The AAS Job Register is widely used by the astronomical community, both within the US and internationally, and has served many employers as an effective recruitment tool. It is most effective, however, when combined with some knowledge of hiring cycles and related conventions in the field. We offer the following recommendations and best practices for those considering using the AAS Job Register as part of their hiring process.
Using the Job Register
The webpages at http://jobregister.aas.org contain detailed guidelines for use of the Job Register as well as general advice for creating your announcement. We strongly suggest that you review and follow these guidelines as you compose your announcement. Your institution may also have guidelines and required wording for job announcements.
Both employers and those seeking employment are best served by an announcement that provides as much information as possible about the position either through the Job Register announcement itself or through supporting websites or other documentation. It is especially helpful to provide a contact, particularly an email address, for applicants who have questions about the job offering or the status of their application, or who want to keep potential employers informed about changes in their status.
- For those advertising faculty positions, provide information on any preferences in research specialties or expertise, list resources (telescopes, computing, etc.) available to the position, specify teaching responsibilities when known (e.g., graduate students or undergraduates only). It is especially helpful for job seekers to know at what level the position is being filled, for example, assistant professor only, or if there will be consideration for appointments at more senior (tenured or non-tenured) levels.
- For positions for permanent/staff/non-faculty, how much time is available for research, and what privileges and responsibilities come with the position?
- For postdoctoral positions, provide a list of job duties, including, for example, how much time is available for personal research, when is the expected start date, what is the anticipated duration of the position, and is it extendable? Is there funding available for conference and observing travel or for relocation costs? Are there expectations for service or opportunities for teaching or public-outreach activities? Applicants also welcome information on health or retirement benefits available, as applicable.
- For research assistants (no PhD required), include a list of duties and responsibilities and specify the job duration and possibility of extension.
Common Hiring Cycle
Within the US, the typical cycle for hiring depends somewhat on the level of appointment but is frequently tied to the academic calendar, with announcements made in the fall, recruitment over the winter and spring, and appointments beginning the following summer or fall.
- Undergraduate summer and graduate fellowships are most frequently posted in the early fall, with applications due in January/February and notifications of acceptances in March/April.
- Postdoctoral positions are typically posted in August/September with applications due anywhere from October to December and selection in January to March for start dates typically in the coming academic year.
- Faculty positions are typically posted in the fall, with short lists prepared and interviews conducted in March/April for positions that begin the coming summer/fall.
- Nonacademic positions can follow any cycle, but because candidates are often drawn from those positions already on an academic cycle, they often conform to the same calendar.
Supporting Recruitment Activities
The AAS offers additional ways to identify candidates for positions and to facilitiate the interview process:
- AAS meetings. Many people who are on the job market attend AAS meetings to give talks or posters and to meet potential employers, especially the large January/winter meeting. Attending AAS meetings offers excellent opportunities to meet, hear the presentations, and converse with potential or current job applicants.
- AAS Career Center. The AAS hosts a Career Center at each January/winter AAS meeting as a place for job seekers to learn about positions available and for employers to advertise their positions and to interview candidates. There is no cost to employers or job seekers to participate in the AAS Career Center. If you are planning to conduct interviews or have questions about the Career Center, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep Applicants Informed. Because the job market in astronomy is extremely competitive, many applicants seek jobs from many potential employers at the same time. It serves all concerned to keep applicants well informed about the process of recruitment and the status of their applications; it is good practice to acknowledge receipt of the application and supporting letters. Consider making it clear in the job announcement what the anticipated schedule is for conducting reviews of applications, drawing up short lists, doing interviews, and making final selections. In the case of competitive fellowship programs, consider including this kind of information on the program website. Try to communicate to applicants as soon as possible once the outcome of the selection process is known so that those who have not been selected can factor that information into their decision-making.
The Rumor Mill. Members of the astronomical community maintain a widely known and used website, the Rumor Mill, featuring information (and sometimes conjecture) about the status of ongoing recruitments. Employers should be aware that not all the information on this site is reliable.
AAS Policy on Notification of Postdoctoral Positions. The AAS Council passed (1988) and reaffirmed (2003) a resolution stating that no offer of a postdoctoral position should require a candidate's response prior to 15 February each year. This policy applies to postdoctoral positions whose recruitment cycles follow the normal academic search timeline (offers in early spring to begin summer or fall of the same year). Employers should take this policy into account in their recruitment process.
Ensure the Broadest Possible Applicant Pool. There are a number of resources available to help in the recruitment process to ensure that your applicant pool is diverse, qualified, and responsive to your needs. The AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA) issues a weekly electronic newsletter that usually includes job postings; contact email@example.com with your announcement. Many universities offer guidelines on recruitment and selection that encourage the development of a diverse workforce. These include strategies for basing decisions more on qualifications and less on perceptions, thus leading to stronger, more diverse short lists. Some examples: