Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Carney Sandoe, the Job Search & My First Referral

Would you hire me?
Guest Post by Benjamin Harrison

As some of those who are considering the leap to teaching in a prep school know, Carney, Sandoe and Associates (CSA) are the most important name in the business.

For the uninitiated, CSA is a search firm hired by independent schools to help them fill teaching and administrative vacancies. Candidates “apply” to CSA and if they are accepted, the firm then operates as a matchmaker, connecting candidates with schools. The hard part (or at least the first hard part) is getting past the CSA gatekeeper. Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this process is that even having gone through the process, I have no idea what CSA looks for in a candidate.

A few years ago I applied, and got nowhere. Last year I applied again, and made it. Same guy, same CV for the most part (I doubt they care that my book is under contract!), different result. My only piece of advice is that if you apply and get turned down, contact someone at CSA and ask how you can improve your application. I know this runs counter to everything we hear about the market – the discussion forum on the Chronicle of Higher Education has many, many threads telling candidates not to contact the search committee and ask why they were turned down.

The difference, of course, is that a university’s search committee doesn’t care even a little bit whether you ever find a job. (Hell, by the time you receive your rejection they have forgotten your name.) CSA, in contrast, would be pleased as punch if you were to submit a stronger application, get through the process, and then get hired. Why? Because that’s how they make their money.

Once CSA accepts you, you have to fill out an extensive questionnaire to make sure that the match is a good one. The questions range from teaching background and interests, to the kind of school you’d prefer (boarding? Single-sex? Military? Religious? Militantly religious?), to your geographic preferences, and interest in extracurricular activities. Then you submit a vita, personal statement, transcripts and a list of references. And then you wait for CSA to work their magic.

The magic begins to happen . . . well, in my case it began today when I received my first referral. A referral is simply an email announcing that CSA has sent your file to a particular school. Ideally (though not always) the school will fit the criteria you laid out in the candidate questionnaire. In some cases, the school will then contact you offering a phone interview. In others, you must make the first move, sending a cover letter and/or email confirming your interest in the position.

The referral I received today stated that if I am interested in the position, I should follow up by mail or email. In this case, I have decided not to follow up – it is a relatively new school, which raises concerns about its stability, and (to be honest) at this point I’m feeling pretty picky.

*Have any comments or questions about the private school application process? Ask your questions here, or drop me a line at


Corinne said...

It's interesting how everything is so hush-hush at CSA. One year you're OUT, the next year you're IN. Weird?! I haven't actually contacted them yet b/c I'm still on the sad academic merry-go-round but I'm watching your story with great interest and waiting to see what develops.

I think they'd refuse to represent me right now since I have 0 experience working with HS kids and haven't talked in a few years due to postdocs. Which is why I need to get my ducks in order over the next 12 months.

Corinne again said...

Whoops, meant to say, I haven't TAUGHT in a few years. Not talked. No vow of silence here!

Eliza Woolf said...

That may be true, Corinne, but, as BH notes here, you never know what CSA are looking for at any given moment. It might be better to seek representation and see what happens. If you're rejected, you could always ask what exactly you need to work on to improve your application and then reapply next year. (Assuming they'll share this info. with you at all, since they seem to be a pretty cryptic bunch in my experience.)
Just a thought. We'll see what BH thinks.

Anonymous said...

I bet CSA has quite a few PhDs contacting them for representation, esp. now, so they're probably pretty picky. The more teaching experience you have and the more successful you look in your current position, the better your chance. If you're unemployed or an adjunct, it might be rough sailing. IMHO.

Benjamin said...

In many ways its going to be field dependent. I have a good friend who would be an excellent teacher, but Carney turned her down because she is an Art Historian.

While a few schools have an art historian on staff, most do not. Thus the cost of adding art history people to their roster of candidates is not justified by the revenue they bring in - they turn down most, if not all, art historians. For better or worse, CSA a for-profit company. If they think they can place you, they'll take you; if they don't, they won't.

An interesting question (which I cannot answer) is whether having a non-western focus has the same benefit for prep schools as colleges. Many prep schools simply don't offer much non-western history, so CSA may not need many of them on their rolls.

Of course if you do East Asia, you're probably not looking for a prep school job!

h evans said...

i am finishing a phd in the humanities and i have been working with carney, sandoe this year. the hard part has been trying to secure letters (since i have to be very hush hush), but working with them has been incredibly easy so far. i have been a candidate for one month, have received 14 referrals in desirable places, have been told i am a strong candidate (no anti-phd sentiments), and have had my say in what types of jobs i want. i don't know what i will happen, but right now it seems like a viable option and is quite refreshing compared to the academic jobs run around.

Anonymous said...

CSA is one of the most dishonest, no morals, lying companies of its kind. They will lie right to your face about openings, and then create a story why they would not even let you interview for certain jobs. I have used them in the past, but never will again. No integrity with this company. Use someone, anyone, else to find a job.

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