TNP team has put together a Q&A style post about the academic job market. Today our guest contributors answered questions about what happens after submitting your job applications, like how long to wait to hear back from the search committee, or what happens when if we get an interview or a job offer.
The Waiting Game
1. How long is the waiting period for applications?
Kameko Halfmann: This varies quite a bit depending on department organization. Once we start phone/skype interviews at my current institution we move pretty quickly (1-2 weeks of skype interviews, then 1ish week to invite to campus after they are all completed?). However, I also have had experiences where I did a skype interview and then didn’t hear from them for over a month.
Many positions I applied for with deadlines in late September started putting out offers for phone/skype interviews by mid-October.
We will typically invite ~3 people to campus for interviews, which takes place over about 2 weeks. Then as quickly as possible (within a week at the most) we make an offer and give the candidate about a week to decide. We are organized though, most don’t go this quickly.
Kathryn Narciso: In my search it was variable. For those that wanted interviews, I heard back in a couple of weeks. For rejections, I heard back months later.
Jennifer Talarico: This is highly variable! Here’s a basic outline and some common variables. There’s about a month between the call for applications and the review deadline. Then, about a month to review those applications, develop a shortlist and contact people to schedule on-campus interview. Then, another month for those interviews to occur, get permission to make an offer, and that offer to go out. Then, a candidate might be given two weeks to make a decision. If they accept the offer, then negotiations may take another month or so. At that point, other applicants should be informed that the position has been filled. However, the end/start of the semester and/or holiday schedules can intervene at any point in this process and add a delay, as can weather or other external events that require cancelations & rescheduling. Difficulties scheduling meetings of search committees, departments, and/or administrators (including HR) can all add delays. Getting permissions at each stage (e.g., to post an ad, to make an offer, to provide a benefit, etc.) can add delays. If a candidate declines an interview and/or offer and the committee needs to revisit the pool, that adds delays. Sometimes, an internal situation may arise where one opening may become two or a visiting position may become available and the committee may want to tap the existing pool for that situation – this would require more meetings, more permissions, etc. and is *sometimes* why there’s a seemingly long delay before a search is officially “closed”.
Jake Kurczek: The waiting period after applications is quite variable. Generally, we attempt to schedule a meeting within a week of the close of the application deadline (if there is a hard-deadline). Then, at the meeting we will look to come to a consensus for candidates to reach out to by phone. It may take 1-2 weeks to schedule and complete the phone interviews and if we can’t come to consensus right after the final scheduled phone interview, we’ll try to schedule another meeting as quickly as possible to find the candidates that we will look to bring to campus. It usually takes another week or two to bring the top candidates to campus and after the final campus visit, we’ll meet as soon as possible to send our recommendation to administration. Once administration receives the recommendation they’ll reach out to the top candidate perhaps as soon as within a week of their visit to as long as 2-3 weeks from the campus visit.
There are a number of issues that can slow down the process. With even a small search committee of three faculty in the department and one external faculty member, it can be difficult to find times to meet up. Then as the process proceeds to the campus interview, there are even more people’s schedules that become important. Often not only will members of the department look to meet with the candidate, but others in positions of leadership from division or college leadership, to administration (e.g. Academic Dean) and even college presidents. With college president and academic dean schedules we usually only have a handful of days to offer to candidates. This can be especially problematic for doctoral students from clinical psychology programs who are finishing their internship year because they do not have many days to request off for vacation.
2. On some job forums (like Psych Job Wiki), people update postings for positions with information about scheduled interviews, offers, etc. Do places tell you if your application is rejected? Or is it best to keep an eye on public forums for updates?
Kameko: You may not be told if your application is rejected. In fact, you probably won’t be told (unless my memory is failing me) if your app is rejected before skype interviews. I may be misremembering, though. However, if you get a phone/skype interview, they will usually keep you posted as to the status of your application. For example, they may tell you they are no longer reviewing your application, that they have invited X candidates to campus, but will keep your application on file until the position is filled, or something along those lines. In other words, I wouldn’t depend on them to tell you, but the farther along you go in the application process, the more likely they will be to communicate with you one way or the other.
Kathryn: I was told when I was rejected, it just took awhile. So the online job forums could give you some indication of the status of your application.
