ON THE MARKET: Navigating ASA Employment Services

As part of our On The Market series, our newly-minted Dr. Amina Zarrugh shares some sage advice on how to maximize Employment Services, one of several resources that the American Sociological Association provides graduate student members. 

Source: American Sociological Association (ASA)

Each year during the ASA annual meeting, the organization facilitates meetings between prospective job candidates and employers. These meetings, referred to as “Employment Services,” are brief 20 minute meetings that are sometimes regarded as preliminary interviews for the upcoming job market. This is a paid service (roughly $50-55), which you must  purchase in advance of the conference (through your ASA account) if you would like to access information about employers as early as possible. The process can be unclear unless you have already been through it once before so here is a brief “how to” to help those who may be navigating it for the first time.



The purpose of ASA Employment Services is for job candidates to meet faculty from universities that intend to hire new faculty for the upcoming year. It is important to recognize that not all universities that plan to hire in the fall will hold meetings during ASA and not all of the meetings are considered by universities to be part of their formal interview process. Universities approach ASA Employment Services with different intentions and purposes; for some, the ASA interview is an opportunity to sincerely assess candidates and expedite their job search while for others the ASA interview is an opportunity for them to share information about their universities and positions. As a candidate, you should be prepared to treat each interview as an opportunity to both 1) practice describing your dissertation and your broader research plans and teaching style and 2) learn more about schools to which you may apply. The interview process can be an important exercise in learning how to talk about your research and can also provide you with important details about schools that you can later include in your application materials. Use this opportunity to think about how your application can benefit from speaking to members of the search committee.


The process of participating in ASA Employment Services is composed of two phases:

 Before ASA


After registering and paying for ASA Employment Services, you will be granted access to an interface which will allow you to post your CV, fill out a calendar with your availability, and see employer postings. Universities that are hiring in the coming academic year and who would like to meet with candidates at ASA provide information about the position(s), application materials, and contact information. Most job postings will not appear until late July or early to mid-August. Several postings may appear during the ASA annual meeting itself so you should continue to check for new postings while you are at ASA.

First and foremost, you should post a CV and fill out the calendar with your availability. You should be as generous as possible regarding your availability on the calendar; leave open many time slots (twenty-minute increments) so that universities will have several choices from which to select when scheduling a meeting with you. It is especially important to keep Saturday and Sunday as open as possible because many faculty will only be at the conference during the weekend given that some universities commence classes before the conference concludes.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, you should contact employers through the ASA Employment Services interface before ASA. Contrary to the idea that employers will contact you because you posted a CV, you need to contact employers as soon as possible. There are far more job candidates than employers and, therefore, it is incumbent upon you to take the initiative and invite yourself to be considered for an interview. It is possible that you will receive a request to meet from universities on the basis of your CV but it is less common.

Once your CV is posted and you have filled out your availability, you should begin writing employers as soon as they have posted a job ad. It is important to note that they may not reply to your invitation until two to three weeks before the conference in order to process all of their interview requests; however, it is good to express your interest early.

Your message should be framed as an “expression of interest” in a position. In your message, be sure to include the following:

  • Your name, university, and expected graduation date
  • Your research interests (in order of importance according to the job ad) and a one-sentence description of your dissertation
  • Any sources of funding that you have received in support of your work (see example for how to assert this in a modest way)
  • Your broader research agenda (especially if you can connect it to other aspects/requirements of the job description)
  • Your teaching philosophy (brief statement that connects to research, if possible)

Here’s a sample message:


I am writing to express interest in the position of [POSITION] in the [DEPARTMENT] and at [UNIVERSITY].

I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and I plan to graduate in [MONTH, YEAR]. I specialize in [RESEARCH INTERESTS PRIORITIZED BASED ON JOB AD]. With funding from [FUNDING SOURCE], I examine [ONE SENTENCE DESCRIPTION OF YOUR DISSERTATION]. My broader research agenda also includes a focus on [ONE SENTENCE ABOUT YOUR OTHER RESEARCH].

