Well the competition for this year is coming to a close :( Congratulations to all those who got positions. Before you all leave and stop checking this wiki religiously I would ask you all to reflect a little on your good fortune and share some advice for those of us who will have to try again next year. Please start with reflecting on what you did prior to the job alerts started last fall, what you think sold you best on paper to get an interview, and perhaps also weigh in on your perspective of how competitive it was this year (how many "star" candidates there were etc). Please include your status before getting hired (e.g. 2nd year postdoc), your specialty area, publications and anything else you think would be helpful to give us some perspective on what it takes to get noticed and hired. Please also check in on us next year as your advice will be invaluable.
Date: 14 Mar 2011 22:04
Number of posts: 25
RSS: New posts
Its enticing to think there is some nugget of advice that might be helpful, but I am not sure this is the case. The best that can be said is keep selling yourself for who you are. I applied over the last 3 years and have seen how tough it is to get a job. I was limited geographically and so I applied to only a few places that were really good fits in past years and opened that up this year both in terms of location and type of institution. In doing so I was surprised by places that I thought would be interested in me, not even contact. I felt my preparation was very strong (NRSA in grad school, 2 years of post-doc, 20+ peer reviewed pubs, H index approaching 10), but this is only half the battle. What I concluded was that there are loads of very good candidates out there and the only thing in our control is getting into the top pile they consider. After that there are so many extraneous factors that can't be controlled. Vagueries of certain departments, search chairs, or who knows what. Unfortunately, that makes it very frustrating as an applicant.
However, I am fortunate to say that I did land what is basically a dream position this year at an R1/research heavy department. It was a situation where the fit was nearly perfect on many fronts from their and my perspective and so it was an easy process. It underlines that like a relationship, you usually know when the fit is right. So the best thing you can do is just keep working to be the best at whatever you want to do and hope the right fit comes along. Good luck to all.
I applied to about 20 or so last year and over 30 this year. Last year resulted in a couple of phone interviews. This year resulted in a lot more interest and, ultimately, an offer. What changed?
My background carries a strong teaching experience and those were the sites that were the most interested in me. Since applying last year, I did the following to try and strengthen my application:
Won a teaching award for my college
Wrote a couple of papers and submitted them (my publication history was my weakest point)
Engaged in some very student-oriented service for my department.
Initiated some grant writing.
Fine-tuned my research statement and CV
Widened my search a bit
Some of those might have been a little more enticing to potential employers compared to last year's application. I think the major deciding factor for this year was a slight (very slight!) uptick in the number of jobs posted and the fact that I widened my search to include some smaller schools. The academic job search is frustratingly opaque and a lot is not in your control. The worst was that, even after I had interviewed, I knew there were at least two other candidates who could beat me to the top.
We operate in a profession with a lot of highly trained, highly capable people in it. The best advice is to take a hard look at your submission materials and keep trying. In the meantime, work towards the job you WANT to have. Publish, teach, involve students. Imagine what your job will be like when you do land it some day and start doing it wherever you are, be that in a post-doc position, a contract teaching position (that was me!), or as a grad student.
I have been sick to my stomach and terrified since September, and that's the truth. I was offered a job thismorning, and I can honestly say that I've never been more exhausted and relieved — I actually cried and I'm not ashamed to admit it. The whole process has been horrible, and my heart really goes out to everyone who will be doing this again next year. This site is bittersweet - it's good to know what is going on with other people and to keep track of things, but to read some of these postings, for me—as a soon-to-be PhD who is a good teacher (but not a superstar yet) and a good researcher (but not ever going to be a superstar) who went to a decent school for doctoral work (but not nearly the best) — have been very scary and discouraging.
As for my strategy:
I began during the summer by writing up my statements and sending them to everyone who would agree to read them — I got some great feedback on them and the final results were huge improvements from the originals. HUGE improvements. And I made them personal — I sank my heart and soul into those statements, and really made my passion for what I do (teaching and research) front and center. I spent weeks on each statement, and I think that made a difference.