Jennifer: For many of the reasons listed above (and some others that are idiosyncratic but reasonable), there often isn’t official communication between the institution and rejected applicants until the search is finally, officially, really and truly over – which can seem like forever. So, in reality, your best bet for information are those informal channels. IMHO, it is unacceptable for an institution to simply not contact applicants once a hire has been made, but it does happen.
Jake: This is a really difficult question. Institutions are likely risk averse to a “failed” search and so are more likely to not reject candidates too early in the process in case first rounds of phone and campus invites don’t work-out. Generally, if someone is unqualified for the position at the stage of choosing phone interviews, those individuals will be reached out to, but everyone else who has qualifications but doesn’t quite meet the first round of invites, likely won’t be contacted until either they are invited for a phone interview or the search is successful and filled. For example, I applied to a position while I was in graduate school and received a phone interview in October/November. I didn’t hear anything after the interview (after sending a thank you to the chair of the search committee) until April of the following spring when the search chair reached out to see if I was interested in a visiting position for the tenure track line that I had originally applied to.
3. Is it appropriate to contact search committees regarding the status of an application (if so, when is it appropriate to do so)?
Kameko: I would take this on a case-by-case basis. If you think you’ve been waiting too long (more than a month?) to hear about the position and your application status, I would consider contacting the search committee. I would probably refer to the psych wiki first, though. If you do contact the search committee, I would express your interest in the position.
Kathryn: I think it’s appropriate to reach out to the department, though you may not speak to the search committee. There could be an administrative professional that is involved and would know where in the process the committee is (though they may not be able to tell you the status of your specific application).
Jennifer: It’s appropriate to contact the search committee if there’s a substantive change in your materials or status. For example, a paper you listed as “under review” has been accepted, send an email asking to update your CV. Or, if you’ve been invited to interview at Institution X, you can contact the other institutions saying that you’ve accepted an interview offer elsewhere and are wondering what the status and/or timeline of their search process is.
Jake: Yes, it would be appropriate to reach out to the chair of the committee around two-three weeks of each step in the process. For example, 2 weeks after the deadline to check about status of phone interview, two weeks after the phone interview to check on the campus invite and 2 weeks after the campus invite to check on the offer.
The Interview and Job Offer Process
Let’s say the stars align and I get an interview…
4. Do I foot my own bill to fly out to the university/college and rent a hotel? Or does the institution cover some of the travel expenses? Is it inappropriate to ask institutions about travel support?
Kameko: The institution should pay for everything! I did not come across any situation where I needed to ask. You may have to pay up front and get reimbursed, though. Usually the first thing I did at each interview was fill out paperwork to get reimbursed – very exciting.
Jennifer: Institutions should cover your travel and accommodations for the interview (i.e., mileage and/or flight, and hotel stays for the duration of the interview). Institutions may vary in whether they require you to pay up front and then reimburse you or whether they are willing to make the arrangements on your behalf. You can always ask for the option you prefer, but they might not be able to accommodate your request.
Jake: Our institution has historically covered travel and accommodations for candidates. However, we cover parts of the travel expenses differently. Generally we’ll make the reservation for hotels and ask candidates to buy their own plane ticket, or pay for their own gas if they’re driving and then during the interview fill out paper work to be reimbursed as soon as the paperwork is submitted and approved.
5. What are some common things to expect on an interview day(s)?
Kameko: It will vary. You will most likely do a teaching demonstration in one of the faculty’s courses. They will let you know what topic they’d like you to teach and/or give you a choice. Ask for a copy of the instructor’s syllabus if you are teaching a class period! Also, make sure to introduce yourself to the students. I strongly encourage anyone interviewing at a smaller school to incorporate hands on activities into their lectures. Do not give a straight lecture.
You might have to do a research talk. Emphasize how you will incorporate students into your research and the feasibility of your research at the institution. For example, if you have an hour to give your research talk, spend ~30 min. giving a regular research talk (at an appropriate level for undergraduate students) and then spend ~15 minutes discussing how this will fit in at the institution.
You might have individual interviews, but more commonly you will have group interviews where you’ll be asked a stereotypical (everyone gets the same) set of questions. You may also meet with deans and these meetings will probably vary a lot depending on the dean.
You will most likely get to meet with a group of students, which is awesome – ask them lots of questions to get a sense of the institution.
In general, make sure to ask questions throughout the day(s). Often the interview questions they ask you will be redundant with your skype interview. Be prepared to talk about your teaching, why you want to work at XX institution, and how you incorporate diversity into your teaching. They will inevitably ask about your weaknesses.
