Academic Job Applications: What Can Go Wrong?
Applying for academic jobs can be a fraught process! If you haven't had much experience with the academic job market, it can be hard to learn as it is quite different from applying for places at a university to be a student. Even if you have experience with applying for professional jobs, there are different norms in academic hiring which can take some time to grasp. To help you through this process, today we're covering some of the things that can go wrong during academic hiring, so you know what to look out for and how to prepare yourself.
There can be a long wait time between applying and hearing back
If you've applied for corporate jobs, you may be used to waiting a few weeks to hear back regarding a job you have applied for. But in academia, this can take much longer. It's not unusual for there to be waiting periods of months between applications being received and interviews being offered. Also, the interview process itself can take a long time, as it is generally overseen by a board or committee who have to approve hiring decisions.
This means that you need to start applying for academic jobs much earlier than you would for other jobs, and to be prepared for the process to take months or more. If you are not currently employed, you shouldn't rely on a future academic job as your source of income for now. Often, it will be a good idea to get a teaching job or a part-time job in another area to sustain you while you wait through the academic hiring process.
The interview process might not be what you expect
Interview processes will vary between institutions, ranging from a somewhat casual sit-down with some members of the department, up to a long and complex process involving multiple rounds. It is also common for academic interviews to take place at conferences, when many of the professors and applicants will be in the same place. So it's not unusual for interviews to take place in hotel rooms or conference areas if that is convenient for everyone involved.
There could be a lack of fit between you and the department
Obviously if you've applied for a job somewhere, you will have looked into the work of the department that you wish to join. But it can be hard to ascertain whether you and your research will be a good fit for the department until you actually visit the place and talk with other department members. Even if your interests match well on paper, you may find that you have a different inter-personal style or research approach to the new department. So try not to get too caught up in the idea of a job until you've had a chance to visit the place, such as at an interview, and get a feel for whether it would match your needs.
There may be practical or financial issues with your application
If you are planning to move to another country for an academic job, you need to be especially careful to find out what paperwork you will require. You might need a work permit or visa, and unlike your time as a student, you cannot apply for a student visa but will need a working visa instead. Often institutions will have departments who can help you with this, and can provide information on what documents you need and how to get them. But you shouldn't rely solely on the place you are applying to, as individuals situations can differ, so do your own research on the legal requirements of living and working somewhere.
It's also important to consider the practical needs of your partner or family, if they will be moving with you. As it is common for a couple to both be academics, some institutions now offer “dual placement” jobs. This is where the hiring institution makes an agreement that if they hire one member of a couple, they will find a position for the other member of the couple too. The facilities offered by institutions for families are widely variable, and might include either on-site child minding services or pay benefits to cover childcare costs. Dig into the details of what exactly is available, as these benefits can make a big difference to both your overall financial situation and the quality of life you will experience in your new job.
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