Insights from a survey-based analysis of the academic job market (bioRxiv pre-pub)

May 18, 2020
Many postdoctoral fellows in the STEM fields enter the academic job market with little knowledge of the process and expectations, and without any means to assess their qualifications relative to the general applicant pool. Demystifying this process is critical, as there is little information publicly available. In this work, we provide insight into the process of academic job searches by gathering data to establish background metrics for typical faculty job applicants, and further correlate these metrics with job search outcomes. We analyzed 317 responses to an anonymous survey for faculty job applicants from the May 2018 - May 2019 market cycle. Responses were about evenly split by gender, largely North American-centric and life science focused, and highly successful with 58% of applicants receiving at least one offer. Traditional metrics (funding, publications, etc.) of a positive research track record above a certain threshold of qualifications were unable to completely differentiate applicants that did and did not receive a job offer. Our findings suggest that there is no single clear path to a faculty job offer and that perhaps criteria not captured by our survey may also influence landing a faculty position above a certain threshold of qualification. Furthermore, our survey did capture applicants’ perception of the faculty job application process as unnecessarily stressful, time-consuming, and largely lacking in feedback, irrespective of a successful outcome. We hope that this study will provide an avenue for better data-driven decision making by the applicants and search committees, better evidence-based mentorship practices by principal investigators, and improved hiring practices by institutions. Read more.