The faculty job search, while continually evolving in terms of trends and hiring practices, is commonly experienced as a daunting, poorly illuminated, and variable process1. While there is no single path to success in finding a faculty job, here we aim to provide some general recommendations based on communication best practices and links to additional resources for further guidance.

Set yourself up for success by starting as early as you can

In broad strokes, the faculty application process typically involves:

  1. preparing an application package,
  2. submitting this package in response to an institutional job posting,
  3. initial screening of applications by a search committee,
  4. off-site interviews,
  5. on-site interviews, and
  6. offer and negotiations, with final acceptance via a formal offer letter1.

Both the exact set of documents required for a given institution’s faculty application package as well as the timing and nature of interview steps will vary, but a universal rule of thumb is that beginning to work on your ideas and materials earlier will allow you more opportunities for revision and refinement.

Learn about faculty positions to determine what fits your needs

The faculty job search involves finding alignment of goals and preferences between you and your hiring institution, and putting effort into understanding both sides of this equation is time well spent. Expectations and available support will vary across institutions, and understanding the types of positions available can help you clarify what factors are most important to you—do you prefer research, teaching, or some balance of the two? What types of trainees would you want to mentor? What sorts of facilities would be necessary for conducting the research plan that you envision?

Develop and clearly communicate your unique scientific vision

Introspect and iterate to develop a clear picture of your scientific identity and vision for a research lab.  This narrative is founded in your research background leading up to this point, with clear ties to your envisioned future work. The better you understand your own unique identity and how it distinguishes you—both from your past mentors or other competitors in your field—the better you will be able to express this to others during the hiring process. Additionally, the act of trying to communicate your ideas can help you crystallize them, so take the opportunity to iterate on your pitch as often and early as you can.

Present a cohesive narrative through all elements of your application package (and during interviews)

Your faculty application package will commonly contain the following components:

  • Research statement: conveys your high-level research vision and scope
  • Teaching statement: conveys your teaching philosophy and plan to further the education mission of the prospective institution
  • Diversity statement: conveys your perspective on diversity and plan to foster a diverse environment
  • CV: conveys targeted and quantified list of key accomplishments (see CommKit article)
  • Cover Letter: introduces you as a candidate to prospective colleagues, clearly conveying your scientific vision and envisioned niche (see CommKit article)
  • Letters of reference (3-4): speak in support of your scientific narrative and application as a whole

Each of the documents is specialized in function while also speaking to the same unified story of you as a faculty candidate, tailored to varying degrees for the particular position to which you are applying.

Brush up on your virtual presentation and interviewing skills

A lingering trend from the pandemic era of Zoom calls is the prevalence of remote interviews, and this holds true for off-site interviews that institutions may use to narrow down candidates prior to inviting candidates for in-person interview stages. Presenting virtually can run outside the norm in terms of interactivity, ability to receive visual cues from your audience, and other technical factors, so brushing up on these skills in advance (see CommKit article and associated blog posts) can help make this experience smoother.

Solicit feedback and advice to cover a range of perspectives

While each faculty application package and job search is a highly individual endeavor, soliciting external perspectives from multiple sources with different backgrounds can help you evaluate whether your message is received as intended by different audiences. Feedback from those within your field or well acquainted with your current research (e.g. current labmates or close collaborators) can help you revise your documents from the perspective of an expert audience with high technical knowledge. Conversely, feedback from a more naïve audience—e.g. someone with technical training in a different field—will help you revise your documents from the perspective of a potential colleague hearing about your work for the first time. Last but not least, in seeking advice from mentors and other individuals who have applied for faculty jobs, try to collect diverse perspectives—the faculty application process is an inherently personal journey, so it is likely that no single perspective will entirely reflect what you may encounter.

Resources and further reading 

While non-exhaustive, the following list can serve as a starting point—always try to check whether general advice aligns with the requirements/expectations for your particular application:


  1. J. D. Fernandes, S. Sarabipour, C. T. Smith, N. M. Niemi, N. M. Jadavji, A. J. Kozik, A. S. Holehouse, V. Pejaver, O. Symmons, A. W. Bisson Filho, A. Haage, A survey-based analysis of the academic job market. Elife. 9 (2020), doi:10.7554/eLife.54097.

Blog post written by Dr. Chiara Ricci-Tam (BE Communication Lab Manager), adapting content originally prepared by Dr. Prerna Bhargava and Dr. Kyle McLean in collaboration with the Chemical Engineering Communication Lab

Post published on 07/28/2023