Going on the Rookie Job Market

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Identifying Target Institutions

There are several sources that rank and compare universities, including on this wiki site. Note: getting a good academic job is a very competitive process, so don't target too narrowly. While research and regional preferences will help you narrow down your list of schools, it is better to apply to too many schools then to too few.

Sending packets

What do I include in my packet?

A typical packet will include the following items:

  • Your VITA
  • A copy of your dissertation
  • A copy of other working papers (not a necessity, but I recommend it)
  • A research statement
  • A teaching statement
  • Letters of recommendation (typically 3 letters, 1 from your committee chair, and 2 from other members of your committee). It may be appropriate to include a letter from someone not on your chair who has had extensive exposure to your work and potential.

When should I send my packets?

The unofficial deadline for packets is November 30th of the year before you will start. It is not unheard of for packets to arrive after this date, but it is not recommended.

How many packets should I send?

This can vary based on the candidate, target schools, PhD granting institution, and year (some years are better than others). Some candidates send as few as 10 packets. Others send as many as 50.

Awaiting for and scheduling interviews

When will I hear from schools?

A few schools contact interview candidates in mid-late January. But the most active time of interview invitations is in early February. However, invitations to visit campus are often extended as late as mid-March.

Other info

  • The school inviting you to interview should cover all costs related to your visit.
  • Schools are often willing to combine one trip with visits to multiple schools (e.g., a student wanting to visit two or more schools on the East Coast without returning home in between each visit), and to share the associated costs.
  • Some recommend scheduling your first interview at a “back-up” or “safety” school, if possible. This allows you to get experience interviewing and to get comfortable with the process before visiting other (more desirable) schools. However, doing so isn’t always possible. And it may not make a difference in the end.

The Interview (campus visit)

General

Don’t arrive to an interview unprepared. Do some research on the faculty there, their research interests, other schools they’ve worked, etc. Doing so will help you have a more productive visit and will help you leave a good impression on the faculty.

Office visits

The bulk of your day will be occupied visiting various faculty members, usually for 30 minutes each. This is a good time to get a feel for the work atmosphere, to ask questions about their experience at the school, to ask about living in the area, etc. Sometimes the conversation will revolve, at least in part, around research (either yours or theirs), but this doesn’t necessarily happen with each visit.

The workshop

This is the most important aspect of your interview. It is at this time where you will be evaluated based on your (a) capacity to conduct high-level research, (b) ability to think on your feet, (c) intellectual acumen, (d) ability to communicate clearly and effectively, and (e) teaching ability.

During your workshop (and all workshops): be polite, don’t be defensive, acknowledge valid shortcomings about your paper, explain why you think a particular criticism may not apply to your work (in other words, not being defensive doesn’t mean you have to be a push-over), don’t stand in one place the whole workshop, and be gracious.

Most importantly, be an expert in the area of your dissertation. Know more about your research area than what is in the paper itself. Know the institutional details and nuances of your area. If those in attendance at your workshop leave having learned something from you, you will have done a good job.

Questions to ask on the interview

Work:

  • Access to data?
  • Teaching requirements (now and throughout the tenure clock)?
  • Support from senior faculty?
  • Tenure requirements?
  • Face time?
  • Service requirements?
  • Support from the Dean?
  • General environment (this is observed as much as it is asked)

Life:

  • Do you like living here?
  • What are the schools like?
  • Where do most faculty live (and how far from campus is it)?

Note 1: It is OK to ask the same question to multiple people. Not only is it impossible to have unique questions for everyone throughout the day, but it is also helpful to get different perspectives on the same issue.

Note 2: Assistant professors will likely be the most valuable source of credible information about the institution. You are interviewing for a job that they currently have. Make good use of your time with them.

Questions NOT to ask on the interview (or think twice before asking)

Be careful asking about salary. Also be careful about asking about financial support (e.g., summer funding, computing budgets, RATS account, etc.). You do not want to be perceived as greedy. However, asking about financial support can show your interest in research and it is important to understand how you will be supported. These questions may be appropriate if/when you have an offer. But they are likely not appropriate during the interview.

In addition, avoid acting disinterested on your visit, or like you are “above” working at a particular school. Even if the school you are visiting is your last choice, be excited about visiting the school, and at least act like you are interested in working there. (If you really aren’t interested in working there, you shouldn’t have sent them a packet in the first place.) Regardless of where you ultimately get a job, you will have done yourself (and possibly your PhD–granting institution) a disservice if you come off poorly in your interviews.

Things to observe or investigate about a potential school

  • Work environment (is that a place you’d like to go to work every day?)
  • What is the record of those who have recently been granted tenure at this school?
  • What was the record of those who have recently NOT been granted tenure at this school?
  • Of those who left this school, where did they get their next job?

After the Interview

Do I send thank-you notes? If so, via email or through the mail?

It is definitely a good idea to have some follow-up after your interview. At a minimum, make an effort to thank those with whom you had extended contact (e.g., those who helped arrange the visit, those who took you to a meal, those who offered valuable feedback on your paper, those you may have otherwise bonded with). Whether or not you send formal thank-you cards in the mail or simple emails is a matter of personal preference.

When will you hear if you get an offer?

The answer depends on a variety of factors, including how early in the process you interviewed, how eager they are to hire you specifically, and others.

Managing multiple offers?

If you receive more than one offer, you will obviously have to turn down at least one offer. Don’t feel badly. That’s part of the process.

Just make sure you are upfront with everyone, and that you don’t mislead any school. If you are deciding between School X and School Y, tell them you plan to make a decision within the week (or whatever your timing is like), and stick to that. I think schools appreciate honesty and clarity, even if you ultimately turn down their offer.

Do not sit on a school’s offer for an extended period of time. In doing so, you prevent the other school from moving to their next candidate (in the event you ultimately turn them down), and you run the risk of annoying your future colleagues.

Be very leery of using School X’s offer to increase the salary offered by School Y. This strategy can backfire, even if you ultimately get a little extra money.



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