My 2020 Academic Job Search Experience

### Documents - [Research statement](../files/2020jobsearch/maarten_research_statement.pdf) - [Teaching statement](../files/2020jobsearch/maarten_teaching_statement.pdf) - [Diversity statement](../files/2020jobsearch/maarten_diversity_statement.pdf) - [Service statement](../files/2020jobsearch/maarten_service_statement.pdf) - [Example Cover Letter (to CMU LTI)](../files/2020jobsearch/coverletter_cmu_lti.pdf) ### Contextualizing my experience When summarizing my experience, I think it's important to take certain contextual factors into account. - For social context, I did my job search all from my home office setup in Seattle, during the COVID-19 pandemic (half of it before we even knew about a vaccine). Other notable factors are the 2020 US presidential election, where Trump was almost re-elected (but thankfully wasn't). All these factors contributed to an even more stressful environment 😨😨. - For research context, I do think that my particular research portfolio is *weird* and *non-mainstream* πŸ˜…. Specifically, I think that I chose problems that aren't considered *core NLP* to work on, and have a particular flavor of *social justice* that hits on social, ethical, and political issues, something that also isn't common. Both those areas of research are not super common, and there is still skepticism or even backlash against them (think about the "data is fair and unbiased, so our machines are too" ML crowd who happens to be very active on Twitter πŸ™„). - For personal context, I am an extroverted white, gay man graduating from a top-tier CS institution πŸ³β€πŸŒˆπŸ‘¨πŸΌβ€πŸ«. There are well documented institution prestige, gender, racial, sexual orientation, and even extraversion/introversion biases and disparities, and it's likely that those things played a role in how I was perceived both on paper and during the interviews. ### Timeline Again, this is my own personal experience: - *August 2020*: I planned on working through the summer to get "one last paper" out before starting job applications, but I ended up last-minute applying to a position in Denmark πŸ‡©πŸ‡°, for which I had to write my research and teaching statements in a hurry. I did not make the shortlist for that position, but I did have some drafted documents to work with later. - *September 2020*: I was still doing research basically full time, but started collecting job ads into a spreadsheet, mostly by monitoring the [CRA job listserv]( I also started talking to my advisors about who would be my recommendation letter writers βœ‰. - *October 2020*: I started switching to 50/50 research and job material drafting. I also started asking my potential rec letter writers if they would be willing to write me letters. Since I had two advisors, I only needed two more letters. I asked my former internship mentor/current collaborator from MSR and a collaborator from Stanford. Also, I got invited to give a talk at Georgia Tech, where I gave what would be a first draft of my job talk πŸ‘¨πŸΌβ€πŸ« (GA Tech wasn't really hiring in NLP so my advisors said it'd be fine to do it). - *November 2020*: I switched to 80% job stuff πŸ“„. Writing statements, iterating over them, etc. Some applications were due in November or early December, so I submitted those. - *December 2020*: I kept submitting job applications. In total, I applied to 34 positions at 29 different schools. Also, I got my first phone call request from Vanderbilt CS on Dec 10th, which was scheduled for 30 minutes on Dec 14th. That was both exciting and stressful πŸ˜…. I got two more phone call requests from UT Austin Linguistics and Northeastern CS, both of which were scheduled for January. Then, on Dec 17th, Vanderbilt invited me for a full interview πŸ₯³! - *January 2021*: I spent most of my time practicing my job talk, working with my advisors, giving it to various groups. I also did some more phone screenings and got direct invites to some full interviews πŸ“ž. At the end of the month, I had my first two full interviews, at Yale Data Science/Statistics and EPFL I&C. They went okay (*more to come on how that experience was*). - *February 2021*:By the end of January I was really starting to stress out, because I felt like I didn't have as many interviews as others, that I didn't have enough "top tier" interviews, etc. A week later, I got my first post-phone screening rejection from UT Austin AND got invited to interview both at CMU and MIT. Talk about a rollercoaster πŸ“‰πŸ“ˆ 🎒. For the rest of the month, I had a couple of full interviews. - *March 2021*: By March I only had three more interviews left: UChicago, CMU, and MIT. I was very stressed out because everyone in my network was "warning" me about MIT and how they are very picky and how I should talk/practice my job talk to former MIT people. These remaining interviews went okay but I will expand on that later. Also, I got my first offer from Emory CS, which was *super* excitingπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠ!! Last minute, UofToronto scheduled a full interview with me for mid-April. - *April 2021*: At this point I was basically a ball of nerves, just waiting for schools to give me offers/rejections; I got several rejections including from schools that I really liked, and I got an offer from CMUπŸŽ‰πŸŽŠ! I also got the COVID-19 vaccine that month... Again, 🎒🎒🎒🎒. By the time my UofToronto interview came, I was kind of burnt out and just wanted to make a decision. The interview went moderately. I also decided to visit ✈ Emory and CMU ✈ so I could better have a sense of the schools; that was honestly the *best* decision I made, because actually meeting people IRL and seeing the building and the city was just not comparable to the virtual interviews. Also, I started thinking about Postdocs in the Seattle area so I could be in the city one more year before moving; I interviewed at AI2, with the team I previously interned at. - *May 2021*: after careful considering and really weighing my options (esp. wrt. to work life balance, supportive environments, etc), I signed the CMU offer letter (if you run into me IRL, I can give you the full breakdown of why I made that decision)! Also I got a postdoc offer from AI2! To celebrate, my boyfriend and I went to Vegas 🎰. - *June 2021*: I wrote my thesis and prepared my PhD defense... Gotta love administrative hurdles πŸ˜‚. And that's basically the end of my job search process! ### Phone Screening Tips *check this later* - Practice with someone who has just gone through the job process. For me, that was [Antoine Bosselut](, who was a huge help!