Applying For Jobs

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Some job postings specifically targeting graduating Waterloo students can be found in WaterlooWorks.

Academia

These job searching tips were originally provided by Tao.

What's a faculty position?

There are two types of faculty positions:

  1. Research-focused. These positions are offered by research universities. You will have PhD students, and you will get them to do what you've been doing before. Note that many US universities have no PhD students in computer science, in which case they do not fall in this category (even if they pretend to). Teaching load is generally 2-1 (teach 3 courses a year), and often it is reduced to 1-1 for the first one or two years or if you get a major grant.
  2. Teaching-focused. These positions are offered by liberal arts colleges, and involve a heavy teaching load (often 3-2 or 3-3). You are still expected to continue to do research, especially in the summer, but likely alone or with undergrad/master's students.
In the US, positions of the first category often require you (tenure-wise) to have the ability to acquire major NSF grants. This is because most universities have a deal with the federal government: for every dollar you receive, the university separately receives (more or less) a dollar for supporting you. If you can acquire $100k worth of grant a year, you're essentially paying your own salary from the university's perspective.

The other side

Universities set up a search committee, headed by a senior search committee chair, to review applications. In general, the application goes through a basic review stage, a phone interview stage, a campus interview stage, negotiations with the candidate, and then an offer. The search committee may decide to skip the phone interview stage, but other stages will not be skipped. Faculty applications are extremely competitive; at decent universities, expect hundreds of applications for the same opening, and usually around 3 will be invited for a campus interview.

The search committee wants you to demonstate all of the following, in no particular order:

  • Research ability, past and future
  • Teaching ability, especially ability to communicate
  • Willingness to seriously consider the position
  • Energy
  • Ability to work with/alongside their faculty
You want to have something to say about the first three, in your application and in your mind, as you will frequently be questioned on them.

At the same time, the search committee wants to demonstrate to you (or you should ask them):

  • Research activity at the university
  • Strong students
  • Reasonable requirements for tenure-track process
  • Support and mentoring for tenure-track process
  • Friendly faculty
  • Financial and other support
  • Good living conditions

Documents

You will require the following documents for application:

  • CV/Resume: Specify your research/teaching activity, especially awards and scholarships, as they don't fit anywhere else in your application package.
  • Cover Letter/Letter of Application: A very short letter declaring your interest in the position, with a few sentences covering your best qualifications in teaching and research. Some universities have specific requirements about what you should write in your cover letter, such as an application code you should write or a declaration in support of some university principle, so read the requirements carefully.
  • Reseach statement: A long document describing your previous and future research activity (sometimes called a "statement of research activity"). Future work is very important, and should constitute the majority of the document, as this is exactly what good universities are hiring you for: future research activity. Plan for your research in the next five years; it doesn't have to be accurate, but it has to be convincing. Be careful not to stray far from your original research area in your plans (stay in CrySP). Some universities would want you to specify how you can involve undergrads in your research. With previous work, if you have many papers as a second or third author, here is a good place to reassure the reader that you contributed significantly to those papers. You will have to prepare several versions, as universities often specify page limits for the research statement, ranging between 1 to 4 (to no limit). I suggest preparing a 4-page document and cutting down when necessary.
  • Teaching statement: Another long document, describing your teaching activity and philosophy. Teaching philosophy constitutes the majority of this document (some universities specifically ask for a "statement of teaching philosophy"). This is a document that will not really put your application above others but could kill it. Your philosophy does not have to be deep, academic, or unique, but it should be personal and true. Describe simple principles that you can elaborate in detail with personal examples. Stay positive: do not display hostility or cynicism towards students. Teaching is helping. Page limits range from 1 to 2. I suggest preparing a 2-page document.
  • List of three, four, or five contacts for reference letters. You want senior researchers in the area. Your supervisor(s) would be included. You don't need people who have worked with you; in fact, often it's better to get good people who haven't worked for you, because that speaks to your international reach as a researcher. But you also need people who are actively aware of your recent research.
You may require the following documents for application:
  • Your most representative paper. Just a PDF file.
  • A list of publications. This is normally in your CV; separate it out into another file (don't worry about repeating it in your CV).
  • A list of courses you can teach, or sample courses you are willing to create at the university.
  • Some statement of diversity: A statement describing your ability and willingness to support diversity. Remember that diversity comes in many forms.
  • Some statement in support of the university's principles.

The Application Process

First things first: contact your letter-writers ahead of time and don't be afraid to give them a comfortable deadline. Let them know how and when you'll be applying.

Look for job postings in these web sites:

In job hunt season, a dozen postings are made a week, so be sure to keep up to date. Create a list of job postings with deadlines, to make it easier to apply before the deadline. For each posting, specify the type of job you will have (research or teaching).

