2019-09-05: How to Become a Tenure-Track Assistant Professor - Part II (job ads, CV, teaching and research statement, LOR and cover letter)

This is a three-part write-up, in this second post, I’ll talk about how to find tenure-track positions, how to shortlist your target schools, CV, teaching statement, research statement and cover letters. I’ll do another blog post later about, how to prepare for interviews (skype/phone, onsite), what to do and not to do during your on-campus interviews, offer negotiations, two-body problem etc. 
  • How to Become a Tenure-Track Assistant Professor - Part I (publications, research, teaching and service) 
  • How to Become a Tenure-Track Assistant Professor - Part II (job ads, CV, teaching and research statement, LOR and cover letter) 
  • How to Become a Tenure-Track Assistant Professor - Part III (interview prep, on-campus interview, offer negotiations, two-body problem) 
Where to find jobs: 
There are number of options for you to find a job advertisement for a tenure-track positions (or non-tenure track teaching positions and postdoc opportunities). I primarily used the ACM and CRA for my job search, these are for CS related job advertisements (and may be some non-tenure track teaching positions and post-doc opportunities in related fields such as Math, Stat and Information Science). I find both the ACM and CRA are solid resources to track tenure-track advertisements. Here’s a tip, for both of these, you can subscribe (add your email or profile) and receive a list of emails when a position(s) is posted at the site. For other areas, you can find job advertisements in HigherEdJobs, ScienceCarreers etc. 
I’d suggest to start early (preferably summer) and create your profile at ACM and CRA so you’ll cover most of the positions. Also it may be a good idea to start this process few year yearly so you get an idea about the research areas most schools are hiring. Also remember to keep an eye out for the recent advancements in the technology so you can keep up with the trends. I remember during my job search, machine learning was the hot topic, majority of the positions were posted for this particular area. Then again, in the second time around, it was more about data science. So you need to tune in early and make sure your research directions and expertise are aligned with the hiring trends. I’m not saying that you have to change your area of research, but early you know the trends, better you can prepare and accommodate some of these relevant areas in your own research. Timeline: From my personal experience, majority of the job ads are posted around August to October. Most schools reconvene in Fall term (for US schools) and the search committees put together job advertisements and get approvals etc. Most of the application due dates are around early December to late January/February. So, I suggest, get ready to submit your completed applications around early December, this means you need a solid plan with a complete set of your CV, teaching statement, research statement and cover letters ready to go. Hardest part is getting your letter writers to submit the letter of recommendations on time (I’ll talk more about this latter part of this write-up.) 
How to organize and shortlist your list:
Figure 1: Organize your list in an Excel sheet
I used an excel file (see Figure 1) to keep track of the job advertisements I wanted to apply. Remember, this going to be something overwhelming, I definitely felt that way (too much applications to submit and too little time) during the time of job search. In my initial list I had about 120 positions I wanted to submit applications, and I ended up submitting close to 60. So you need a careful bookkeeping strategy to keep things afloat this time around. It’s easy to get discouraged by the sheer number of applications and the amount of work to get yours submitted on-time. Here’s how I did this. When I received an aggregated list via email from CRA (or ACM), I quickly glanced and see if there’s any schools I wanted to apply. I had a certain strategy (or interest) where I wanted to apply and certain key points I looked at. You need to come up with your own priority list, this may be something to do with the school ranking, program (4 year, MS only, PhD) location, area of interests, collaborators, etc. I normally hate cold weather especially anything to do with snow (I like gardening), for me a regular hot season was a plus. Also I used to pick places I have a chance of getting an interview. I talked about this in my previous blog post. Always take a look at the most recent assistant professors hired by the school you wanted to apply. Other than few exceptions, most departments tend to hire based on a similar trend (candidates school reputation, prior publication track record or grants). Let’s take an example, say you want to apply to UT Austin Computer Science. Here’s an example of the new faculty they hired in 2016-2017 https://www.cs.utexas.edu/news/2016/new-faculty-2016-17 so you get an idea whether you have a chance or you are wasting your time. Again, this is just my personal opinion. My recommendation is to find a list of relevant schools based on your own profile. Carefully take a look at your list of publications (venue, acceptance rate, and reputation), research outcomes, your current position (ABD or AP somewhere relevant) and grants. Here’s something I believe, academic life is a ladder, you can always find places to jump lower to your current place (current school), but in order to jump higher, and you need a strong portfolio (grants, strong publications, some noteworthy awards). 
