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I am applying to faculty jobs in computer science. Let's say I am in field A.

I found a job ad for an assistant professor position. The ad says something along the lines of "the department is seeking applicants whose expertise is in the area of Field B" and "A focus in (subfield of B) is preferred." The ad also reads "the applicant should have interests that complement existing departmental strengths," which I interpreted to mean that you could apply if you do similar research to existing faculty.

Field B is essentially disparate from Field A, but there are fewer people in general studying in Field A than in Field B. (Speaking statistically of data sets like the Taulbee report.)

Would it be appropriate for me to submit an application for this job, even though I don't work in Field B? Or would the department hiring committee get mad that I submitted an application, effectively wasting their time?

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  • How do you read "complement" as "similar"?
    – user151413
    Sep 22, 2020 at 22:17
  • @user151413 I was going to make a similar comment. On reflection, it is very likely the people writing the ad used the wrong word. Academics can be really terrible writers. Sep 22, 2020 at 22:18
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    @user151413 I interpreted "complement" to mean "accompany" or "complete", which are valid uses of the word. If the ad writers meant "set complement" I would be rather surprised.
    – user129798
    Sep 22, 2020 at 22:26
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    There's not enough time for a search committee to get mad at the hundreds of applicants that aren't well suited for the position but applied anyway... Sep 23, 2020 at 3:46
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    @user129798 "complement" meaning "complete", usually to mean that the research areas do not totally overlap, and that your research area together with the research areas of the existing faculty can make up a complete whole. This usually means they want you similar enough to collaborate with their existing researchers in this field, but not so similar that you are redundant. Sep 23, 2020 at 6:10

2 Answers 2

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You want a job? So apply. That’s all there is to it.

The academic job market is not some kind of neighborhood bonding event or support group where people try to be as nice as possible to each other and avoid hurting each other’s feelings. No one will be mad at you — in fact, the very notion that someone getting mad at you is a consideration you should take into account when deciding whether to apply for a job is, from my point of view as someone who in a typical year looks at anywhere between a couple of dozen and a couple of hundred job applications, completely absurd.

You might not get the job, but there’s nothing inappropriate about applying, unless there are formal requirements listed in the job application that you don’t satisfy.

Good luck with the job search!

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There is nothing wrong with applying, as long as you are honest about your field and your interests. Of course, they are more likely to choose someone in their preferred field, provided they get some good candidates there. But sometimes they will change their minds for an outstanding candidate who they judge might also fit in to fill a need.

No, they won't be "mad", as long as you are honest. Make your best case that you will be an outstanding faculty member, regardless of field. But, they do have a current preference elsewhere. Be aware.

And, I don't think you should "apologize" for applying though you are in a different field. Just state your qualifications.

Had they said that qualifications in a particular field are required then it would be different, of course.

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