Second, I cast an extremely wide net. I knew the market was tough, so I applied for everything in my discipline (social) — the jobs I didn't stand a chance getting, jobs I'd love, job's I'd be satisfied with, even jobs that I really would not have wanted. This resulted in over 80 applications — for each of these applications, I personalized my cover letter to the program. This involved at least an hour of research per application on the program, the department, etc. At the end of my cover letter, I thanked them for their consideration and wished them luck on their search. I don't know if these things make a difference or not in terms of the final decision— but the search chair of the job that I eventually got told me during the interview that she could tell that I spent time researching the program, the department faculty, and the school when she read my materials.
I was also extremely strategic about who wrote my letters.
I marketed myself in terms of my statistical and methodological abilities — i conveyed a genuine passion for teaching these subjects…I'm sure that was looked upon favorably.
Ultimately though, the only strategy that matters is tenacity. I sent out 3 and sometimes 4 applications a day. I looked everywhere (here, higheredjobs, careers.com, chronical of higher ed, apa, aps, spsp) - I checked every single day for updates and kept a meticulous list. I sent personalized and hand-written thank you notes to everyone that spoke with me during interviews - including students.
And, frankly, I prayed.
This is a great question, and thanks to those of you who have already answered. I'd like to add a follow-up. It sounds like many of those who got jobs spent several years on the market. If you don't mind my asking, what do you do financially while you're waiting for the next season?
Here's my story… I was on the market last year (in social), got nothing, and decided to delay graduating so I could have time to build my credentials a bit more. This year, I was on the market again and did a bit better - a few phone interviews at least. I'm also at the point where my PhD program has decided I've been here long enough and won't fund me anymore. That, along with the fact that my thesis is coming along awesomely, means I'm graduating for sure in May. I knew it was a stretch to expect a tenure track job, but I'm also getting turned down for postdocs (For instance, I've applied for several that have gone to people with more postdoc experience. Great.)
I know I could adjunct… I've looked into this, but the problem is that I'm living in an area that seems to have a glut of underemployed PhDs. Apparently I would be lucky to get a single class at a community college, and cobbling together enough classes to pay my bills is highly unlikely. I can't afford to move without some financial help either.
All this really seems like it's time to accept that academia isn't an option anymore. But maybe some of you have other ideas? What have people done to avoid living out of your cars? Should I make a fake resume suggesting I have tons of waitressing and bartending experience and try to cobble together some rent and loan payments for next year? Or should I take this as a sign that it's time to explore other career paths altogether?
When I applied for jobs coming right out of graduate school, I ended up getting nothing until May, when I landed a couple of phone interviews for Non-TT positions. Do not be afraid to consider these (and they will still be posting them, including at my present location since I am not vacating my position). If you do take a Non-TT position, it will really push you to be a dedicated and experienced instructor. That is good! But it will also suck up ALL of you time that you could put towards anything else. I know going into a non-TT position that I could be stuck forever in such a position unless I made time for research. It was a grueling balance to keep and you really have to rely on students who are interested and motivated to be a part of your lab and as teaching assistants.. You have to think of it a little like a post-doc, but without any supervision. It is entirely up to you to try and accomplish whatever you can while you teach 4 (or so) classes each semester. If you haven't done a lot of teaching already, this is a lot of prep work and you will remain extremely busy for the first couple of years! It was a great first job to have, though, even if I knew that I would eventually be leaving. I had to work hard to do it and I didn't even get anything on the first try (after four years of full time teaching experience) but it paid off eventually.
I think the key is getting your materials good enough to get a campus interview, then wowing them when you meet everyone in person. I am fresh out of grad school and had a post-doc lined up already, so I only applied to about 5 places which I thought would be absolutely perfect fits (I am in social with a specific specialization). Of those five I got two interviews, one of which I turned down because I had already been given an offer at my dream school (R1). I tailored my application materials for each school to emphasize similarities between my research and research done by current faculty members, and tried to find letter writers who had some connection to people at each department (this is critical, I think).
I was told that I was actually the least favorite of the 4 candidates that were invited for campus interviews, but that of all candidates I was the one that people wanted to actually work with as a colleague. I was surprised, because I thought it would all come down to things like the number of publications and grants (of which I have 7 and 1). I also think I kicked butt at the job talk, which might have helped. :)Also, while I hate to admit this, it helps being a member of a minority group. Honestly, I don't think I was held to the same standard as white male candidates…. and I emphasized my "diversity" in the application materials. :
I appreciate the honesty, Lucky. I think there is no question that being a minority applicant helps in the job process, but I would never apologize for that. There are lots of things that make one a desirable candidate (including many others that are completely out of applicants' control) and race/ethnicity and gender are two of those things. So what? We might all believe that in a perfect world this would not be the case, but as a society we're not there yet. I do applaud you for at least acknowledging the reality, but take it and don't apologize. Being a white male in America holds plenty of other advantages in academia and otherwise….believe me, I am one!
Echoing NewProf; I am a WASP. Work whatever you have to your advantage.
So here's my story… last year interviewing at my dream school, I got to know members of a the faculty at an R2 quite well. Even had a short e-mail dialogue with a couple faculty after the interview process. Eventually got the e-mail notification from the Search Chair that they offered another candidate. I was crushed. But life went on, and I landed something decent— but not long-term great.
I saw one of the search committee members at a conference, and he told me told *off the record* that I came in second choice because they needed a minority hire. I suppose we were neck and neck, very comparable, and that other variable came into play. It is what it is. I'm not mad about it.
Take home point is that we can't take too much stock in a search committee's criteria and reasoning for hires. "Fit" can be idiosyncratic, and there are always broader political concerns/personality dynamics and such we'll never be privy to. Apply broadly….grow thick skin. Keep working hard on the things that you can control for whatever type of institution you're shooting for.
Just a quick chiming in with others on the notion of fit and the campus interview. I received three offers as #1 candidate and was the 2nd candidate for where the 1st accepted (according the the chair, there was a split vote). Luckily I received my dream job offer first (at a doctoral R2), so the decision process was quick and easy.
However, I did not apply widely. I targeted only about 8 jobs that I felt were a great fit, and made it to at least a phone interview with all but one of them. I wouldn't suggest this approach to everyone, but I think it worked for me because I knew exactly what type of institution I wanted (R2 doctoral programs) and, most importantly, I asked my advisor and a few trusted asst. prof. colleagues their honest opinion of what types of schools would be interested in me based on my materials. I publish a lot (in the teens; half first author), present at conferences regularly, have taught quite a few courses (and have a teaching award), and have a few lines of professional service…but no grants.
As others have said here, the campus interview is key. But it's not just about them liking you, it is also about them feeling like you are ready for the responsibilities of that position. This isn't just about experience, but also maturity and how you interact with them (and the students) on a professional level. I saw a lot of candidates tank on this at searches at my own institution. This might include getting nervous or quiet around faculty (not knowing what to say), being timid and a pushover when answering questions in the job talk (be polite, but stand your ground; you're the expert!), or being TOO casual when interacting with students (like swearing or flirting…yeah, I've seen both happen). So I suppose my main advice there is to go in with 'friendly' confidence (as apposed to timidness or arrogance) and be on your best professional behavior!
But also remember, you can still do everything right and another candidate is chosen for reasons outside of your control (like specific teaching interests or a research topic that undergrads/grads/faculty find more interesting). It's great to always strive for improvement, but don't get down on yourself during a bad job market that may require only a little patience and persistence. Good luck!
I recently signed a contract for a tenure-track social position at a SLAC and while on the market I was ABD. My situation is perhaps a little less common: I come from a highly productive research lab and I have double digit publications. However, I applied to no R1 institutions, 5-10 R2 institutions, and then about 30 SLACs. I ended up having around 5 phone interviews and 3 campus interviews and I got 2 offers (both for tenure-track positions). And I had to do all of this without a recommendation from my major adviser, who withdrew his support when I decided to pursue a teaching, rather than a research, focused faculty position.
Based on feedback I got from search chairs, my weaknesses were:
- ABD status: the fact I did not have my PhD in hand was a big issue. As I knew it would be, this really was a non-issue because I have already finished my dissertation but many places (somewhat understandably) didn't want to take a chance on me not graduating on time.
