Dr Karen Kelsky from The Professor Is In delivered a talk on hacking the US academic job market last week and offered several insightful tips:
Stand out from the slush pile of applications
- Most US academic jobs receive 200-900 applications. This means committee members decide within roughly 20 seconds whether to continue reading an application or to reject it. While that might sound discouraging, combining a strong record with well-crafted application materials and polished interview skills are likely to enhance your chances of success.
- Know the timetable for US academic recruitment: adverts go live typically in August/September, with deadlines beginning November, first round interviews just into the New Year and campus visits in April/May.
- Vacancies are usually found through the US learned society for your subject area (eg see here for National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine jobs board).
Build up a strong record
- Major, refereed journal publications (write your dissertation with the aim of publishing some chapters), receiving national grants, participating in conferences, particularly US conferences, lecturing solely on at least one course, and developing a network of individuals within and outside your institution who can recommend you, will all contribute towards a strong record.
Write well-crafted applications and interview effectively
- Keep job applications concise, limiting cover letters to 2 pages and teaching statements to 1 page. Ensure applications are fact-based and avoid using emotion-based language (eg I am passionate/fascinated/driven, etc). Show rather than tell, your interest and achievements in your field.
- Prepare a brief but strong statement summarizing the contributions you can make to your field.
- Demonstrate in applications and interviews that you are thinking ahead to obtaining tenure. Make a 5-year plan of what you plan to achieve and share it with the committee.
- Prepare concise bullet point answers for potential interview questions, practice them comprehensively, and mould your experience to the job description in answers.
- Approach applications and interviews with the mind set of a faculty peer, not a student! Display professionalism in your language and attire, and avoid taking a backpack to interviews (unless you’re an astronomer!).
All the best with your applications!
Blog post by Nudrat Siddiqui, Research Staff Development Officer
Photo by Donald Lush