Many places use the Vitae (Chronicle of Higher Education) system, which will ask you to make an account on their system to make future applications easier. Don't bother. It won't be easier at all. Their system is terrible. On the other hand, many other places use the AcademicJobsOnline system, which will actually make future applications significantly easier.

Some places require you to submit an application by e-mail. Have some sort of PDF merging program ready, so you can merge your separate documents into one big file, which is much more convenient for the application recipient. A good PDF editing program would also be useful, as some universities want you to fill out a PDF form. Some top universities have very bothersome application processes; some of the less prestigious do, as well.

Be ready to have to print, sign and scan documents.

Interviews

Most universities ask for two interviews: a phone interview, and a campus interview. Interviews are necessary because universities need to know that you're able to work amicably alongside their current faculty, which can't show up in your application. In addition, interviews are their chance to attract you.

Faculty interviews are not meant to be a test. They will not challenge your ability to code or prove something. You will, however, have to explain your research work many times.

Phone Interviews

In a phone (often, Skype) interview, several members on their search committee will ask you typical phone interview questions:

  • Why are you interested in our university/position?
  • Describe your future plans for research.
  • Describe your previous research.
  • Describe your teaching philosophy.
  • Which of our courses can you teach?
  • Specific questions about your research.
  • Short bio.
  • Why are you well-suited for this position?
  • What are your plans for interdisciplinary research?
  • Who do you want to work with at our university?
  • How would you support diversity at this university?
The first question is always asked and almost always their first question as well, so have a prepared answer. As usual, do not seek to be unique or groundbreaking in your reply: demonstrate enthusiasm and preparedness. You can do so by connecting your answer to their university or their department's mission statement.

A lot of what you'll say will coincide with your application (specifically the research and teaching statements). Don't be afraid to repeat yourself.

At the end, they will invite you to ask questions as well. If you cannot think of anything, simply ask when you'll hear back from them. You can ask a few questions of scale, such as how many students they have and what class sizes there will be. This may also be a good time to ask about their tenure-track requirements for faculty: research (grant money), teaching, and service. Those should be completely clear by the end of your campus interview.

Campus Interviews

As campus interviews are generally all-expenses-paid by the interviewing university, only very few applicants will be asked to visit the university. After the campus interview, applicants will be ranked by the university search committee, and they will make job offers to each of them in order. Invitiation to a campus interview implies that the department has already found you suitable as a candidate for the position.

A campus interview is similar to a conference in many ways:

  • You will have to give a job talk. Sometimes, you will be asked to give another specific talk (or teach a class).
  • You will meet lots of people you've never talked to before, and be expected to strike up a casual or serious conversation on the spot.
  • It'll be physically and mentally exhausting.
The chief difference is that you won't be listening to talks.

You'll be talking to a lot of professors and repeating a lot of the things you've said. In addition, because of your talk, there will be a lot of discussion surrounding your research, which you should be prepared for. This is a good time to clear up anything you might not understand yet about the department. This includes any specifics about the tenure-track process, the work and living environment, job expectations, salary, start-up package, and so on.

Job Talks

Your job talk should be about exciting parts of your research, but it should also be geared towards the level of understanding expected from 2nd-3rd year CS undergraduate students (some of whom will attend your talk). Therefore, it will be more like giving a lecture about your work than a conference research talk.

Avoid the following pitfalls:

  • Having too many technical details, new terminology, or concepts that you can't fully explain in the alotted time;
  • Spending too little time on your own work;
  • Having too little or too much material.
You should have a small number of slides (2-4) that demonstrate the technical depth of your research.

Europe

This part was originally provided by Stef.

So, the US just become a lot less attractive in terms of getting a faculty position there (or any other job).
Looking around you, you find that positions at Canadian top universities are quite limited.
Hence, one solution that crosses your mind is to apply in Europe, this small piece of land crowded with dozens of countries and bizarre languages.
Which raises the question: Do faculty applications work the same way as in North America and if not, how do they work?

The answer to the first question is in a nutshell: They do not work exactly the same way. However, the documents you need to submit in an application are very similar. So, that's good news. The more drastic differences lie in the expectations on a PhD graduate, the type of positions, and the interviewing process. Most importantly: The application process varies from country to country. I try to summarize common aspects here that are different from North America.

Disclaimer: based upon limited personal experience from doing a PhD in Germany and applying to a couple of European positions. Description primarily for Northern Europe (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland), West Central Europe (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), and North Western Europe (Netherlands, Belgium, UK, Ireland) (or in other words: countries with Germanic languages + Finland + UK + Ireland).

