Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Job Market

Over at Labspaces, there is a discussion about job applications. It started at Balanced Instability describing a shit-ton of applications for a job opening in her department, and has evolved at Pondering Blather with a discussion about how to make your application stand out.

It's a fascinating discussion, but it highlights what for me is one of the most frustrating things about the application process - conflicting advice on how to structure your job application.
Cover Letter? Essential! No-one cares!
Research statement? No longer than 5 pages! Grant-like in detail! Overview of your big picture question! More than two pages and you're screwed!
CV?  Include your teaching experience! Remove your teaching experience!

There are a couple of things that everyone agrees on: Write well / Tailor your application to the department / Make it easy and clear to real / Follow the directions / Don't neglect the teaching statement if it's required, although these belong under the heading of DUH! common sense.

To be honest, I'm glad these postings went up after the bulk of my applications were submitted, I was anxious enough about the whole process. But even so I had moments of panic reading this - 5 pages for research statement? Mine was two, unless the job ad specified a shorter length. Even tailoring my job application - involved small (but potentially important) alterations in how I described my research, depending on the focus of the department and the individuals.

My take home message from this entire discussion is this: the good candidates have excellent publication record (which may or may not been multiple GlamourMag publications), and a "demonstrated ability to secure funding" and can write with reasonable fluidity. These candidates will float to the top, and the short list comes down to departmental quirks.

Which means that there's little more you can do* to make your application memorable. But maybe that's just my way of stepping back because I no longer have any control over the applications that are out there.

*assuming, of course, everything is clear and well written.

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