NextProf Science 2016 – The Faculty Search Process

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How to successfully apply for a faculty position? How to write your application? How to get an interview? Read on!

Ann Miller MCDB-UMich

Bart Bartlett Chemistry-UMich

Ted Bergin Astronomy-UMich

Carol Fierke- Rachman Dean Chemistry-UMich

Rebecca Lange – Earth and Enviromental Science UMich

How do I decide when and where to apply?

Ann: Realize that a compelling research proposal takes time.  Apply after a high profile publication- a senior postdoctoral research award such as a K99 or R00 doesn’t hurt.

Bart: Spend the time preparing a compelling job packet.  Does your packet convey a compelling story and trajectory?

Carol: Remember that applicants probably have only one shot per institution.  Always put your A+ application forward- you won’t have a second chance to make a good impression.  The faculty will remember you!

Medical School vs. Graduate Schools

Ann: Have different teaching statements: one for teaching focused PUIs and one for less teaching focused institutions.

The Value of Leadership and Vision

Ted: Demonstrate leadership, and how you would connect individuals in your prospective department’s research.  Be aspirational when considering research.  Try to connect with the department.

Recommendation letters – the missing link

Ann:  Have your recommendation letters highlight and fill in the gaps.  If you have fewer papers, have your recommenders discuss your contributions to each published work.  Choose people who can demonstrate your intellectual contribution.  Usually this means your postdoc and graduate advisors plus one additional member who knows you well.  Don’t be afraid to use external letter writers who know you well and is prominent in the field.

Carol: A forth letter can be from someone who knows your work well and can speak to your scientific contributions, but may not know your well personally.  Can the writer speak to your service?  Diversity initiatives?  It will help you stand out from other qualified candidates.

Bart: Your personality will be shown in your recommenders letters.  It’s not as critical as your science during your application.

Guiding the content of your letters

Carol: Offer a 1 page suggestion of content.  Many people are busy and will use well written information rather than de novo writing.

Do you want more publications or fewer higher impact publications

Ann: Number of papers matters less than your contribution to the the advancement of your field.

Ted:  You want to demonstrate impact to the field and ownership of an area of research.

Making it past the first cut in applications

Carol: Assume you have 5 minutes of the committee’s time.  They won’t be reading your research proposal and papers in depth.

  • Use a research scheme or flow chart for reviewers to gain a quick idea of what you’d like to do.
  • List areas in the department that are strengths that you would be interested in pursuing and branching into.

Ted: Make your proposal readable and visually appealing.  Use visuals and graphics.  Use bold text. I don’t read cover letters, but view the research statement and CV.

Bart: Have you been creative in your ability to find funding?  That will make you a more appealing candidate.  You have demonstrated

Ann: Highlight posters and talks.  You can demonstrate your ownership of your field.

What are the most important criteria that search committees use to select applicants for an interview?

Ted: What diversity will the candidate bring?  Will the candidate help recruit diverse candidates?  Is your science or background appealing to other potential researchers?

Ann: Start early.  Prepare a teaching philosophy early and collaborate with centers for teaching at your home institution.  Include examples of why you would teach in a certain way, what you would teach and why you would excel at it.  What have you done so far to demonstrate your potential?

Rebecca Lange (Earth and Environmental Science- UMich): Use examples of good and bad teachers from your past.

Explaining the value of a diversity statement

Carol: Even if an application doesn’t request it, include one.  More and more institutions are factors this into their hiring.  Having a diverse faculty is becoming increasing important.  Keep it to 1 page or include in your teaching statement that the end.  Use a sub header to draw attention during the initial screen.

Bart: Participate in activities to demonstrate your commitment.

Guarding against arrogance

Carol: Have others read your statements.  There a fine line between confidence and arrogance.

Teaching philosophies

Ted: Discuss mentorship, teaching philosophies and where your mentees are now.

Carol: Discuss the methodologies you would use for large and small classroom based teaching

The value of a web presence

Bart: During the initial screen, I won’t be looking.

Ted: This may be more relevant for follow up after meetings.

Carol: Include in a link in your CV if you’re an excellent science communicator with a great website.

The important components of a strong candidancy


  1. Your research talk is critical to clearly communicate both your scientific aptitude as well as your teaching capacity.  Bart used images and similes to clearly communicate his strength as a teacher.
  2. Our group asks questions you may not be able to answer- we want to see how you think when you’re challenged.
  3. Make the use of your one-on-one faculty time.  Ask questions- faculty members want to know they can work with you.  Ask the same question- it might be enlightening to hear the different answers.

Bart: You will be evaluated from the time you arrive at the airport to time you leave.  Make use of your restroom breaks.  No one will ask and you can have a breather.

Rebecca: If you are giving only one talk, that is the commonality that all the faculty will compare.  Use the resources available to prepare- TED, books, etc.  Welcome the hard questions.  Prepare- make your slides, graphs, etc readable.  Don’t lose your audience on the little things.  Keep your story digestible and cohesive.  Don’t tell lots of little fragmented stories.

Ann: Attend candidates’ chalk talks so you can see how others handle.  Keep on message.  How will your story advance your further research.

Negotiating salary and start up

Carol: Make your case for what you need to be successful, but don’t be demanding.  Is there a piece of equipment that multiple people could share?

Ann: Focus on the science, rather than on the money or equipment.  What are the key pieces of equipment you’ll need?  Why would you be a good fit?  Get a start up list from someone who had recently become a faculty member so you know the must haves.  Discuss teaching requirements and assignments- will you be teaching the same courses or developing courses continuously during your pre-tenure time?

Discuss personnel and space.  If you need renovations and your space isn’t ready, the clock has started, but you’re not doing research.  You can negotiate a start date to get departmental support for a K99/R00 application.

Carol: Discuss mentoring and departmental support.

Ted: Public universities often have published salary data.  Look it up and use this information in your negotiations.

Rebecca: Be forthright with the chair, but circumspect with others.  You don’t want others to make the case that you’d be too expensive.

Discussing the “two body problem”

Carol: Some institutions are welcoming of such a discussion.  If so, bring up you concerns early.  If you’re not sure how the faculty will react, wait. After an offer, you can negotiate.

Ted: Consider whether you and your significant other are in the same department or another field.  Generally don’t discuss it.  If you choose to do so, discuss it with the chair who make be more likely to keep your discussion in confidence.

Preparing for interviews with upper administration

Carol: These interviews are more informational.  Compare prepared with questions.  How you view teaching and diversity?  They usually don’t make the decisions, but it varies significantly from institution to institution.

How the decision happens

Carol and Ann: Some departments are so large that subcommittees make decisions, but be prepared to interact with everyone and work well with all.

Ann: Core facilities and inter department collaborations are best discussed with Dean.