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Thread: How much do connections matter for RA positions?

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    Question How much do connections matter for RA positions?

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    I am working on a research project with some folks from a T10 and one of the co-authors said she knew people at T5 hiring RAs and would talk to them. How much of the RA app process is connection driven? (I'm thinking compared to the industry here) Thanks!

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    Re: How much do connections matter for RA positions?

    They matter a lot! Having that connection certainly gets you in the door, and most likely gives you a leg up throughout the entire application process (but won't guarantee you the job if you're particularly ill-suited to it).

    It's one of the worst things (in its lack of meritocracy) about the profession.

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    Re: How much do connections matter for RA positions?

    I've been an RA at a T5 institution and was involved in our hiring process of new RA's. Connections will help get your application noticed. They may be particularly useful for someone whose application under-represents their ability (for example, the student who didn't realize until late on their interest in research and has a few weak grades on their transcript, who might normally get cut in a hasty scan of resumes).

    *However, connections are not sufficient for getting the job.* Most positions like this will have you do a coding task in later rounds, and will have interviews with the PI's. There will be a pretty direct signal of your ability here. If you do not have the requisite quality for doing the work, do not expect connections to keep you in the game.

    I wonder if Rohanps is extrapolating from PhD admissions, which do seem to be more influenced by connections (mainly, who's writing your letter). Note that there is not an easy way to demonstrate to a PhD adcom that you will be a good researcher, so there is perhaps more room for this sort of thing mattering. However, most of RA work depends on coding skills. This is easily and directly gauged via coding tasks. Don't expect PI's to fool themselves into hiring an obviously less talented RA because of a referral.

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    Re: How much do connections matter for RA positions?

    Quote Originally Posted by jjrousseau View Post
    I've been an RA at a T5 institution and was involved in our hiring process of new RA's. Connections will help get your application noticed. They may be particularly useful for someone whose application under-represents their ability (for example, the student who didn't realize until late on their interest in research and has a few weak grades on their transcript, who might normally get cut in a hasty scan of resumes).

    *However, connections are not sufficient for getting the job.* Most positions like this will have you do a coding task in later rounds, and will have interviews with the PI's. There will be a pretty direct signal of your ability here. If you do not have the requisite quality for doing the work, do not expect connections to keep you in the game.

    I wonder if Rohanps is extrapolating from PhD admissions, which do seem to be more influenced by connections (mainly, who's writing your letter). Note that there is not an easy way to demonstrate to a PhD adcom that you will be a good researcher, so there is perhaps more room for this sort of thing mattering. However, most of RA work depends on coding skills. This is easily and directly gauged via coding tasks. Don't expect PI's to fool themselves into hiring an obviously less talented RA because of a referral.
    These are fair points, but I was speaking specifically about RA positions rather than PhD admissions. Perhaps my disclaimer in parentheses at the end of the first sentence in my original post was a bit too weak?

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    Re: How much do connections matter for RA positions?

    I see. Yeah I guess I'm mostly emphasizing the disclaimer. I don't think one has to be ill-suited to the job for connections to be insufficient; even a pretty good candidate shouldn't rely on connections to pull them through if there are obviously stronger candidates in the pool.

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