Academic Job Search: Telephone Interviews

October 23, 2017

This is the time of year to prepare for telephone interviews.  For many of you, this will be the first step in the academic interviewing process.  This is a cost-effective and time efficient method for many search committees and enables them to narrow down the list of applicants that are invited for campus interviews.  In the OITE academic interview video cast, Sharon Milgram, Director of the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE), for the NIH suggests that candidates prepare to practice the following suggestions for managing the process:

  • Use a land-line
  • Find a quiet place free of distractions
  • Prepare for a 30-45-minute telephone interview. Expect up to three interviewers on the line
  • Jot down the names of interviewers and refer to each by name when answering the questions
  • Loss of facial and body-language (non-verbal) cues make it difficult at first
  • Be sure to have questions prepared in advance as this conversation will likely end with them asking if you have questions

Here are some potential questions to help you prepare for telephone interviews

  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • Tell us about your research. How will you involve students in your research?
  • What courses could you teach here?
  • What research projects/topics could you pursue here?
  • How would you describe your interactions with students?
  • What questions do you have for us?

Of course, after this  step,  you will prepare for campus interviews, job talks, chalk talks and negotiating a job package. We encourage you to visit the OITE website to register for workshops and career counseling appointments that may assist you with your search.  Also view our video casts and blogs related to the academic and industry job search. We encourage our readers beyond NIH to utilize resources at their home academic institutions as well.

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Academic Searches: Handling Dual Career Hires

January 15, 2013

Editor’s note: While we originally titled this the Two-body Problem, we changed it to Dual Career Hires to reflect that our partners are not “problems.”

It is interview season for academic faculty positions.  When visiting campus, one goal is determining if the institution is a good fit – both personally and professionally.  This might include considering the career needs of a spouse or partner.  In today’s tough economic times, some people fear that mentioning the career of a spouse or partner before an offer is made might remove them from the pool of competitive applicants. However, institutions want to know sooner rather than later if they need to consider accommodations or provide job assistance for a second person.  It is against federal law for an employer to ask any applicant about his or her marital or family status or to use such information in making a hiring decision. So no one can legally ask you whether your spouse will need a job too.  If you have been invited for a campus interview, though, chances are the topic will come up casually during meals or other social conversations.

Keep in mind that your potential new employer is not required to offer your spouse or partner a job, so asking for one is the wrong approach.  You can, however, state his or her career interests, and that both of you would appreciate learning more about local opportunities.  Universities are realizing that addressing the needs of dual-career couples is in their best interest.  In the corporate world, unfortunately, the career needs of a spouse or partner are usually not considered at all.  Many universities have formed higher education recruitment consortiums (or HERCs).  This allows applicants and institutions to use a formal network to help find both academic and non-academic openings in the local area.  Even if the institution does not have formal services available, it is still in the department’s best interest to help.  I once compiled a list of local marketing firms and passed it along to my department’s faculty search finalist, so her husband could look for job openings.

Sometimes the university can extend an offer to a spouse or partner.  Often this requires negotiations between the Deans of different divisions or centers in the institution, and those require time.   It may also require your spouse or partner to submit a research statement or do an interview, either by phone or on campus.  The sooner the institution knows of your needs, the sooner it can start to address them.

Academic interviewing can be stressful, but take a deep breath!  The OITE has a series of videos to help you prepare.  The series includes overview of the job interview, preparing a job talk, and evaluating positions and negotiating job offers.


Preparing to Negotiate Non-Academic Job Offers

October 22, 2012

In our last blog post we talked about negotiating for an academic job search.  This week, we will highlight tips for negotiating any non-faculty position.  Like last week, this blog post is intended to give you an overview of how to prepare for negotiations.  For more in-depth information on negotiating for non-academic job offers, view our video here.

Salary: Salary is probably the first thing on everyone’s mind when they think about negotiations.  The biggest question you have is “are they paying me fairly?”  For the most part, organizations are not trying to low-ball you.  It doesn’t make sense to pay you so far under market value, that you leave the organization faster.  That being said, they are looking to get you for the lowest amount of money they can. To make sure you feel like you are getting what you are worth you should connect with your network in similar jobs and organizations to see what salary you should be getting.  Ask these people, “I am looking at a job at organization X.  The position is described like this (insert a brief description here).  I think the salary should be $A-$B.  Do you think that is reasonable?”

