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The Job Market (Parts I, II, & III)

Note: I'm happy to edit and polish this over time, so feel free to send me questions or comments. Also, this post contains sprinklings of snark, as is necessary post-job-market-experience. Please approach with a sense of humor.

I was on the faculty job market this past year, 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic and while everything was on zoom, and am writing this about my experience in response to many questions that I've gotten, not because I think I am any kind of expert.


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Part I

September 28, 2021

I was hoping to write an all-encompassing post, but time keeps passing, so I'll start with the parts that are relevant now and update with more later so as not to miss out on this year's cycle.

My first suggestion, which isn't much use to just say, is that being on the job market is a year of constant decision-making and being placed in stressful positions. People tend to start from a place of anxiety and consulting their friends and mentors about every little thing, and eventually wind up in a semi-numb/zen place where they toss off emails, take meetings, and give talks like it's no big deal. The sooner you can get to that independent and zen place, the better, because the year is really just a perpetual state of people throwing insane-situation darts at you, so it's time to become impervious to it and learn to just enjoy the chaos. It sort of reminds me of electrical stimulation during physical therapy—when you have a really painful injury, they electrically stimulate your nerves. At first it's uncomfortable and even slightly painful as they increase the frequency to stimulate the nerves of your injury which are overworked, but eventually, they're so stimulated that they finally go numb and rest and you get some relief, and it's kind of the best thing ever. That's where we need to get to—past that initial anxiety stimulation and to the rest and relief.

One of the first things you learn as new faculty is that no one really knows what they're doing. Think about it: if you're on the job market, you're going to be faculty in a few short months. People start teaching immediately, advising, and get asked to be on admissions and hiring committees. There's no separate training for that. That's you in a few month's time. That could be you right now if you'd gone on the market last year. So who's on the other side of your process? You, effectively. Pretty much the best thing you can do whenever you start stressing and asking yourself questions about every small thing is imagine you're on the other side. What would you care about if you were hiring? Would you decide whether to hire someone because they wore a blue vs. pink shirt, or skipped a glass of wine at dinner? No, I don't think so, so you don't need to stress about that. What would you look for in a colleague? Giving yourself this mental check has given me a new level of zen whenever I interact with anyone, apply for anything, etc.

My Timeline:

Part of this will be non-standard due to COVID, and also, I didn't necessarily do a good job (which I'll try to point out), but might be a helpful reference.

Multiple Markets

I applied to three different markets: the North American Computer Science market (which I'll just refer to as the US CS market, or just CS, since I only actually applied to one school in Canada), the Operations Research (OR) market, and the Israel (Computer Science) market. Each market has slightly different timing and traditions, so I sought advice from people within each market. It's important to do this earlier on so that so that it's clear that you respect the market and really want to be a part of it.

For example, if you are going on the OR market, you need to attend Informs, the big annual OR conference. The year of the job market, you give a talk and everyone interested in hiring you should come see it. You also have interviews at Informs. In order to prepare for this process, it's best if you attend Informs a previous year to understand what this event looks like, because it's definitely not your typical CS conference. Also, it's a journal field, so it's important to separate out your journal publications into a different section on your CV, and you'll certainly be asked questions about this.

My letter writers for the Israeli market were not the same as my letter writers for the US CS market. I was told that seniority is much more important in the Israeli market, as opposed to perhaps the person who knows you and your work the best and thinks the highest of you, even if they're more junior, so I only used my most senior letter writers. In Israel, I emailed my contacts before applying and asked about the process, whereas everywhere else I just emailed my contacts after submitting my applications.

Plus, for any market that's different from where you are currently, you're sure to be asked why you want to join. Why do you want to move to Israel? Why do you want to be in an OR department? And you better have a good reason, because no one wants to give away their precious slots to someone who doesn't really want to be there. For example: My work is interdisciplinary, but I don't have as much experience with the applied, so I'd love to be in an OR department to have more applied collaborators with their connections to be able to get my research more connected to practice. And, I'd love to live in Israel because all of the time I've spent there has been some of my happiest, plus it's a million times easier to implement allocation systems with the government, and it's the greatest academic hub of all, even more so than New York or Boston or the Bay area.

