Not every academic department is a welcoming place, Texas Tech University's David Perlmutter writes at the Chronicle of Higher Education. He offers some ways to figure out whether a situation will be toxic to your sanity and career before you sign on the dotted line.
Perlmutter first suggests channeling your inner spy to collect intel. In addition to some online searching, he says to ask trusted advisors what they think of the department as well as people who've recently left it.
When interacting with people from the department, whether it be at a conference or during an interview, he also says to make note of people's body language as "reading how people act — and inferring what they don't say aloud — is sometimes as important as what they actually say."
Still, Perlmutter says that such intelligence might not be complete and he also suggests taking a look at the numbers: are faculty members publishing at the rate and in journals you'd hope for and how frequently does the department seem to be looking for new members?
Then if you are ready to commit, he suggests you take a good look at the fine print and to be sure to get everything in writing.
"Sure, being on the tenure track somewhere is almost always better than being unemployed, but that doesn't mean you should accept an offer impetuously," Perlmutter says. "A tenure-track position is a potential lifetime commitment. Don't walk into the relationship so giddy with relief that you neglect to be alert to any danger that may await you."