Ohio State University's Michael Ibba told attendees of the American Society for Microbiology's annual meeting held in New Orleans, La., this week that, when applying to faculty positions at major research institutions, "you've got to realize ... it's a fairly random process." Because of the stochastic nature of faculty hiring decisions, Ibba advised that an aspiring assistant professor "apply to a lot of positions," no matter their geographic locations. "You're not the only person in the world who realizes it would be really nice to live in the Bay Area," he said. "Everybody knows that. Get over it; apply to lots of positions." Because each institution has its own application requirements, Ibba reminded the audience to "read each ad and follow the instructions." He also suggested that an applicant personalize his or her cover letter, but to keep it brief. In addition, Ibba said it's best not to "send a CV that tells us you were on the track team in high school — it's really not relevant to the job. Write a CV that makes it look you're becoming a faculty member, not like someone who's really keen to get into graduate school." When an institution requests a research plan, Ibba said it's best to keep it succinct. "Write a clear research plan. Don't write 10 pages — nobody's going to read it," he said. "Some of the best advice I got about this was someone said to me: 'It's not The New York Times, it's USA Today.' Follow that."
Once an applicant has submitted his or her application, Ibba said there's really nothing to do but wait. "Sending off e-mails to search committees asking when they're going to invite you for an interview ... doesn't do any good," he said. As difficult as it can be, it's best to "just wait," he said.
Stay tuned for part three of this series on working at a major research institution for more of Ibba's advice for aspiring academics, and for tips for navigating the faculty interview process.
See also Working at a Major Research Institution, Part 1: Reflections.