Use the above strategies to filter the schools you want to apply. I used to move the CRA/ACM ads emails to a separate folder in my Gmail account called “unsorted” and then took time to review them each week and pick the ads of schools I wanted to apply and move them to another folder called “selected”. Also I started filling out the excel sheet with the information like the research area (machine learning, data science, HCI etc.) of the position, due date, required items etc and also color coded them based on priority. Then I started applying to these schools (may be about 5 or 6 each week). Remember, this is time-consuming, especially if you have a long list of schools to apply. You cannot do this in one sitting. So spread it around each week and take your time carefully changing your cover letter and statements. Also remember to check the documents multiple times before you submit them. Don’t make simple mistakes like using a different school name in your cover letter etc. Create different folder per each school and add the drafts of the CV, cover letter, Teaching and Research Statements. Carefully rename each file, I find most schools nowadays use subscription services like Interfolio online dossiers, so you might accidentally end up submitting a cover letter intended for another school. Don’t forget to notify your letter writers about the list of schools you applied and the due dates (I’ll talk more about this later). 
From my personal opinion, the CV is the most important thing other than your cover letter in your candidate package. Most search committee will go through this carefully looking at the publication track record and other relevant information such as teaching experiences etc. I’m not going to spend too much time explaining the sections you need to have etc. Take a look at my CV and format accordingly. I’d recommend to have your own style, I use tables (hidden) in my CV to structure them around and also I like to align them and rarely use the bullet points. Start this early, I spent majority of my summer time (1 year before the intended job search) refining my CV until I was satisfied. You can do a quick search in several top schools, go to recent assistant professors pages, you’d probably find some good CV formats, find something you like and create a personalized template for your own CV based on these (proved to be effective) samples. Also don’t forget to have a web page (school portfolio, not the LinkedIn), you don’t need to buy your own domain and pay for someone to create a fancy web page. Take a look at mine, I have only 1 picture and pretty much text and hyperlinks. I use Kompozer to maintain my webpage. You can do the same. I’m sure most of the schools provide you a free domain under your department or university. Talk to the IT people and create something so you can link all of your pdf copies of research publications, teaching and research statements. Here’s a pro tip, you can also have a visitor tracker like StatCounter or Google Analytics added to your page to track any visitors from schools. You can be creative with the use of your webpage to have additional information like teaching feedback received, other interesting projects, and articles and have a link in your write up (teaching, research, CV). 
Teaching and Research Statement: 
I’m not going to spend too much time explaining what should go in these. Make sure you have solid write up available and have multiple versions with different page lengths. I remember some schools require only a single page statement, so having a certain length prepared early will save your time during the submissions. If you are applying to primarily teaching schools, don’t forget to list the actual courses you can teach (most of these information should be available online at the department webpage), and also new courses you intend to propose/prepare. I remember when I was a search committee member, we specifically looked at whether you list the courses you can teach (from the department curriculum), so we can filter your expertise according to the departmental teaching needs. Especially in your teaching statement, talk about quantitative outcomes like your course evaluation results if available. Don’t forget to list the student advising experiences and outreach activities, this will show an overall picture of your profile. 
Your research statement should include the agenda for the next few years and several topics that you are intend to work on. You need to carefully align this to the job description. If the department is looking for quantum computing candidate, and if your background is HCI, then you are wasting your time. Show how your background matches to the job description from the topics you are planning to investigate. Have multiple areas of research you are planning to focus on and state few specific problems you are currently working on and how you plan to solve them. 
Cover Letter: 
You need a solid cover letter that can quickly summarize your strengths. Don’t forget to highlight your key strengths, things like grants, any best paper awards or nominations or other noteworthy awards. State your area of research and how this aligned with the areas the particular school is looking for. So the excel sheet I mentioned earlier will be handy at this point. You can create a template with the areas to fill in by leaving them highlighted so you can quickly modify the draft template to match the job description. This is one place that things can go wrong, double check before you submit your cover letter, it’s very easy to miss things like the name of the school or have a wrong school name. 
Have a PDF copy of all the items like the CV, cover letter, teaching and research statements. Don’t forget to have the scanned copy of the school transcripts handy, some schools ask for unofficial copies to be uploaded during the time of the submission. 
Letter of Recommendations:
You need at least 3 letter of recommendations, better if these from the faculty who can write a strong and personalized letter. You need to identify and build these relationships early in your PhD career. Talk to people from other schools, collaborate and create a lasting relationship so you can get 3 solid letter writers. Your PhD adviser obviously should be one of the letter writers, and also members of your dissertation committee. May be researchers from industry and government. Writing a letter is time consuming, most of the letters are same and will not change from school to school but it take a significant time to prepare a solid letter for the students. Notify them early (preferably 3-4 months before the due dates) and provide them enough time to prepare for a solid letter. Provide them with a package with things like your updated CV, list of publications, research projects etc. Highlight major accomplishments in a separate write up, so they don’t need to read through your CV to find the details.