I got to choose a meeting for one of my interviews. If you get this opportunity, definitely take it even if you have no idea who to choose to meet with. I chose to meet with someone from the teaching and technology center. Another one of my former colleagues met with a local organization she wanted to volunteer with.
Usually you will have 2-3 meals with faculty and/or students. Don’t drink [alcohol] unless others are drinking, and then stick to one. Don’t order something that will end up making your breathe bad or sticking in your teeth Keep it simple.
Bring granola bars and a water bottle, just in case you don’t get a chance to eat enough.
Kathryn: You’ll be meeting with different faculty. One thing I did to prepare for this was create a cheat sheet. For each person I was meeting, I got their picture and a blurb of what they teach/research and read over that before the interview.
Jennifer: Individual meetings with faculty members and students are the bulk and a job talk (or two) is typical. There’s lots of information available on the internet as to how to prepare for the former. For the latter, ask for as much direction as possible from the search committee chair. For PUIs, some institutions will ask for a teaching demonstration, some for a research talk, (some for both), some for a combination thereof. Some institutions schedule the job talk like they would a colloquium, some as part of an ongoing class, some in other ways. Ask for as many details as possible about length, audience, topic, etc. and make no assumptions. Then, at the talk itself, state those expectations/goals as a frame for what you are about to present.
Jake: If the candidate flies to town, usually they’ll try to schedule a flight to arrive in the late afternoon and a faculty member will pick them up and take them to their hotel. Then faculty will pick up the candidate to take to dinner with a few faculty from the search committee and department.
The actual interview day is jam packed and generally consists of the following items (in no particular order):
Individual or small group meetings with faculty in the department
Individual meeting with Division Chair
Individual meeting with Academic Dean
Individual meeting with President of the college
Lunch with current students
Meeting with the search committee
Possibly a talk with someone you request (e.g., service learning coordinator, an interdisciplinary collaborator)
Tour of town with local relator
The day is usually packed full with only small breaks before the teaching demonstration and research talk to gather yourself. Other than those times, as a candidate, I would always consider that I am “on” or being interviewed, including the walks between appointments. Everyone that meets with a candidate including students is surveyed and asked for impressions and recommendations.
6. What is one major “do” and one major “don’t” for the interview?
Kameko: Do ask questions – this can both show you’ve done your research and that you are interested!
Don’t…not act like yourself. Excuse the double negative. We are all human and we want to get to know our prospective colleague!
Kathryn: Always ask questions. If your meeting with different people at different times, ask the same questions.
Jennifer: Do ask your most important questions to multiple people to see how well they converge. Do NOT speak negatively about your current/prior institutions – there’s no way for the committee to assess the truth of those statements and there’s too much opportunity for misunderstanding. For example, don’t say you hate the research expectations, say you find teaching rewarding and want more opportunities to do that. Don’t complain about how your department/institution is underfunded, say you’re looking for more resources to help you succeed in achieving your goals.
Jake: Similar to graduate school and your post-doctoral fellowship, you are looking for fit as much as the college/university/department, so you should come with as many questions as possible. What are the make or breaks for your happiness in your position? Do you need to have dedicated, time, space and support for research? Do you need to have creativity and flexibility in the courses that you can teach? You should also try to get a feel for the department and the students as well as the faculty as a whole. Why do people choose to attend school or work there? Why do they like the surrounding community? You should likely prepare for a lot of walking and talking. Bringing comfortable shoes and a water bottle will be helpful. You’ll also want to bring electronic information in as many forms as possible in case your personal technology doesn’t interface with the school’s technology or their technology has difficulties.
7. What is the time limit for when I have to accept or decline an offer?
Kameko: This will vary, we give about 1 week, which is pretty fast.
Kathryn: I would ask the department what that timeline is. They expect that you want to think about the offer and not accept immediately, so go ahead and ask when they need a decision by.
Jennifer: Typically, you will be given a week or two to make a decision. You can ask for an extension, especially if you have other interviews. However, don’t be surprised if this request is denied. The dynamics here are complicated; the institution likely really wants you to say “yes” but if you say “no” they also likely want to move on to their next-best choice as quickly as possible. Also, remember that if you accept the offer, there will still be a period of negotiations over specifics (e.g., start-up funds, salary, potentially start date, etc.).
