Three quick tips for faculty job applications

In the past month, I've been helping friends with their applications for tenure-track faculty jobs at research-intensive universities. Here are three quick tips for the application stage:

  1. Make the first paragraph of your research statement outstanding. This is the main pitch for what research you've done, why it's significant, and most importantly, why people should get excited about what you want to do in the future. Each hiring committee is reading 100 to 500 applications, so if your opening paragraph is boring, then you're toast.

  2. Apply broadly to a wide range of universities, not just to the top 10. You can't control the behind-the-scenes randomness within each department's hiring committee, so the only surefire way to improve your odds is to apply broadly. Twenty to forty schools is reasonable. If you're at a top-ranked school, your advisor might grossly overestimate your chances and shun non-top-ranked schools. As a result, I've seen several top-school students with super-famous advisors make the mistake of not applying broadly and ending up with zero interviews. Don't let this happen to you.

  3. Contact professors wherever you are applying if you or your mentors know any faculty there. I had personal contacts at 8 of the 10 schools where I got interviews; either I knew someone there, or one of my mentors knew someone and put in a good word for me. At one interview, an ultra-blunt professor even told me, “Look, the only reason you're here is because X told me to consider your application.” Don't feel bashful about emailing relevant faculty, even if you aren't particularly close to them; they want to hire good people who do work that interests them. As long as you send a concise and well-written email, people won't dismiss you as a spammer. And if you're shy, then get your mentors to email their colleagues on your behalf.

Good luck on your application, and read more faculty job search tips here.

Created: 2013-12-20
Last modified: 2013-12-20