Where to Apply and Getting Organized

Pretty much all CS-related faculty positions are posted on the CRA job page, and the best thing to do is to subscribe to the email list by filling out the right side of that website, and then take note of the relevant job ads as they come in. Sometimes there are more specific aggregations, e.g., CS theory jobs. For operations research and industrial engineering departments, many posted on the CRA job page regardless, but I also specifically went looking for postings at the schools that have more engineering departments (compared to business schools). For me, these schools are: Cornell ORIE, Georgia Tech ISyE, Stanford MS&E, Columbia IEOR, Northwestern IEMS, Michigan IEOR, and in Israel, Technion IE&M.

Another great resource is the "Future Faculty Forum" slack channel created by Supreeth Shastri. To join, email him at This is a closed community only of this year's academic candidates formed to help each other out gathering job listings and answering one another's questions as they go through the job market experience together. Sometimes sub-communities form as well—for example, I was in a 9-person "2021-israel" channel that I found extremely valuable for candidates searching in Israel.

As for choosing from the list of schools that have postings. The first thing to note is that if a posting lists a preferred area within a larger posting, even if that's not your area, you can apply anyway. However, if the posting specifically says "Assistant Professor of Computational Neuroscience" and is entirely geared toward that, then you really need to be a computational neuroscientist. Otherwise, I think my list narrowed naturally. I think in my head, I was considering location, quality of students at the school, known colleagues within and outside of the department, etc, and if something fell too low in various categories then it got nixed. I wound up making a spreadsheet with the following columns: University, Department, Link [to application], Deadline [for application], Submitted?, Updatable?, Letters, Preference, Notes, Contact, Emailed?.
Timing: I think OR postings mostly went up in early September. CS postings went up any time between early September and mid-to-late November, so be patient. Israeli university websites got updated sometime between September and October. For more details on the OR and Business market, see e.g. Nikhil Garg's advice.

Recommendation Letters

Start thinking/asking mid-September. As late as mid-late October will work for CS, though.

Choosing: Start thinking/asking mid-September. Applications will give you the ability to submit 3-5 letters typically, possibly up to 7 if they're really unconstrained. Sometimes they really only allow 3, so when you're deciding who to ask, you should have a ranking in mind, "Who will be my top 3, top 4, 5?" and so forth for when you're constrained. You must provide a letter from your PhD advisor or it will look weird. I was told you don't need to provide a letter from your postdoc host, although 2-3 Israeli schools did specifically require it. I think a combination of how known the writer is and how strong what they can say about you is what's important. For your first junior faculty position in the markets I applied in, you don't need a letter from someone you haven't worked with—that's more like a tenure letter, and while it can be a strong thing to have if there's a famous person out there who loves your work and hasn't worked with you, it's definitely not a requirement for this search. All collaborators is great. But discuss your choices with your advisor.

Asking: Give your writer an out when you ask. All recommendation letters are positive, but not all recommendation letters are equal. Someone who did well in classes and has nice papers is not the same as the strongest researcher seen in years with real vision and who takes initiative. These are all positive traits, but of very different strength. So, you want to ask if your writer can write a strong letter, or give them an out for if they can't, because you don't want that weak letter.

Managing: Even if you apply to the low end of schools and have the low end of recommenders, it's still a crazy amount to manage to make sure all of the letters get in, especially since not every recommender is writing a letter for every school, and each letter goes to a different location. I made a separate google doc for each letter writer that contained a list of schools they needed to send a letter for, the deadline, what status the school was (not requested, requested, submitted), and a link to where they were supposed to submit or information about what email to look for or send to. This made it very easy to keep track of and remind my letter writers. Some never updated their sheets and I had to update for them; some did. Also, you of course need to remind your letter writers as deadlines approach, because they have a million other things on their mind. You're not annoying them if you remind them once in a while—it's helpful to them for you to act as a reminder (unless they tell you otherwise).

Application Materials

For Israel or OR, start really working on these by mid-late September. For CS, start really working on these by mid-late October.

One of the most important things I was told is that there's a point after which it's not worth tuning your statements anymore. They're good enough, and you're wasting your time, so just stop. I think 2-3 weeks of full-time focus (application materials are your main object throughout the day, even if your doing some other things) should be plenty, and any longer will drive you insane.

