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Job Application Process

The Job Application Process Timeline

Before the AIChE Annual Meeting

Your faculty application process should start at least a month before the AIChE Annual Meeting.

Why? Because, the conference is basically an opportunity for the employers to hold a free face-to-face interview. The people who sit on the Faculty Search Committee are also very busy human beings. Combine this with the fact that 90% of the 200 applicants will probably send their application 2-3 days before the conference takes place. So do you think you have a good chance of getting noticed, if you are one of those 0.9*200? Probably not. But if you were 1 of 5 who sent their application a month before, sure, we'll read it and probably come up to talk to you at the poster session.

If you are not convinced yet, consider this:  Before the conference there are usually ~10 applications or so for the committee to review. This is easy enough to do, and the interesting ones will surely get some face-to-face time from the faculty search committee at the conference. Come the turn of the year (when its time to skype-interview and make decisions about who to invite on-site), the number of applications will be well over 100! Now, that is a lot to read, so your application will be skimmed over or not reviewed at all. If the department invites 7-8 people for an on-site visit (a realistic number), at least 2-3 of those will come from that pool of the initial ~10 applicants who got pre-screened at the conference.

Some advice:

  1. Customize the applications to the department This will take some time, so pick your top 2-3 schools and send the early application to those.
  2. It is better to send few quality applications (customized to the needs of the department, as well as mentioning things like "my research skills fit well with Prof Bob's in your department, and I would also love to collaborate with Professor John, etc") than 20 generic ones.

During the AIChE Annual Meeting:

Attend the Meet the Faculty Candidate Poster Session.

See Events

Here are additional events you should attend:
Note: Check www.aiche.org/annual for the Technical Program for specific dates/times/locations for these events.

  • Workshop: Career Planning for Prospective Faculty
  • Workshop: Effective Teaching for New or Prospective Faculty
  • Education Division Future Faculty Mentoring Meeting
  • NSF Workshop I & II: You will get a chance to interact with NSF program officers. One of the workshops features a proposal writing section, which will be useful for you.

After the Poster Session

After the AIChE Annual Meeting

If you spoke with any recruiters or people from departments you are interested in, drop them a thank you note over email. Remind them that you applied for their position.

The Interview

Example: Faculty Search Timeline Presentation

The Application Packet

  • Cover Letter (1 page)
  • Résumé (~4 pages)
  • Teaching Statement (1-2 pages)
  • Research Statement (4-6 pages)
  • Personal References (1 page)
  • Elected Publications (1-2 pages, optional)

Read the posting description carefully.  When there are multiple openings, make sure you are applying to the correct one, since one reviewer may not transfer it to the other if it is submitted to the wrong posting.

Cover Letter (1 page)

Everyone usually has some filler text about how their PhD prepared them for this opportunity, etc; however, your goal here is to make important things stand out of this filler text. Examples of things that should be highlighted include:

  • personal reference (someone that the faculty search committee member might know personally)
  • if your adviser/group is famous
  • highlight your AIChE presentations (so we can find you if needed)
  • highlight any patents, significant papers, proposal writing experience
  • highlight any family circumstances or other personal reasons why you may want to work here (if any)
  • highlight any spouse issues (if you have a two-body problem)
  • highlight if you may have a geographical preference that is drawing you towards this position
  • explain any kind of work lapses, or other extraordinary circumstances which may not be apparent from scanning your resume
  • mention faculty you'd like to collaborate with
  • list your poster # and other presentations where we can find you at the conference

Résumé (~4 pages)

It is best if you use a format that shows that you know how to write proposals. There are two main formats: the NSF and the NIH biosketch formats. The NSF format looks more like a real résumé. 

Put the items that are critical up top. These are:

  • Your Education
  • Best Publications
  • Funded Proposals (if any)
  • Patents (if any)

To make things easier, you can enumerate each one, so when we read it, we can quickly write down that this candidate has X many papers, Y many patents and Z many funded proposals. You could also emphasize if a paper is in a famous journal, or has received a lot of citations. Likewise, you could list your role in writing proposals, and how much money they received. This is the same for patents - you could mention if it has been licensed by some company, and whether it is making money or being commercialized. 

Résumés are used to extract (as fast as possible) your top achievements, so that you can be put into a comparison table against other candidates. The time spent on each resume is probably under 30 seconds, so if you don't emphasize things the reviewer may miss them.

