How Academic Hiring Works

Based on a lot of the comments I got yesterday (which I appreciated, btw!), I wanted to let you guys know how academia works. It isn’t like more other jobs. You can’t just apply for jobs whenever – academic jobs come around only once a year.

So here are the basics:

In September/October school will publicize if they have any academic openings for the next year. So for instance, in Fall of 2010 schools will advertise for position that will start Fall 2011.

Usually they will request your application material (a CV, letters of recommendation, and a research proposal, some also will require a statement of teaching philosophy) be turned in by October-December – depending on the school. These are materials that you SHOULD as an applicant have together in the summer before hiring season. All of mine are already together. =)

In December/January the school will weed the pool down to around 5-8 applicants that they like and do phone interviews. From the phone interviews they will then narrow that down to 2-3 applicants that they will fly out for an interview.

The interviews are done December – January-ish. They consist of the applicant meeting with everyone in the department, the Dean of the college, giving an hour long public seminar about the research that you’ve done, an some schools will also do an hour long closed door seminar about your proposed research. Some schools do one day interviews, some do two days. All your meals will be eaten with either potential colleagues or students at the school.

In February-March the school will decide which of the candidates that they like. They will make them an offer. Typically offers will go back and forth (I want this lab space, this amount of money for research start up, this sort of salary, ect) for 2-3 months. The final offer will be agreed upon and the person will usually be “hired” at some point between March and April (sometimes as late as May).

They would then start their new position in either June, July or August, depending on the school and their own availability.

I should also mention that these positions are very competitive. Especially now when budgets are tight and there is a back-log of very competitive people in the mix. For instance, my labmate applied for jobs this round. He sent out applications for EVERY job that he was qualified for. He got 2 phone interviews, 1 on campus interview, and he got that job. In other words, you don’t have a lot of choice as to where to go – you just have to hope that you get A job. My hope is that when I apply I’ll get offers from two places so that I at least have a choice. But that is very rare.

So from the time you apply for a school to the time that you (hopefully) start, a year has passed.

I did not apply during the 2009 job cycle (for a job that would start Fall 2010) because I was not ready to do so. My research was not far enough along, my proposals for independent research were not developed enough, and my two year fellowship had just begun. The idea all along between my boss and I was to apply in 2010 for jobs in 2011.

However, an amazing opportunity was given to me in that my dream school put out an announcement for the Fall 2010 school year in FEBRUARY. This is very unheard of – and is in fact exceptionally rare.

Even better, I have previously taught at this school in Fall 2007 as an adjunct faculty member. When I was there I did express interest in returning as a full time faculty member. The chair told me that I should get some more research experience before I would be a competitive candidate. This is exactly what I’m doing here in the Midwest.

So I jumped at the opportunity and applied for this position. It has been three weeks since I applied and I haven’t heard back from the college. I called the Dean of the Arts and Sciences college yesterday (who also happens to know me) and he was in a meeting. I left a message for him. I will give him another week to call me back.

I know it is downright SILLY to pin my hopes on one school, but this is the school I want to be at. It is in the perfect city, it is the perfect size, it is close to research contacts that I already have. Every part of me wants to get back there. And I feel like I have a lot to add to the department with the skills that I have gotten in graduate school and now in my post-doctoral training.

Anyway, so this is how academic hiring works. If I do not get this job, I will have to wait until the Fall 2011 school year to (hopefully) start a faculty position. I really, really, really hope I get this job. Or at least have the opportunity to even interview for it. I feel very strongly that if I could just get an interview, they will see how good of a candidate I am.

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9 Responses to How Academic Hiring Works

  1. Okay. Thanks so much for posting this. It really helps, since I will be throwing my hat in the ring in 2011. YIPES!

    I am thinking positive thoughts for you on the interview front. They really should hire you, of course, I am biased. But I think you and the school are a great fit.

    Be sure to keep us posted on what happens. =)

  2. The whole process sounds scary…eek. Thanks for posting this! If you think about it, you got an opportunity to apply before your normal hiring cycle, which is pretty cool. If nothing else, it will be great practice and preparation for next year. I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed for you that you get this job, though!

    • SS4BC says:

      You are ABSOLUTELY right. And this is how I sold it to my boss to let me apply. That it was a school that was familiar with me, so if nothing else I’d be able to get feedback on what I need to do better to make my application stronger in the fall.

  3. Ah, that explains why your job is suddenly so hard to stick with. The good news is that, even if you don’t get the job this time, if they have any openings for next year you’ll look very dedicated. The bad news is that, as you know, academic hiring is cutthroat at the best of times and these are not them.

    If you quit this job without an academic offer, are you torpedoing your chances of ever getting a job in academia, or just sidetracking them?

    • SS4BC says:

      If I quit this job I’m screwing any chance I get at an academic position that isn’t at a community college. In essence, I wouldn’t be able to get a “good” faculty position.

      (Not to knock community colleges in the least, I’m just shooting a little bit higher on the academic ladder)

  4. Jessie says:

    wow! what a super paiful process.

    We’ll be crossing our fingrs for the job you just applied for!

  5. eemusings says:

    Oh man, I have my fingers crossed for you!

  6. Revanche says:

    You know I totally have my fingers AND toes crossed for you.

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