|I don't like stock images, but I like this one.|
Photo credit: centerofcompassion.org
Credentials: BS was from a top 30 public university, but not in the field of chemistry (I was a biochemist at the time). PhD from a top 20 university in chemistry (Physical/Inorganic). 2.5 year postdoc, also at a top 20 university. While, from a school standpoint, this is not a top-notch pedigree, I worked for people that are influential and well-liked in the community. More importantly, I did good work, independently, in their labs and had a very good relationship with my advisors. This, I think, is critical (more on this later).
Competition: Very stiff. There is absolutely no way to sugar coat this. It is killer. I do not know the statistics for where I applied, but it is not unusual to have 300+ applicants for a single position. Of course, many of these are cast out very quickly. My understanding is that a typical search narrows things down to about 30 people quickly. From that perhaps 3-7 come out for visit. Then one of them gets an offer.I'm always curious about these sorts of situations, where the competition for a position is fierce, as they say. [Sidenote: What is considered fierce? The competition to become a McDonald's fry cook, I presume, is not fierce. I'd say greater than 50% of applicants to fast food restaurants are offered a position. On the other side, the competition to become president of the United States is extraordinarily fierce, with very narrow résumé requirements and a famously brutal application process.]
Here's what I'd love to know: what are the criteria for making that 'first-cut'? If the initial application pool is 300 and there are 30 "real applicants", what distinguishes that 10% from the other ninety? How much of that 90% are people who just don't meet the requirements to begin with (i.e. how bimodal is the distribution of quality?) Presumably, there's a raw publication count and a raw measurement of university/advisor quality. Other than that, I have no idea.
Readers, what say you? At what point does the competition between job candidates leave the quantitative and become quite qualitative? Is it at the "30 candidates" phase or the "3-7 candidates" phase?