- Youth: I am someone who went straight into graduate school from undergraduate and is finishing my PhD in five years. Hence, I am young (I don't consider myself all that young but the job market taught me I am). This didn't really come up until my campus interviews but I tried to turn it into a strength by saying undergraduate students found me more approachable since I'm closer to their age. I also made sure to be mature and professional the whole time. I think that, and the fact that I at least don't look especially young, helped.
- Lack of teaching experience: I have served as the sole instructor for two courses but at many of the places I applied to, the teaching load is a 3/3 or 4/4. At the end of the day, many places (again, understandably) didn't think I had enough teaching experience under my belt.
- Too much research: I actually did receive comments that my number of publications led search committees to believe I wasn't serious about being at a liberal arts institution. I did my best to negate these concerns (see below) but for some places it wasn't enough.
- Lack of support from my major adviser when it comes to a letter. Not much I could do about that.
Also based on feedback (and my own opinion), my strengths were:
- Research with undergraduates: I knew about 2 years ago I was going to apply for teaching oriented positions and did my homework on what I thought they'd care about and tried to do that as much as I could. As a first author, I have published papers with undergraduates and I've supervised poster presentations at local conference. While doing my research talk, I always made sure to thank my undergraduate research assistants and use their names or say we when describing the data collection/procedures. The departments loved this and saw that I would come in already having the experience of supervising undergraduate research projects.
- Teach as much as you can: The first course I taught was in my area (social psychology) and the second course I taught was research methods. Departments loved that I taught methods, it is a course that they always need and having it prepped already was a huge plus for me. If you can, teach intro because you will have to teach that course in the future and it looks great to have it prepped. And, of course, good ratings are key. I had great ratings and written feedback from undergraduates and my faculty teaching mentor and that went a long way.
- Service: At a SLAC you'll be doing lots of service so if you can, get involved and sell that up on your interview. I've served on departmental and university committees for the past year (again, trying to make myself more appealing for SLAC) and that was very well received.
- Fit. Fit Fit Fit. You can only control so much of this. But I do think certain things I did made me a better fit for any SLAC. I program and analyze all my own studies and my research can be conducted in a smaller lab setting. My program of research is interesting and accessible for undergraduates. I like to teach, I've taken workshops on how to teach effectively (again, another one of those things to make me appealing for a SLAC), and I've done it as much as I can as a graduate student. I've also engaged in service activities so that I can go into my job already having some experience serving on committees and balancing teaching, research, and service. It's one thing to say that you can do all these things, I think showing them that I have already done it did a lot to counteract my "youth".
- For a SLAC, emphasize that your research can be conducted in a smaller lab setting (a necessity) and that undergraduates find it interesting and can easily join in the design and analyze the data. I felt my dissertation was too complicated so in my research talk, I presented material that (1) included an undergraduate on the publication, (2) was a topic I think is interesting for the undergraduates who attended the talks, and (3) used a relatively simple analysis. I think this did a lot for me and at two of the talks, the undergraduates asked lots of questions and showed interest in the material.
- Be honest. I know it's tempting to do whatever you have to do to get the job but I went into every interview with the feeling that I want them to hire ME. This time around, I made sure to be honest about my career goals and how I see my career continuing. And then I made sure to ask questions that let me know what it is that they expect and what I would need to do to succeed at that institution. I've spent my graduate career working for someone who has expectations that are totally different from own and it makes going in everyday a soul-sucking experience. I wasn't eager to repeat it.
I didn't get my first campus interview invite until late January. This process is incredibly tough and makes you really doubt yourself. Hang in there and good luck to all!
Congratulations to you, on the job and especially on finding your passion and pursuing it. I'm sorry to hear about your advisor; that is just terrible.
This was my first year on the market and it was a scary, daunting experience….but it worked out. I conduct multidisciplinary research and applied to approx. 80 schools. I really think the key, for me, was casting a wide net. I received interviews and offers from R1s, R2s, SLACs (research-oriented), and some crappy schools. I applied everywhere in the country (and even Canada) and to all schools; however, I didn't apply to anything with higher than a 3/3 teaching load or schools where you needed a religious statement.
