‘Tis the season to be blogging about the academic job market (see for example the 3-part masterpiece by Matt Welsh as well as the post by Al Roth ), and I figured I’d put my two cents in. The irony about the job market is that by the time you roughly figure out what’s going on it’s all over. That’s why these tutorials actually help. Since several comprehensive resources are already available (see below), I just want to highlight some specific points from my own rather recent experience as a candidate, as well as to give the CS-econ point of view. Disclaimer: I am specifically talking about the US academic job market; the Israeli academic job market is very different, and I have no experience with the academic job market in other countries or the industry lab market.
- As a candidate I discovered an earlier edition of these incredibly useful (albeit slightly intimidating) slides by Jeannette Wing — when I almost finished interviewing.
- In interviews people often ask “do you have any questions for me?”. My most frequent answer was “no thanks, I already have all the information I need”. It took me a while to realize that this “question about questions” is not only a service to the candidate but rather an interview question like any other. Make sure you have a good “answer” (see Jeannette’s slide 18 for some ideas).
- If you enjoyed your visit, send a “thank you for your time” email to everyone who interviewed you and say so.
- The typical job talk audience tends to be a bit more aggressive than the typical seminar audience. If you interview in good departments you can expect to be challenged by the occasional famous professor. My impression is that sometimes the purpose is to test your ability to control your audience more than your ability to justify your research. Don’t get pulled into a long discussion! I made that mistake once and it almost derailed my job talk.
- As an Israeli I am conscientiously opposed to wearing a suit. I am marginally willing to compromise on a tie, as long as it is almost entirely hidden. As a result, when I interviewed I looked like this (perhaps my tie was slightly less sloppy). I don’t think anyone minds, and in fact it may help you stand out from the crowd of severely overdressed faculty candidates.
Algorithmic economics tips:
- It is important to position yourself well within CS. Many faculty members will not think of you as an “algorithmic economics” candidate, but rather as a theory or AI candidate. In fact, some of my interviews were specifically for AI slots. Teaching is partially to blame: undergraduate algorithmic economics courses are rare (existing examples include Duke and Harvard), but mandatory theory and AI courses have to be taught. More importantly, classifying a candidate into a “traditional” large field gives a reference point for evaluation (e.g., STOC/FOCS publications for theory, AAAI/IJCAI publications for AI), and allows a comparison with many other candidates from the same field. As an example of what I mean by positioning, check out my job talk slides.
- Apropos job talks, I had three almost entirely different talks: one for Israeli jobs, one for US CS/AI jobs, and one for US CS/econ jobs. I wouldn’t recommend preparing three versions (I simply had to discard the Israeli version after realizing it was crappy; fortunately in Israel the job talk carries little weight), but you should consider preparing two versions, depending on your interviews.
- Business school interviews require extra thought. My experience is that they are very cautious about making offers to computer scientists, presumably because there were several algorithmic economics candidates who turned down fantastic business school offers in favor of CS jobs. Of course, there are also examples of algorithmic economics candidates who accepted b-school offers and today are thriving there. If you are a computer scientist and interviewing at b-schools as well as at CS departments, you need to decide in advance whether you are willing to make the cultural switch in terms of teaching and publication venues; being able to convincingly say so or making some sort of commitment could be pivotal in getting a b-school offer.
I’ll finish with a slightly more specialized tip: if in the course of an interview meeting with a famous professor that is already going badly he asks you “what is your favorite programming language”, whatever you do, do not say “Java”!