Going back to the principle of "what would I do on the other side?"—how would you judge an applicant? Would you care that much about their CV or the descriptions on page 4 of their research statement? Would you care at all about the specific LaTeX template they used? You'd probably mostly care about what their letter writers say, read the introduction of their research statement closely to see what their field is, how much it excites you, and what their contribution is, and at most skim other materials. So create your materials with this in mind! This is why there's a "good enough" threshold, because really you can express your field and contributions clearly, and it's up to your letter writers to do the rest. Here are some tips I've heard: My materials at the time of applying: You should absolutely 100% email someone at each school after applying! It should be a contact in your area who you know, or at least knows of you. This person can reach out to the search committee and recommend that they take a closer look at your application. Seriously, do this. It might seem weird to you, and maybe 80% of the time nothing will happen, but the other 20% of the time it could get you an interview, and isn't that worth it? Here's an example of the emails I sent. (Again, my emails are from peak pandemic...)

US Example—sent November 20 immediately after submitting application:

Subject: Applied to Y

Hi X,

I just wanted to let you know that I just submitted a faculty application to Y.

Hope you're doing (as) well (as possible)!


I also emailed in Israel, and I actually sent those emails earlier in the process. Some of the processes are a bit weirder in Israel—for example, Weizmann does not do interviews. You can arrange a seminar talk through a contact, but that's it. Or, at least last year, one of the schools didn't post how to apply until super late, and the only reason my application got in on time is because it was sent through my contact.

Israel example—sent October 15 before applying at all:

Subject: Applying to Y

Hi X,

I hope you're managing during these crazy times, and enjoying getting out of the house after the latest lockdown!

I'm writing because I'm applying for faculty positions this year and I'm planning to apply to Y. I was wondering if you have any insight about the process or other information that you could share with me.


P.S. My department is hiring!

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Part II

November 19, 2021

As promised, my next installment on the ever-fun-to-talk-about job market! Here's what has come up from conversations with people on this year's market, as well as thinking back to the next events in the sequence.

Screening Calls

Many departments now have "screening calls" for their ~top ten applicants before the determine the top ~3 to interview for a position. This is extremely prevalent in OR, but also in Computer Science these days. I want to remind you that I was on the market during peak pandemic, so I have no idea how representative this is, but here's what I observed. No CS programs in Israel had screening calls. Every OR program I applied to had a screening call. Of the North-American CS interview invitations I received, 28% had screening calls beforehand, and the rest of the invitations came directly.

The calls have some number of interviewers, possibly ranging from 1-6 people, could be via zoom or phone, and were almost always around 30 minutes for me. Often times, I was given the format in advance to prepare for, for example: To prepare for these calls, what you really need is (1) a decent elevator pitch about your recent agenda, (2) the ability to explain some of your recent papers at a high level without aides, (3) to give ideas about what you'll work on in the future—e.g., you'd like to be able to answer "I'd like to have accomplished X in 10 years" or "here's a problem I hope to work on soon," and (4) be able to ask some questions that show you're intelligent and interested. My "hot tip" is to remember to prepare some questions, so you don't accidentally put your foot in your mouth (I did during my first call...). In particular, I really care about department collegiality beyond research groups, so I liked to ask things like "do people chat with each other in the hallway?" or "do graduate students from different areas know each other?" I also learned that admin support is very important, so I often asked about admin support, particularly when it comes to submitting grants.

Here's what I looked up before my screening calls to prepare: And yes, for screening calls over zoom, you should dress nicely. This shouldn't make-or-break, but you're still making a first impression, so best to at least wear something you'd wear to give a well-attended talk.

Some other advice on preparing for screening calls by Baris Kasikci and Shomir Wilson. Edit May 2023: Roei Tell recently wrote a post-mortem on his job market experience, and includes (among many other valuable things!) an appendix on questions he was asked.

Scheduling Interviews

My main insight here is that it takes at least a day to recover from an interview, if not two. A day with nothing on your calendar. A day to sit at home binging netflix (or working out, reading a book, whatever you fancy) while you slowly muster up the strength to email out thank you notes. Do not schedule back-to-back interviews, even if it seems convenient for your travel plans. You shouldn't be doing more than two interviews a week, really, but if you have to squeeze in three one-day interviews all in the same geographic region, at least have a day off in between.

How? They're pressuring you and ignoring your requests? Well, right now they might be forcing you to pack them in, but in a week or two, your calendar is actually going to be entirely packed. So don't use flights or preferences as an excuse, just say something like, "Unfortunately, my calendar is already packed. I am first available the week of X, on the days of the Y and Z." I promise, your calendar will be full soon, so it's worth it to plant your feet and get the right dates now.

Also, you want your top choice school(s) to be ~3rd or 4th in your line-up. Your first interview or two is going to be a little rough while you smooth out the kinks. Your tenth or fifteenth interview is not going to register to you, as you move through it as a shell of a human. So, somewhere in the middle is ideal.