With my international research experience [FIND A WAY TO BRIDGE RESEARCH AND TEACHING], I bring unique insights to the classroom through a global perspective on classic sociological topics. I am firmly committed to teaching, which is evidenced by [INCLUDE ANY SPECIAL TRAINING OR EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE RELATED TO TEACHING]

I thank you in advance for your time and consideration and I look forward to an opportunity to meet with you at the ASA annual conference.



In response to these messages, you will receive requests from employers who suggest a specific day and time to meet on the basis of your calendar of availability. You will receive requests through ASA Employment Services and copies will also be sent to you via e-mail. You will use the ASA Employment Services interface to confirm the requests. If you are invited to an interview, you should confirm the request and also send a message thanking the employer for their time and stating that you are looking forward to the meeting.

During ASA


Before ASA begins, you should have confirmed the universities and faculty with whom you will be meeting (though some universities will provide later notice and will contact you during the conference, so keep looking at your ASA Employment Services interface).

For each department, you should closely research its programs, research areas, and its curriculum and classes. It is very important that you pay close attention to the research program and classes taught in the department because many of the questions you will be asked throughout the interview will concern how you relate to these aspects of the department. You can access this information on most departmental websites and you should prepare before ASA so that you can review it on your way to ASA and during breaks you may have during the conference.

Upon arriving to the annual meeting, you should locate the registration area of the conference, where you will confirm your participation in ASA Employment Services on-site. You will be provided with instructions about how the process works and you will be given a name tag that permits you access to the Employment Services area.

The meetings take place in a common and open, but secure, space with several tables (akin to the structure of a roundtable session). To each table is affixed a number that is assigned to a specific university. You should plan to arrive early to your scheduled interview meeting in order to look up the table number that corresponds to the university with which you plan to meet. The meetings are twenty minutes long and an orchestral sound will signal that two minutes remain in the interviews. The end of meetings is punctuated with another orchestral sound, which signals people to end their meetings and new meetings to begin. Bring a copy of your CV with you and, if you have them, business cards to give to the employers; some employers will have a copy of your CV while others may not.

You will be meeting with as few as one departmental member and as many as three members; many meetings take place with two departmental members, which helps facilitate the conversation. This means also that you will need to make sure that you speak to (and make eye-contact with) both departmental members during the conversation. Meeting with multiple faculty members underlines the importance of researching the universities beforehand and being aware of who belongs to the department.

 Potential Interview Questions

While twenty minutes is not a long time, it is possible to cover several topics, which generally focus on your dissertation, research, and teaching. Most faculty will leave at least five minutes towards the end of the meeting for you to ask questions about their program and department so you must have 2-3 questions prepared to ask of each university (and these can overlap).

  1. Research: The questions that relate to your research will concern your dissertation, your future research plans, and how your interests connect to the job. You should be prepared to briefly summarize your dissertation punchline and its contribution. Be prepared to talk about the key arguments in any papers you have published or are under review. Examples of questions:


  • Could you tell us about your dissertation?
  • When do you plan to defend?
  • What have you written and what remains to be written? (Be specific about the chapters you have completed and offer a concrete schedule for when you plan to complete remaining chapters)

Research Interests

  • Tell us about your research interests.
  • Where do you see your research going in the future?
  • How did you become interested in this line of research?


  • Tell us about this paper (describe key argument and how it connects to your broader research agenda)
  • Tell us about your collaborations (be prepared to discuss your contributions to papers that have multiple authors).
  1. Teaching: The questions that relate to your teaching will concern what types of teaching you have done, how you approach teaching on a pedagogical level, and what kinds of classes you would like to teach and how you would approach them. Your research about individual universities will help you identify what classes you could contribute to each university (and you should identify courses that you are capable of teaching and would contribute to the program).

Teaching Background

  • What classes have you taught?
  • How did you teach these classes? (Evaluations, assignments, etc.)

