Interview with Dmytro Matsypura: Academic Job Market During COVID-19

  Jessica Leung
The University of Sydney, Australia

We have invited Prof. Dmytro Matsypura from the University of Sydney to advise job seekers on the COVID-19 academic job market. Prof. Matsypura's research work focuses on applications of convex and combinatorial optimisation in forecasting, graph theory, finance, transportation, and ecology.

"Find someone who can say good things about you that go beyond 'this person is a good student'..."

What does COVID-19 mean for people planning to enter the academic job market this year?

COVID-19 makes the hiring process very complicated for both job seekers and employers. First, universities are facing a lot of difficulties in the hiring process because of the financial constraints, i.e., many universities are having a hiring freeze. Second, even for those universities that do not have a hiring freeze, due to the international travel restrictions, it is simply impossible to invite overseas potential candidates to attend an interview, which is a very common practice in academia.

The fact that the potential candidate cannot be here makes it difficult for both sides to determine if the potential employment is a good idea. This is because the fly-in interview trip is an occasion where the potential candidates get to see the place they are going to live in and work at for at least the next 5 years. It also enables the employer to interact with the potential employee, e.g., during seminar presentation, going out for dinner etc. All of these activities are designed to give opportunities for both sides to learn more about each other. Therefore, COVID-19 has added additional complexity in the hiring process.

Will start-up packages / funding for new faculty be affected by the pandemic? If yes - how so?

Yes, it depends on how much the financial position of universities is impacted by the pandemic. Start-up packages and funding are all negotiable, school specific and on a case-by-case basis. There is really no guideline on how much budget is allocated. It will probably not be as much as what the school offered the year before.

How should we write our teaching and research statements favourably for the job application?

A teaching statement is designed to describe your approach to teaching rather than what you have been teaching. Ask yourself questions like:
- What is your teaching philosophy?
- What do you focus on?
- Do you enjoy it?
- How do you recover from mistakes?

You can describe your strategies of keeping students engaged and motivated. A research statement focuses on the research interest, and your current and future research projects. If you have research plans/pipelines, you should talk about them.

Do we need to take recommendation letters from committee members or can we take them from any professor of interest?

The recommendation letters do not have to be from a member of your committee. Get it from the people who know you the most, someone who can say good things about you that go beyond "this person was in my class and was a good student". You want a reference letter from someone who can speak about your personality, your problem-solving skills, your research, and your work methods etc.

Should we focus on tenure track or post-doc positions? How do candidates with a postdoc compare to students who just graduated? 

It depends on your research area. For business school students, post-doc is not as common as those from engineering and sciences. It is also a question of opportunity. If, say, the postdoc position is on the topic that you are interested in, or with people you really want to work with and you can learn a lot from it, then you should apply! The biggest advantage of a postdoc is that you get to publish. But the disadvantage is that you will have to go on to the job market again within a year or two, whereas a tenure track position will allow you to stay for at least 5 years.

What would you like to say to job seekers?

Be prepared to receive a lot of rejections and don’t be discouraged by lack of response. Because it only takes one job offer to get a job. KEEP APPLYING!