Interview with a former MWF, now with a position as Research Fellow in Canada (2016)
Interview with a former MWF, now with a position as Assistant Professor in the Netherlands (2016)
Interview with a former MWF, now with a lecturer position in Italy (2015)
Interview with a former MWF, now with a tenure-track position in South America (2015)
Interview with a former MWF, now with a lectureship in the UK (2014)
From an interview with a former MWF, now with a position as Research Fellow in Canada (2016)
What are your general impressions of trends/characteristics of the job market in your discipline?
So my general impression is that it’s difficult to find a job. There are open and there are closed markets. Closed markets are those that are open only to those who have been educated within that legal systems such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain: I would put most big European countries in this category. This is partly because of language barriers, partly because you are supposed to teach the legal system of the country in question, but also because of the networks of professors, advisors and their students which are more or less explicitly based on professors hiring their own students. So, coming from the US and having been educated in several legal systems, that leaves relatively few countries open to myself and to others like myself: the UK, Netherlands, Scandinavian countries, Australia, Canada US and that’s about it. Maybe East Asia, maybe China or Singapore. So within these jurisdictions I of course had to compete with the locals and I had to compete with others like myself who are internationally educated. I had to, to a certain extent, adapt to local styles, to local demands which are market-driven as well as cultural.
What is your background?
So my first legal diploma was from my country of origin, from 2000-2005, that was a juris doctor. In this 5-year programme we were taught a lot of legal history, very in-depth legal history: both universal history and national legal history, and basically a 1 year training in Roman law which was I guess completely useless for most local lawyers but strangely useful for those who want to do research at foreign universities. This also included every part of the national legal system, even prison law and very in-depth procedural laws, which is, I think, unlike most other legal training. From there I did a masters in international law, public international law, and then did an LLM and then a SJD and then I came to the EUI, to the Max Weber.
Next year you will be a Research Fellow in Canada. What was the main reason you applied for this particular position?
Well I applied for a lot of fellowships; I also applied for some Assistant Professorships but quickly realized that without a recent publication in a good journal, which I still don’t have, it’s going to be very hard to get a tenure-track position. So I applied all over the globe. They accepted me to this one and a few others.
What did your application include?
None of the fellowships that I applied for, except maybe the British ones, had an interview component. It was purely CV, application letter, research project, letters of recommendation.
How competitive was the selection process?
I don’t know about the number of applicants… It’s said to be quite competitive (they accept only 1 fellow each year). The number of applicants might decrease, or let’s say the number of competitive applications might decrease due to the fact that, at least unofficially, in some universities in Canada you are supposed to be bilingual in French and English so that screens out, I think, a lot of potential rivals.
On which parts of the application did you focus the most?
Difficult to say, and sometimes difficult to influence as well because with the letters of recommendation, your only choice is who you ask to be a recommender and I’ve found people in general to be somewhat reluctant to be a recommender. They do expect that you have done a lot of work together before they recommend. I focused a lot on the research project but that’s a sort of general use document which I then sent to all the positions - so it’s important to get it right at the beginning and then very small modifications for following positions. The recommendation letter is the only document that needs to be modified from time to time by drawing out your strengths for the position in question for each application. I worked on the research project mostly in December and January this year.
What does your position entail? How much time are you expected to dedicate to research/teaching/administrative responsibilities?
It’s a 1 year position, it’s mostly research. Teaching is optional but I accepted to teach a course. It’s going to be Canadian immigration and refugee law so something that’s going to be a bit of a challenge, especially because of the amount of Canadian administrative law that’s involved. It is for bachelor students. It’s going to be a somewhat larger course; up to 50 students are expected to enroll. So, what made me take this position (as opposed to other positions), was that this one is slightly more money, about 20% more money and also I think a bit more prestige. Here at the university in Canada we’re kind of considered to be faculty, we get invited to faculty meetings, have our own office, have a secretary etc. and, most importantly, I think informally if there is an open position at there, fellows get first pick. Historically about a quarter of research fellows then became part of the faculty.
What would be your main tip for the job search in your discipline?
