or conference interview, I already have the beginnings of a dossier in place.

Text Expansion

I first learned about text expansion from ProfHacker, where Ryan Cordell and Brian Croxall have written about its applications for email, grading, and coding. Text expansion programs (I use TextExpander) stores blocks of frequently used text — or “snippets” — with associated keyboard shortcuts. Snippets can be quite short, such as your email address or the name of your institution; or somewhat longer, such as the abstract for your next project or the boilerplate text in your syllabi. Anything that you might type (or even copy and paste) more than once can become a text-expansion snippet.

When it comes to the job search, I’ve found it useful to store snippets for everything from the names of campuses where I’ve taught (e.g., Temple University becomes “$tu”), as well as contact information for myself, my referees, and my department. I have my letters of recommendation stored in Interfolio, which generates a very long email address for each document that can be entered into application web forms. I use TextExpander to store these so that I don’t have to copy and paste them from Interfolio every time I fill out an online application. (You can do the same thing for free on Vitae.)

Text expansion is also useful for filling out web forms. For example, I have one snippet for entering my educational background into applications. It looks like this:

“Ph.D.%key:tab%2014%key:tab%Temple University%key:tab%History”

That fills out the beginning of the form for me by inserting the name of my degree, tabbing to the next box, inserting the year I received it, tabbing to the next box, and inserting the institution, and tabbing to the last box and entering my field. You might also consider using TextExpander snippets to store the title and abstract of your project.

Mac users can plug snippets into the keyboard settings for OSX (System Preferences > Keyboard > Text), which allows for simple text expansion, but doesn’t have the more robust features, such as tabbing and cursor placement, that allow you to fill out web forms. For that, you can purchase one of any number of programs that run from $5 (aText) to $45 (TextExpander). Windows users also have a free and open-source option in AutoHotkey, which is a favorite of ProfHacker’s Mark Sample.

Google Sheets

I’ve written about my jobs spreadsheet on Vitae before, and this relatively simple job search tool generated some interest among readers. Every year that I go on the market, I make a spreadsheet to keep track of every job or fellowship to which I plan to apply. The spreadsheet is a clearinghouse for information that I need when I want to take a glance at which application deadlines are coming up, and which materials each of them requires.

I use simple color coding for submission formats: A gray background means that part of an application (usually the reference letters) needs to be snail-mailed, and a black background means that all of an application needs to be snail-mailed. Having such strong visual cues reminds me which applications need to go out in advance of their deadlines, so that I don’t get stuck paying a bunch of express shipping fees.

I like doing this with a Google Drive spreadsheet because it’s easily shareable, and anyone with the link can see the most recent update, so it’s easy for my dissertation adviser to open up the spreadsheet and see how things are going. It’s also a great tool for passing knowledge along to others — I still get asked for the spreadsheet I put together four years ago on predoctoral fellowships.

To help you get started with your own spreadsheet, I’ve created a template in Google Drive. Click through the link and then select “Make a Copy” from the “File” menu to save an editable version to your Google Drive account.


There’s no suite of killer job-market apps to land you the perfect position, but using these can save you time and stress. Do you have a favorite tool to help the application process go more smoothly? Share it in the comments below.

Author Bio: Dan Royles recently received a Ph.D. in history from Temple University, and is a visiting assistant professor of U.S. history at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey