Friday, November 10, 2006

Finding Academic Jobs

An anonymous student writes
I am applying for academic jobs this year. How does one come to know about them? Basically the only source I know is the CRA website. DMANET mailing list is also helpful. [And then there is word of mouth—but that seems to favor a privileged few.]

I think the way CRA puts ads on its website could be improved a lot. Right now every university puts its ad in unstructured text. Now if I want to know which university has what deadlines I have to manually sift through their ads and the deadline could be anywhere in the text (if it's there at all). Similarly, there are many other attributes that one might want to use as search criteria: such as type of position being advertised, do they need material in hard copy, or in email, or does one need to fill a web form. I think if this were there it'd save some time.

But I think one could go further; though I understand it's probably rather hard to implement what I am going to suggest for all sorts of reasons. Why not make the whole process centralized. At present one has to fill up the forms on the web for many universities which can be really painful. And then sometimes they ask the letter writers to also fill a form. Hard copies or emails are not much better either. What if there were a centralized trusted server where one applicants could submit their information along with the universities where they wanted to apply? And then their application would be delivered to those universities. This would save a lot of pain for everyone.

Most CS departments list their faculty positions in the CRA News and CACM and many job positions also get distributed over the DMANET and THEORYNT mailing lists. Also check out the departmental home pages of any university where you might have interest. Even if there is no ad you can apply to any department by sending an email to the chair with the usual supporting material (CV, research statement, teaching statement and list of references), though if the department's web page has specific instructions better to follow those. Get all your applications submitted by December 31 no matter how late the stated deadline.

Don't limit yourself to departments specifically mentioning theory as they will sometimes hire in theory once they fail to find suitable candidates in other areas. You might also consider positions overseas, while professor positions are difficult to find in most countries, there are more postdoc opportunities outside the US. Also consider a broad range of universities in the US, they might have a higher teaching load but you can still have a successful research career.

Make sure your own home page (pointed to on your CV) has on-line versions of all your papers, contact information, CV and the rest of your supporting material.

A standardized database for recruiting would make life easier for all involved but don't hold your breath.


  1. Indeed. Your best bet is to look at the homepages of the top 100 universities, one by one (and don't forget universities outside the US, if you are willing to move)...AFAIK, most of them do not have on-line forms to fill out and you can send the same package of materials to each.

  2. The University of New Mexico has several openings, and is looking for candidates, including in theory. Our deadline is December 15th.

    - Cris More

  3. anon student: why not set up a wiki? others (students and faculty) will soon join in and fill the page with more details than you can handle!

  4. The recruiting system is centralized in France, and it has its advantages and its quirks. The wiki would not necessarily solve the normalisation problem, and might pose problems of trust (I don't think that most candidates would voluntarily delete or falsify information, but who know?)

  5. The Chinese University of Hong Kong has a tenure-track opening in theoretical computer science. Note that Professor Andrew Yao has joined the department as Distinguished Professor-at-Large, which means that he will spend three months in the university every year. Check this out:

    Lap Chi

  6. A standardized database for recruiting would make life easier for all involved but don't hold your breath.

    After all, as computer scientists we have to ensure that we are technologically behind
    other fields (like math, which already has a centralized server, of sorts)

  7. There is also one more service with Math and CS positions - you can subscribe it at

  8. Lance, FYI, we at MSR once discussed of adapting our conference management tool to offer a centralized system for all kind of academic application needs. Not only faculty/staff job applications but also student's admission's applications. I created a power point where I even proposed a solution for those universities which are not yet open to centralized system. For an example in such rare cases, a job applicant can pay shipping cost and the application with all the recommendation letters will be mailed to the university. It sucks that students do not even get to know that many times their letter writers, sometimes even their advisors, do not mail the letter on time. Well at least shipping via a centralized party gives this information to students. So that students can keep asking those letter writers who have not sent their letters.

  9. We're hiring again this year at Tufts as well! AND we're in Boston! Our main criteria is be amazingly smart; not only is research area completely open, but we can even consider hiring at associate or full professor level if we get the right candidate (though assistant prof candidates are also strongly encouraged to apply)

    --Lenore Cowen