What worked well for me was to assemble a calendar with application deadlines and then because most of the documents are to be re-used I think this really cuts down on preparation time and allows you, especially after the first or first 2 or 3 applications, to not have to work too much on following applications. You just slightly modify the application letter and send out the same in an almost automated fashion. So I guess the preliminary research of putting together a list of positions to which one applies to is very important. This of course only works for post-docs, and not all post-docs, because faculty positions are advertised in a more-or-less chaotic way at any time of the year, whereas post-docs are often recurrent and have their timetable which you can look up in advance. As for the US job market, there is one big hiring, job fair - each October in Washington DC. But that in itself is very strategically charged and connected to a lot of PR issues. From what I know about Europe and what I’ve been told by more senior academics is that there are a couple of websites (jobs.ac.uk; academicpositions.eu) which have email lists every week. So there’s nothing to really prepare for. The emails come and then you have a certain time period to prepare for the position in question.
In your opinion, what would be the don’ts
My big mistake I think was to only start applying in December. I thought that I had a few months of relaxing basically, especially in September and that was, in retrospect, not a good idea. So with a 1-year fellowship, the moment you start the fellowship you have to start looking for your next position. I kind of missed out on some interesting positions, in Switzerland, in France. I could have gone to postdocs there where the application deadline is in October or November. Also double check or triple check your letters that go out if you’re reusing them, to make sure that it’s not intended for the previous one, and be prepared for the fact that even this way there will be some that will have the wrong address and don’t waste your energies on feeling ashamed or remorseful. It happens.
As for the Max Weber Programme we would like to know what was the most helpful element of the job market training that you used when applying for your present position?
The conference on application in November was very helpful in putting me in contact with people in Europe with people who are advertising postdocs but it was too late. That’s when I learnt about all the about the Swiss, German, French opportunities. Most of which deadlines had already passed by then so I would say that it would be great to do that in late September or early October at the latest
From an interview with a former MWF, now with a position as Assistant Professor in the Netherlands (2016)
What are your general impressions of trends/characteristics of the job market in your discipline (Law)?
In legal research – it is competitive and to a large extent nationally focused. In particular the job market I came from originally, Germany. I had the same impression in France – it is very closed. So you have to have the national qualifications. I would say there are two or maybe three exceptions: the Netherlands, the UK and the US. These are more competitive job markets – and are more open than in other countries where it is more based on network.
What do you mean by closed job markets?
Formally you have to have national qualifications (characteristic of the law) – if you work as an Assistant Professor in Germany you normally teach German law in German. So that means you have to have the language knowledge and the national bar exam. That’s very different in the Netherlands because they don’t normally require Dutch as a spoken language when you start, you can learn it during your stay and it is not required that you have been awarded a degree in that country).
How many positions have you held between your PhD and the Max Weber Fellowship?
One: Assistant Professorship in the university where I did my PhD and where I will return now.
Did you have a special strategy in the job market i.e. have you worked on networking or adjusted your publishing to a job market in a particular country?
Not necessarily. So far, I didn’t have much experience in the job market as the two applications I sent both worked out. I had a bit more experience in the German job market and I realized it is more difficult to enter if you do a PhD in an institution from another country. So my strategy would have been more to show my expertise, in terms of publishing and teaching in the German legal system – if I had wanted to do that. But so far, my strategy has been to focus more on writing good publications, getting the book out early (which helped me a lot in terms of visibility).
What was the main reason you applied for this particular position?
This is a position that is split: half of it is a position in the department (teaching), and the other half of the position is a new one – a methodology position. This was something I found quite attractive. First of all we have a different ratio of research/teaching and different types of teaching (mostly PhD students, instead of bachelor or master students) and also the possibility to conceptualize your course. I knew the university and I enjoyed working there (that was another criteria). It is also a very international environment.
What did your application include? On which parts of the application did you focus the most?
It was a little bit more informal as people already knew me. I had a pre interview before submitting everything on expression of interest (to understand if it would work at all).
I had this interview because they knew me. Then I had the normal procedure. For this the CV was quite important. As I was already in the faculty, they didn’t want a research proposal but a proposal on what type of course I would set up. But I mostly focused on how to present the CV. Given that they knew me, there was no need for reference letters.
How many selection rounds were there?
There was the pre-interview, the application and then the second interview.
How long did it take altogether from the initial application until the final offer?
Two-three months. The fact is that if you apply in the university where you did your PhD (and in the Netherlands you are employee as PhD student), you are already part of the faculty so I think it is a very different process. Although it is not less competitive.