Approach to Teaching

  • What is your philosophy about teaching?
  • How would you approach teaching “x” course? (Some faculty will ask you about how you would teach specific courses so pay close attention to job ads and whether they mention classes that future faculty are expected to teach)

Future Classes

  • What classes would you like to teach? How would you teach them?
  1. Your Questions: While ASA Employment Services is an opportunity for employers to get to know you, it is also a chance for you to learn more about specific universities. You should anticipate the opportunity to ask questions of the employers and you should prepare questions for each university. Some topics/questions include:

Research-related Questions

  • Are there any departmental area groups? Are there faculty writing groups?
  • What kinds of support exist for research travel and conference travel?
  • Does the department plan to develop a particular research area in the future?
  • What kinds of affiliated research centers exist at the university?

Teaching-related Questions

  • What is the teaching load and how many new course preparations are expected?
  • Will I be able to teach courses in my field or will I be expected to teach introductory and methods courses?
  • Are there opportunities to co-teach classes?
  • How many sociology undergraduates (and/or graduate students) are there and what are the expectations regarding advising?

University- and/or City-related Questions

  • What kinds of institutes and centers exist for collaboration between departments?
  • What roles do the university and department play in the community?

After your interview, you should take notes about the discussions you had with committee members, particularly if they communicated information that could be useful to your preparation of an application.


When the annual meeting concludes, you should send thank you notes to the faculty members with whom you met to express appreciation for their time and the information they shared about their department and university. This is an opportunity to underline your interest in the program and to state your intention to submit an application.

See more on Employment Services here. You can also reach out to Amina for more amazing advice!

Amina Zarrugh received her Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology in 2016. She joins the faculty at Texas Christian University as an Assistant Professor. Her research interests focus on gender, nationalism, and religion in North Africa and the Middle East from a postcolonial perspective. Her dissertation examines regime violence in Libya and the mobilization of women in a family movement that developed in response to a contested prison massacre at Abu Salim Prison in Tripoli. 

No Words.

by Shannon Malone

Fanny Lou Hamer, a leader of the Freedom Democratic party, speaks before the credentials committee of the Democratic national convention in Atlantic City, August 22, 1964, in efforts to win accreditation for the group as Mississippi's delegation to the convention. The Freedom group, composed almost entirely of Negroes, is opposed by the regular all-white Mississippi delegation.(AP Photo/stf)
Fanny Lou Hamer, a leader of the Freedom Democratic Party, speaks before the Credentials Committee of the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, August 22, 1964, in efforts to win accreditation for the group as Mississippi’s delegation to the convention. The Freedom group, composed almost entirely of Black Americans, was opposed by the regular all-white Mississippi delegation. (AP Photo/stf)

I am in a profession of words. I am in a field that attempts to use words to uncover systems of power and oppression. As a child, I read the words of Mississippi activist Fannie Lou Hamer’s testimony at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, “Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent beings, in America?” I grew up listening to the words of my grandmother back home in Mississippi, who knows all too well the cost of racially motivated violence from her long days of voter’s registration organizing in the 1960s: “We had no choice. We knew we had to push for you. Now you have no choice. Now you have to push for what is to come.”

All of these words, and yet, I feel like all too often I have none.

Alton Sterling (left) and Philando Castile (right), two men who were shot and killed by police the week of July 4th, 2016.
Alton Sterling (left) and Philando Castile (right), two men who were shot and killed by police the week of July 4th, 2016.

I have no words for the brutal, sensationalized deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I have no words for the senseless murders of five police officers in Dallas following a peaceful protest for Black Lives Matter. I have even fewer words for those who behave like scavengers and quickly offer the unburied bodies of these officers as evidenced carcasses that a movement for the humanity of black people is a movement against others, offering us distractions in #bluelivesmatter or #alllivesmatter.

It’s been 60 years since the world bore witness to the gruesome death of Emmett Till and 60 years since the American justice system let his killers go free. Visit Sumner, MS and you can still see the scars of a town divided by railroad tracks and resources, a town where the Bryant and Milam family continue to hide behind their power and are rumored to threaten anyone who questions them about the death of a 14-year-old boy. Now, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling join Emmett Till, along with countless others.

Do we even know how many black bodies this country has buried? How many lay at the bottom of the Atlantic, how many lay underneath the cotton fields of the South, how many lay in the prison cemeteries, how many lay with their blood still warm on the streets? Will I join them? Will my brother? My nephew?