I asked everyone I knew for statements. People who were on the market just recently and got jobs and people who haven't been on the market in awhile. I also sent them to everyone.
I chose letter writers that I had a good personal relationship with. I had two back-ups: If a school emphasized teaching then I sent a 4th letter that focused on teaching. If a school emphasized quant skills then I sent a 4th letter that really played that up and came from a top person in the field.
At every interview I asked the chair what it was about my application that stood out, and I was consistently told the following:
1. Quantitative skills. Some of this was luck that I went to a program with a quant emphasis. I also really played this up in my personal statement. My CV contained a section detailing all the quant training (both during PhD and externally) I had. I landed a job where I will be expected to teach advanced quant classes, so this may not be for everyone.
2. Teaching awards. My PhD program had some great resources and awards and I applied to them all!
3. My research area. I focus on a population that is a really "hot" area in terms of popular press and NIH funding. They repeatedly told me that they knew their students would love that.
4. Where I got my PhD. Now, this only played a factor because of the geographical area, so the schools felt like I knew what it would be like to live in that area of the country. Also the "type" of school I went to….in that I would be comfortable at a smaller school.
5. Willingness of my spouse to relocate. Yes, at every single school I was asked what my spouse did for a living and if he would be OK moving.
What didn't come up:
1. Number of publications (although I had about 6-8 first author)
2. My F32 grant that I slaved over. Most of the schools didn't even really understand what it was. I know it'll be beneficial in the long-term though.
Overall, I attribute my success to about 40% PhD and 60% post-doc because the post-doc was a completely different population from my PhD work and that is what I think set me apart from other candidates.
I second everything "soc" said and did basically everything he/she did.
Soc- congrats, I feel you. Did you happen to get an offer for an applied social position?
Soc, what types of classes would you be expected to teach as a generalist? General Psych all the time? Or do you get a Social section? Just curious because I have never heard of a generalist position before.
I would really like to see the job description to see how that institution worded the position, just in case I see one of those postings come out next year! I would imagine it would be hard to market yourself for one of those positions, no?
Close - for some reason I can't reply to your post below — so I will reply here and hope that you see the response. The ad was not for a "generalist" position — I apologize for misleading….the point is that it is not a specifically social job — I will be teaching a wide variety of classes because the department is tiny. VERY tiny. As in three (including me). I used the word generalist to refer to the fact that I'll sort of be teaching the whole gamut of the psychology topics…including social and community psych, which is an added plus!
The job advertisement was for an assistant professor of psychology (area open) who could teach statistics, research methods, and "other courses required by the department" there are many such ads these days — no one seems to want stats/methods courses.
This is such a hard thing to reflect on. I also did everything Soc did, minus the prayer ;), but I'm not sure if I can put a finger on why I was the one who got the job. I have a gut feeling that all of the people who didn't get offers this year will read these posts and think, "But I thought I did all of that already." It might be more informative to hear from the search committees on why people get the jobs that they do—I'm willing to bet that the candidates themselves aren't the best ones to answer this question.
Even still, here's what I looked like on paper:
- straight out of PhD
- ridiculously insufficient publication record (but lots of technical reports)
- only 1 year of teaching, but with really good evaluations and thoughtful reflections from students
- lots of cross-collaborative grant work (but none of the grants were my own—pulled in as a statistician for a lot of it)
- way more stats classes than was necessary
- leadership positions in my department (not just CV filler, but in which I did stuff that mattered)
- teaching and research statements that cut so clearly to my core that I tear up every time I read them
So, you're probably looking at that and thinking, "How on earth did that person get a job?" I'm still thinking that actually, but I think what it came down to for me was that I did a lot of soul-searching last summer about what it was I was trying to achieve with the job I was trying to get. My entire life, I've done an excellent job of figuring out what people want me to say and then saying exactly that. In fact, someone told me at age 8 (and many times since) that I was remarkably poised for my age. I'm pretty sure that poised just means, "excellent at undetectable BS." I decided, though, that this was the one time in my life that I absolutely wasn't going to compromise in that way any more. And through that, I ended up with a pretty clear idea of who I am as an academic person and exactly what I can do for people who want to work with me. I tried to articulate that message as clearly and as passionately as I could throughout the process, and it worked.
"It might be more informative to hear from the search committees on why people get the jobs that they do—I'm willing to bet that the candidates themselves aren't the best ones to answer this question."
Indeed. In the end, I think the elusive "fit" variable is what makes or breaks candidates and it's just not something that an applicant has much control over. We all know to focus on building strong publication and teaching records and to polish our application materials as much as possible, but after that, unfortunately, a lot really does boil down to luck and the vagaries of search committees. I interviewed this year everywhere from the Ivy League to a humble LAC and as far as I can tell, it mostly boiled down to whether a particular search committee thought my research program was interesting or not. A lot of the process is a matter of taste, and you'll only make yourself crazy trying to anticipate and conform to the idiosyncratic and hazy expectations of a group of strangers.
Anyway, the best advice I can give is to keep working on whatever you're most passionate about, stay enthusiastic, and hang in there. Work hard and be patient; next year there very well may be a search committee out there looking for someone exactly like you.
Likeability is invaluable. Once you get a campus interview it is no longer about how you look on paper (it must have been acceptable or you would not be there). Quite simply you must get people to like you. As psychologists we should all know how to do that. People like people who they perceive to be like them. I am not saying to be fake. This will be evident and will do more harm than good. I am saying that it is important to find common ground (not just professional) with each person you meet during your interview. This is especially important in small departments. People want to like the people that they work with every day. It makes life better. Those of you that are clinical/counseling people use your rapport building skills!!
I currently have an offer in hand and am interviewing at some additional places in the upcoming weeks. The best pieces of advice I got were, "Only worry about what is under your control and don't try and be someone you're not." Different types of schools look for different things in their candidates. You can't please everyone so focus on pleasing the places you want to be. In my case, I only applied to R1 (and some geographically nice R2) schools. After interviews (and decisions), I asked a couple of the SC chairs what made them want to hire me or whoever they ended up hiring (i.e. not me). Unlike some previous posters, the number one thing everyone mentioned was publication record followed closely by grant-writing experience. Going into the interviews I was nervous my lack of teaching would be an issue - I've only been the professor of record once - but one SC chair laughed when I shared this because their school did not even look at teaching when doing their initial ranking of candidates. So, my advice is that if you are someone who really loves the research aspect of what we do and want an R1 job, your time will be better spent doing research, submitting manuscripts, and writing postdoc grants rather than teaching. Of course, I am sure the opposite is true if you would like to work at an SLAC or a less research intensive school.
I agree with Annym. I focused on R1 schools exclusively in my search and fortunately have fared pretty well. I realize R1 is not the only type of job out there, and a lot of people on this wiki are looking for a wide range of other types of jobs. But from an R1 perspective, there are really two things that matter: grants and publications. I know a lot of people don't want to hear it, but I think it's honestly true.
If you want a R1 job, I would suggest putting one's head down, clearing extraneous activities, applying for grants, and publishing papers. My complete lack of teaching experience didn't come up a single time during my interviews and it did not seem to factor against me whatsoever - even at Ivies that value teaching quite a lot. I know many people I interviewed along with for these jobs, and most if not all of them had no teaching experience (beyond TA) either. Many of the activities people are posting here - committee work, service activities, volunteer experience, small awards, reviewing, supervising undergraduates, writing for a newsletter, taking certain courses in grad school etc are simply not going to get you a leg up at R1 jobs. I want to post this perspective, because having read the wiki on and off all year I noticed a much heavier emphasis on teaching & service activities than my experiences have suggested.
Totally agree. As many has said, the key is to identify exactly what you want. If you want an R1 gig, then its all about your research program. Is it active and thriving? Is it fundable by the current NIH priorities? Who else is doing that work?
For less research heavy places other things like teaching, service, etc all come into play. I'm clinical and found this introducted another dynamic to the market. One might be tempted to believe that the same things that make one attractive to an R1 clinical program would be the same at a R2 or even a Psy.D. program, but this is not my experience. Instead, they tend to be more focused on their primary mission which is paying the bills by seeing patients and collecting tuition from the grad students. So, you're teaching and supervision experience makes a huge difference there.
The frustrating part about all this "choosing your path" business is that it really limits your options. The reality is that you can't be everything to everyone and so we make choices. Unfortunately some of those choices maximize the chance of success at some avenues, but limit you in others. I'll also add that this makes it extremely difficult if geographic location is more important to you than the exact type of job you have. Which is why I think you simply have to follow your heart and do what you love and hope it works out.
I wish I had answers too, as I suspect some of my younger classmates will be turning to me for advice as to "how to land an academic job (right out of internship, without a postdoc)." As many of you have alluded to, I can't answer that definitively, but I do feel fairly confident that the places that interviewed me cared about the things that I value. For example, I've got a decent publication record (though only 2 first authors), but I've won several teaching-related awards and I've done a boatload of service, to the point that some of my service has turned into a tertiary publication area. I also have the good fortune of being in a desirable research area that allowed me to apply to some specialty programs (e.g. clinical health) in addition to regular clinical departments. Yet, it's clear from my statements that I value both research AND teaching, and the places which interviewed me all appeared to do so as well. I suppose I'd also echo previous posters who've championed being themselves, both on paper and in person. I spent a LONG time on my research and teaching statements also, to really reflect the things I care about and who I want to be as an academic. I agree that it's often impossible to know why one place chose to interview you and another did not, so I found solace in trying to accept the process as best I could, and when I went on interviews, really trying to get excited about working/living there
I ended up at a nationally-ranked SLAC (which is what I was going for, though I cast my net very widely) and I attribute 90% of my success to fit. I am a generalist - both in terms of teaching and research - and I did well at places that wanted a generalist (which, I should point out, is not many places). Places that wanted someone specifically "social" or "clinical" or "health" had no interest in me whatsoever. Places that had either "open" positions, or very general requirements (e.g. "applied interests") loved me. I agree with the above statements about not trying to be someone you are not. At first, I was really bummed about not getting play at some of the bigger-name colleges early on (Amherst, Williams, and Pomona - I'm looking at you), but in retrospect, those places all have well-developed departments and were looking for a person to fill a very specific niche (like, teaching course a, b and c every year), and that's not my style. I am not clearly social, or clinical, or health. I ended up somewhere that wanted someone exactly like me (interdisciplinary, teaches writing as well as psychology, can rotate through a broad repertoire of courses, etc.), and while it takes a lot of work to find that place (in the 80+ places I applied to, there were 5 places that wanted to interview me, and only two truly superb matches, as far as I can tell) it happens. So the moral of the story, from my perspective, is that it may take a few years to find that one place that wants exactly what you do and who you are, but that place exists, in all likelihood. I am not that great, research-wise, but this department and student body was very excited about what I do. I happen to teach the exact constellation of courses that they were hoping to have a new person offer. I got along with the other members of the department really well. It all just fell together.
To some extent, that's luck, and there's no way to make that happen other than to keep trying and APPLY WIDELY. I emphasize the last part because honestly, it's really hard to assess fit without visiting - no amount of internet research, or even a phone interview, can do an institution justice. In a fit of desperation, I applied to a place that I (sorry for my arrogance; I am embarrassed) truly felt was beneath me, and it turned out to be fantastic when I visited. My visit completely blew my mind and turned my expectations on their head. So don't think you can judge a place based on the ad or the web page and decide, based on that, whether or not to apply. If you are qualified, then apply and see what happens. I would have been totally happy at this place I thought at first glance wasn't good enough, and I'm really glad I applied. As a side note, to those of you who ruled out places with above a 3-3 teaching load: the place I just described had a 4-4 teaching load but when I talked to the Dean, they were willing to negotiate that because they were wanting to move in a more research-oriented direction, AND they had a crazy endowment to fund research, so seriously - don't think you can judge a place based on the ad! You really can't make any assumptions. Just apply.