By Yeawon Yoo
The INFORMS Minority Issues Forum provided a session titled, “Job search strategies for academic positions” chaired by Eduardo Perez from Texas State University. The following is the list of panelists: Mingzhou Jin (Professor of the Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville), Clara Novoa (Associate professor at Texas State University), Emmett J. Lodree (Associate Professor of operations management at University of Alabama), Chiwoo Park (Associate Professor in the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at Florida State University), and Lewis Ntaimo (Professor of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Texas A&M University).
The session started with the question, “Am I ready?” Mingzhou said, “You need to talk to your advisor when you are applying for the faculty position. If you are interested in academia, it is good to have teaching experience.” Emmett said publications and teaching experience are really important. Moreover, it is really important to know the culture and the environment of the department to which you are applying.
The panelists also gave an overview of the interview process. Mingzhou said the search committee member starts with a huge spreadsheet that shows the publications, teaching experience, and the potential of the applicants. Among them, 15 people are selected for a phone or Skype interview. Clara said, “Basically, we have matched the applicants’ research area to the recruiting research area. If there is no candidate who is exactly matched with the specific area, we are hiring if the candidate is still strong.” Emmett also said, “We are looking for ‘best athletics,’ who can work in general areas. So, if the research area is not strongly related to your research area, it is still open, so you can still apply for the position.” Chiwoo said, “Since the scoring on the applicants can be subjective, each committee member selects top-5 applicants and, based on that, we select 20 applicants for the phone interview and invite three people for on-site interview.”
One attendee asked whether the informal meeting at INFORMS Career Fair is important. Lewis said that it is very important because they have something to clarify about the applicants, such as research area and application. He also recommended that if you are giving talks, please share the schedule so that the committee can come to the presentation. Moreover, all panelists recommended applying as early as possible since engineering schools also try to move their process forward quickly these days.
To the audience question of whether there are common mistakes made by applicants, Chiwoo said, “the common mistake is that they are making a very long answer. Usually, we have 30 minutes to interview, but some people spent 10 minutes to explain their research when we asked, ‘what is your research?’ So, when you are asked to answer a quick question, the answer should be concise.” On the other hand, Mingzhou said that when you are asked to explain your research funding, to describe in detail and not just answer with ‘NSF’ or ‘NIH.’ Moreover, Mingzhou also recommended that applicants should be ready to answer the question, “How can you differentiate you from your advisor? How can you compete against your advisor?”
All panelists emphasized the importance of the research statement. Eduardo Perez showed the goals of a research statement: 1) This is a marketing tool, not a scientific document, 2) Introduce your field to the lay scientific audience, 3) Explain your long-term research interests, 4) Summarize your research accomplishments, and 5) Summarize your research goals – five-year plan, leading to a career trajectory.