Each issue, we ask professors a question that we think might provide useful information to current students. This issue, we asked:
What are the biggest and/or most common mistakes you see job candidates making in their applications, job talks, or interviews?
The most important part of the process of finding a job is what you do in the years BEFORE you send in your first application. During that time you of course need to learn the substance and methods of your field of research. But, even more importantly, you need to develop a sense of who you are as a scientist: what is important to you and why, and what ideas you want to promote in the field. In other words, develop a point of view and an "attitude" that sets you apart. This is much easier said than done, but it's necessary to provide an answer to this question: Why should the college of your dreams hire you, and not somebody else?
-DAVID FUNDER, University of California Riverside
In general, I think candidates perform really well. The job interview process can be very stressful,and those of us on the evaluation side are aware of that. The best advice that I received, which I now give to my students, is to be yourself and try to enjoy your visit. If you have gotten an interview, the faculty already think highly of your work. Now we just want to learn more about it and get to know you as a person.
-ETHAN KROSS, University of Michigan
One of the biggest issues that I see is having a disorganized job talk. Job candidates should know their lines of research and their data better than anyone, and should be able to tell a compelling story about their work in their job talk. It is the candidate’s job to show us why their work is interesting and important. Being defensive during Q&A is another big “no no.”
-ERICA SLOTTER Villanova University
Job applications: Are evaluated on their merits – if they stand out for other reasons, it’s often not a good sign! Avoid too much information (your statement of research should NOT be 3 times longer than the norm), too little information (DO include everything that was requested), or typos. Don't do things that make the hiring committee work extra hard to dig for what is relevant. One example is padding the "publications" section of your CV with "in preparation" work. Even if you wish your publications section was longer, clearly label your accomplishments for what they are.
Job talks: People will recognize good research when they hear it, but it can be a pitfall to assume it will speak for itself. Remember that your audience is evaluating not only the research, but how you present it: Can you teach? Can you think on your feet? Do you show clear ownership of the research? Candidates can also come across poorly if they answer questions too glibly, are too ready to agree with every criticism or too apt to defensively blow them off. Get used to answering questions - this is a skill that can take years to hone, so take every opportunity to present and discuss your work. Treat questions (even critical ones) as an opportunity to discuss ideas you care about with intelligent, engaged people who can always add new perspectives.
-ANNE WILSON, Wilfrid Laurier University