Tips & Common Résumé Mistakes:

Believe it or not, making your résumé longer does NOT make it more impressive. There is no reason that your résumé should be longer than that of anyone on the search committee (unless you are older/more experienced). The max should be 3-4 pages, but even 2 is acceptable (in fact the NSF biosketch is limited to 2pgs).

Too much detail: This goes along with the previous comment about making this compact. There is a tendency to describe in detail everything you every did in your past. Whereas all we need and read are keywords.

Conference Proceedings/Talks: Unless you think this is somehow exceptional (if that is the case, you should explain why it is exceptional, e.g., invited talk, or some very competitive talk), you are just padding your resume with useless information. It gives off the idea that you are not able to compress information efficiently or tell what is important vs what is not (both of those are important for proposal writing, which is key). 

Prioritize: Put important item at the top. Publications/book chapters/books are important, they should go up top. So are your proposal writing experience, your patents, then followed by your awards and teaching experience. Proposal writing experience is the most important and publications is second to it.

Proposal-Writing Experience: You should list everything you ever touched, because this is the most important factor that sets candidates apart from the rest. The only thing better than proposal-writing experience, is funded proposals that you can bring with you. Even if you did not write the proposal, but simply helped, you should still mention it. Explain clearly what your role was in writing, which agency it was submitted to, for what amount, and was it funded or not in the end (or is it still pending).

Highlight or Emphasize: If you have something that makes you stand out, do yourself a favor and highlight so the reviewers don't miss it! Remember, we scan the resume (FAST); and we don't read minds.  So you have to make important things catch our attention!

Number your Publications: On one resume we saw someone put the paper numbers on the left, and the impact factor on the right hand side of each publication - nifty! Some people manage to squeeze the covers of the journals, if their publication made the cover. That's great, if you can format everything neatly. Bold your last name, so we can see whether you were first or not. Some people just say "8 first author publications, 15 total, h = 20, 500 cumulative citations".  This makes things much easier.

Under Review/In Progress Publications:  Don't bother putting these in, but if you feel the need to, be a good sport and make a separate section. Don't try to pad overall list using these. It is misleading on your part. We care to see just what has been published (or accepted).

The Short Postdoc:  There is a tendency to think that more postdocs = more experience --> better.  But this is not so. In fact, more postdocs makes you look less desirable. Your goal is to sell your "stock" at the peak of its price (around the 3rd or 4th year of your 1st postdoc). A common mistake is putting the brief postdoc (immediately after their graduation) on their resume. The one where your PhD boss kept you there an extra 2-3 months while you were looking for a job because he is nice (and also wanted to get more results out of you)? Everyone has it. Its not impressive. Don't list it.

Teaching Statement (1-2 pages)

Think of the teaching statement as going from describing your past, to trying to forecast your future as an educator. It is not the most important part of your packet, but it is a necessary one.

Here are some suggestions for its structure:

Your Teaching Qualifications: Describe your previous teaching experience, whether it was TA, volunteering in a high school, or even tutoring your friends! Tell us how much you enjoy teaching and about any kind of interesting experiences you may have had that motivated you to become a teacher.

Your Teaching Philosophy: Describe your teaching style. For example, you like to have a "democratic classroom" where the students can discuss things freely. Or maybe you like to teach the "flipped" classroom, where students read at home and come to class already prepared (at least in theory) to solve problems. Or, perhaps, you prefer the Socratic teaching method method, where you steer students to arrive at a conclusion by asking them critical questions. Describe your style of teaching and how/why you have arrived at it.

Your Teaching Preferences: Most people choose thermo, because ChEs are usually most comfortable with it. However, keep in mind that the department might be looking for something else, so be open minded about teaching other courses as well. It would make sense if your preference is somehow close to your research. For example, if your research is computational fluid dynamics, then fluid flow is a class you should be desiring to teach. For the preffered classes you could list some possible textbooks, approaches, topics, use of internet resources (essentially, things that show you've thought this through).

Course Development: Whether you want to or not, in your academic career you will likely be "encouraged" to develop new courses. This will probably start happening after your third year on the job. By showing that you've thought about it ahead of time, it makes you look more professional. Therefore, it is best to describe a class or two that you envision developing. Again, it can come from your research.

Teaching Innovation: If you want to be an overachiever in the field of teaching, you could also talk about how you are going to revolutionize the classroom. This could involve applying new technologies, or maybe some newly published teaching techniques (you could even cite some teaching literature to really impress people!).

