COUNSELING CENTER JOB SEARCH TIPS
A list of tips compiled by:
- Identifying Job Possibilities
- a. You may become aware of CC job openings through
- Print media: APA Monitor, Chronicle of Higher Ed, ACPA Developments
- Listservs: from your training director, clinical director, and/or center
- The World Wide Web, e.g.,
- Various other classified/resume posting sites:
- on-site Placement Services, such as
at ACPA and APA
- mailings sent to CCs or academic
- personal contacts and word of mouth.
- b. Avoid ruling out excellent jobs on the basis of geographic (e.g. west
coast) or lifestyle preferences (e.g. rural vs. urban). You probably won't be
at your first job forever. You need to apply for lots of jobs to get one you
c. If your search is geographically limited, write to all possible employers
whether or not they are advertising a position.
d. When you identify a job for which you plan to apply you may choose to
call the agency to get more information, particularly to get a sense of what
special needs the center has that need to be filled and that you can address in
your letter of application. These needs may include an area of expertise (e.g.
LD assessment) or an area to coordinate (e.g. outreach).
e. Consider applying for every position that could be a possibility. The
worst case scenario is that you will have a paycheck and will garner some
f. Consider how you react to stress and prepare for this as well. Job
searching is not just preparing paperwork–it is also about preparing yourself.
- Cover letter
- a. Your first sentence should announce the position for which you are
applying and that you are writing in response to the position announcement in X
(state where you saw the announcement).
- b. Show how you meet the minimum qualifications.
- c. Highlight your strengths in the areas that have been indicated in the
announcement or during a phone call. Be careful, however, not to pigeon-hole
yourself as a specialist--most CCs value generalists who can also bring some
special skills or talents.
- d. If applicable, highlight appropriate generalizable skills from other
- e. A cover letter introduces you to the selection committee and should
highlight things that will be detailed in your vita. Keep the cover letter to
- f. Emphasize what you can offer the site, not what you could learn from
- a. Vitae vary in length, detail, and style. To decide how to present your
vita, review vitae of successful applicants who have obtained employment in a
- b. Headings should include education, clinical and/or professional
experience, outreach and consultation experience, publications and
presentations, and professional affiliations. You may also want to include
licensure status and committee service or other relevant experience. The
greatest variation in length is usually due to how much detail is included
under professional experience--for example, listing all of the groups you have
facilitated or all of the outreaches you have presented.
- c. Avoid padding your vita with extras such as conferences you’ve attended,
classes you’ve taken, numbers of supervised hours, etc. Also, do not
exaggerate what you have done.
- d. Be sure that your vita is visually appealing and easy to read.
- Letters of Reference
- a. Choose people who are familiar with your relevant work and can speak to
- b. Avoid those who write a standard or form letter. Avoid letters that are
general with no specific or significant information. Reconsider those that ask
you to write the letter that they will simply sign.
- c. If you are unsure about the type of letter a particular recommender might
write, it is possible to request that a copy of the letter be sent to you
first, so that you can decide if you want it sent to potential employers.
- d. Remind recommenders (in writing) of the contact that they have had with
you. Talk to them about experiences and skills that make you particularly
qualified for the position(s) you are seeking. Remind them of details you
would like them to include in their letter.
- e. Provide references with a copy of your vita, a "brag sheet" (in which you
have summarized your experiences and accomplishments), a copy of the position
announcement, the date the letter is due, and stamped envelopes (when
- f. Be sure to send a formal thank you to anyone who has written you a letter
of reference–keep those bridges in good shape!
- Convention Interviews
- Many CCs interview candidates at the annual ACPA Convention held in March. If
you are conducting a national CC job search, this is an excellent opportunity
to meet many employers and to let them interview you. A convention interview
is a way for candidates and employers to interact at much lower cost (in time,
effort, and money) than an on-site interview. As many as thirty CCs may have
open positions through the job placement service and you may have the
opportunity to participate in as many interviews for which you have time.
- You may also get tips about job possibilities from CC staff who are not
hiring, but know of openings at other sites. Meetings and sessions held by
Commission VII (Counseling and Psychological Services) are good places to meet
staff from around the country.
