This guide provides basic information about the process of job market preparation and participation for WSU School of Economic Sciences doctoral students. It is not a comprehensive road map; it serves only to provide a platform for communication with faculty advisors. Most of the discussion assumes that a doctoral student is seeking an academic position after completing a four year course of doctoral study. Adjustments for timing and job market targets should be expected and discussed with advisors. You should also look at the following article on the JOE website: http://www.aeaweb.org/joe/articles/2006/cawley.pdf. It provides valuable additional information, especially with some details about the formal economics job market. It is imperative for students to recognize that job market preparation and initiation of faculty support in the process is the responsibility of the student.
- Where to find jobs
- Timeline for job market preparation
- Compiling Application packets for academic jobs
- Preparation for Interviews
- Conference Interviews
- On-Site Interviews
Job Market Meetings During the Year
Spring Semester Meeting
During the Spring Semester, a job market meeting for all PhD students will be conducted to provide students with an overview of how the job market works. The main beneficiaries will be second and third year students since the discussion will focus mainly on how to build your portfolio to become competitive in the job market when the time comes. (Slides from meeting)
First Fall Semester Meeting
There are two meetings during Fall. The first Fall meeting focuses on 4th and 5th year students who are thinking of entering the job market. We discuss in detail the timing of events, the application packet and important deadlines. (Fall 2016 Slides from meeting)
Second Fall Semester Meeting
The second Fall meeting is exclusively for students who enter the job market. We discuss tips on interviews and scheduling.
Where to find jobs
The main listing for job openings for economists is housed in the AEA webpage. However, there are other links for specialized fields or International universities or agencies.
- Important links for job postings:
- aeaweb JOE Listings – August 1, 2015 – January 31, 2016
- Career Center Jobs – Agricultural & Applied Economics Association
- Econ Job Market
- Academic Economist Jobs Economist Jobs by Econ-Jobs.com
- Discover 109 Jobs for Academics 2015-2016 INOMICS
- Job Market Open Positions Eaere
Some of these postings may coincide with those in AEA, but some are European universities that only post their ads in either of the above websites. Note that many of the universities posting jobs in the Econjobmarket.org website only conduct interviews at the Spanish Economic Association Meeting (even if the university is not Spanish) in mid-December. You can find more information here: SAEe 2015 – Girona.
Preliminary job interviews for all fields are held at the ASSA conferences in early January of every year. For those students writing in agricultural, resource and environmental fields, interviews are also conducted at the AAEA meetings in late July or early August, although increasingly, many agricultural and applied economics departments are recruiting at the ASSA meetings. Students must have a polished paper for inclusion in their job applications, which are sent out up to three months in advance of the meetings. Most institutions looking to hire at the ASSA expect you to be finished by August of the following year. Thus, besides one polished paper you need to be able to demonstrate that you have made substantial progress on your entire dissertation. You need your paper for the ASSA meetings ready by November 1. After the meetings, students must be prepared for multi-day on-site interviews with employers on short notice (within days of the interviews at the meetings, with as short as one-week notice for the visit). Therefore, preparation for research presentations must begin early (you will be grilled about your research at the conference interviews as well as when you do campus visits). Students should schedule at least one practice presentation in SES at least one week prior to the campus interview. You should also plan on doing a mock interview with SES faculty before the ASSA or AAEA meetings. The following schedule puts you on track to be ready for the job market by the beginning of your fourth year of study:
- Year 1: In addition to coursework, explore research interests, meet faculty, and discuss dissertation ideas.
- Year 2: Begin serious exploratory work on a dissertation. Visit professors, kick around ideas, and delve into the literature of your area of interest. By fall of the third year, a solid idea for a dissertation should be in mind and preliminary work underway.
- Year 3: Finish up coursework and continue dissertation work. Complete the preliminary oral by the end of fall semester. Keep in mind that you need a stand-alone job market paper as well as demonstrated progress on the rest of your dissertation completed early in your fourth year (Oct/Nov), so be thinking about how to coordinate dissertation work with a job-market paper. For Ag resource, and environmental economics types: Participating in the AAEA employment center at the annual meetings can be helpful even if you are slightly early to be interviewing on the job market. This entails:
- Keep track of job postings in Job Openings for Economists (JOE) (http://www.aeaweb.org/joe/) and the AAEA website (http://www.aaea.org/classifieds/) early in the year, but especially June onward.