What was the interview format? How long did it take? What kind of questions were you asked?
It was a Skype interview. Mostly about the position – because it was very flexible (as part of the position didn’t exist before) they wanted to have some ideas from me on what I wanted to do - so questions included: what type of courses I wanted to set up, how I would see this position, how I would work with the split of the position. So it was very much position focused. We talked a bit about the research and the book but I had defended my PhD thesis there three months ago. No unexpected questions – it was as expected.
How long did it take from the interview until the offer?
It took two/three weeks. Very short.There was a little bit of negotiation. I didn’t accept immediately as I had a competing offer, we negotiated about the position for over two weeks (when to start, how much I would get..).
What does it entail? How much time are you expected to dedicate to research/teaching/administrative responsibilities?
We normally have a percentage (based on a full time position): 65% teaching/admin stuff, 35% research. As my position is split, this is a little bit different: so I have a little less teaching and it also entails conceptualizations of the courses and reading grant applications.
What is your perception of prospect for career development?
The Netherlands is a small country – they do not have a lot of positions but it is in general quite competitive. It depends on your publications mostly, but also your understanding in faculty and grant applications – so if you fulfill these requirements, you can have good chances to get promoted and have a tenure track position.This position was a three years position – I had year’s leave (for the MWP). This was difficult to negotiate, as I wanted to have an additional year because of the MWP.
What would be your main tip for the job search in your discipline?
It depends on the country, but in general focus on doing good publications – a bit strategically in terms of where to place them but also trying to make an impact through the work you are doing, rather than attending all the conferences to build your network – you get more visible if people know your work, rather than because you spoke to them during a conference. So I realized that during some conferences when my book was out, there were people knowing my name without knowing me personally. If you can, apply for grants – at least in the Netherlands it is very important (Marie Curie, MW Fellowship – this is seen extremely positive within the faculty).
What would be your tips for the interview?
Prepare all the questions that may come up during the interview well, regarding the position, experiences and practical issues. I have the feeling that this is very much a matter of preparation to make a good impression; talk to people who applied for similar position.
In your opinion, what would be the don’ts
That’s difficult. I would say try to negotiate, but do not try too hard.
What was the most helpful element of the job market trainings at the MWP
I found the funding conference very interesting - I didn’t need to apply for a job, but it gave me the impression of what is expected if you want to have a competitive profile on the job market. That I found very helpful.
From an interview with a former MWF, now with a lecturer position in Italy (2015)
General impressions of trends and characteristics in Job Market in Law
My main target was the Italian job market, although I was also interested in Continental Europe. I sent applications also to France, and I got a position, but it was a post-doc and I decided not to accept because I got the extension of the Max Weber Fellowship. Then the following year I applied mainly to Italian Universities for the position of assistant professor, and then one or two positions of associate professors. I was shortlisted for three positions, because apparently the job market in law is growing a bit, in particular the assistant professor position. The first two interviews didn’t go very well, and I don’t know my ranking or score. These positions were assistant professorships, which in Italy is a ricercatore. It is not a tenure-track position but, depending on the university, it can become a tenure-track position if you have the abilitazione. The third interview finally went well. The process, compared to other stories I’ve been told about Italian universities, was very quick.
In 2010, the position of assistant professor adopted a fixed-time contract, as opposed to tenure-track as it had been beforehand. But this change was paralleled by another change: the introduction of a system of abilitazione for associate and full professors, which is made by discipline and subsectors. This system is not just in law, political science, history etc. For example, even within law there are subsectors: comparative law, administrative law, international and EU law, constitutional law. Each sector sets its standards for the selection of associate and full professors. And so this system of abilitazione to some extent creates a pool from which universities can choose an associate professor when such a position has to be filled and upon issuing a call for a public competition. This has been linked to the position of assistant professor that can then progress into an associate professorship. I think that this is one of the first years in which there were quite a good number of openings compared to the complete lack of new positions in previous years, in part because many professors retired. So, it is true that turnover is blocked to a certain extent, but the assistant professorship position and its fixed-term contract opens the competition for this position quite easily in universities. The problem is that after the three years are over there is no guarantee that your contract will be renewed and made permanent. Usually in public universities it is much more difficult than private because of issues about money.