- a. Most ACPA interviews are a half-hour or an hour, and are with one or two
people. Your interviews will be held at either the allotted table at the
convention center or in another place such as a hotel lobby.
- b. You may have informal contact with prospective employers at the social
hours and night-time entertainment, so it makes sense to be on "professional
behavior" at all times. These are nice relaxed times to schmooze and shake
- c. You should interview with some centers that you might be interested in if
you are not invited to campus by your top choices. This will enable you to
expand your employment possibilities, give you interviewing practice, and give
you a chance to learn about some new sites. Don't be too picky, but don't burn
yourself out by interviewing too much, either.
- d. Offers are rarely made on the basis of an ACPA interview. However, the
ACPA interview may help you get invited to campus.
- e. Send follow-up thank you letters after ACPA, especially if you are
interested in the job.
- Campus Interviews
- Most CCs interview candidates on campus before hiring them. Most CCs will pay
all expenses; if they don't, this may indicate fiscal problems within the
university or center. If you end up paying your own expenses, make sure that
you are going to a site that highly interests you and that you are a true
candidate for the job.
Interviews vary from a few hours to two full days. They may or may not
evening contact (e.g. a reception or a meal with staff). You will often be
asked to meet
with staff or faculty outside the center and with higher administrators. You
may or may
not be required to do a presentation.
- Before the interview:
- a. Negotiate time, travel arrangements, and responsibility for expenses. Be
flexible but assertive. Make sure you get in early enough to get a good
night's rest before the interview. If you want some extra time to look around
the town, ask for it.
- b. Gather information about the interview process: Who will you meet with?
How long will the process take? You should be provided a full itinerary of
your visit, which should include the types of activities, with whom you will be
meeting, and the time allotted for each activity.
- c. You may be required to do a presentation. Presentations may be related
to therapy, outreach, research, case studies, or other things. You will need
to ask them what they want and also highlight your strengths. Ask ahead of
time for any materials (e.g. an overhead projector) you need. Some centers may
also ask you to do a role play. Practice your presentation in front of an
- d. It’s important to be knowledgeable about the site before you go. Do your
homework about the site, staff, institution, locale, etc. Request written
materials about the center: annual report, brochures, etc. Check them out on
(A catalog of CC Web pages is provided by the Counseling Center Village, at
- At the interview:
- a. Make sure you present yourself professionally but also show your personal
side. They will be evaluating whether you will be enjoyable to work with as
well as a competent colleague.
- b. Many sites will be looking for more than a good therapist. Be prepared to talk
about your skills in
outreach, supervision, grant writing, university committee work, etc., and/or
your experience working with Greek Affairs, Residence Life, Athletics, etc.
- c. Make a list of the information you want about the center or the
information you want to share before you leave and make sure you cover
everything. Have questions prepared ahead of time.
- d. Remember that "social events" (i.e., receptions or dinner with staff) are
times when you are still being evaluated.
- e. Before you leave, ask about salary, benefits, contract conditions,
evaluations, supervision, etc. You may want to get an idea how flexible or
firm the salary range is.
- f. Before you leave, ask about the time frame of the rest of their
- g. Be prepared to be exhausted afterwards, as you will be “on” for several
hours at a time.
- After the interview:
- a. Send a list of expenses and receipts to whomever was designated.
- b. Send materials to anyone you promised.
- c. Send a thank you letter.
- Accepting an offer
- Usually, you will get "good news by phone, bad news by letter." If they offer
you a job, they will call you.
- a. Make sure you understand all of the conditions before you make a
- b. After they have made an offer and before you accept it is the time to
negotiate things like salary, start date, moving expenses, etc.
- c. If you want more money, ask for more money. Your best leverage is if you
have another job offer for more.
- d. If you get an offer from a place that is not your first choice, you
typically can ask for some decision-making time. However, this time period is
not indefinite–it usually ranges from a couple of days to a week. If you have
an upcoming interview scheduled (soon), you can ask to postpone your decision
until after that interview. If you are awaiting another offer from a more
favored site, get on the phone and ask where they are in the process.
- e. After a verbal acceptance, you will probably need to sign a formal
contract clarifying your acceptance and the terms of the contract.
- f. Congratulations and good luck!
- Last modified: March 14, 2000