Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Long Slog

Mid-March is the time of year we begin to hear concern from students and postdocs on the job market. The CS job market is a lengthy affair running from January to June and beyond. But still if one has had few or no interviews scheduled yet, one cannot help but worry whether the situation will improve.

Some Advice:

  • Don't Panic. Universities start with their very top candidates, often the very same people for each school. It is only after these candidates start deciding that schools will start bringing in other applicants. Also many CS departments first try to hire in applied areas and failing that will only then start to consider theory candidates. So sit tight, there is still a long way to go in this market.
  • Expand your opportunities. Consider some schools you may not have thought of before. There are many possibilities overseas as well, especially for postdocs. The Internet is the great equalizer, allowing one to do strong research from just about anywhere.
  • Consider another postdoc. It is becoming more common in our field to take a second or third postdoc and is no longer frowned upon when you reapply for permanent jobs.
  • Keep busy. Keep your mind off the job hunt. Do some more research. Work hard on your thesis or journal versions of your papers. Take a vacation. Don't just sit at your computer checking your email every 15 seconds.
  • Make some money. The hard truth is that there are not enough good academic jobs for all of the qualified applicants. But CS PhD's don't drive cabs. So join an Internet company or a hedge fund and go have a happy well-funded life.


  1. now i worry...

  2. I understand that hiring decisions are not set in stone yet, and until then, no one on the hiring end of things really want to divulge any information. That said, perhaps under the protection of anonymity, we could start obtaining information of the following kind:

    * I work at a top 10/20 university/research lab.

    * We have commenced / are in the middle of / have essentially ended candidate interviews. We might/are unlikely/will not call up any more candidates in for interviews.

    * We have started / have not started / are unlikely to be / will not be giving offers to theory candidates.

    The understanding of course is that the blog administrators will not correlate the IP address information with the comments either over public or private channels.

  3. Also many CS departments first try to hire in applied areas and failing that will only then start to consider theory candidates

    Does it really work this way anywhere? In my experience, either a school is willing to consider a theorist or not; if it is willing, it will interview theorists along with everyone else.

  4. Unless there are jobs appearing in places besides CRA and ACM, it is far too late to broaden one's search for tenure track positions. Better luck next year.

    Furthermore, while people do get late calls for the "second round" interviews, this is rare.

    If the odds are looking long at this point, one's best bet is too aggressively look for postdocs or VAPs, or even bite the bullet and get into industry.

  5. VAP = Ventilator-associated pneumonia? (says google)

  6. Thank you Lance -- I was turning to this blog exactly for this hand-holding -- could not have been more timely!

    Also, what's a VAP? Visiting Assistant Professorship?

  7. To theory job applicant, there is this site:

  8. I am in job search and
    when I found this blog entry 2 weeks ago, I was a bit relieved.
    Now I am in real panic.
    No job openings except for some bioinformatics or statistics ...