Some schools ask you for input on your schedule. I usually asked for student-meetings (a meeting with a group of PhD students), possibly named some specific faculty I was interested in meeting with, and mentioned that I was generally interested in meeting with folks who did interdisciplinary research with policy or healthcare. I also had some requests more pertinent to zoom interviews.

Zoom Interview Tips

This section is just for those of you who might still be having interviews over zoom. None of my interviews were in person (except for back on my postdoc market), so I can't help there.

Talk Setup: To give the same energy as during a typical in-person talk, I stood during my zoom talks. I used a monitor in addition to my laptop, and moved them over to a counter so that they were at the appropriate height. I also bought a razer kiyo webcam to improve on the built-in webcam of my laptop, and it comes with its own very basic ring-light. Then when presenting my powerpoint, I put the presenter mode on my larger monitor, and the display screen on my laptop. I used boxes to prop up my laptop behind and above my monitor, so I had it just above. Then I would share just the display screen of powerpoint in zoom (start presenting in powerpoint, command-tab over to zoom, share screen and just share that window that now exists). Now, pop out your chat and participant windows in zoom and drag them over to your monitor window covering spots you don't need, so you can see questions in the chat and hands being raised. And I would resize the videos on my laptop window into gallery mode and to fill the whole laptop screen. This way, I was using my monitor to present my talk and to monitor participation, and glancing up at my laptop (just above the webcam, so looking at the camera) to look at people's faces. I used a bluetooth keyboard to advance slides and a bluetooth mouse as a pointer. I used bluetooth headphones as both headphones and a microphone. I found this set-up incredibly effective. I also literally moved my monitor/laptop/keyboard/mouse to the counter and back to my desk before and after my talk every single interview. (A standing desk would make things easier, I'm sure.)

Breaks: During in-person interviews, breaks occur naturally as people walk you from meeting to meeting, or you stop at the restroom between meetings. During virtual interviews, they don't. No one thinks about the other meetings you have. Everyone logs on exactly at :00 and off exactly at :30. Some places were nice enough to end meetings at :25 or start meetings at :05 on the schedule, but most faculty didn't actually notice and still held them for the full 30 minutes. So when asked what you want in your schedule, ask for 5 minute breaks between meetings. You'll need them—to breathe, to run to the restroom, for coffee, and because you won't get 80% of them.

Meal-and-Coffee-Prep: My understanding is that for in-person interviews, you get taken to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and these meetings are part of your interview. You get 1-2 hour meals where you chat with people. And maybe this is a bit stressful, but you get a nice relaxing meal. During every single zoom interview that I had, I got at most a 30 minute break for lunch, no lunch or delivery gift-certificate provided, and then back to a packed day of meetings. So, you're not exactly cooking or going out to grab food during your 30 minute lunch break, especially since your meeting before will surely run over, and you haven't gone to the restroom in hours. I always made my food the night before (or more realistically, ordered-in the night before) and just heated up so I could spend the short time eating. I also prepped multiple cups of coffee in the morning so that I could quickly run and grab some ready-to-go coffee during my two seconds between a zoom call that maybe would occur, since people aren't walking you around hallways offering to get coffee with you.

Notes: While it might be a bit odd to take out a notebook and scribble down notes in the middle of an in-person interview, it's not even noticeable when someone takes notes during a zoom interview. I kept a document open on half of my screen with my interview schedule and information on the people I was meeting that I looked up ahead of time (e.g., what kind of research this person does), and took light notes about our conversation. The conversations totally blend together after, so it's a nice reminder about your impressions of the school, is useful for thank-you notes, and wound up giving me a lot of great research ideas. (When else do you get to just get zillions of outside perspectives on your research?)

The Job Talk

This is arguably the most important material you can prepare in the whole job market process. Here's how my preparation went. I spent about two weeks working on my talk full-time, doing nothing else. Then I started presenting parts of it to my PhD advisor, postdoc host, and junior faculty friends. Every time, I was essentially told to remake the entire talk, and to make it 1/4 as technical. This happened over and over until I'd remade the talk entirely and, in my opinion, the talk was completely non-technical.

Now, let's look at it from the other side. The faculty are seeing 4+ interviews for every position they're hiring, in addition to their busy jobs, of course. They just want to know if you work on cool stuff, are a good researcher, and will be a good colleague. But they're tired. Would you want to have to have laser-focus on a semi-technical talk out of your area to assess these things? Or would you rather learn something new and cool by being spoon-fed some nice explanations?