Where to find job ads

Some ads for European academic jobs (especially for top institutes such as ETH or Max Planck) are listed on the same webpages as ads for North American positions. Alternatively, you can check:

Types of Positions

Professor positions:
A lot of European universities offer the positions Assistant, Associate, and Full Professor as in North America. If the application indeed uses these terms, you should always make sure that an assistant professor position is tenured, as it is commonly not. However, some countries use different terminology to indicate academic rank. Often, the use of alternative ranks is not (only) an unwillingness to adhere to North America standards but also a clear indicator that the positions are indeed different with regard to expectations and career development.
Here is a rough translation of German and UK ranks to North American (NA ~ GE ~ UK):
Assistant Prof ~ W1 Prof ~ Lecturer/Research Fellow
Associate Prof ~ W2 Prof ~ Reader
(Full) Prof ~ W3 Prof ~ Professor
Note that the German system usually does not offer internal promotions. You usually have to change institutions or re-negotiate to get a higher rank (exception: some places now offer tenure-track W1, which turns into a W2/W3 after 5-6 years if your performance is appropriate). Also: you don't need to have a W1 to get a W2 and similarly, it is quite common to get a W3 after a W1 without having a W2 in between.

In general: European faculty positions are usually not as well paid as here. On the other hand, they often come with unconditional funding for PhD students, travel, and equipment.

Other positions:
Postdocs: Many research groups in Europe are hierarchical; i.e., the group has one professor, several postdocs and dozens of grad students. It is common that the Postdocs take the main responsibility for supervising the grad students with the professor offering occasional advice. In this manner, the EU postdoc is a good preparation for a professorship in terms of supervision.
Junior Research Group Leader (Nachwuchsegruppenleiter for German Positions): In contrast to a postdoc, a junior research group leader has their own group of students. There are various types of junior research group leaderships: ranging from something similar to postdoc (tied one senior faculty member that is the co-supervisor of all students) to independent group leadership with the right to be the sole supervisor of PhD students (e.g., in Germany, an Emmy Noether group leadership is considered more prestigious than a W1 position and the funding is far better). In general, such group leaderships positions are for 3-6 years. They differ from assistant professorships with respect to the amount of required teaching, which varies from none to very little for research group leaders. These positions are usually well funded and are excellent for people focusing on research.

Requirements/Expectations

This paragraph focuses on junior positions, senior positions obviously have additional requirements.

PhD: The key requirement for a professor position is having a PhD. In Europe, that means often (but not always) to have a PhD AT THE TIME OF THE APPLICATION. So, if you are a last-year PhD student who wants to apply for a faculty position in Europe and the text of the application states that you should have a PhD, consult them if you can apply despite not having the PhD completed. They might not accept any such applications or they might want official statements from your university that you will indeed complete your PhD before the starting date of the job.

Additional Research Experience: Some (actually, most) institutions require Postdoc experience for any faculty position. You can try to apply for an assistant professorship even if you don't have the necessary experience but don't expect a positive response.

Teaching and Supervision Experience: It is common in some European countries (Germany in particular) that PhD students (co-)supervise undergrad and Master theses. So try to co-supervise URAs or so to get at least some experience here. After a PhD, it will be expected that you have taught labs or tutorials but not necessarily a course. However, as mentioned above, many institutions expect Postdoc experience and they expect Postdocs to have taught a course. So, teach a course before you apply (same as for North American positions).

Acquiring Funding: Like for student supervision, some European countries (again, Germany more than others) expect experience in writing grant proposals. At the very least, you should have assisted your supervisor in writing a grant proposal. More commonly: PhD students often turn the future work chapter of their thesis in a grant proposal, which is primarily written by them. If you have any experience in acquiring external funding, make sure to mention it and have your supervisor mention it prominently in their reference letter.

Top-tier Publications: play a significant role as always, maybe less so than in North America (but it also depends on the type of position, teaching or research)

Expected language skills: You might be expected to be able to teach in the country's native language within 1-5 years. In rare cases, they expect you to speak the language well at the time of the application. Usually, the job ad states any requirements on language, so if there are none, it is likely that you can teach in English or that language skills are negotiable. Exception: If the ad is only available in the native language of the country, they will expect you to teach in that language.

Application documents

The application documents are mostly the same as described above for the North American process. Scandinavian institutions might require additional information such as co-authorship statements: You have to give a rough approximation of the degree of your contribution to a paper and all your coauthors have to sign that they agree. Usually, you only have to do that for the 3-5 papers that you consider the most representative for your research.

Application Process

Most European countries have no application season, job ads can come up at any time and the starting time might also be at any time, though fall (September/October), January, or spring (April) are the most common. Very often, the advertised position is for a specific research area (e.g., IT Security) and rank. The time between application deadline and response varies greatly. You might hear back within 2-3 weeks but it might also be months. You should get a rejection letter no matter if you are invited to interview or not (pretty sure that there is a law about them having to give you notice).

