In the tenure-track faculty job hunt, status counts.
Some of the factors that a hiring committee at a research-intensive university valued most in an assistant professor candidate included whether they had published in big-name journals and the reputations of their institution and adviser, according to a small survey that was published last month.
The results, though not surprising, offer a reminder that, with so many people vying for so few tenure-track faculty positions, “Trainees need to do more self-analysis of where they are and what the realities are for them to potentially become a faculty member,” says study author Nathan Vanderford, an assistant professor of toxicology and cancer biology and assistant dean for academic development at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
For those who still want to pursue the research-university faculty path, the survey results-which echo other studies finding that candidates who get faculty jobs tend to come from elite departments and publish in high-impact journals-may help them formulate a strategy.
Although some responsibility lies with trainees to take charge of their careers and be realistic about the faculty job market, the authors of the study also offer some recommendations about how some of the problems with the current hiring system could be addressed.
Although academia can seem set in its ways, getting committees to change their hiring practices is possible, says Jessi Smith, professor of psychology at Montana State University in Bozeman, who developed a faculty-search strategy that increased the number of female faculty members hired.
The strategy included unconscious bias training for the hiring committee, a guide for recruiting diverse candidates, and connecting candidates with a faculty member outside of the search committee to answer their questions about the university’s work-life balance.