Job market strategy
I think that in law it is still very important to identify your primary job market in terms of country because you need to combine and balance your international activities with those oriented towards a national audience, i.e., the community of lawyers that will let you progress in your career, at least in continental Europe. If you have the ambition to stay in Italy, you need to publish for an Italian audience as well as for a broader audience with international journals. Also, it is important to be involved in associations and networks, and to organize or participate in a call for papers and local conferences. Establish and maintain your network. While I was here, I always tried to keep my contacts. I think this is particularly true for countries like Italy, Germany, Spain and France, where the career path is different from one country to the other. You still have to comply with the requirements of your national academic background.
Applying for positions
For the position of assistant professor, each university is autonomous in defining the requirements for the applications. In each of the three cases, I was met by the same requirements. The CV as well as a selection of publications (usually 12-15). In my field having a book published is an informal condition for applying. Without a monograph, you don’t have a chance. In two cases the PhD thesis was a requirement. Of course it depends on how different your thesis is from the monograph. And then any other documents proving knowledge of foreign languages as well as teaching certificates, such as the one awarded by the MWP, were important. The fact that I participated in a teaching exchange and had teaching training helped, as this is quite unusual in the Italian system. What was also important was my previous teaching experience, because the position of assistant professor implies quite a considerable amount of teaching. I would say on average between 90-120 hours per year. We were asked for neither cover letters nor reference letters. We were asked to provide paper copies of our publications.
In terms of procedure, the call was published in the official Gazette. Usually the expiration date for presenting all these documents is one month. The timing of the selection procedure is defined by the selection committee, which is usually appointed by the department that has opened the new position. It is usually composed of three people. One of them is often a non-Italian. Usually there is an internal member from your discipline, and two external members, one of whom is a non-Italian. I know that the decision on who sits on the committee is made by the department. It is clear that the faculty member from the specific field has first say on who should sit on the selection committee, and is usually allowed to sit in the committee. But there must be a consensus amongsthe other members of the department.
The members of the selection committee sit together and they determine a schedule for the interviews and appointments, and depending on the number of candidates, they can choose to define a shortlist or not. On average, from the expiration date of the call it takes up to three months for an interview invitation, but this is very flexible. And what I think may be unusual for other contexts is the fact that all the candidates are usually called on the same day, and they attend each other’s interviews. From my experience the committee invites the other candidates to attend as a way to make the process as public as possible. Whoever goes first can have a disadvantage, as the format in which the questions are asked is more or less similar for each candidate.
The list of candidates is published two to three weeks before the date of the interview. I think there were six candidates, but in one or two cases two of them didn’t show up. Perhaps they received another offer, or perhaps they couldn’t afford the lodging and travel expenses. If you see that there is not a very big chance for you to get a position, or if you think that it is not a good option, you can decide to withdraw the application. Also, if you have access to the list, you can check to see if there are strong candidates and may decide not to go. Usually in terms of academic relationships, it is an informal rule that if you decide to withdraw your application, notify the administrator in charge. It is not very well perceived when you are expected to show up and don’t go.
The most important part of the application was the publications. I selected my publications in light of the research topics described in the job description that they wanted the future assistant professor to cover. And yes indeed, I already had contacts there. I also had an idea of what kind of person the department was looking to hire from colleagues who worked there but weren’t part of the selection committee.
I had doubts about whether or not to send the PhD thesis, and I found the administrators in charge very useful because they gave me information on how this process usually goes. They said that it’s good to present the PhD thesis, and most candidates decide to present. The selection committee will then decide if it is worth consideration for the score. In my experience, in its assessment criteria, the selection committee defined the category of publications as the most important one. Also important were candidates’ experiences abroad in terms of visiting scholarships or teaching in academic institutions in other countries, as well as the coordination of research projects. It was useful to show that I had experience in this field.
