I am reaching out to get a piece of friendly advice on the search process for a faculty job worldwide.

I was awarded a PhD in Pure Mathematics from a Russel Group university in July 2018. I started a postdoc during my PhD, and it is has been now one year and a month of my postdoc. I wrote the grant for my postdoc and my doctoral advisor secured the funding. My research interests are in analysis on quantum groups and noncommutative spaces, contractions of Lie groups, geometric quantisation. I have 12 preprints and nine are published, and more are coming. There are 48 citations of my papers in Google Scholar.

I have put my best efforts in the application materials. At the moment, I have applied for 145 faculty jobs mainly in the USA ( both tenure-track and non-tenure-track). My references for the applications are the tenured recognised professors and heads of the departments in Europe. Could anyone in the community share a piece of friendly advice on what I might be doing wrong?

My sole aim is to improve and suit the faculty search. Unfortunately, I have not been given any constructive feedback so far (cold, formal e-mails mostly).

The time scale is from mid-November 2018 - up until now. I followed up with 6-8 e-mails and received cold written official rejection e-mails (eight overall). The rest are keeping silence. I have not had any interviews yet.

Many thanks to everyone who replied!

  • 2
    You don't say enough about the results of your 145 applications. Nor about the time scale over which they were sent. It sounds like a pretty good CV to me, actually. Have you had interviews? I don't know the current state of the employment market in mathematics, but in the past there have been times when it was just that bad, actually. – Buffy Jan 22 at 11:08
  • 6-8 emails? Can you clarify? You didn’t send 6-8 emails to each department, right? – Dawn Jan 22 at 14:09
  • Did you mean tenure-track and non tenure-track instead of tenure and non tenure? – user2705196 Jan 22 at 14:21
  • Sure @Dawn. No, I only sent one e-mail to 6-8 departments. – user88903 Jan 22 at 14:24
  • There are lots of applicants with qualifications similar to yours applying for positions everywhere. You might not be doing anything at all wrong, but the job market is so competitive that you still might not end up with a position. Thus the premise of your question- that you're doing something wrong might simply be incorrect. – Brian Borchers Jan 22 at 16:23

You are not doing anything wrong, at least not more wrong than many of us here.

  • One cay say that is is wrong that research and education are so under-funded and under-appreciated in modern society.
  • One can say that it is wrong that academia sometimes is such an unwelcoming and tough place. Providing zero feedback to unsuccessful candidates is a norm in academia, but would not be appropriate in IT industry sector, for example. This is extremely discouraging and damaging for people at the start of their careers. Another example is visa fees, which would be compensated in industry, but usually not compensated by universities, making international scientists essentially to pay for the privilege of working at a university in a first-world country. This is wrong, but academia goes away with it as there are always enough people who wants the job bad enough.
  • One can say that over-production of PhDs, driven by managerial approach to tenure and promotion in academia, is wrong, as it makes young people to spend many years and a lot of money pursuing something which eventually may not increase their chances for successful employment, but instead make them overqualified and unemployable in many "real-world" jobs.

I wish you good luck with your job search and future career.

  • In principle not all STEM phds are supposed to stay in academia. Some will work in industry to participate in technology transfer or develop proprietary technology, and there's plenty of industrial positions where phd is good to have. I guess, it is a bit sad when a phd graduate has to take a generic IT or office job, but that does not happen to everyone who leaves academia. – Alexey B. Jan 22 at 17:56
  • Thank you, @Dmitry, for your wishes. Your remark is valuable to me,@Alexey. I am keeping my eyes open for research positions in industry. – user88903 Jan 22 at 21:41

Chances are you're not doing anything wrong, but in your area few good academic positions are available, and you may need to wait for your CV to build up and also for the stars to align right. People I know would get a permanent academic job (in the UK or Continental Europe) after up to 5 years of postdoc, less if they wanted a teaching-only position, without doing research.


I have three suggestions:

First, it is possible that your application documents are not hitting the right notes. You could consider a document review service for this.

Second, you may ask your post doc supervisor or any of your letter writers to personally reach out to their contacts at a few departments on your behalf. The best would be departments where you would like to be but that are only moderately competitive. The idea is to signal your sincere interest and their sincere endorsement.

Third, make sure you are networking in the US. I would suggest presentations at as many conferences as you can swing. Make sure to go to talks and ask smart questions. Be very open about the fact that you are on the market. Good luck!

  • 1
    Documents need to be not only grammatically correct, they also need to be clear, persuasive, and strike the right tone. There is a company that I have used called The Professor is In that provides this service, and they also have a book about improving your materials. I dramatically improved my documents with this help. – Dawn Jan 22 at 14:14
  • Thanks for sharing your advice with me, @Dawn. I reached to five professors in the US and Canda and three of them encouraged me to apply. I have not yet been to the conferences much. I will do all these things as soon as possible. – user88903 Jan 22 at 14:31
  • I would say if you are getting encouragement to apply, but you don't make it past the first round (no interviews), you really need to look at the quality of your documents. Capturing your work in a sound bite (just a few sentences, making it catchy to those outside of your subfield) is an art. – Dawn Jan 22 at 16:07
  • Dear @Dawn. How much was the book you used? Could you please share more details on your experience with the Professor is In? – user88903 Jan 23 at 13:27
  • Dear @Dawn. Did you get a faculty job after improving your documents with the help of the book? – user88903 Jan 23 at 13:35

It's probably mostly just an issue of competition and your profile versus presentation. However, your question here had a few examples of grammar mistakes showing non-native English (e.g. omitted article).

I would make sure all your documents have flawless, native-seeming English. After that, of course, it is still a competitive situation on the merits.


I will give my perspective

  1. I am also ahead of the publication curve for peers in similar career stages as me in my field.

  2. I applied to a broad range of institution for tenure positions ranging from elite R1's to R2's.

To me, the application process felt like it had more to do with luck than anything else. I was interviewed and offered a position at an institute I wanted to be at which was very nice though. But as far as the other institutions, there was no rhyme or reason. It felt like playing a numbers game.

I thought, 'is my research not really exciting?', 'should i have funded grants', 'was there something wrong with my letters of recommendation?'.

In short, I did not really have an answer. All I could do was keep applying and publishing.

I also found out that not only was I competing against my fellow doctoral graduates, but also faculty looking to move up.

I also found out that my CV sent the wrong signals to universities without as strong research records. A graduate with a strong research record is going to want to go to an R1. R2's and R3's are going to know this and might not want to have to go through the hiring process again when a research orientated faculty member moves up the academic ladder.

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