My job talk took the following structure: I don't think my job talk did a good job of telling people how I solve problems, talking about the parts that I find most interesting in my own research, or describing my research profile holistically. As much as we might think that's what the job talk is for, it's not. I do think that my job talk did a good job of spoon-feeding people some interesting things about algorithmic mechanism design, some chunk of problems I'm interested in, and a few results of mine. Here is a video of my job talk.

Oh, and when you're practicing and getting feedback and remaking your talk a zillion times in the beginning? Don't overweight each individual piece of feedback. Try to understand the essence of what people are saying, and take it from there. For example, the more senior faculty told me to order my content in exactly the opposite order as the more junior faculty that I got feedback from. Needless to say, it's okay not to follow every single piece of advice.

Here's some good general advice I got (and followed): *A mentor suggested writing out a script for the introduction, since it's possibly the most important part of the talk. I wound up doing this, not just for the introduction, but for transitions between each section too, since that's where I always struggle the most. The goal was not to know this exact script, but just to have a very solid idea of what I wanted to say at these points. Then, I recorded myself reading the script (and eventually recorded myself speaking the content I preferred to the original script). I listened to it a bunch to help myself learn what I wanted to say at these key points (again, just a general idea, not word-for-word), and I listened to it before each talk as part of my prep. As long as I transitioned into the talk and each segment easily, the rest of the talk flowed fine, and this technique really helped center me and remind me what I wanted to say. I've never used this technique before, but I felt like it was super helpful, so I wanted to share it.

Also, for full-disclosure, I had a hype-up song that I listened to right before my talk. My process was: listen to transition recordings, relax, then listen to my hype-up song. Highly recommend.

One-on-One Interviews

As I touched on a bit under "notes" in the zoom section, one-on-one meetings can be really fun. There's basically no other time when everyone is so focused on you and your research, and you get to just hear people's perspectives and get cool ideas. It's actually quite inspiring, and I recommend trying to keep track of the cool research ideas that come up.

Now, remember, the people on your schedule are trying to evaluate if they want you in their department. That is, do you do cool research, fill some void/need of theirs, and would you be a good colleague? For the most part, the first two questions are answered by your job talk and application. The one-on-ones are for the super-engaged to dig deeper, and for anyone to evaluate if you'd be a good colleague. A lot of people just sign up to be on your schedule to "help out," because they want to give you a good interview experience. But they're busy, so they didn't pay attention to your talk or prep for your meeting. And then it's time for your meeting and they don't know what to say. So they go ahead and say the infamous,

"Well, people have probably been asking you questions all day, so let's see, do you have any questions for me?"

Now, it's your 10th one-on-one of the day and you've asked every question you could possibly think of 10 times already, and you know more about their university than they do at this point. So what do you do? You have 30 entire minutes to fill. To me, this was the worst kind of meeting.

The worst kind of meeting is not someone grilling you as if there's a flaw in your research. You are extremely prepared to defend your research. I had maybe 3-4 meetings where I was grilled like that total in all of my interviews combined, and it only lasted 2-10 minutes in each of those meetings. The first type of meeting is much more common. So the best thing you can do to prepare is have a million different types of questions to ask, and have that list in front of you (or committed to memory).

Questions to ask: During every interview, you'll have a meeting with the department chair/head-of-school/dean/whatever-it's-called-at-that-school. During the "chair meeting," I honestly didn't really ask very different questions. I perhaps focused more on the question, "What is the department's planned trajectory over the next five years?" and other questions about future/simultaneous hiring, growth, interdisciplinary collaborations, etc. However, there were often other people on my schedule (previous chairs, heads of interdisciplinary institutes) who I duplicated these conversations with. They might tell me about tenure and promotion in the department, but honestly, it's at most epsilon-different from anywhere else.

Student Meeting: Now, the meeting with PhD students is a very different kind of meeting. Students are the most open people you'll meet, so this is the meeting where you should look to extract whatever everyone else might be dancing around. Some universities are known to be going through things... faculty moving away, having some jerk on the faculty, some scandal in the news, whatever else, but this would be awkward to bring up in your one-on-ones. The student meeting is the place to try and bring that up. In the student meeting, I usually tried to assess how happy the students were, and how much initiative they were taking without faculty. I'd ask questions like, "Do you run any reading groups without faculty? Do you have any collaborations with other students that the students initiated?" I might also ask, "Do you feel like you have a life outside of work? Do you think your faculty do? How stressful does it feel in the lab around deadlines?"

