My journey on finding a Finance Assistant Professor position
Doctoral Programme / 5 March 2020
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Doctoral Student Class of 2019
Lorenzo Schoenleber started his Ph.D. at Frankfurt School of Finance & Management in September 2015. His research interests are within the area of option-implied information in asset pricing and portfolio management.

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During my PhD I decided to pursue an academic career and therefore the next logical step was to find a job as an assistant professor.

The academic job market differs in many respects from the “regular industry” job market: It takes place only once a year, it’s structured in a very specific way, and it is also very international and thus extremely competitive. Most universities are hiring on average only one or two assistant professors every year, while some schools do not hire at all. Frankfurt School for example, obtained far more than a hundred applications for one assistant professor position in finance.

The academic application process is divided into four distinct phases.

Phase 1: Application package

In November I applied to over 160 universities and business schools worldwide. The application package consists of a CV, a research statement, i.e. what is your future research about, a teaching statement including teaching evaluations, and three letters of recommendation. The most important piece is the Job Market Paper (JMP), which is the single authored part of your dissertation. I spent almost two years writing and polishing a draft of my JMP which I could use for my application.

Phase 2: Interview marathon

After receiving the applications, each university selects about 20-30 candidates they want to meet. In order to interview as many people as possible each university sends a recruiting committee which consists of 2-7 professors to the American Finance Association (AFA) conference which takes place the first week of January in a mayor US city. A few thousand professors, job candidates, presenters, and practitioners attend this conference in a dozen of hotels all over the city. Each job interview takes place in a hotel suite which the respective university has to rent purely for this purpose. The interviews – of which I had 20 in 3 days – usually lasted about 30min and were mostly about my JMP, my research projects and teaching experience. It was a challenge to convey my research in a persuasive yet understandable way. Therefore, I had to spent weeks practicing my pitch, and I’m very grateful to the FS faculty for their input and support.

Phase 3: ‘Flyout’- the last round

If the interviewing committee likes your performance, you get invited to a “flyout”. Usually, each university invites no more than ten candidates. The flyout is the last round of the selection process and takes place at the university itself. Typically, they happen right after the AFA in January and stretch till early February. I had almost ten flyouts all over Europe (Turin, Paris, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Manchester, Rotterdam), Asia (Hong Kong), and North America (Montreal). Organizing the itinerary was not easy and being on the road for several weeks was quite exhausting but nevertheless a great experience (my Instagram followers know best). During each of these visits you get a tour of the school premises, meet with the faculty members in 30min slots in order to talk about your research, lunch, dinner, and you have a sit down with the dean to hear about the details of the position available, i.e. salary, teaching, tenure requirements. The most important part is the seminar presentation of your JMP in front of the whole faculty which can last up to 90min. Of course, one gets confronted with all types of tricky questions and comments, and there are always some professors that play hardball and are out to get you, but generally the atmosphere is friendly and constructive.

Phase 4: Get an offer

At the end of January most flyouts are over and the universities start to make their first offers. However, these are only valid for a few days. Upon refusal, the offer goes to the next shortlisted candidate, and so on. Out of my eight flyouts I was able to convert five into offers. Deciding where I’d like to spend the next couple of years within just a few days was quite challenging. But in the end, I decided to accept the offer from the Collegio Carlo Alberto in Turin.