I never heard of any institution doing phone interviews, so your next step is likely an on-campus interview. Be prepared that a lot of interviews in Europe are only your job talk (follow advice for North America) and a formal interview with the hiring committee, sometimes a teaching talk. Additional meetings are sometimes arranged in an informal manner while you are there. Your competition is frequently interviewed on the same day, I ran into people interviewing for the same position in the hallway. If you get offered a position, be aware that there is usually little room for negotiating your salary (there likely is a fixed salary for your academic rank that cannot be changed by the university). The main aspect for negotiation is the funding: number of PhD students/Postdocs paid by the university rather than from your own funding, start-up money, equipment.

Industry

These job searching tips were originally provided by Sarah.

There are several roles available in industry, whether you have a Master's or PhD in crypto/security/privacy areas. What role you want to apply for is partially dependent on your skillset and partially dependent on your comfort-zone factor in picking up new skills in tangent areas.

General Tips

  1. Most companies expect to see a 1-page resume over a multi-page CV for traditional industry positions, unless the position is that of a researcher as part of a lab or as part of a R&D group. Some companies are understanding for especially PhD candidates who have many many pages; these are generally big Silicon Valley players such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc. Others are less forgiving.
  2. You are almost certainly going to get your resume looked at if you apply via a referral. If you know a friend who knows a friend at company X, talk to that person and see if you can get your resume in that way instead of manually applying. Lots of applicants applying manually tend to get black-holed forever, irrespective of how phenomenal they may be.
  3. Career fairs and/or industry sessions on campus are great for meeting recruiters, and also generally avoiding the black-hole problem mentioned above. They're also great at free stuff. They're also exhausting, so don't do these back-to-back. If you are female, consider attending Grace Hopper to get access to tons and tons of potential companies. They also have a resume bank to submit your resume to.
  4. If you are applying for US positions, and you are not a US permanent resident or citizen, then you are not authorized to work in the US. Some applications will ask for this. It does not matter that you will be authorized to once you get a visa, the option you must select is "Not Authorized". It's a bit loony, I know.
  5. I have heard mixed results as to the requirement of cover letters. Most Silicon Valley companies scoff at them. I don't know about other companies.
  6. Course projects don't count as work experience. Please leave them off unless they culminated in a paper/poster. Listing grad courses on a resume is also generally less than ideal.
  7. The job application process usually consists of:
    1. Application (or referral)
    2. Recruiter screen
    3. 1-3 Phone interviews
    4. 1-4 On-site interviews
    5. Verbal offer
    6. Salary + Benefits Negotiation
    7. Paper offer

Roles

  • Software Engineer/Developer
    • Most software engineering roles (especially entry-level ones) will be extremely generic. It is possible that your Master's/PhD expertise will be called into use, but otherwise, unless you have prior engineering experience, it will be as if you started fresh. For most companies, the interview process is half-technical, half-story (i.e. tell me about yourself, tell me about a time, etc.).
    • Most PhD candidates and some Master's candidates struggle heavily with the technical interview. For these interviews, I strongly recommend a review of classic algorithms/data structures from your undergraduate courses, including topics such as space/time-complexity. Alternatively, pick up a copy of "Cracking the Coding Interview"; many people have had success stories from that book. Be comfortable with programming on the fly, and explaining your programming on the fly, since this is what they will ask you.
  • Security Engineer (or ninja or analyst or w/e the current buzzrole is)
    • Security-specific roles are a mixed bag depending on where you apply. In general, these will grill you on more security-heavy concepts (over necessarily crypto or privacy) that you may or may not have experience with, ranging from designing a device/product with certain cryptographic/security properties, to cryptanalysis, to general IT security (understanding typical attacks/defenses, understanding the network stack/tools, automated scanners, incident response, etc.), to application and web security.
    • Some security roles also would like to see management experience (for security managers) or software engineering experience (for security engineers). For the latter, see the previous point.
    • Some of these roles will be interested in seeing whether you have participated in any bug bounty programs or CTFs. There's nothing wrong with saying no.
  • Data Scientist/Analyst
    • These roles have a focus on machine learning and data analysis backgrounds. A lot of general PhDs find their fit here, due to the fact that many science fields and a non-negligible portion of CS fields do lots of data analysis for research purposes. You will probably be assessed on your statistical analysis ability, and be asked if you are comfortable with using R/Python/etc. I don't know how the interview process is for this, other than it may also consist of talking about your previous work, especially the techniques and methods you used, why, etc.
  • Industry Researcher
    • Similar in requirements to probably traditional faculty positions, but you don't have to teach.
  • Consultant
    • You might not have to interview for this at all. Or it could be completely informal.
Topic revision: r9 - 2019-09-17 - IanGoldberg
 
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