Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Faculty Job Candidates Need to be Resilient - Some Helpful Tips

This has been quite the week with winterstorm Juno resulting in the cancellation of over 7,000 flights in the U.S.

Today, UMass Amherst and many other universities and colleges were closed in the Northeast because of what was forecast to be a blizzard of historical proportions but, luckily, it did not quite earn that title in either NYC or Boston and we even managed to go out for a nice walk in Amherst once our driveway and street got plowed! The beautiful island of Nantucket, however,  did get hit fiercely and is without power.

This week was also the week in which we had scheduled interviews of 4 candidates for a faculty position in my department. One managed to make it to the interview that took place yesterday but did not get out, as planned. The interviews for today and tomorrow got cancelled but they have been rescheduled for next week. Another candidate will be interviewed this Friday and we don't expect any delays due to weather.

It's been quite a bad winter in terms of travel to interviews. One of my doctoral students who is on the job market had major delays on one of her itineraries to a campus interview and arrived a day late (so much for showing up on time but these are matters beyond one's control). And, yes, the delays were at Chicago O'Hare where she ended up overnighting. On another interview trip of hers she arrived at 1AM, which was 4AM her body time since the destination was California. She managed the interviews but then her presentation got rescheduled 2 days afterwards - this is a new one for me - so it will have been a 5 day span rather than a 3 day span for the interview and visit!

Clearly, faculty job candidates need to be resilient! The interview itself may take two days, under the "easiest" of circumstances and one needs endurance from the breakfast meetings to dinners that can linger plus numerous meetings with faculty, administrators, including deans, and even staff. One has to be energetic, positive, and enthusiastic because the department is looking for a colleague and you are also being evaluated on how good of a fit you will be in terms of research, teaching, service, and collegiality!

It so happens that, at least in the fields of operations management and also operations research and management science many of the on-campus interviews take place in December, January, and February so there may always be issues with weather.

I recall a few years back when we were searching for faculty for 2 positions in my department and I was co-chairing the search committees. We brought 7 candidates in to the Isenberg School over 2 weeks in December and one of those candidates was here during a blizzard, when UMass closed. But, luckily, the University Club stayed open for us so that we could host him for a nice lunch! And, since he was originally from a region close to Siberia, he loved the snow!

One of my very successful former doctoral students (I have had quite a few of them),  Dr. Jose M. Cruz, who is now an Associate Professor at the School of Business at the University of Connecticut and is also the Director of its great Master's Program in Business Analytics and Project Management, gave a great talk a few years ago in our INFORMS Speaker Series.
The title of his talk was:"The Myths and Facts of How to Get a Tenure Track Academic Job and How to Get Tenure" .  There are wonderful tips in the presentation to make your interview more pleasant for you and for the those who are interviewing you!

Also, The Chronicle of Higher Education produced a document, "The Quick and Relatively Painless Guide to Your Academic Job Search," which is free and you can access it through here.  The guide is written by Dr. Karen Kelsky and it is excellent. The document contains nice graphics including those below illustrating the path of a job application.

Although it states that usually 3 candidates are brought to campus, I know that in fields of business, we usually bring 4 and, last year, when I served on the Search Committee for a faculty opening in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at UMass, we brought in 5 candidates and we were dealing with ice storms, snowstorms - you get the drill!

Best of luck to all those on the academic job market and I hope that you find the above resources helpful.