With that in mind, I list out some criteria I have heard played a role in a hiring decision. My point is NOT to help you game the system (note that some of the factors I've heard cut both ways) nor to argue that the system is good, bad, or ugly. My point is only that the process is more arbitrary-random-complex then you might think. While its not all merit, its also not all who-you-know or politics.
I invite you to give leave comments on factors you have heard of, but to keep it civil please do not mention the people or schools involved.
- Merit: This is itself ambiguous. More papers? Longer papers? Co-authors? How about take a sum where each summand is (number of citations)*(importance of paper)*(number of pages)/(number of coauthors). And then there is grant potential.
- Does a postdoc have a better chance then a fresh PhD? A postdoc has had more time to increase his weighted sum mentioned under Merit, but the school KNOWS he has had more time.
- Two-body-problems can be GOOD or BAD. Often a school does not have two positions.
- Being a women can be GOOD or BAD (for getting a job).
- I would like to say Being black can be GOOD or BAD (for getting a job) however since there are so few black PhD's in computer scientists applying for academic jobs, I have not heard any stories about this. (NOTE- I use the term black instead of African American since they need not be American.)
- Being socially inept can be GOOD or BAD. How could it be good? It plays to the stereotype. He's so socially inept, he must be a genius. I DO NOT recommend pretending you are socially inept.
- Speaking your mind can be GOOD or BAD. He'll be a leader in the community or He'll be a pain in the ass
- Having a Blog- the jury is still out on this one. I have heard of a case where having a blog helped someone get an interview. (It was a serious blog about the field he was in. I can't imagine that complexity blog would help me get a job if I was looking.)
- Spending too much time deciding what to have for lunch can be a negative. If he can't figure out what to have for lunch then how can he formulate a coherent research plan.
- Area can be a factor- does a school need or want someone doing area X? This is sometimes formalized, for example the school has money targeted to hire someone who does, a particular area. (Side topic- Targeted positions- Good or Bad? Good in that you are not going to have to compare people in diff areas. Bad in that there may be someone really good in another area who you want to hire but can't.)
- Subarea is a factor- for example, we want the kind of theorist who can talk to our people in systems.
- Having a champion in the dept who is helping push your case HELPS unless the person doing the pushing is a jerk or not good at pushing a case.
- Being an ex-convict probably hurts. If there was a theory genius who served 10 years in jail, that might be a negative. Might be mitigated if he could pull in some serious grant money. However, if the jail term was for embezzling grant money, then maybe not. Actually, the whole question might depend on what he was in jail for and is he now reformed.
- A very big factor is how good is the job market when you get out. This may be a much bigger factor than anything else on this list.