A SPECIAL NOTE FOR MODELERS: typically universities want to hire modelers because they require smaller start-up packages (so keep that in mind when you asking for money). Because super-computing resources are typically available through national resources (e.g. XSEDE https://www.xsede.org), gone are the days when "I wanna build a local cluster" is a legitimate reason to waste hundreds of thousands of tax-payer dollars. An experienced computational scientist should understand that setting up and maintaining a cluster yourself is a huge pain in the @$$. Sure there are exceptions when exotic software is not available on the supercomputer; for such cases, you should check whether the university you are applying to has local HPC resources (so you could pay for the license and have it installed there). With computational candidates its always funny to have them explain how they are going to spend the hundreds of thousands they want, when all they really need is ~20k worth of desktops... but, for example, postdocs (man-power) is a legitimate way to spend money for a computationalist... because quality of your the brains that you employ is your most critical resource for your work ;)
Common Mistakes Over Skype:
-Jumped right into the guts of the science, without an introduction that establishes importance of the topic, captivates the audience, and does a literature overview explaining your niche.
- Not able to follow your science. Keep in mind that your audience is smart, but is not necessarily in your field. So, it is your job to present the information clearly. You and your work can be a genius, but if people can't follow what you are saying, you will not get grants. So this is important.
- Future research is an extension of the advisers work (you should be prepared to answer how you will stand apart, and whether you will be competing with them). The assumption is that the established investigator wins if you compete.
- Did not look up potential collaborations in the target school/dept
- Has a vague idea about what will be the first grant / when will it be ready for submission / which agency / what are the submission windows
- Missing a slide about teaching preferences
- Missing a slide that tabulates the start-up requirements (we should have a clear idea of your critical needs and how much you will cost us). Meanwhile, you need to show that you know how much the equipment and the expendables cost.
- Too few slides or too many slides. Ask the Search Committee Chair for a break down of how many minutes you should spend on each section.
- Bad microphone, internet connection, etc. You should check these things before Skyping.
SKYPE FORMAL INTERVIEW:
For the formal Skype meeting with the whole search committee (as opposed to the 1-on-1 pre-screening above), we ask the candidates to prepare a brief presentation, including about 10 min for their current research, 15 min for proposed projects and funding opportunities, 5 min or so for teaching, and 5 minutes on the start-up needs. We block a time slot of about 1.25 hours (with 15 minutes extra in case we need more time) so we will have enough time to set up, presentation and asking questions. There should be also time for you to ask us questions.
> MEETING WITH THE DEAN
The dean is who actually gives out the positions in the university, so he will be trying to gauge how good of an investment you are / how fundable your work is. Basically, expect the conversation to be about money. I suggest you give him a brief overview of who you are and what you are about. Then he/she will ask you some questions that are specific to your case (e.g., details of your start-up request, whether you are eligible for some funding opportunity that he knows about). This usually doesn't last longer than half an hour, but be prepared for small-talk:
You can ask him/her some questions regarding the university, what you can expect on the job, basically act interested and ask questions that a person who seriously cares about working there long-term would ask. Its always a good idea to look up the Dean's background (for that matter the background and publications of all the people you are expected to interact with during the interview).
The seminar is what you did (your PhD work) and what you are doing (your postdoc work). While the chalk-talk is what you plan to do in the next five years (you can mention beyond that, but short term is the emphasis). The seminar should be easy for you, since nobody knows your work better than you, but still expect technical questions.
In the chak-talk you should briefly go over your teaching plan, which essentially just describes your philosophy, what courses you want to teach (look up which are offered by the department, and which are missing), courses you want to develop (it is always good if your particular experience can fill in an existing niche), and your teaching experience. This can be just 1-2 slides. Also, I talked about the skills and toolsets that I will bring into the department(for example super-computing and modeling were missing in the department). By the way, chalk talk is usually by PowerPoint (not chalk on a board), just like a seminar.
Next is the meat of the chalk-talk, describe ~4 future proposals (it can be compact, like one slide per proposal): 2 short term projects, and 2 long term. Talk about how you will make things happen (established or needed collaborations, equipment needs), and how you will finance each one (mention grant opportunities that you will apply for and when; or maybe you already have some grants pending or even funded). The more detail provided the better it shows that you have the maturity level to pull this off. Talk about which agency, which division, which type of grant. Even mention the grant officer name (maybe you called them and discussed your idea with them). It is also important to establish that you will be independent from your previous bosses; common criticism is that your future work is an extension of what you've been doing under somebody else's guidance, so how will you compete with established people?
Finally, you should present a few tables summarizing your start-up request: key equipment and estimated capital costs, annual costs for running the lab, student years (or maybe you want a postdoc). Things like that. The committee needs to have a ball-park idea what your needs are, and what kind of package they will be negotiating with you.
QUESTIONS THAT YOU COULD (AND SHOULD) ASK: The two most important offices at the university, as far as you are concerned, are the purchasing office and the grants office. If their grants office doesn't have grant writers (i.e., all they do is check your work, and all the bureaucratic paper-work falls on you) avoid that place like the plague. Likewise, if the purchasing office is slow/terrible, it will slow down your lab and make your life a living hell. A quick example is if they don't have a credit-card system in place for small purchases, and you have to submit a purchase order for every little thing you want to buy. This will waste a lot of your time. So, if you are in a position to pick-and-choose job offers, I would definitely ask about your potential colleagues about these two offices.