Academic Job Search Session Notes

I went to a well attended and well put together panel discussion at Case today entitled "Behind the Scenes with the Search Committee: The Academic Application Process". It was actually intimidating and made me realize that my game needs to be improved if I want to have a shot at a prof job at a decent university. It also made me wonder if I'm really still up for the game and if I made the best decision coming to CSU instead of going to a better school for my post doc. Coming here likely puts me at a disadvantage. But the one positive thing was that networking plays a strong role at getting you where you want to be, and I think I'm decent at that. So maybe I can keep hanging on. I've also been so caught up in the open science world that it was a small smack in the face to realize how much emphasis is still put on publication counts for these tenure track positions. They also put a ton of emphasis on being first author on a paper, even if it has a bunch of authors. There are so many problems with showing who contributed what in a body of work. All of this is really frustrating.

Here are the notes from this first session: October 25, 2013

Sciences/Engineering Academic Job Search

James Swain: Associate Prof Nutrition Ruth Keri: Prof. Pharmacology Dave Schiraldi: Prof/Chair Molecular Science and Engineering Ronald Hickman: Associate Prof. Nursing

Lynmarie Hamel lxh5@case.edu organized the event. She is the Associate Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.

She contacted Crystal Weyman who is an ex-dean of grad studies at CSU and Crystal said there were 10 post docs at CSU. So Lynmarie invited those post docs to the session.

At first each person gave a little intro:

Ronald

He is brand new faculty. He did a post doc where he only did research. Had no teaching experience. Said that he didn't even submit a teaching statement with his resume (he may have not submitted a research statement either).

  • Took full advantage of social media
  • Make sure to find and talk to the chairs and deans at conferences
  • Being prepared for the interview is important
  • Read at least abstracts of other professors before the interview
  • Be yourself and be comfortable

Dave

  • Networking is king
  • He got 1 interview out of 70 resumes (came from industry back to academia), but then some networking got him 2 job offers
  • The just opened up applications for a new position 2 weeks ago. Already 40 applicants, 20 don't cut it out the box, will whittle down to 4, at the end they'll have 100 applicants. They want someone in particular to apply so they will leave the position open until that person applies. Then they will close it and add that person to the top 4, to get 5 out of ~100 applicants for the interview round.

Ruth

  • Last Cancer center position had 130 applicants, interviewed 7, made an offer to 2
  • Have your PI talk to the person who is running the search committee
  • They try to be efficient. So the first thing she does is count papers and where papers were published. She nixes anyone with low counts and no papers in good journals.

Question from Dave to Ruth: Are you happy with proceedings mixed in with journal articles in the CV? No! They are not "real" papers. Don't blend them with your real papers. Also, don't have many review papers. They seem to look down on lots of review papers. You need you need to be first author on papers with original science.

James

  • Most advice is well intentioned, but not all advice is suitable. Tried to say something like "don't listen to the advice of everyone" be selective.
  • Think about what type of environment you want to work in.
  • Think about what fits you and seek that out.
  • You should also interview the interviewer.

Question from Lynmarie: What makes up an application package?

James: It depends on the position. Publications are always important. Key indicators.

Ruth: First a cover letter. Make sure you are engaging in language, not weak. Talk about your strengths and don't be shy. Really sell yourself. CV: all of pubs, research expertise, research statement (best length 4-5 pages, figures are nice), what you've done and what you expect to do. If they put a teaching statement (1 to 1/2 page) in and your are strong it is a bonus, but teaching statements are not a necessity. They assume you can teach. Reference letters from your PI's. Make sure they can write you a strong letter, it needs to be outstanding.

You need to be able to get NIH grants.

Dave: teaching statement (2 pages), it may be a 20 page CV just because people have done a lot. don't put more than you need in the CV "what you heard in grade school: long enough to cover the subject but short enough to be interesting". He is put off by a 1 page statements, need to be longer. No one reads your statements unless you are a finalist. Your package has to wow everyone in 3-5 minutes. The first person marks you off the finalist list in 3-5 minutes. Don't write like an idiot. Definitely no spelling errors.

