More generally, what are the most important factors for getting a tenure-track job?


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This anecdote suggests that number of publications and prestige of corresponding journals/conferences is not as important as people usually think:

Summary data of the short list from a past search for an assistant professor in Psychology at the University of Virginia. For this particular search, more than 100 applications were received. The Table presents the 11 applicants that made it to the short-list. All short-list candidates had at least 4 publications and at least 1 first- authored publication. Based on publication numbers, there are clear stand-outs from this group such as the postdoc with 35 publications, an assistant professor with 21 publications, and a graduate student with 10 publications. Further, these candidates published in prestigious outlets. However, none of these three were selected as a finalist. In fact, two of the three interviewed candidates were among the least productive on the short-list. This anecdote suggests that some degree of publishing productivity is essential to get into the pool of competitive candidates but, after that, other factors are more important for getting the job. http://arxiv.org/abs/1205.4251

The cynical interpretation of this anecdote is that the only thing that matters is whether A) you know someone and B) the committee happens to like your research topic. However in my experience what's more important is C) how high-quality the committee judges your research, together with it being on a promising topic. "Promising" is of course very subjective, and usually has something to do both with the topic being good science and its ability to get grants and yield interdisciplinary collaborations with others, including others in the department.

Unfortunately, people do get really downweighted for being in an area that doesn't mesh with the department or meet its needs. And those needs often aren't clear from the job ad.

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