What matters for the short list?Posted: May 26, 2012
As I start to plan seriously for the job market in the fall, I am coldly assessing my chances and not liking them. I have spoken to a few of people who have been on search committees and asked how they come up with the short list. They all say a bunch of crap that convinces me that they have no idea what criteria they themselves or others are using. For example, someone was like: “Nothing matters but a good publication or two, then if you’re shortlisted its based on your talks and 1-1 meetings.” Things that don’t matter include your letters of reference, research plan, or what is actually written in your papers (as opposed to publication venue).
However, I happen to know that the shortlist being referred to included multiple people with NO publications yet from their postdoc. What ALL had in common was coming from “pedigree” labs and prestigious PhD and postdoc institutions, and in fact this is the only commonality I can see shared across the shortlist. If this is what matters, I am probably screwed.
So, does anyone who has been on search committees want to assess my chances? I am looking for a tenure-track PI job at a research institution where I will have some hope of getting grants.
Note: when I divide things into positives and negatives below, this doesn’t reflect what I think matters for being a scientist, just what I cynically suspect matters most to search committees (overtly or subconsciously, e.g. I think most people would deny that they weigh it much if someone has a reference from a friend/mentor/subfield hegemon, but they would be demonstrably full of shit.).
- No pedigree lab (both PhD and postdoc PIs were Asst. Profs.). (“What the fuck were you thinking?”, you ask, and I have no answer except that I moronically thought I should choose based on the research I was most interested in doing.)
- No fellowship (this was structural for the PhD, but straight-up strategic mistakes from me and my PI and wackaloon NIH nonsense for the postdoc)
- PhD from institution outside the US (regionally prestigious but off-radar for most in US)
- No letter of reference from any pudgy gray-haired keynote speaker types
- No teaching experience
- I will only live in large-ish metropolitan areas (not just snobbish — dual-career considerations)
- A little older than most due to some missing years between undergrad and grad school
- Prestigious postdoc institution
- Prestigious (liberal arts) undergrad institution (doubtful this matters)
- Good publication record
My publications (I apologize for using IF/venue as a metric here; while it says nothing about me, it indicates something likely relevant to committees)
H-index = 6 (based on 6-years of publishing, includes 2nd authorship)
- First-author in glamour mag
- Second author in high-end specialty journal (IF ~14)
- Soon submitting a co-first author collaboration that will be good but not glamour
- First author in good specialty journal (IF ~7)
- 3 first author in normal journals (IF 3-4)
- Second author in good specialty journal (IF ~7)