Presentation and interview
I had three weeks to prepare and I was not told in advance what to prepare. To be honest I also didn’t ask. At least in Italy, the usual practice is not a pre-packaged format. I prepared a sort of lecture. In the same department, other people in other disciplines were asked to give a lecture. So, this was unclear. The only thing I knew was that the interview was to be part English and part in Italian. We were notified about this in advance. I expected to give a lecture but this was not the case, although it happened in the previous interviews. The interview lasted about 45 minutes and was mainly based on the documents provided for the application: on the content of the publications; my future developments in regard to my research interests; and what I’m going to publish. What surprised me a bit was that no one asked me about teaching. Usually you are also asked about your interactions with students and the relationship between teaching and research. Everything was more about research and publications. This can include also ideas or plans in terms of research abroad. There were no unexpected questions, but they did focus a lot on the content of the publications. I sent 15 publications, and they really engaged in a conversation on specific points from the publications. In regard to publications from three or four years ago, they asked if I would now write the exact same thing in light of the evolving subject matter and changes in the discipline, or if it would now be different, and why?
During the interview we were asked about the prospective interaction (possible joint partnership, common project) with professors and assistant professors in other disciplines, given the interdisciplinarity inherent to the hiring department. The MWP was very useful for this because I could show that for two years I had been working with people with different backgrounds, organizing workshops and participating in interdisciplinary events and research projects together.
I was the first to present. As for the other candidates, we knew each other quite well. It’s difficult not to know people in this field who are around the same age. The results of the interviews were not disclosed. After every candidate had been interviewed, the committee met, and we were kindly asked to leave the room. Each university has autonomy on this point, i.e. can decide when and how the appointment is finalized, and in this particular university the final say does not belong to the selection committee, but to the department. Formally, the selection committee just makes a proposal which has to be approved by the department, and it is possible that the department will not approve it. It is a rare occurrence, but it can happen.
I was interviewed on Friday, and then the week after on Tuesday the department was convened and the proposal for the appointment was confirmed. The day after, the executive committee of the university decided to formally appoint. So, I immediately received notification from the administration (as did the other candidates) that I was appointed. This all took one week. In contrast with other countries, however, there is no room to negotiate the monthly pay and allowances because everything is pre-defined in the call for applications and by legislation. When you apply, you know the details about payments and the number of hours that you are expected to teach. In this case, 120 hours of teaching were foreseen, but the specific courses that I’m going to teach in the next few years were defined and agreed upon between me and the head of the department. It was very easy. The courses directly connected to my field were without an instructor.
About the position
I will start on September 1st and the first semester will be devoted to research, as I don’t have a teaching commitments. Then, during the second semester I will be teaching two courses. Of course I have exams and student supervision. The administrative responsibilities are, I would say, an important part of the job, but this is not specified in the contract. I may have to coordinate a Master’s programme, but I do not know yet. About two and a half years from the beginning of my activity I will be assessed for my work, and the results of this assessment will affect my career. The assessment is based on publications, teaching evaluations from the students, funds obtained and managed and research projects coordinated. For the first point (publications), we have a system in which journals are ranked (A), (B) and (C). Non-Italian journals are also included. I will have to publish at least two journal articles (in the A rank), and also have a positive assessment on my teaching by the students.
The important thing is to show a trend toward more commitment, improvements, and engagement in the activities of the department. In terms of funds, if I can find obtain a research grant somewhere, this is positively assessed. I would say that the more I show in terms of publications and research projects, the better it is for the final decision to make a new call and finally become a tenure track professor as an associate professor, as I hope, one day.
Tips for the job search in the discipline
The first thing is that you need to decide where you want to live and to apply. The U.S. and Europe are completely different, particularly in terms of publications. If you target a market like the Italian, Spanish, French, or the German market, establish and maintain a relationship with the existing academic environment. Be involved in the research networks and national associations to show your commitment to the academic community, and try to publish in the respective language. In terms of interviews, study the place as well as the position which they are opening. For example, see if they want someone similar to whoevert they had selected in the past or want to change the profile of the position. Look a bit at the audience in terms of the students that the university has. Many universities in Italy want to be ranked in international university rankings, so they are interested in someone who can strengthen the international side of that university in terms of connections with other universities, as there is now an interest in creating double-degree programmes. So I see a general trend here in terms of university internationalization, yet it is important to target the specific position. I think it is useful to show that you have already had a look at the profiles and that you can easily accommodate to the Faculty of the department without overstepping them or invading their territories but rather by improving the general performance of the department. Every department receives funds that are university-based as well as based on the number and quality of the publications of the Faculty.
