How to Make the First Cut

Paul D. Humke
Department of Mathematics
St. Olaf College


The solution to ``What does one look for in an application?'' is not unique, but rather depends on several boundary conditions including who is doing the looking, what position is being filled and at which school that position is located.

In this note I'll assume I'm on the hiring committee at St. Olaf College we're trying to hire a recent Ph.D. for a regular (tenure track) position and have not specified a particular mathematical area for this position.
In what follows I'll overview our hiring process, explain how and when the first cut is made, detail what I look for in evaluating candidates, and finally indicate what I look for in application materials. I've written this essay in the first person because different people look for different things. On the other hand, we at St. Olaf, do discuss hiring in some detail and there is overall agreement on the fundamental issues. What follows though is my perspective and not that of my department.

An Overview of the Hiring Process

At St. Olaf, like most good liberal arts colleges, the process of searching for a new faculty member begins the year before the position is advertised. During the spring before, the department discusses the details of the pre-search and reviews how we wish to advertise and what we will advertise for. A hiring committee is set up to handle the logistic details of the search and to see that the process proceeds in a timely fashion. Roughly, our timetable is: