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Applying for a faculty position is a critical phase of many postdoctoral careers, but most postdoctoral researchers in STEM fields enter the academic job market with little knowledge of the process and expectations. A lack of data has made it difficult for applicants to assess their qualifications relative to the general applicant pool and for institutions to develop effective hiring policies. We analyzed responses to a survey of faculty job applicants between May 2018 and May 2019. We establish various background scholarly metrics for a typical faculty applicant and present an analysis of the interplay between those metrics and hiring outcomes. Traditional benchmarks of a positive research track record above a certain threshold of qualifications were unable to completely differentiate applicants with and without offers. Our findings suggest that there is no single clear path to a faculty job offer and that metrics such as career transition awards and publications in high impact factor journals were neither necessary nor sufficient for landing a faculty position. The applicants perceived the process as unnecessarily stressful, time-consuming, and largely lacking in feedback, irrespective of a successful outcome. Our findings emphasize the need to improve the transparency of the faculty job application process. In addition, we hope these and future data will help empower trainees to enter the academic job market with clearer expectations and improved confidence.

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