I had a conversation with a friend the other day who was asking me just how direct one can be with their questions during interviews. They asked, "Can I say, are people nice? Can I say, are your students good?" I said, no, but you can say, "Do people chat with each other in the hallways? Do they go to lunch together? Are the faculty friends with each other?" And you can say, "What schools do you compete with for PhD students?" Whatever you want to ask, there's probably a way to phrase a different question that gets at the same information, and you just have to learn how this skill.

Thank you notes: There's a lot of debate about whether to send thank-you emails or not, and what they should look like. I don't think there's any harm to sending them. Mine were all identical except for one personalized, genuine sentence in each (and my notes from my meetings were helpful here). I tried to send them within ~3 days of the interview, usually the day after when I was decompressing by watching Bakeoff and writing thank you notes at the same time. The only time I didn't send thank you notes was after some interviews in Israel, because Israeli friends told me that it was really weird, although I had already sent some and seemed to get positive reactions, so whatever. Here's an example of a thank you note I sent:

Subject: X one-on-one meeting

Hi Y,

Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me during my virtual visit to X on Monday. I really enjoyed getting to chat with you -- [I think your work on team formation and freelancing within labor markets is super interesting, and I also appreciated hearing about how you felt in the department as junior faculty.] I hope we get to chat again sometime soon!


The highlighted sentence is of course my "personalized sentence."

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Part III

March 18, 2022

Here is the much-delayed final installment about my job market experience. For all on the market this year, I hope you are near the end, and that you can begin your much-needed rest and healing. As someone who is a year out, I can promise you that the healing will eventually come—your soul and energy will return. Okay, here we go.

After You Get Offers: Declining, Withdrawing, Extending

Timing is everything when you're on the market. Trying to get schools to line up across one market is hard enough, let alone across multiple markets. And then having time? Not really a thing. Once you have offers, you might want to free up your time with respect to interviews that you already have scheduled, and you might want to make sure you're not wasting any political capital with places that are clearly dominated.

Deans and department chairs will completely understand. They do this every year. They are incredibly used to having candidates withdraw and decline during the process. 100% of them were incredibly nice to me and wished me luck, some even said other wonderful things. It seems terrifying to disappoint these people who have been working with you, but really, they were so great about it. And they want their time and resources back! They want to move on to other candidates. So go ahead and free up that time and those resources.

There are some people who might respond as being hurt or less understanding. Those are your contacts at the universities who are rooting for you to join. What it looks like from their perspective: they've been pitching your case to the hiring committee. They've been going around trying to convince everyone that you're a superstar and their department needs you. And they have their hopes up so high that they might get you as a future colleague, a new forever-friend to join them at their place of work every day. They're the person who might be hurt. Not the dean or department chair. So send them a nice email and be understanding/sensitive here, and make sure you thank them profusely for their time.

In terms of ending the process, and especially in declining an offer, I received very good advise to always cite a reason that is completely out of the university's control—location, two-body, whatever, but not something that they feel they could potentially change.

Withdrawing and canceling an interview:

Hi [Chair],

I hope you're doing well! I wanted to update you about my search status. I've received several offers—from [list]. I'm very excited about these places, and after a great deal of thought, I've come to the conclusion that it's much more likely that I'll accept one of these offers, so I think perhaps it makes the most sense to save [University] the effort and resources of putting together my interview. I know the talk details have already been posted online, so I'm happy to still give the talk if that's easier—let me know what you think is best.

All the best,

Declining an offer:

Hi [Dean],

Thank you so much for all your help throughout the interview process. I am now a bit further into my decision-making process, and while I'm certain that [University] would be an exceptional academic fit, it has become clear to me that living in a city is more important to my productivity and happiness at this stage in my life than I had previously realized.

I had a really great time during my interview, and I'm truly appreciative and very honored to have received an offer from [Department]. I'm sad not to get to know the faculty and students at [University] better—you have a wonderful school with both excellent research and remarkable community.

All the best and thank you again,

Extending an offer:

This is probably the only section in this whole post that I feel I was slightly strategic or deceptive about, and only barely. What's important here is that it takes a long time to formalize and write down an offer. Given that offers are powerful things that can help extract offers or better parameters from other schools, it might seem like you want to get a written offer as fast as possible. Most people will probably tell you this. That's not the principle that I operated on. Written offers come with deadlines, and I did not want deadlines. So my approach was to happily take my informal verbal offers and delay/draw-out the formal offer process.

