Episode 63: Demystifying the Tenure Track with Prof. Emmanuel Tsekleves

In the latest episode of The Struggling Scientists, we sit down with Prof. Emmanuel Tsekleves to discuss the often mystifying tenure track in academia. Prof. Tsekleves, a full professor and research director, shares valuable insights into the application and interview processes, the essential skills and responsibilities required for success, and the challenges faced by junior academics.

The Tenure Track Application Process:

Prof. Tsekleves highlights the two-step process for landing a tenure track position: the application and the interview. The application involves submitting a comprehensive set of documents, including a CV, cover letter, teaching and research statements, teaching portfolio, and student evaluations. A committee of faculty members then reviews these applications and shortlists the top candidates for an interview.

The Tenure Track Interview:

During the interview, candidates may be given tasks such as micro teaching or presenting a research proposal. Prof. Tsekleves emphasizes that the interview is where the final decision is made, as candidates’ performance may differ from what was expected based on their application. The panel, typically consisting of 4 to 5 academics, assesses personal interaction and communication skills, both of which play significant roles in the decision-making process.

Common Mistakes and Tips for Success:

One common mistake applicants make is submitting generic applications instead of customizing them for specific positions. Prof. Tsekleves advises applicants to focus on the value they can bring to the department or institution and highlights the importance of effective communication skills. He cautions against providing long-winded answers that don’t directly address the question asked, as this can demonstrate a lack of effective communication skills.

Responsibilities of a Tenure Track Position:

Prof. Tsekleves discusses the three key areas of contribution: research, teaching, and academic management. Tenure track candidates are expected to bring in external research funding, produce research outputs, and supervise graduate students. They must also deliver and develop teaching programs, supervise and assess student work, and be involved in academic management, such as research direction or admissions coordination.

Navigating the Challenges of an Academic Career:

Prof. Tsekleves sheds light on the challenges faced by academics, including heavy workloads, teaching responsibilities, research demands, and administrative duties. He discusses the importance of support and mentoring for successful navigation through these challenges, emphasizing the role of mentors and cultivating professional networks.

Building an Academic Identity and Brand:

The speaker stresses the importance of defining one’s academic identity and brand to effectively communicate the unique value they offer to search committees. Prof. Tsekleves advises cultivating a diverse professional network, including mentors and researchers from outside one’s institution, as these connections can provide opportunities for recommendation letters and access to job opportunities.

The Importance of a Targeted Job Search:

A key takeaway is the significance of a targeted job search, focusing on quality over quantity of applications. Prof. Tsekleves encourages thorough research of institutions and their culture, initiatives, programs, and values. Leveraging existing networks and building an online presence through websites and active participation on social media can also boost an applicant’s chances of success.

Navigating University Rankings and Reputation:

Prof. Tsekleves discusses the differences in ranking and reputation among universities, highlighting how top universities tend to have similar processes and mid to lower-ranking ones strive to gain recognition. Lower-ranking institutions may prioritize quantity over quality of research publications due to their impact on rankings. Additionally, such universities often have heavier teaching workloads, limiting opportunities for research development.


In this illuminating episode, Prof. Emmanuel Tsekleves offers valuable insights and advice on navigating the tenure track in academia. From an overview of the application and interview processes to tips for building a successful academic career, his expertise and firsthand experience provide listeners with an in-depth understanding of the challenges and opportunities within academia. Whether you’re a current academic, a postdoc on the path to tenure, or an aspiring scholar, this episode of The Struggling Scientists is a must-listen.

If you’d like to get more advice for navigating your career in academia from Emmanuel then you can follow him either on LinkedIn or Twitter(X)

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