Interviewing and Applying for an Academic Position

When you are interviewing for an academic position, make sure that your job description is appropriate for your training. Your job description includes both your title and your “full-time equivalents” or FTEs. As an example of how your training should match your job description, if you do not have research training and experience, then think carefully before applying for, or accepting, a job that has significant research expectations. You may find it impossible to meet the research expectations that are set for you by the promotion timeline. FTEs describe how much time you have allotted in a typical week for each of your responsibilities. FTEs are calculated as either a portion of a 100% full-time job (for example, 10% FTE is a half a day a week) or a portion of 1.0 (0.1 FTE=10% FTE=half a day a week).   If you only have 10% of your time devoted to research, then it is unlikely that you will be able to be academically productive at the necessary level for promotion.

As a separate but related idea, try to match your job description, both title and FTEs, to your interests and passions. What is it about the job that gets you out of bed in the morning? What would you do even if you didn’t get paid to do it? What is so great about the job that makes it worth the time you will spend away from your family? You should believe that the work you do is valuable, and that the answers to your research questions really matter.

Both before and after you’re hired, critically evaluate each component of your job for its impact on both your eventual promotion and your personal satisfaction. Think carefully before you agree to take on any major commitments such as administrative roles or committee work. Although you will hopefully have mentors to advise you, in the end you truly are the best person to advocate for yourself. As stated previously with respect to clinical jobs, once you have completed your negotiations and have all of the details of your arrangement documented in writing, it is sensible to have a contract lawyer review yours before you sign it. Table 2 provides a framework for negotiating an academic position.


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