For example, on February 1, one school let me know that I had been approved for an offer, and that they would need an equipment budget from me and a predicted deadline in order to put together my written offer. Now, partially because I was in the midst of other interviews, and partially because I had no idea how to put together such a budget and had emailed other faculty for examples who hadn't responded, but also nonetheless partially to draw out the process, 10 days later I received an email from the dean asking me for my progress. We exchanged some emails back and forth where I explained that I was confused about the budget. We decided to have a zoom call. By the time we scheduled and actually had our zoom call, it was February 17. I received my formal offer on the 18th. Given that deadlines are often 2-4 weeks, those extra 18 days were huge.

For another school, I was actually warned that they give extremely short deadlines, and that they make offers immediately after the interview, so when it came time to schedule my interview, I was insistent on scheduling the interview late. Go back and reread the section on scheduling interviews if you still feel uncertain about insisting on certain times for your interviews.

For yet another school, they told me it would take them a while to go through the process, and I myself was already well into the process due to the multiple markets when they invited me, so I asked them to schedule my interview literally as soon as possible. I think I wound up having my interview within a week of my invitation, but as a result, my offer synced up with the rest of my offers, so I could actually consider it.

Another way that I extended deadlines was just by being genuine and explaining what was going on with me and why I was asking for what I was asking for. You might notice this as a recurring theme. Par example, here was my heartfelt plea for more time (which was granted):

Dear [Dean],

I wanted to update you on where I am in my faculty search and decision process: still extremely interested in [University], but not yet ready to decide. I know that my written offer letter has a deadline of [Date] in it. As you know, the American faculty market is much later than the Israeli market, with interviews typically bleeding into May. I've managed to contain all of my interviews to March. I have offers from [list], and have already begun turning down and withdrawing from other schools (as I did everywhere in Israel aside from [University]).

At this point, in order to make my decision, what I really need is for my interview process to conclude so that I have some more time on my hands... and then to use that time to talk to many people and think over what to me is obviously a huge life decision of moving to Israel. I love [University] and I love [City], I just need to gather a lot more information about what my future of living in Israel long term would look like before I can commit to this major change for me.

So, I'd like to ask for more time to make the decision, and a good bit of more time—another month, until [Date + 1 Month]. I know this is highly atypical for Israeli CS offers, but then again, so is a non-Israeli applying for faculty jobs in Israel, so I hope you (plural—I know this is not only your decision) will be understanding.

All the best,


As my experience was during peak covid, I had no in-person interviews or second-visits. Most places didn't mention second-visits at all, but one or two had virtual second-visits. These consisted of zoom calls with people further afield to see who else I might collaborate with if I chose this university and learn about how interdisciplinary relations worked across departments, plus to establish potential secondary (0%) appointments.

I did, however, ask for three minimal in-person second-visits. They were essentially just enough time to walk around the campus and see the buildings with 1-3 people from the university, not to have a full visit. However, I learned extremely valuable information. For example, I learned about where people sat. One university had the CS department split across three different far-apart buildings and was planning to seat me far from my closest collaborators. At various universities, I learned whether departments sit together in one building or are split across multiple, and whether those buildings are close together to each other or not. I learned whether students sit in 3-person offices or 30-person offices. I learned whether faculty offices were clustered near each other on 2 floors, or whether they were scattered seemingly randomly across 5 floors. I found this very informative, and even determined that where I sat at one university was the most important factor to me.

Of course, there are other things to learn, like where the good food spots, how "good" those food spots are, whether your future colleagues find drip coffee acceptable or nespresso or insist on a $10,000 coffee machine that looks like a spaceship (as they should). Typically people drive around and look at various potential neighborhoods to live in, learn about the housing market, etc. Anyway, I'm not the expert here because again, covid, but I'm someone who is vibey and cares a lot about how it feels to be in my work building daily and how it feels to run into colleagues, so even these mini-visits were important to me.