Question to Dave: Do you find yourself going to a specific section in the package first? He reads cover letter in 30 seconds. Get the gist, the look at CV. He has a spreadsheet: gender, race, current job, where did get phd, comments: publications (such as "real 12 publications in high end journals"), already got a grant. After all that, then speed read research statement. Read teaching statements after you are selected for final round.

Women and minorities have an advantage, use it!

Ron: In nursing it is all about the publication record, and recommendation letters.

Ruth: Get letter from collaborator from another university.

Question from audience: Are you looking for quality or quantity of publication?

Ruth: You need to be a leader in your field, publish high quality papers that make you recognized in your field.

Dave: They should already know who you are when you apply, Hang out with the people that you aspire to take their jobs.

Apply to all labs for post docs: Apply for tons of labs. Indicate that you will apply for a fellowship as soon as you join the lab.

Get experience teaching in your post doc position.

Rules are different in undergrad institute and will focus on teaching instead of research.

Research Statement: Do you write the statement based on what you've done? Write about what you PhD was on, what your Postdoc is on, and how this will launch you into in your research at the university. You have to give a talk that shows what your plans will be.

James: Knowing the unanswered questions in your research field and know who the main players are and what they are thinking about. Be sure to read in detail the job description to see what you will be doing: research, teaching, other. Be an active member of research orgs. Present at conferences.

Ruth: Better have skill set to answer the questions that you propose. Need to look like a clear progression from your current research, not too much shooting for the stars. Be able to back up what you will claim to do.

Dave: On day 3 after being hired you will be asked what grant proposal are you writing? Because they are due in 30 days. Spend entire first summer writing grants proposals. A new prof should make 2 or 3 grant proposals between july and new years.

Ruth: Looking for primary authorship: In bioscience the person who does the bench work and writes the paper is first author. You can detail your contributions in the research statement. You are expected to have led a lot of stuff.

First post doc: how to find a post doc?

Dave: go to the best school possible, with the best advisor possible. Some colleagues don't respond to post doc requests. He gets 2 post doc requests a day. He will only hire ones that are brought to him. The probability that your cv lands on someones desk when they need you is very low.

James: Many people that visited poster and oral presentations of his were scouts for the places he applied to. Get someone that is well known in the field because it will open a lot of doors.

Ruth: Mentorship: post doc mentor. Could be a fabulous lab but mentorship is poor, then it might not be good. Check on what people go to after being in that lab.

Question from audience: If prof applicant asks how they will be supported? Is it needy?

What measures are in place to help them succeed? What is the mentorship for junior faculty? Ask the deans about their conversion rate. Is the environment truly supportive. Ask the most junior people? Find out how you are being looked after? Show that you know what you need and that you are going after it.

What if you have some papers that are submitted?

Don't write "under preparation". Say where it is submitted. Say that has gotten through triage at nature.

Ruth: only tolerates one paper under preparation.

The letters are not looked at until the applicant gets short listed.

A luke warm reference letter is damaging.

Question from me: What are the numbers of pubs you look for? What is the real number? Quantity vs. Quantity?

Ruth: Post docs should have an average of one first author paper every year. Or first author on really good journal papers every 2 years.

Dave: The lowest number is 6 publications in their current hire but that person is first author on science paper. Highest is probably ~20, 12 to 18 papers is average. Dave publishes about a paper a month with 8 grad students.

Patents count too. For example, if you patent a device that brings in 100 thousands of dollars to institution, then that is valuable too.

If you don't have enough publications, then you better get a second post doc.

Ruth: average post doc time is 6 to 7 years, not interested in post docs 10 years after their phd. 4 years is minimal.

Dave: 1-4 years of post doc before getting prof position in his department

Ruth: You need emotional intelligence, if you don't have it then go to the business school and learn.

Questions I didn't get to ask:

How do you look at teaching?

They answered this indirectly. Basically at a research institute, they don't look at it except as icing on the cake.

What about alternative metrics? Data, software, starting societies, etc

They also answered this indirectly. I don't think th consider any other metrics besides, pub count, journal quality, and maybe # citations. Ronald did claim that he used social media a lot to get his job, but didn't say how.

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