Difference between private and public universities
I think that the trend towards internationalization is stronger in private universities. They have more resources and more capabilities to become more international, to establish more relationships and invite visiting professors. But I think that other universities are becoming more open to the international academic system too. This may depend on the discipline. For example, even in Italy in Departments of Economics many foreign professors are faculty members, it doesn’t matter much whether we are Italian or not because most courses are taught in English.
I also see that in the department where I will be working some full professors holding positions in foreign universities were hired in the last few years. Now there is the feeling that you either become competitive in the international field or you disappear.
I had interviews at both private and public universities, and the way the interviews were arranged was comparable. The calls for applications asked for people with international experience. Publications in languages other than English were a plus. I didn’t see specific differences between the public and private university interviews, but the environment is different. Particularly in the latter there is an attempt to create English-based programmes to attract foreign students, but in public universities it is the bureaucratic machinery and the size of the university that makes it difficult.
From an interview with a former MWF, now with a tenure-track position in South America (2015)
Applying for position
Someone contacted me in May last year from the university that eventually hired me to tell me that there was an opening and they wanted to invite me to apply. I did apply and interviewed shortly after. At the time I was at a conference in the US so the interview was made via Skype. A week or two later I got an offer. I had some previous exchanges with that department, including teaching in their summer school and organizing a couple of conferences, so they knew me and already had expressed an interest in hiring me. The negotiation was largely about whether they would let me stay at the EUI for another year, to which they ultimately agreed. At their end, they were nervous that I would apply elsewhere, go to the US or stay in Europe and never show up for the job!
Impressions about the job market
The US is a tough market, perhaps particularly in my field, which is relatively marginalized within my discipline. There is only a handful of attractive positions each year for a couple of hundred applicants. It is still an attractive system in many ways – very international, well resourced, and well paying – but also very saturated. I applied selectively during my first year in the MWP, had a couple of Skype interviews, but somehow got the impression that getting invited to fly over for interview would not be as easy as it would be if I was in the US. The experience confirmed my sense that it is a very difficult market.
I graduated at the peak of the crisis from an elite US institution. No-one in my subfield had found a permanent job. Some secured decent postdocs, others got teaching fellowships, but nobody a tenure-track post. Now some have jobs, but some left academia. Before the EUI, I was a postdoc at another elite US institution, and people there were also struggling, very talented and hard-working people could not find jobs.
I did consider applying in Europe, particularly in the UK, but ultimately did not. I am not discarding this out of hand, maybe I’ll apply later, but last year didn’t feel like the right time to apply. It would have involved defecting from my agreement and giving a very bad impression in my home country. There were also family reasons—Europe is quite far from my home and family—and it would require entering whole new professional worlds and academic cultures. Barriers to entry may be quite high as well, particularly in Germany and France, or that’s the impression I’ve got from my fellow MWFs. I guess it is pretty tough everywhere.
Job market in Latin America
And then perhaps it is not as tough in Latin America. There are elite institutions in Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Colombia that want to become more internationalized, and are investing and hiring accordingly. They advertise jobs internationally and may be profiting from the saturation in North America and Western Europe. They are willing to take people who teach in English, but may require that hires eventually learn Spanish or Portuguese. In my case, they interviewed 5 people out of 40 or so applicants, among which I was told there were several foreigners. My department already has faculty members from the US, France and Spain. There seems to be a regional ambition to score well in global rankings. Brazil is nowadays by far at the top in Latin America. It may be an option worth considering for adventurous academics.
About the position
The position is a tenure-track professorship, but I had enough publications and teaching experience to be promoted to associate, so I’m tenured. Their tenure track is faster than in North America, I think typically 5 years. The teaching load is 2-2, which is fairly standard.
I knew the department and knew that my profile fit well with what they were looking for. But there was a competition, they had agreed on a second candidate if I declined, and I had to write a tailored application, including a rather long (5-page) cover letter. The interview was with the hiring committee and some faculty from other departments. It was a standard interview with a couple of tough questions and the typical ones e.g. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What would you like to teach?” etc.
After the interview
The room for bargaining is not the same as in the US where in principle, as long as you have a counteroffer, you can bargain on pretty much everything. In my department salary and ranking are decided by an independent committee based on publications and teaching experience. They were very clear from the start that they could not negotiate salary. There seems to be a certain egalitarian ethos in the University, unlike in the US where your salary reflects how marketable you are. They wanted my answer quickly because they also liked the second candidate, so I responded a couple of weeks later.