These are the main parameters that I tracked for varying with some examples that demonstrate the various forms they come in. They vary a lot across universities and departments and are definitely not the same across the board. These are the parameters that you can negotiate on, pretty much. One place also just gave me like "start-up = 400k" and no fixed buckets like above (although still salary, expiration, teaching load, teaching release, and costs are relevant). But there are lots of other questions to ask, that even though the answers are non-negotiable, can inform your decision and also inform what you ask for in the other parameters. Two important things to make note of are "fringe" and "overhead." "Fringe" is how much extra you have to pay on top of a student/postdoc/whoever's salary to pay for the employee's benefits (healthcare, university computer account access, etc). "Overhead" is essentially a (large) tax on your grant money taken by the university. Other questions I asked include: Some things I learned in "negotiating" follow. It may be negotiating, but honestly, this is your (potential) future institution and they just want to support their new faculty member to do well, so really, you're on the same side. I think the easiest way to get you want is to make sure that they see that (by seeing that yourself!).

Salary is incredibly difficult to move. For one place, I had another offer with a salary that was 25k higher, so they immediately raised me 5k and told me that was the maximum that they could do—it was clear that they had a pre-approved range for negotiation with a hard max. At another place, I asked to increase the salary by 1.5k and they had to take this request to the provost and assured me there was no way that would happen, that's how hard it can be to move salary. This is not like negotiating salary in the tech industry.

On the other hand, when it comes to your start-up package, almost anything is on the table. The most important thing I learned is that you need to explain why you want things. Universities have a lot of really weird rules going on behind the scenes (which probably explains all of the bizarre things happening to you in this process). At one university, I told them many times that I wanted more money in my discretionary budget, and that another university had given me 70k more in discretionary money. They told me they couldn't increase my discretionary budget, period. Then I explained that (1) I was really excited about organizing workshops and seminars across the geographic area, (2) international collaboration is really important to me and I was hoping to bring scholars to visit and send myself or my students to visit, and (3) I suffer from chronic migraines, so I need to be able to purchase some additional (and expensive) equipment like e-ink monitors and tablets. Suddenly, I had everything I wanted—a separate pot of money to host workshops and seminars, a separate pot of money for equipment so that I didn't have to pay for equipment out of discretionary, and the difference left in my discretionary would cover the international visits. This is where being on the same side comes in—by explaining why I wanted various resources, how they would help advance my career, the department was completely behind me. There was no strategic hardball against each other. Which is nice, cause I'm not that kind of person, and I didn't have to be. I just had to ask for what I wanted and explain why.


I can only say what my decision was based on. I was primarily optimizing for day-to-day happiness, so I asked a lot of questions about whether people seem happy, what they do for fun outside of work and family, etc.

This meant that a large factor in my decision was location. I chose Boston because (1) it's an academic hub with many many universities close together (~15 minutes apart, not an hour apart) as well as research labs. This is advantageous not just collaboration-wise, but also socially for those of us whose social lives are now way too embedded into academia, both because friends will live nearby and because friends will pass through frequently for academic reasons. Boston's a focus city for Delta and is served by Amtrak, so there's lots of easy travel. And (2) I grew up in Philadelphia, so my family isn't too far and people I've known from childhood and undergrad have settled in Boston, giving me non-academic friends in the area (a crazy concept!).

A second huge part of my decision was environment. It is really really important to me that people are friendly where I am, that people talk to each other even if their research areas are far apart, say hi in the hallways, and that it doesn't feel like there's much hierarchy. I like it when students feel they can be less formal with faculty, when systems students are friends with theory students, and so forth. And as part of this, I want to be part of a group of good people who I feel embody this, who I want to see in the hallway.

The third main thing was placing myself in a place that would best motivate me to do the type of research that I want to do. To me, I felt that at the end of the day, this really came down to people, not the types of funding or initiatives in my start-up. There were certain places where I felt I'd have a million fantastic collaborators, but I feared I'd stick too much to the type of work I've been doing that's more "classical," rather than exploring more into new directions that I'm excited about. On the other hand, other schools I thought would encourage the new directions, but didn't offer me any close collaborators. I wound up choosing a school that I thought offered me a good balance of researchers not too far from my methods and people further afield to inspire me to work in new directions.

These were the three big things that impacted my decision. Here are some other things that also had some impact. Offer package, of course. Where people sit—is everyone together in one building, or is the department split up across spaces? How easy or difficult is it to get students (and where does the school compete with)? Are they planning to continue hiring, and if so, will they hire more in your area? What sort of course development or service requirements will be expected of you? How much will you be listened to if you want to contribute to shaping things? How are the benefits? If, for some very unfortunate reason, you are unhappy, how easy would it be to move from there?

Best of luck to all of you with your process and decisions! If hope you have some great choices and that you wind up somewhere where, most importantly, you can be happy. And I wish you a speedy recovery from this process!

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