Jake: Similar to the overall scheduling, this can or will be flexible. Some schools will provide a deadline as soon as a week after the initial offer. You may be able to extend that deadline slightly through negotiations.
8. If I am negotiating for a position, can the job offer ever be rescinded?
Kameko: I honestly don’t know. I hope not. You should negotiate, but you should also do your homework and know what is reasonable. If you are offered a position at a public university, salaries for public employees are public record. You can look them up and get a sense of a reasonable negotiation for salary.
Jennifer: If this happens, it is usually NOT because of something specific that was requested, but rather because something changed at the institution. So, yes, it does happen, but that doesn’t mean it should influence your negotiation strategy.
9. At research universities, we are told to negotiate for lab space and start-up funds … is it the same for teaching institutions? Are there any start-up funds offered to new faculty at teaching oriented colleges or universities? Are there other things that one should negotiate for (e.g., teaching load, types of courses to be taught, service responsibilities, office space)?
Kameko: Yes, you should negotiate for this. Of course, you will not be negotiating for as much as you would at a larger institution, but depending on the institution they may be able to cobble together a reasonable amount of start-up. I would definitely negotiate lab space (otherwise you may have none) and start-up funds (which may or may not be granted depending on the institution).
I would consider asking for reduced course load and/or prep your first year. For example, my department chair has limited me to two preps per semester in my first 3 semesters (so, I teach four courses per semester but I only teach two unique courses – it has been SUPER beneficial to keep my prep limited so I can really focus on developing each course). You could also try to negotiate for limited service/advising in your first year – or at least ask about it. It is fairly common to have a reduced or no advising duties in your first year.
I have not heard about negotiating for office space.
Don’t forget to ask about moving expenses – the university should pay for some or all of your moving expenses.
Kathryn: These are questions you should definitely ask either in interview or during the negotiation. Some departments may have more resources than others. Start-up funds are usually for positions that have a research requirement. Depending on what the department is hiring for, things like teaching load or courses taught might not be immediately negotiable. If you are hired to fill a particular class need, you may not get much say in what you teach and course offerings may have already been decided by the time you are hired. In the interview ask about service expectations, it is possible that if you are hired on as a lecturer or adjunct you won’t have any (or they will be lower expectations compared to the TT faculty). Ask about office space and try to negotiate your own office space. The department is limited by the physical space they have. Ask about the technology! Even if you don’t have start-up, will the provide you with a new computer or one they already have?
Jennifer: Usually, yes (see above). Although, the absolute values of what they can provide are usually more limited and there are usually smaller constraints on what they can negotiate. If possible, ask colleagues at similar institutions for sample lab budgets. Also, institutions will differ on what is covered under “normal faculty costs” and what you will be expected to pay for out of start-up or external funding. Ask lots of questions (the more specific, the better) during the interview and especially during negotiations to limit surprises when you arrive on campus.
Jake: Yes, you are able to negotiate for your position at teaching institutions, though the flexibility of the negotiation will likely be much narrower. For example, at an R1 institution, you may be able to negotiate a reduction in course load for your first one or two years, but that likely won’t happen at a teaching institution. Usually the program will try to limit the number of new course preps in the first year (or at least first semester). For example, if you are asked to teach a 7 course load, you may teach 3 courses in the fall and 4 courses in the spring, but you may only have 3-4 different course preps.
Within reason you may be able to negotiate salary (because of salary compression, you may not be able to request much more). You may also be able to negotiate small research start-ups that can include money, but may also include space or assistance or specialty equipment. You may also be able to request acceleration on your tenure clock and bring in years depending on your post-doctoral or visiting positions. This can help you buy into a better insurance or retirement tier in your first year.
That wraps up this week’s series on the job market! Hopefully you all feel more informed about what to expect from the process. To those of you on the market, we wish you the best of luck, and we hope this series was helpful.
We’d like to take another moment to thank our guest contributors! Thank you all for your thoughtful responses! We greatly appreciate the time you put into your contribution.
You can find out more about our Q&A contributors below:
Kameko Halfmann (@KamekoMae): Kameko is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at University of Wisconsin – Plattville.
Kathryn Narciso (jake_steele): Kathryn is a Lecturer of Psychological Science at the University of North Georgia.
Jennifer Talarico (@j_talarico): Jennifer is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Lafayette College.
Jake Kurczek (@EngagedBrain): Jake is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Loras College.