It is often told that working under big shots (I mean, recognized professors) in a particular research field is always beneficial on the way towards getting a faculty job in top research universities (perhaps in the US). My concern is how a big professor can help his students (PhDs, postdocs, project scientists who are badly seeking a faculty job) in addition to providing a recommendation letter? Is there anything else they could favor me on? Or, in other words, is there anything else I could ask them giving me a favor for? For instance, can I ask my professors to give a phone call to the faculty search committee (where I submitted my application) to consider my application with care? Such effort is nothing but highlighting one's application so that the search committee gives a special attention to it.

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    Theoretically, they should be hiring the best candidate for the job, considering the candidate's skills and merits, not his/her supervisor's. May 31, 2015 at 21:55
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    @DmitrySavostyanov, there are often several (3-10) candidates who would all work in a department, so a personal recommendation beyond the usual glowing letter can go a long way in figuring out who to make an offer to.
    – Bill Barth
    May 31, 2015 at 22:13

2 Answers 2


This doesn't usually work that way. When your prof gets involved on your behalf, besides writing the most stellar recommendation letter they can, they're just going to pick up the phone and call if they know someone at the place you are applying. A personal recommendation beyond the usual stellar letter from someone trustworthy that you know can go a long way towards differentiating between otherwise equally viable candidates.

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    ... which turns academia into a closed world of "someone you know". I personally fail to see how this is ethical, but perhaps I'm too young to realise. May 31, 2015 at 22:31
  • @Dmitry, there is nothing bad on it. Thats pretty much how such things work in the US and Germany, as far as I know. May 31, 2015 at 22:49
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    @DmitrySavostyanov This won't actually get you the job, just make it more likely that you your application is considered or that you make it to the shortlist. In my field, there is usually a shortlist of 5-10 applicants of whom 3-5 are invited to interview; by that stage, you make it or not on your own effort.
    – Gaurav
    May 31, 2015 at 23:23
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    @Dmitry: when you have to assess 200+ applicants for a position, a pointer from someone you know and you trust is welcome information. Jun 1, 2015 at 2:46
  • @Bill and Martin. I totally agree with you. However, my concern is how could I approach my research supervisor and ask him to give me such favor? How reasonable it is to ask him for giving me such favor, given that I have been working under him for more than a year as a scientific staff? Can anyone share his experiences regarding this ? Jun 1, 2015 at 2:58

One of the advantages of having a well-known professor is that they can introduce you to more colleagues (and potential collaborators!) at conferences or graduate school than a less-well-known professor can. That improves your chance that somebody on the search committee knows you or of you, or has worked with you directly or indirectly on a project.

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