- Send applications out for any possibilities
- Coordinate brief interviews at the AAEA meetings through the employment center.
- Attend AAEA meetings in late July, early August.
- Year 4 is a big year:
- All year, but especially October onward, regularly check employment opportunities in JOE. The most important issue is October, followed closely by the November, and then residual job announcements in the December issue.
- Schedule a seminar in SES for September to get broad feedback on your job market paper.
- Have job market paper polished by early November for ASSA applications.
- Early November onward: submit applications for possible ASSA interviews.
- Mid December: Finalize job market presentations and give practice seminars. Organize practice interviews with the assistance of faculty.
- Early January. Interview for jobs at ASSA Meetings.
- If still on the Job market, revisit the AAEA meetings (discussed under year 3).
- Finish dissertation by May or August of year 4.
Job opening announcements usually request all or most of the following:
- Cover letter
- Curriculum vita
- Letters of reference
- Official transcripts
- One or two samples of research work
- A statement of teaching philosophy
These materials should be the most carefully crafted documents you have ever created. A misspelled word or bad grammar in the cover letter or anywhere else in your application can send your application to the no-hire stack immediately. Proofread your research papers and other documents, and arrange with other students on the market to do an exchange–you proofread their papers and they can proofread your papers.
For academic positions, the cover letter should be tailored to each specific job. It should include a brief description of why you are interested in this particular job and why you think the search committee should be interested in you for this specific job. You can very briefly summarize your research but do not put an entire abstract in the letter. For the most part, your vita and supporting material will sell you. The point of the letter is to get the reader to look further at your materials.
Curriculum vitae (CV) includes information about education, experience, teaching, research, grant-getting and other related experience and productivity. Compared to a standard private sector resume a CV tends to be longer and more inclusive. A template for a CV for a doctoral student from this school is provide at
Some announcements request letters of reference to be sent for the initial application [usually under separate cover directly from references]; others request a list of references with contact information in order to request letters after initial review. References and contact information should be listed on your CV even if letters are not requested in the initial announcement. Choose your references carefully, and ask prospective letter writers if they are willing to write strong letters on your behalf. Provide your reference writers with easy access to your CV, the job announcement, and any other information that you think would help them write a strong letter for you, including but not limited to job market papers and a summary of where you stand in your dissertation progress. When choosing your references, try to choose a set of people that can speak to each important aspect of your background and experience (e.g., someone who knows you as a student in their class, your dissertation advisor and, if you worked as a TA, your TA advisor.)
Do not ask too many people to provide references. While three is the minimum, usually four, and most definitely five, is the maximum. Three strong letters are better than three strong letters and one tepid letter. Usually, any letters above three should be addressing something the other recommenders cannot adequately address, for example, your superior teaching skills.
Some positions require that you have official transcripts mailed to them. Others require e-mailed transcripts. If you need assistance in scanning your official transcript, check with the main office.
If you do not have experience teaching you will need to come up with a statement about your teaching philosophy.
- Job Market Paper
- Practice Presentations
- Practice Interviews Student Responsibilities and the role of the School
You should select one component of your research, one paper from your dissertation, to use as your job market paper. This paper will be sent in your application packet (perhaps along with other papers), and it will be the basis for your seminar. It should be a paper that you either have or expect to submit for review at a peer-reviewed journal. The choice of your job market paper is an important one. Of the research you might be working on, the job market paper is that which provides the best illustration of your skills, interests, and capacity to perform independent, interesting, and cutting-edge research.
Further, this job market paper must be very polished by the time you send it off in an application, which means that you should have it completed by the middle of your fall semester of your fourth academic year. This also means that you may have to plan your dissertation work accordingly such that you finish your job market paper earlier, leaving other parts of your dissertation for later completion. But keep in mind that employers expect you to be done with your degree by August at the latest. If all you have is one paper, you are not ready to go on the market.
It is beyond the scope of this document to provide guidance for presentation preparation, except to reiterate the importance of giving your job talk seminar at least once prior to any interview, in addition to their dissertation oral exams. As a student, you will have ample opportunity to do so. A student preparing for the job market should, early in the Fall semester, schedule one of the regular Friday seminar slots to present his or her work. If these seminar slots are taken, then schedule for another day and advertise to get good attendance. Be sure to realize that a seminar in your home department is as good as it gets: the audience will be rooting for you, they will be very willing to provide advice, and the more people that are there, the more advice you are likely to receive. This will undoubtedly increase the likelihood of performing well during a job interview.
Holding a practice interview is an excellent way of getting a feel for what kinds of questions and experiences to expect during a job interview. Sometime prior to attending a conference interview or any type of interview, you should ask your committee and perhaps others to participate in one on your behalf. At a minimum, this practice interview should be a half-hour session in which faculty asks the candidate the type of questions that a candidate would get during a real interview. Preferably, this question and answer session would be followed up by a half-hour debriefing, with advice and further questions about the interview process for the given type of interview that the student is facing.
As the doctoral candidate facing the job market, all responsibility to prepare for the job market is incumbent upon the student. However, the faculty of the School of Economic Sciences will facilitate you in several ways. Throughout the process, keep in mind the goal is to find the right job for you, not necessarily the job at the highest ranked department, etc. It is your life, and your preference and responsibilities are what will determine whether or not the job market results in a good outcome for you.
Your dissertation advisors should be the primary source of advice regarding the job market and your goals in it. However, it is up to the student to initiate discussions and ask questions when necessary. It is also the student’s responsibility to develop a personal timeline for completion and for job market preparation and participation. Faculty advisors will provide guidance to facilitate the completion of these goals given student initiative. In addition with the guidance on dissertation writing, faculty advisors and committee members will facilitate and participate, whenever possible, in practice seminars, practice interview sessions, and will write letters of recommendation if asked.
If a student is planning to enter the job market in January via the ASSA meetings, he or she should have a serious planning discussion about completion of a job market paper, a dissertation, the student’s job market preferences and aspirations, and any other necessary issues by the end of the previous Spring semester.
The Placement Coordinator is not a substitute for your committee chair and committee members. However, the placement coordinator is available to answer questions that you might have about the job market, to help facilitate some aspects of preparation, and to provide additional opinion regarding job market preparation.
For academic positions, it is common for competitive job candidates to have two interviews for a given position: the first at a conference employment program for about a half hour to an hour, and if successful, an on-campus interview that may last up to two full days. Descriptions of the conference interview process are provided below, followed by a description of the on-site interview process. To begin, it is important to realize that personal interactions are crucial. It is important to show interest in your own work, the work that you would be expected to pursue, and the department in which you would be working. The primary way of conveying your interest is by being informed about the position, department, and people, so you can ask and answer questions effectively. So, below are a set of questions you will likely face and questions you ought to ask in interviews:
- What is your dissertation (job market paper) about? (2 minute and 5 minute answers)
- Why is your research important?
- Where do you expect to publish your work?
- What will be the focus of your research over the next 5 years (research agenda)?
- What do you have to offer our department? (Mention 3 things: research, teaching, and team player or collegial)
- Who on this faculty might you collaborate with in research?
- Why this person?
- What two classes would you most like to teach? Why?
- What is your teaching philosophy?
- What do you like about this department/town/region?
- What do you like most about working in this department?
- What do you like least about working in this department?
- What do you think the person who takes this position will be expected to focus on?
- In what ways do the faculty formally and informally support junior faculty?
- What is the tenure process like?
- How are junior faculty evaluated?
- Ask something specific about the research that the faculty member is doing.
You will be busy during interviews. Here is a list of 10 things you should have and use at conference and on-campus interviews:
- Mouthwash/breath mints
- Hair brush
- Deodorant/antiperspirant (important regardless of whether you use these products normally)
- Men: extra tie
- Women: Extra stockings
- Watch or timepiece (DO NOT be late)
- Pen and pad of paper
- Copies of cv
- Copies of job paper
- [perhaps a ONE page front and back cv and summary of job paper combination]
For doctoral students in our program, there are two primary conference-based employment interview opportunities, one at the ASSA meetings in early January (of which the American Economics Association meetings are a part), and at the American Agricultural Economics Association meetings in late July and/or early August. The ASSA meetings are larger and apply to a broader set of job openings. The employment center at the AAEA meetings are of interest primarily to those specializing in agricultural, natural resources, and environmental economics, but may also cover other areas of interest as well.
ASSA Interview Process
The ASSA meetings in early January are the primary forum for preliminary interviews for the academic economics market. You should submit job applications in November or at the vary latest early December. Interested employers start contacting candidates for appointments at the meetings in early or mid-December, so you need to have your applications out. Moreover, you need to be available. A cell phone is a very valuable investment, and you should put your cell number on your vita and in your letter of application. Keep your cell phone turned on, and answer it. The point is, right now you want to be very accessible.