Miscellaneous: You could also talk about increasing K-12 involvement, participating in science Olympiads, collaborating with your nearest science museum, underrepresented communities, etc. There are lots of ways to increase the impact of your work on society, and many people in these institutions will be more than glad to expose their students to a college research environment through you.

Common Mistake: People start listing courses that are outside of the department.

Research Statement (4-6 pages)

Past research and funding experience is actually a part of your résumé (not the research plan), so it should not be included here. Thus, the research plan should be about what to expect from you in the future, in terms of your research and proposal writing.

Not only do you have to give specifics, but you should be describing actual projects that you plan to submit to grant-funding agencies, simply stating a research area is too vague. The committee wants to see your potential to bring in money. Therefore, in your research plan you should be trying to convince them that:

  1. You are good at bringing grants (since past experiences go in the resume, here you convey this via the quality of your content), and
  2. You have well-thought-out ideas that you can start writing up in proposal form as soon as you are hired!

Yet you have only ~4 (do not go over 6) pages to put down multiple ideas, so it has to be a lot more compact than an actual grant proposal. As a rule of thumb, think 2 immediate ideas and 2 long term ideas. Two ideas total is minimal. The short term ideas should be almost ready to go out to the grant-funding agency (i.e., they should be very well developed), whereas for the long-term ideas it is understood that they are in conceptual stages. The more ideas you have the better, but at the same time you don't want to spread yourself thin with too many ideas.  You don't have to get into the details. Keep in mind that when you come to the interview, the Research Plan will be the topic of your ~1hr "chalk talk", so you wikk be getting grilled on it. You will need to be able to defend your ideas from external criticism.

For each one of your ideas, you should describe a funding plan (which agencies you plan to submit to, which opportunities within that agency, whats the name of the grant officer in charge of those opportunities).  You could also mention potential collaborations within the department, or within the university to which you are applying (another place for this is the cover letter). Make separate sections for these and/or emphasize them so that they stand out. 

Keep in mind that the initial scan of your research plan is only going to take 30 seconds or so! Thus, just like for the poster, include eye-catching pictures, and good formatting so that whatever needs to stand out does stand out.

Common Research Statement Mistakes:

Dont waste space with describing your past and current research; this is meant to be about your future proposals!

There is a tendency to just jump into the details of your work. Rather, first establish importance (e.g., "i will save the world by saving cancer by developing this amazing drug, if only you hire me and give me money").

Explain what you are doing in lay-man terms to a public who doesn't know industry-specific terms!  explain the broader impact: why is your proposed project important? why should i care about reading it? why should someone want to fund it?

It should be obvious from the first line of your project description what it is about. Section titles should be descriptive too. It is up to you to establish importance, and to make your work easy to understand.

Having a brief problem description and no solution plan is bad. You have to lay out a detailed, coherent plan about: how you are going to solve this problem, what tools you will use, what results you expect to see and what long term goals you hope to achieve. You may even include some backup plan, in case your approach doesn't work.  Moreover, you need to tell me how you are going to get money to make this happen (see below).

The funding plan is often absent or lacking detail. It mentions the funding agencies but not specific grant opportunities. When you go the extra step and think things through deeper, it sets you apart. It also shows that you know what you are doing. Saying that you will simply apply to NSF and NIH is not enough. List which programs within that agency, which particular grant types, who is the program officer and have you discussed your work with them? Emphasize the funding plan.

Good Idea: Include the potential impact. All you need is a one sentence summary at the end of each project description of what would change if you get this done.

No Figures: You have to make your research plan easy to understand. It shows that you are not good at expressing your thoughts clearly/conveying your message to your audience. It means you are not a good proposal-writer.

Do not attach your transcripts, recommendation letters, etc. to the research plan. This is an automatic disqualification.

Do not include the résumé and other documents into your research statement, if you uploaded them individually elsewhere.

For Industry or National Lab applicants, I highly advise that you find some research statements from  academics. Typically, your research statements do not conform with university expectations.  The proposals are too short and the projects are too superficial. One paragraph per project, with no figures, simply does not suffice. The Funding plan is often missing entirely.

Personal References (1 page)

Contact information for people who can write you a letter of recommendation, in case you make the short list. Famous, recognizable names are good. Typically, these are people who served as your mentors/bosses/advisers at some point in time.

Unless your references are stellar, do not put in front of Research Plan, this is probably the last thing I want to see when I open your Reseach Plan.

Elected Publications (1-2 pages, optional)

Select your most impressive ones or the ones most relevant to your research statement.