I was only 19 years old, headed to the mall with my girlfriend, and excited about attending a sorority party that night when I was pulled over by police for a traffic violation. Surrounded by two cops, I remember the moment he pulled out his gun and pointed it at me. I can remember him yelling at my friend and I, as we stood stunned and confused. He yelled at us to put our hands up and get back in the car, and I could not decide what to do. Everything around me slowed down. Should I keep them up, as instructed, or should I open the door and get back in the car, as instructed?

I was 19 years old when my life flashed before my eyes. Could my body be buried with the untold others and eulogized with words like, “Here lies Shannon Malone, gone, but not forgotten?”

This is the America we live in. What words help us make sense of this? What words do you use to make yourself feel better about living in a country with such a high body count? What words do you post online to signal to others that you understand? What are the words you use to tell little brown girls and boys that there is a better tomorrow?

My people have spent the last week, or more accurately the last few centuries in mourning, and I demand to know: what are your words?

There comes a time when words, while meant to show sympathy and support, are used as placeholders for action, placeholders for those comfortable enough to push the brink with their words but are not yet willing to sacrifice their bodies. Words that offer escape from the harsh reality of all the black bodies piling up around us. Words used before and after a Sean Bell or a Trayvon Martin, with yet another brown body in the ground who we lay words on like “rest in peace.” Rest in peace, but live in fear, humiliation, or violence? What words do you use to justify another life gone too quickly?

Malcolm X once said, “If you’re not ready to die for it, put the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary.” My grandmother, like her grandmother before her, hummed spirituals underneath her breath when she had no more words. In a country that has a proven history of kidnapping, beating, hanging, imprisoning, and shooting black people and using words to explain, describe, predict, and reflect on our buried, black bodies, what words do you offer up?

I have none.

Shannon Malone is a PhD student in the department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on how social networks enable mobility for women and girls throughout the lifecourse. Shannon is a W.K. Kellogg Community Leadership Fellow in Mississippi where she works to help vulnerable children and their families achieve optimal health and well-being, academic achievement and financial security.





Contemporary Changes in the Transition into Adulthood

by Chelsea Smith, Robert Crosnoe, and Shih-Yi Chao

This blog post is based on “Family Background and Changes in Young Adults’ School-Work Transitions and Family Formation in the United States,” available online and forthcoming in Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. This blog post was originally posted on Work in Progress, a public sociology blog of the American Sociological Association.

Source: TIME

A hallmark of the late teens through the 20s is attainment of social roles that signify the balance of independence, interdependence, responsibility, and productivity widely considered to define adulthood in Western societies. Completing education, taking on full-time work, and starting a family are social signals that someone has left adolescence to become a “real” adult.

This process of becoming an adult, however, looks different for today’s young people than it did 20 years ago. Over the last several decades, the transition into adulthood has become delayed and elongated for two reasons. First, the decline of the manufacturing sector and growth of the information/service sector have massively reshaped the economy into an hourglass labor market with little middle ground between the security afforded by professional careers and the insecurity of low-wage work. Second, that economic restructuring has affected cultural views about when young people “should” form families—after securing economic independence, which is increasingly difficult.

The transition into adulthood also looks different based on youth’s social class and family background. The different resources that families provide can shape whether transitions into adult roles are launch pads into a successful adulthood or a time of stagnation that limits future opportunities. Parents’ own college education influences the knowledge, status, and money they can pass along to youth, and family structure influences the time and money that parents have to invest in youth.

In an article forthcoming in Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, we compared two age cohorts of youth as they aged from 16 years old to 32 years old in terms of family background disparities in how long they took to complete schooling and commit to the labor market as well as family formation transitions (marrying, becoming a parent) closely tied to such socioeconomic attainment. We found young people today are indeed delaying transitions into a number of adult roles. Those delays, however, look different depending on youth’s family backgrounds.

Delayed transitions into adult roles

Compared to the older age cohort of young people coming of age in the 1980s, the more recent cohort of young adults in the early 2000s was, on average, slightly younger when they completed their schooling and had their first child and slightly older when they entered the labor force and got married for the first time. More of those young adults had college-educated parents but fewer lived with both biological parents when they were teenagers.