Perhaps the main lesson I’ve learned is how hugely important it is to have strong backing from senior faculty, mentors, and PhD advisors. This cannot be overemphasized. Having a good relationship with the hiring institution can be very important too – I know of many cases in the US and also in Latin America in which candidates were previous fellows, or had met personally people in the relevant committees. This was also my case, as I had already cultivated a relationship with my department before coming to the EUI. It required some effort, but it paid off.
Regarding the MWP job market support, it gave me a realistic sense of the various job markets in Europe, and some useful information on European grants and fellowships that I hope to take advantage of later on. The language support staff is very helpful for going over application materials.
From an interview with a former MWF, now with a lectureship in the UK (2014)
On general job market trends in Law, in the UK
"My main observation is that it is becoming harder to get the first job. When I started my PhD, my supervisor said 'There will be no problem'. It is becoming especially hard to get that first job, in particular at the good universities. Unless you exactly fit the specific area, or have previous experience, it is difficult. Also, surprisingly for Law, there is an unusual increase in postdocs being offered, rather than lectureships."
On the application process and job interview
"The application was very straightforward: a CV and a cover letter. I spent a lot of time working on the CV and the cover letter, as the job description didn’t really fit my profile. I invested lots of time explaining why I'm applying for this job. I also had no academic contacts with the university. After I applied, I did not hear anything from them for quite a long time, so I asked whether they would notify the unsuccessful candidates. They said 'Yes, but you were shortlisted'. I went there for a job interview that lasted two days. On the first day I gave a presentation, 30 minutes, on my research, short and medium term perspective. No one was really an expert in my field, so they did not ask much to test my knowledge. On the second day, a 45 minute interview. The questions were quite standard, they asked me where I wanted to be in 3 years, in 5 years time and so on, but there were more questions than I was expecting. In the interview panel, there were 3 persons, 1 from outside my discipline and 2 from my discipline. Most of the questions were the ones you would expect, such as questions about my teaching techniques, whether I would teach topics outside my field, how would I rate the quality of my research, funding plans, how I would deal with administrative work etc. One thing that surprised me were the questions related to the REF."
"The main tip is to apply for jobs where you think your profile matches, or can be matched. Awful lot of people apply for jobs out of desperation, or for whatever other reason, when they are not in their area or when they are too general. They end up wasting their time. Usually the job descriptions are quite accurate. Prepare an application that matches the job description. Tip for the interview? There is a huge drive towards providing tutors, good service for students, as they pay. Think how and why you are a good teacher. Generally, prepare by analysing the institution, the place where you are applying."
From an interview with a former MWF, now with a lectureship in the UK (2014)
Applying for jobs
"My experience may have been somewhat different from people who are in “full application mode.” I sent a more limited number of applications, which meant that I had the luxury of tailoring each application to the specific school. This, I think, means a higher chance of success for your application, because you want to show the schools that you are interested in them, that you have done your homework, and you can only do this if you take the time to see who is there, what kind of programmes they are running, the philosophy of the school and so on. You cannot obviously gather that much from the website but you get a sense. It is more feasible to do this for a dozen schools or so rather than for 40 or 50 schools, which I hear people tend to apply to."
The difference between the US and the UK market
"This is the first difference between the US and UK market. In Law, the US market is centralized, similar to the field for historians and economists. There is a big conference in Washington DC. You upload your information on the centralized database and then schools invite you for screening interviews in DC. You have a short interview (20-30 minutes), and if they like you, they may invite you for on-campus interviews later that year. But even for that market it is usually the case that you will upload your material, essentially sending it out to hundreds of schools, but then you can send individualized applications to specific schools you are particularly interested in and say ‘Look, here is my CV, I have uploaded my CV there as well, but this is why I am interested in your school’. This way, you have an opportunity to tailor your application to specific schools you are interested in. That’s one of the tips - customize your application if you are interested in a particular school because of geographic connections or any other reasons. Tailoring your application is applicable to both the UK and US contexts. In the UK context, it is just schools announcing job openings at different points throughout the year and you apply to the specific department. Therefore, you sort of have to individualize your application, because they usually ask for a cover letter. The cover letter is your opportunity to show why you would be a good fit for that particular position, at that particular department, and at that particular university."
