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Make it memorable.

NatC
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Fri, Nov 05, 2010, 8:27 pm CDT

Gerty-Z just wrote a blog post describing 600 applications for a junior faculty position. What strategies do you use to make your application memorable (in a good way)?



Genomic Repairman
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Sun, Oct 31, 2010, 7:38 pm CDT

An easy to read CV helps out a ton, I served as a student member on a faculty search committee before and we saw some terrible ones.



biochem belle
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Sun, Oct 31, 2010, 7:44 pm CDT

I recall Dr. Zen posting at NeuroDojo about the importance of the teaching statement. He's at a university where teaching is required, and he commented that many people have an extensive research plan but a pretty terse and vague teaching statement--which is not going to land you a job if there is an emphasis on teaching.



NatC
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Thu, Nov 04, 2010, 9:18 pm CDT

Yeah. @GRM - I had the same experience. Let's assume everything is solid, and gets through triage. Is there something that makes an application glow (other than GlamourMag pubs and a pile of funding $$)? Or is just...down to the quirks of each department?


Odyssey
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Fri, Nov 05, 2010, 6:55 am CDT

I've served on a bunch of search committees and there are two things I come away with every time. First is that there are a lot of people out there who appear incapable of putting together a decent CV/research plan/teaching statement. Second, how the hell did I get a job? Seriously. In many ways it's a crap shoot...

Okay, how do you stand out? In many ways it is down to quirks in the department you're applying to. Do your homework - how would your research fit within the department? You don't have to spend hours on this, but it earns you brownie points if you put something in your cover letter about this. Do you strengthen a particular area within the department? Do you bring new techniques that people there would benefit from? If you're applying for a position that's specifically targeted towards someone with particular skills or research, how do you fit within that? Put this all in your cover letter (and consider highlighting it somehow in your CV).

Your CV should be easy to follow. Ditch the fancy fonts and colors. Use white space and 12 point font - no one want to read a dense CV in 10 point font. Put the information we want to see up front - education, postdoc training, publications and funding (if any). Teaching experience should come after that. Then put in the "fluff" - awards, society memberships, any administrative stuff you've done etc. It's not that that stuff doesn't help, it's just that it's less important than the other stuff. Have lots of people look at and critique, seriously critique, your CV. Try to get as many faculty at your postdoc institution to look at it as possible.

Guess what? Glamourmag publications aren't everything they're cracked up to be. You need a good, solid publication record with a good number of first authorships. One Nature first authorship plus three middle authorship papers likely won't outweigh four first authorships in decent (society-level?) journals. The number of publications you need is very field dependent, so I'm not going to offer numbers other than zero is not good.

Funding helps. If you're in the biomedical fields, a K99 or some kind of development award is a very good thing. But don't despair if you haven't landed one. List any funding you've had - postdoc and grad student fellowships, travel awards etc. And, if you've been applying for funding, let us know even if your applications were trashed (but don't tell us that part!). If don't have funding, we want to see that you have some track record of at least trying (even if just at the postdoc and grad student fellowship level). My department has hired four people in the last 2.5 years. Two had K99's. Two didn't have funding* (and beat out applicants that did). Like I said, it helps, but it's not absolutely essential.

Your research plan needs to be well thought out and concise. If you're exceeding five pages it's way too long. You want to highlight why what your are proposing is important, why you're the right person to do it, how you're going to do it, and, importantly, how you plan to fund all this. Actually say where you plan to send proposals and what the proposals will cover. Be careful in your research plan to make sure you're not proposing to use multi-million dollar fancy equipment not available where you are applying, unless you can justify this (i.e. through established collaborations).

Don't neglect the teaching statement. This can help even at research-intensive institutions. Outline what teaching you have done. Talk about your approach to teaching and what you would be excited to teach. Don't, under any circumstances, say what you don't want to teach. Ultimately you will do the teaching you are assigned, like it or not. I found this the most painful thing to put together because I lacked real teaching experience. But I guess mine was good enough. Put some thought and effort into it. No one is expecting a work of art, but we do want to see that you realize this is an important part of the job.

Most of all, make everything in your packet clear and easy to follow. Always, always, always put the important stuff up front.

 

 

 

* One of these landed an R01 with his first application.


Dr Becca, Ph.D.
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Fri, Nov 05, 2010, 9:46 am CDT

Odyssey, this is all so great, thanks so much! I've always been putting pubs last on my CV, but what you say about moving the important stuff up makes a lot of sense. I'm also wondering how important it is to have non-first author pubs? Does it look like you aren't a "team player" or whatever if most or all your papers are first author?


Odyssey
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Fri, Nov 05, 2010, 10:42 am CDT

@Dr. Becca:

I've expanded my response into a blog post. Seems like it might be of general interest...

Some second author pubs are good to see from the "team player" point of view. Very little science is done without collaborations (intra- and/or interlab) now, so it helps to show you can work as part of a team. Having said that, first authorships trump all else. Having most (or even all) of your publications as first authorships is never a bad thing.


Gerty-Z
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Fri, Nov 05, 2010, 12:21 pm CDT

that is the best advice ever, Odyssey! I just want to reiterate: if there is something that you want me to see, PUT IT UP FRONT.

@Dr. Becca-I think that the middle-author pubs are not ever bad, but also not required. I didn't have any. In fact, I only had 2 author pubs from postdoc. That is just the way my lab rolled.


Dr Becca, Ph.D.
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Fri, Nov 05, 2010, 12:38 pm CDT

@Odyssey OK, phew! My papers do include authors from multiple labs/institutions, so hopefully it's clear that I do collaborate.

I am a team player, it's just that I'm also team captain :)


Odyssey
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Fri, Nov 05, 2010, 2:35 pm CDT

I am a team player, it's just that I'm also team captain :)

That makes you TT material!


Dr. O
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Fri, Nov 05, 2010, 4:09 pm CDT

Dr Becca, Ph.D. said:

@Odyssey OK, phew! My papers do include authors from multiple labs/institutions, so hopefully it's clear that I do collaborate.

I am a team player, it's just that I'm also team captain :)

Hee, hee - I like this (and Odyssey's reply ;). Almost all of my papers are first author too, but most involve collaborations I've coordinated myself. It always seemed like this was a good thing for rolling into the TT, but it makes me a bit sad to see a shorter list of pubs on my CV as a result.

 


Dr Becca, Ph.D.
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Fri, Nov 05, 2010, 8:27 pm CDT
Yay! I am going to add this to my cover letter. "In addition to the above qualifications, my Internet friend Odyssey says that I am TT material." :)
@Dr O, I also feel like my pub volume suffers because of being team captain, but I hope like others have said, the 1st authors are more important
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