Another resource for salary information is salary comparison sites:  Glassdoor.com, monster.com, and salarywizard.com are all good sites.  Be cautious though, sometimes the information is not as updated as you would like.  These sites are good places to start, but you need more information.  Understanding the cost of living changes in different areas of the country is also important.  $80K in the DC area is a lot different than $80 in Topeka.

You should always try to ask for additional salary, but be prepared to give them reasons on why you deserve more.  You may bring a particular skill set, be losing money by taking this position, or just have an understanding based on your salary research that the number they offered is too low.  They may say no to your request, but they can’t say yes if you don’t ask.

Benefits: Sometimes you can negotiate other benefits like time off.  The biggest thing here is to understand what you are worth or what you would be losing that you current employer gives you.  For example, if in your last job you had 15 days off (including some federal holidays), but the new jobs offers you 12 days.  This is now a negotiable item, either to add more days or to add more salary for the days you missed.  Also, if you have religious holidays that you need, this is the time to ask.  Industry jobs have other benefits that are negotiable such as bonuses, profit sharing and stock options. You may be able to get education payments if you need additional training.  Relocation costs are sometimes included, and if they are not you can try to negotiate them.  Moving cost span from a flat payment to full help with finding a house/childcare/packing services.

Typical non-negotiable benefits include health care benefits, other insurance benefits, flexible benefits and retirement packages.

Spousal/Partner hires: Your negotiation can also include help for a position for your other half.  We have seen this work, and not work depending on the organization.  Have a clear idea of what your partner wants to do, the types of jobs that they would like, a list of organizations that their skill sets fit into, and a current CV/resume in order to help your new employer to make the best connections.

Salary review: A good thing to do is to work out a plan that your salary will be looked at in 6 months to a year in order to see if your performance warrants a salary increase.  We know someone who did this and after six months got a $20, 000 raise.

The original job offer will likely be by phone or email, as will most of your negotiations.  Get the final deal in writing!  Nothing is final until it is written down and signed by all parties.


Preparing to Negotiate an Academic Job Offer

October 9, 2012

If you have been following our Calendar for Career Success, October is the month to prepare yourself to negotiate a job offer.  Because the preparation for negotiating an academic position versus a non-academic position is so divergent, we are going to cover them in separate blog posts.  This week, we will give a brief overview of how to prepare for negotiating academic job offerings.  For more in-depth information, watch the videocast or view the slides from the latest OITE workshop on negotiating an academic job offer.

As you prepare to interview for academic jobs, it is important that you are preparing to negotiate an offer for those positions as well.  Often times the initial negotiation occurs verbally during or shortly after your interview(s).  You may be asked to provide information regarding your needs before the institution is willing to make you an offer.  Thus, it is important that you do your homework and be prepared to know what is reasonable.

Research what a typical offer looks like.   On-line databases can be a good place to start, but you need “real-world” data as well.  Many state universities publish salaries of current faculty.  Also, the Association of American Medical Colleges salary surveys are great resources for knowing your worth.   For those at the NIH, the OITE has the AAMC book that we welcome you to come in and use.  If you are outside the NIH, check to see if your institution has an online subscription to the AAMC web site.  Then you will need to determine your three salary numbers:  Ideal, acceptable and unacceptable.

Understand all the components of an offers. Is your salary is for a 9-month of 12-month appointment? Most 9-month salaries are paid over 12 months, but the duties associated with that salary (e.g. teaching), might only be for 9 months of the year.  You will want to ask if there are realistic ways to find support for the summer months to supplement that salary?  Is it a base salary with the possibility of bonuses?  Will the salary be fully supported by the university?  If not, how much will you be expected to provide from grants and when?  What about insurance (health, life, disability, etc.), retirement plans, sick days, vacations, holidays?  Almost all Universities have a standard benefits package, but you will want to know the details of that package to know if you will need supplement it on your own if it does not meet your needs. Read the rest of this entry »


NIH Alumni: Where are they now? Profile 7 – International Academic Research, Israel

December 12, 2011

This is the seventh in a series of profiles about recent NIH postdocs who have found an array of jobs, from academia to industry to communications and beyond, in the U.S. and abroad. What do they do now, and how did they get there? What challenges did they face, and what advice do they have? Read on to find out.

Name: Mona Dvir-Ginzberg

Current position: Lecturer, Institute of Dental Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Location: Israel

Time in current position: 2 years

Postdoc: Histone-modifying enzymes involved in the pathology of osteoarthritis with David Hall at NIAMS

A change in path: I was very lucky during my postdoc to have made some novel observations. But I was held back by thinking it was way too early to look for jobs and that my publication record was insufficient. After my first publication, I felt more confident to start pursuing a position. At that point, I wasn’t thinking about academia at all. I wanted applicability and financial security, and industry seemed very appealing, so I began interviewing in the States and in Israel with several biotech companies.

It turned out some of the requirements did not suit my expectations. I was drawn to R&D, but some of the projects in the industry already had a product which only needed to be optimized. One company had outsourced all R&D. Others had a lot of documents and regulatory affairs, which appeared to me as being extremely technical and not very creative work.

Read the rest of this entry »


Tomorrow’s Professor: Preparing for the Academic Job Market

October 7, 2010

auditoriumDuring the AAAS talk last week on the academic job market, I was encouraged by the opinions shared by current faculty. I imagined that the academic job market was as bleak–if not more so–than the non-academic market. On the contrary…to paraphrase the speakers, “the best people are still finding jobs.” Still, you must put your best foot forward to be a standout candidate on the academic market.

If you find the entire process of applying for academic jobs overwhelming, or are not sure where to start, check out the OITE workshop held last month for an overview of the academic job market and tips on preparing your application package. You might also want to view the OITE videocast on this same topic from the fall of 2009. Additionally, appointments with OITE’s trained career counselors are available to plan your next steps.

Think about the documents you need to submit. Are you satisfied with them? How many people have you shared them with? Consider having your PI review your CV, letter, or entire packet, and remember that staff within OITE can review them as well.

For tips on writing/editing your CV and letter, check out these OITE resources:

Also, check out this blog post for the review of a real CV from a trainee interested in teaching-intensive faculty positions.

If you would like to see more CV and letter samples and read more about the academic job market, take a look at the 4th edition of the Academic Job Search Handbook Exit Disclaimer, the standard bearer on this topic. This book is also available via OITE’s circulating library. Visit the 2nd floor of Building 2 to check it out.

When should you be lining up letters of recommendation? When are positions typically posted? When should you put together and practice your job talk? For a comprehensive timeline of the academic job search, check out this OITE resource.

To prepare for a potential interview, don’t miss OITE’s upcoming workshop, Academic Job Interviews, taking place on December 6, 2010, from 3-5pm in the Natcher Conference Center, E1/E2. This workshop is the second in the CAT tracks series on academic jobs.

The third session in the series, Academic Job Seach: Recent Success Stories, is a panel discussion featuring former NIH fellows who will share their experiences with the academic job search and answer questions on applications, interviews, negotiating, and getting started with the teaching, research, and/or patient care responsibilities. This program will take place on February 1, 2011.

If you would like to learn more about interviews before the December workshop, check out last year’s OITE presentation and accompanying videocast on the same topic, or read through the OITE handout on academic interviewing.

Once you reach the negotiating stage, you will need to be prepared with all the information necessary to secure a fair package. For more guidance in this preparation, attend the 4th OITE workshop in the CAT tracks series, Evaluating Positions and Negotiating Offers, taking place on March 2, 2011. Last year’s slides and videocast are available through OITE for viewing, as is a sample offer letter, which may prove very helpful if you are unsure of what to look for.

Once you have accepted a position, you might consider the following to assist you with the transition to full-time faculty work:

  • Transitioning Successfully from Postdoc to Faculty, OITE workshop (3-16-2010)
  • Tomorrow’s  Professor: Preparing for Academic Careers in Science and Engineering, Rick Reis. Available via OITE’s circulating library.
  • Tomorrow’s Professor listserv Exit Disclaimer (helpful resource for all faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and administrators)
  • At the Helm: A Laboratory Navigator, Kathy Barker. Available via OITE’s circulating library.

Best of luck exploring and preparing to enter this challenging and rewarding career!


Making Career Searches Less Scary

October 30, 2017

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During a recent OITE workshop on the topic of career planning, trainees from all levels described finding the job search process “scary” and had feelings of  fear and stress regarding approaching the next steps.  For post bacs, applying to graduate, medical and other professional schools can sometimes feel like an uncharted maze at Halloween.  For post docs and visiting fellows, hearing the scary stories about pursuing academic careers, making the big step into industry, or searching for jobs in the US and abroad country is akin to walking in the dark in uncharted territory.  To add to previous OITE Halloween posts, here are some suggestions to help you slay the ghosts and goblins that are perceived to lurk in the career decision making process.

Do Not Go Gentle (Onto) That Good Career Path:   Put on your cloak of confidence –Allow others to help you learn what is next. 

A career counselor will help you confront myths and arm you with career realities that will empower you to forge ahead and fearlessly apply for opportunities and conquer interviews. You can also re-assess your career decisions and make healthy career choices through using individual career advising and assessments to discover how your interests, skills, and values relate to your career goals and career options.  Wellness advisors can help you manage stress and become resilient professionals through mindfulness exercises that are helpful at managing the stressors associated with the journey.

Researching the necessary qualifications and gaining experience will make career maze is less scary

Aim your flashlight towards the journey ahead by gathering practical information that you need about the career path you are embarking on. Conduct career research (websites, workshops, professional meetings), set up informational interviews with scientists, and utilize the videocasts and blogs found on the OITE web page to train for the trek.  Gain additional experience and skills through fellowships, OITE skills workshops, FAES and other options if you discover you need them. Create a timeline and strategy plan will help you to fearlessly navigate through the maze.

Unmask your talents

Create resumes, CVs, cover letters, personal statements and applications that clearly emphasize your strengths and skills. It is extremely important for scientists at all levels to include your leadership, teamwork, collaborations, communication, and community involvement in addition to your science and research skills.  Visit the OITE resume and CV and cover letter guide to help expose the broad range of skills that you bring to the position.

Use Career Tricks and Treats

It’s time to strut your stuff! Set out to interview at the doors of many schools and or positions.   Learn how to interview well by practicing the STAR technique of behavioral interviewing during a practice interview for graduate school and jobs.  This is a proven method of describing your past experiences, transferrable skills,  and discussing your experience with collaboration, teamwork, leadership, and problem solving and diversity.  Other tricks include, learning how to network, negotiate, and/or develop solid presentations of your research. To sweeten the deal, write effective thank you letters, a welcomed treat to those who have taken time to interview you.

 Have Halloween Fun!

Trainees are encouraged put on your costumes and stop by OITE Trick or Treat celebration on Halloween on October 31, 2017 between 11:00 and 12:30pm to celebrate you and also learn about how our services can help you in your career preparation.  Also hear about some of OITE’s staff’s scary job search stories.


Writing the Research Statement

October 6, 2017

One of the documents that applicants are asked to submit as part of the complete academic job packet is the research statement. In general, this is a two to three-page document that describes your pathway into research in your discipline, pre-doctoral and postdoctoral research, and future directions for your research in the professorship.  This is an opportunity for you to help the search committee envision you fitting nicely into their department and achieving tenure in their department.

We encourage postdocs and graduate students in the sciences to visit the OITE website and watch the Academic Job Search: Applying and Interviewing video cast  in which Sharon Milgram, PhD Director of the Office of Intramural Training and Education discusses the essentials of the process for scientists. In addition, view the  Academic Job Search: Preparing Your Job Package presentation slides where you will find more information on preparing Research Statement.

For those of you who need additional help getting started, The University of Pennsylvania discusses the research statement and suggests applicants consider the following questions to help you to begin to craft your research statement.

  • What got you interested in this research?
  • What was the burning question that you set out to answer?
  • What challenges did you encounter along the way, and how did you overcome these challenges?
  • How can your research be applied?
  • Why is your research important within your field?
  • What direction will your research take you in next, and what new questions do you have

We invite you to visit the OITE career counselors to discuss your job search needs.  If you are one of our readers beyond NIH we encourage you to visit our website resources and work with your academic department and other institutional resources to help you prepare.


Writing the Teaching Statement

September 28, 2017

As you prepare a your written application materials to use when entering the Academic Job Market, in addition to the standard Curriculum Vitae (CV), Cover Letter,  and a diversity statements, you may be asked submit a Teaching Statement .  In general, teaching statements help search committees gain an understanding about how you approach teaching courses in your academic discipline.  This statement, that will include your philosophy towards teaching science,  will give the reader a concise synopsis of the underpinnings and origins to your approach to teaching followed by the strategies you plan to use, and examples and evidence of your success. The authors of,  The Academic Job Search Handbook (5th Edition), write that the Teaching Statement can be described as, “…a brief essay that will give a hiring committee an idea of what you actually do in the classroom. You will need to make some general statements but be sure to give some examples of things you have already done, or at least seen in practice, rather than give examples that are entirely hypothetical.”.

The NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) recommends that you watch our video casts on the Academic Job Search Process  before writing your statement.  Strong teaching statements will:

  • show clear evidence that you can “walk the walk”.
  • communicate that you are student-centered.
  • showcase your ability to teach to diverse learning styles
  • demonstrate your ability to reflect about your role as a teacher.
  • convey your enthusiasm for teaching.

For beginning instructors, Science Magazine provides some specific tips to the academic scientist who is starting the job market. The AAAS makes several suggestions to impress the search committee that include tailoring it to the institution, drawing form your personal experience learning science, and discussing what courses you would like to teach.  To help you get started, jot down your responses to the following reflective questions as you begin or re-evaluate your teaching statement:

  • Think back …Who or what experiences have influenced your approach to teaching?
  • How do you teach science? How do you motivate students to learn?
  • Do you teach differently to undergraduates, graduate, professionals?
  • What methods, materials, techniques, technology will you use to support your teaching goals
  • How will you teach to diverse audiences?
  • Describe creative methods to teach in your field?

If you are new to teaching or need more experience teaching, the OITE offers the course Scientists Teaching Science  that is an excellent program to help you begin to strategize and develop the skills for teaching in the profession including developing a teaching philosophy.  If taken, this can be included as training in your teaching statement and on your CV.


How to Have Productive Career Counseling and Pre-professional Advising Sessions

September 11, 2017

Many of our NIH post bacs, postdocs and graduate students ask the question, “What can I expect from my counseling or advising meeting?”   To answer this question fully is to realize that the route to having successful counseling and advising sessions, like any relationship, is a two-way street.

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The services that these career services professionals provide to you will come from one direction. For example, review the OITE blog post on reasons to seek career counseling. You may want to meet with a pre-professional school advisor who provide advice and suggestions for strategizing your approach to applying and gaining admission to the graduate (PhD) or professional schools (MD, MBA, JD, MPP, MS) programs. Often these are professionals who possess the degrees for which they are advising and/or give advice on school choice, entrance exam testing (i.e.: MCAT, DAT, GRE, etc.), course selection and prerequisites, personal statement review, and practice interviews for specific professions.

What you bring from the opposite direction (as a trainee) will truly enhance your experience, help you to meet half-way, and work together towards achieving your career goals. Here are some suggestions about how you can prepare to make the most of your sessions.

Ask good questions: review basic information before coming to the session

  • Visit the OITE webpage and review the various resources.
  • Read OITE Career blog, related to the topic for which you are seeking counseling and advising.
  • Visit the OITE webpage for prior events and videos on job search strategy topics such as, networking, CV and Cover Letter writing, and information on a variety of career paths for scientists.
  • Review  OITE resources for applying to MD, PhD, MD/PHD, programs or taking the MCAT, GRE.
  • Attend and NIH sponsored programs that are advertised by the various institutes of health.

Bring updated hard copies of documents to your session

  • Print and bring a copy of documents such as CVs, resumes, cover letters personal statements, teaching philosophies and research statements, etc.  Advisors like to write on them directly.
  • Follow suggestions and make any recommended changes/edits before your next meeting.
  • You will need to make the changes to your documents so it is in your own words. This is in your best interest so the document is genuinely from you.

Prepare for mock interviews beforehand

  • Review OITE video casts and blogs on interviews for medical school, graduate school, academic, or industry jobs, etc.
  • Ask for help answering questions that you are having difficulty with.
  • Schedule a practice interview at least one month prior to beginning actual interviews. This will give you time to practice after receiving constructive feedback.
  • Continue to practice your answers after your mock interview implementing any suggestions made by the advisor/counselor.

Do your homework

  • Follow any suggestions for next steps and referrals provided by your advisor and counselor. Attending workshops or visiting websites, conducting informational interviews, and meeting with alumni are other opportunities that career professionals may suggest.
  • Make any recommended changes to your documents before your next session.
  • If you are having difficulty, be sure to tell your advisor so we can continue to help you.

Of course, we recognize that sometimes it isn’t easy to determine the specific reasons why you are coming in. So, if you are having difficulty with any of these suggestions, then just answer the question, “What brings you in?”  Rest assured that your counselor or advisor will “take you where you are” and  happily guide you towards your goals.