Application process for the position
"In my case, the first stage was just an online application; there were specific fields that needed to be completed. The two major things were the cover letter and the CV; these were reviewed and I was contacted a month after the deadline. The call for applications was 5 pages long, standardized, there was something about the university, something about the Law faculty, something about the position; research, teaching requirements, experience applying for research funding, that you need to produce internationally excellent research, which is the language that the REF uses. So, I had to address all of these points. That’s how I tailored my cover letter; I tried to match the requirements. The cover letter may make you stand out from the pile of materials they get but then it has to be concise. You cannot send 10 pages at that first stage, you have to crunch everything into the one or two pages that you have. There are trade-offs there. Then, my CV was quite long, as that’s the first thing they see about you."
"At the second stage, after two weeks, they invited me for an interview, asked for three letters of recommendation and a writing sample. For the writing sample, I sent a dissertation excerpt. In my CV I had links to my published work already so I knew they could access that, so I wanted to give them something that I thought was stronger, that I thought reflected better my work at that point. I think that helped. Sometimes when you go on the market you might not have anything published. I had a few things published already but I wanted them to read something that was more recent. That’s a tip: you want the discussion to revolve around your strongest piece. Pick the piece you feel more comfortable with in discussion, but then know that during the interview, everything is game, everything that is in your CV may be brought up; your published work, working papers etc."
"At the interview, there were 2 components. The first was the mock class, where I had to pretend I was teaching a class, at the undergraduate level. They left the subject up to me, but I knew the audience. There were no undergraduates present; the audience was made up of professors. In the US, students may be invited to attend the mock class. It was 30 minutes of lecturing and then 15 minutes for questions. Because the questions were coming from professors, they were not really the type of questions you would get from undergrads. The lecture was addressed to undergrads but then we ended up with discussion on research. When the topic of the lecture is broad enough, it is good to pick something that shows that you know you will be teaching to undergraduates. You also may want to pick a topic that you are fairly familiar with so when questions come up, you can engage them in a knowledgeable fashion."
"The second piece of the interview process was a 1 hour interview with an eight-member panel later that day. I knew who the people on the interview panel were. I think this is another useful tip - if they do not tell you who will be at the interview, it is ok to ask, although sometimes they will still not tell you. It is good to know who they are, what they are working on, think what kind of questions they might ask. Often, there are people on the panel that are not from your field, which means that not everyone will be familiar with your research topics. You have to talk with them in a way that is engaging, and that’s a challenge. They asked about my research right away, they also asked why I applied. You have to have an answer to these kinds of questions but you do not want to sound too scripted, so practice but do not practice too much. The interview was broken down into research and teaching. An unexpected question was one on collaborative work, which is something I had not been asked before. Another tip: have a list of facts that may not be readily available in your CV and offer that information as a response to questions that might get asked during the interview. Connect information in your CV with the questions they ask you."
"The interview on the whole was balanced, but the focus was on research. For research, I was asked to talk about my writing sample and other work- what’s original about it and so on. I also talked about the impact of my work, which is a new thing in REF. After we had covered what I had already written, they asked me about my future research plans. Having a research agenda helps, as you need to show that, once you are done with the thesis and your post-doc, you have thought about other ideas and papers that you want to work on further. I think we spent 15-20 minutes talking about future work. You need to be prepared; you need to know some basic funding agencies for the countries you are applying to. So, do your homework on the national market. Law is still to some extent country-specific, and even if you do comparative or international work, you need to show some connection to the place where you are going to teach. You may well be expected to teach domestic law to the undergraduates so you have to say what kind of teaching you expect to do. In the teaching part of the interview, we talked about classes I would be interested in teaching. I think it is important for the UK market to show that you are interested in teaching as well. Another school asked me for a teaching statement. It is good to take the time and think what you’re qualified to teach. It’s good to check textbooks, that is, show that you’ve done your homework. However, we did not discuss specific textbooks. They asked me what classes I would teach, from the fields that were listed. I looked at what courses are actually taught at that particular university. They did not ask about my teaching philosophy. Through the interview and also through your mock class, I think they get a sense of you as a teacher. At the end of the interview, they asked whether I had any questions for them. I think you should always have prepared some questions for the panel because this is a typical way of ending an interview."
Page last updated on 18 August 2017