The truth behind that job advertisement for a lectureship/assistant professorship

Follow @D_Aldridge

Location: Somewhere you don’t want to live
Salary: Nowhere near enough given the ridiculous number of qualifications you have
Contract type: Full-time permanent*
Interview Date: 
Don’t worry, you probably won’t make this stage

 *”Permanent” refers to your expected working hours on campus, NOT your job security, benefits, healthcare etc.



We are seeking a candidate to replace an academic that went senile over 20 years ago, but who has only just retired.

Candidate Evaluation

The candidate must have a PhD from an institution where ivy grows up the sides of old historic buildings and 5-10 years of postdoctoral experience with all the world-experts in their chosen research area. The successful candidate will have published every experiment that they have performed in the last 10-15 years, and some that they did not (only publications in  Science or Nature will be considered valid). The candidate is expected to spend their days teaching undergraduates, and their nights working towards developing a world-class research career – it will obviously be advantageous if the candidate does not have friends, family, hobbies or eyelids. The candidate will have an enthusiasm for teaching**.

**Demonstrating this enthusiasm once you have the job will result in zero career progression and incessant mocking from colleagues.



Application Process

Enquiries should be directed to our “human resources” department. Do you notice how we view you? As a resource… to be exploited!


Five lucky candidates, who meet the ridiculous criteria stated above, will be invited to be pummeled (verbally and physically) by a pack of cantankerous academics. Candidates will then be locked in a room together with a single 2×4 coated in barbed-wire. The last one left breathing will be given the job.

Further information:

We aim to be an equal opportunities employer. However, we are not very good at this: white, socially awkward males with excessive facial hair are preferred; females will only be considered if they demonstrate absolutely no desire to start a family.

David Aldridge has a PhD in Marine Science from The National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. He is now planning his escape from academia. He is the founder and editor of Words in mOcean.


27 thoughts on “The truth behind that job advertisement for a lectureship/assistant professorship

  1. Fantastic! Here via a beloved geologist’s facebook… I’m sad that you don’t have more comments, but I guess that it’s because there isn’t much to say and nobody’s surprised.

    We aim to be an equal opportunities employer. However, we are not very good at this

    Thank you, relevant to my interests!

  2. This is fantastic. I don’t even have anything substantial to say, just know that I’m torn between laughing hysterically and being sad and angry and smash-y that this is actually…well, kinda true.

  3. Thanks! now I know why my academic career didn’t take off: I am male, white and socially awkaward, but then: hardly any facial hair.

  4. Could have mentioned the need for a sycophantic attitude to some, near psychopathic attitude to others, along with a patronising attitude to everybody else….

  5. I don’t really agree with this description. Location: If you don’t want to live there do not apply, there are other places/career choices. Salary: If you came into science to get qualifications to get rich (although you will more than likely be much better off than majority of the population as a scientist) then one should have realistic expectations and should have done/considered something else. Contract type: Nothing is permenant and a job in a company can potentially be even less stable. Interview date: being optimistic is more likely to result in success.

    I have applied for one lectureship position (no I don’t have a nature, science paper) and was asked to interview and there was no pummelling, I quite enjoyed the interview. I didn’t get it (although actually wasn’t right for me) and it just made me more determined. Unfortunately when it comes to these positions you are up against people who eat, sleep and dream their work. It doesn’t make it right or fair but its called life. You just have to make the best of the opportunties you create or come across and if you are really determined to go somewhere/do something then you will.

    1. Umm.. when you have spent 10+ years studying a subject for which there are NO other career opportunities (in the private sector) and one job at a place to you don’t want to live, your comment on “do not apply” isn’t really applicable. The audience for this piece are academics who work on topics that aren’t immediatly applicable and thus there is no other “career choice” that one can pursue without wasting years of your life. I’m guessing you don’t fit that bill.

    2. “Being optimistic is more likely to result in success”?! O, of course. Somehow my good vibes will transfer themselves to the interview panel, whereupon that they will transmutate (or something) into them wanting to hire me, regardless of how good the other candidates are. Whereas if I’m pessimist or cynical but also happen to be the best candidate, I’ll be overlooked because my inherent caution tempered through years of setbacks frightens the interviewers. Thanks, Adam – top tip.

  6. sooo funny, and tastefully overdone! I just had a fun interview 2 weeks ago that I actually enjoyed. But I am at the bottom of the rung compared to the other candidates (yes, the school posted their seminar list with candidate names). Let’s hope the little bit of facial hair I left on the chin and under the nose helped and that I dazzled them with my shock-and-awe seminar presentation and smashing good looks!

  7. The most well defined pecking orders are alive and well in the educational circles. Will you fit in and will you know your place? 🙂

  8. Relief to know Academia has not changed in 45 years.

  9. Adam doesn’t know no pummeling. He pummels himself, and he likes to walk in line too 🙂 Good luck!

  10. I knew something was wrong! It is the eyelids indeed!

  11. Adam is an early stage graduate student who has not gone on the market yet, or he goes to a top five school. Yes? Am I right?

  12. Saw a non-tenure, 3 unit teaching position at a remote junior college offered (compensation $1200 a unit).There were 38!!!! applicants, 7 of which had Phd’s in either the specific or a closely related field. We lowly MA’s had nary a chance!

  13. Eligibility for renewal depends on whether you meet all the above criteria AND are accepted into established faculty cliques, not to mention whether the people on the review committee actually understand/approve of your area of expertise after the panic of institutional re-accreditation is gone.

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  15. thanks! I may be much more on the side of interdisciplinary arts/humanities but this is just as funny and has just as much truth for my job hunt.

    The one thing you’ve missed is that weird element of luck– how the right person getting up on the right side of the bed on the day they read the applicant documents can send an unexpected candidate to the final round. Luck is definitely involved when there are 700+ applicants to relatively focused postdoc fellowships and 200+ applicants vying for quite specific jobs.

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