ASSA interviews typically range from thirty minutes to one hour long. Job candidates with multiple interviews will be going from interview room to interview room, and will often involve walking to and from multiple hotels in the vicinity to get to their interviews, so try to schedule interviews to allow you time in between. Ask the interviewers what hotel they expect to be at, and try to congregate your interviews accordingly. Sometimes the hotels are not nearly as close as they appear, and 15 minutes may not be sufficient time between interviews.
Wear formal employment attire to the ASSA interviews. Men should wear suits, although you can probably get by with a sport coat and tie. Women should wear normal business attire.
When you set up the interview, ask who will be interviewing you. If you are given the names, spend some time on the Internet getting to know a little bit about the people in the room. Find out their fields, and maybe their most recent research. Take some brief notes you can refer to just before the interview. Also learn a little bit generally about the people at the institution working in or near your field.
A central goal for you as an interviewee is to convince the potential employer that they should want to ask you out for an on-site campus interview (a fly-out). In general, this entails convincing the interviewers that
- you are a talented scholar/teacher/researcher that will contribute the productivity and standing of the department,
- your expertise fits the job requirements well,
- you would be an engaged and valued colleague to other department members, and
- you are very interested in the position responsibilities and opportunities.
Keep these goals in mind as you prepare and engage in the interview.
The ASSA interview will usually go something like this. After initial introductions, you will usually be asked to give a brief summary (~5 minutes) about your research. Your summary should be right on the tip of your tongue; well rehearsed, concise, and clear, but try very hard to soundextemporaneous. If you come off sounding bored or rote, the interviewers will lose interest quickly. You will probably be interrupted with questions throughout the summary. You will also be asked about ideas for future research beyond your dissertation (remember, the employer wants to know what you will do after they hire you; what you have done to date is only an imperfect predictor of that). If the position entails teaching, you will be asked about your teaching experience, skills, and perhaps your perspectives and philosophy on teaching.
The answers to all of the above questions should be provided with points (a), (b), and (c) in mind. Always be ready to answer tough questions as well as possible; be willing to say I don’t know sometimes; and accept the fact that if you bluff about your knowledge of a topic, it will be noticed. Your answers to these questions should also integrate your knowledge of the members of your potential employer’s department. (See the point above about doing some research before the interview.) Be ready to ask and answer questions about how your research relates to that of members of the department, and vice versa. This type of background research on your part will be interpreted as an indicator of interest in this position and a willingness to investment in the possibility of taking that job, and will almost always makes an interview more engaging and interesting.
Although you are an expert on your dissertation, don’t get into arguments about your research. You can disagree, but do not try to convince your interviewer that he or she is wrong-just make your points and defend them. Nothing can kill an interview faster than saying something disparaging about someone’s work, and then finding out they are a friend, coauthor or colleague of the person interviewing you, or the person themselves, so try not to disparage other work in your interview. Remember, you don’t sell yourself by tearing down others.
Also keep in mind that any given job may not be ideal from your perspective in any of a number of ways. During your interview your responses should be made with both the position description and your own preferences in mind. You should not promise anything you are unwilling to do, and for your own sake, provide through your responses a clear and balanced picture of your preferences. Your goal is to get the right job for you, not just any job, and not necessarily a job at the highest ranked program.
You will also be asked if you have questions about the position or department. From a strategic perspective, this question should be responded to in a balanced way. You should show interest by asking questions that will inform you regarding whether or not you are interested in an on-campus interview. Do not ask questions that a little bit of work on your part, usually through the web, would have answered. For example, you should know if the department is in a business school or liberal arts college. Time constraints in these interviews are usually such that you should withhold most of them, with a comment that they could wait until an on-campus interview.
The AAEA employment center meeting process is somewhat different than the ASSA meetings. As a job candidate, you should treat these interviews with the same formality as the ASSA meetings. A description of the AAEA employment center and how it works can be found at the annual meeting site of www.aaea.org. Job listings maintained by the AAEA can be found athttp://www.aaea.org/employmentopps. As a job candidate, you should begin keeping an eye on these job listings early and regularly; certainly by March to know when application deadlines are for the summer job postings. The AAEA employment center is different in one important respect from the ASSA meetings. It is generally more acceptable for students to participate earlier in their Ph.D. program (one-half to even one full year earlier) than at the ASSA meetings. So, for those students who are interested in AAEA-type job openings should plan on interviewing at the AAEA meetings the summer before interviewing at the ASSA meetings.
After the ASSA meetings, employers will rank all candidates who are considered worth hiring for their position and then, within usually a week or two of the ASSA meetings, they contact the top 2-4 for on-site interviews. In some cases employers will send letters immediately to those who do not suit the position at all, but if you are neither in the top set of finalists nor in the immediate no-hire group, you will not hear from the employer for several weeks or even a month or two. In the meantime, they will proceed with all on-site interviews, one interviewee at a time, make job offers, wait up to a week or more for a response to a job offer, and then either come to closure on the position or repeat the process, ultimately perhaps even with a second set of fly-outs if the first-round is unsuccessful. If you are not one of these second round candidates, you have to wait longer still to get a response. The point is that a quick response is either good or bad. A long wait is not a reason to lose hope.
If you are invited for an on-campus interview, the employer will generally arrange your travel with your input. You may be asked to fly out within just a couple of days of being contacted. This is why you should be very ready for an on-campus interview before the ASSA meetings, and have made at least one presentation of your research to SES before the meetings. On-site visits last at least a day, and often two. You should do substantial pre-visit research (usually online) to better know the interests of the people you will be meeting. Never put your seminar materials in checked luggage, in fact always try to carry on your luggage. At the very least, carry on your interview clothes. You always want to be prepared for the worst, so you can make your best presentation.
The purpose of the on-site interview is for both the employer and candidate to gather additional information about regarding the position. You will almost always be asked to give a research seminar, and occasionally you will be asked to present a teaching seminar as well. You will be scheduled for meetings with faculty and administrators (department heads, deans, and others) or managers. You will have breakfast, lunch, dinner, and usually a reception with department members. It will be exhausting, but it should also be interesting, exhilarating, and hopefully fun.
The meetings with faculty will be similar to the ASSA meeting. Be prepared to describe your work, ask and answer the same questions, multiple times. Try not to sound bored, even if you’ve said the same thing 50 times. Beyond that you will be asked many questions. Again, do the best you can answering questions, ask lots of questions, and very importantly, use your knowledge about the individuals in the department to engage them and develop connections between you. This last point is hard to overstate.
The seminar is likely to be the single most important event in the interview process. It will likely last 1.5 hours or so, including questions. Usually you should have 45 minutes or more of (questionless) material prepared, and then be prepared to adapt to interruptions and questions. Get details about time requirements before the interview so you have time to adjust your presentation.
Almost all seminars should utilize a slide presentation. Find out beforehand if you need your own computer or if they will provide one, and you only need your thumb-drive and make sure a computer-linked projector is available. Have backups of your presentation available, so if you computer dies enroute, you are still prepared. Have one presentation on the web that you can download if needed.
It is hard to characterize exactly how the seminar will go. Some places adhere to very strict rules about no questions, except brief clarifying questions, until the end of the formal presentations. Other places start interrogating you from almost the first moment. At some departments graduate students are expected to challenge you, and the faculty will be silent. The point is, it is hard to judge how the seminar is going from the reaction and interaction of the audience, so don’t read too much into it as it is on-going. In all cases, be ready and willing to adapt to the questioning style graciously. If you come to an impasse with a questioner, agree to disagree, and move on. Keep control of the seminar, after all, it is your seminar, and also feel free to (occasionally) admit you do not know the answer to a question.
The goal of your presentation is to provide an interesting and engaging experience for your audience while convincing them of the value of your work and the care and knowledge with which you have created it. Therefore, again, know your audience, and present your seminar accordingly. If it is an economics department, then speak to a general audience of economists. This would be a substantially different presentation than if you were speaking mainly to econometricians in an analysis arm of a large firm or agency.
While it will not likely influence decisions, proper etiquette is to send a thank you to the chair, committee members and other people you had significant interaction with during your interview. Doing this by email is fine, even though Emily Post would disagree.
After all of the interviewees have come and gone, the faculty meets and discusses the candidates. After this discussion, the faculty usually votes. This vote often amounts to a recommendation to the department head (or the hiring committee). The department head then makes a recommendation to the dean, and the dean may then make a recommendation to the provost. The point is to keep in mind that virtually everyone you meet will have a voice, if not the ultimate responsibility, of deciding whether you are offered a job.