Proportion Not Yet Experiencing Each Transition, by Cohort (Kaplan-Meier Survival Estimates)
Proportion Not Yet Experiencing Each Transition, by Cohort (Kaplan-Meier Survival Estimates)

All things being equal, the most recent age cohort was less likely to have completed schooling, fully entered the labor force, married, or become parents by their 30s than those in the older cohort. The descriptive figure above shows the divergence of when cohorts moved into adult roles, with each graph depicting the proportion of young adults that had not yet transitioned into the role at each age. Labor force entry, for example, occurred earlier and at a sharper rate for the older age cohort in blue compared to the more recent cohort in red.

Having college-educated parents also made young people less likely to complete those transitions. Living with both parents as a teenager made school completion and having a baby less likely but labor force entry and getting married more likely.

Different transitions based on family background

As described above, there were overall differences in the transition into adulthood by cohort, and there was also variation in those patterns by family background. Essentially, the general delays in the transition into adulthood looked different based on young people’s parental education and family structure.

The cross-cohort drop in school completion was more pronounced among young people from more disadvantaged family backgrounds (i.e., neither parent college-educated, non-partnered parents). Compared to their more advantaged peers, youth from disadvantaged backgrounds were more likely to have completed their schooling, but that gap in school completion was larger for the older cohort than it was for the more recent cohort.

The drop in labor force entry was more pronounced among those from more advantaged backgrounds (i.e., at least one college-educated parent, partnered parents as a teenager). In the older cohort, youth from advantaged backgrounds were more likely to enter the labor force compared to youth from disadvantaged family backgrounds. In the more recent cohort, however, advantaged youth were less likely to fully enter the labor force.

Although the drop in marriage did not differ by family background, the drop in having children was more pronounced among those from more advantaged backgrounds. In both cohorts, youth from advantaged family backgrounds were less likely to have their first child in a given year during the 16-32 years old window, compared to youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. That gap in the probability of childbearing was more pronounced, though, in the more recent cohort.

Our findings confirm that young people today are delaying transitions into adult roles, which reflect large-scale economic structures and cultural norms. Contemporary young adults finish school, fully commit to the labor force, get married, and become parents significantly later than their counterparts did 20 years ago. Fewer of today’s young adults have achieved the roles that lead society to deem them “real” adults by the beginning of their 30s.

Notably, youth’s family backgrounds accounted for some of those cross-cohort differences in markers of the transition into adulthood. The delay we found in school completion among youth from disadvantaged backgrounds was likely the result of taking more time to obtain a degree with breaks in enrollment as opposed to the pursuit of advanced degrees. Youth from more advantaged backgrounds, on the other hand, may have been delaying fully entering the labor force in favor of professionalization opportunities such as internships with little or no pay but that broadened their professional networks and gave them the work experience now required for entry-level jobs.

Knowing the sources and outcomes of differences in socioeconomic attainment during the transition into adulthood is especially important for current and future generations as today’s young adults take longer to achieve adult economic roles yet delay family formation to a much smaller extent. The lack of movement in childbearing patterns among young adults from more disadvantaged backgrounds has implications for their own socioeconomic prospects and those of their children.

Our study presents a broad overview of changes in the transition into adulthood and then considers whether those changes were specific to young people from different family backgrounds. This investigation of delays in the transition into adulthood as they relate to past inequality in family background and unequal future prospects is an important first step. Future research should build off of this framework to consider geographic differences, such as local labor markets dictating job opportunities, regional norms about the appropriate age for marriage and childbearing, and cross-national comparisons including non-Western countries.




Chelsea Smith is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology and graduate student trainee in the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research focuses on family formation during young adulthood as well as how family complexity matters for children.

 Robert Crosnoe is the C.B. Smith, Sr. Centennial Chair #4 and Chair of the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. He studies child, adolescent, and youth development in relation to families, schools, and immigration.

 Shih-Yi Chao is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is interested in family and work, labor markets, and poverty.