With the job market approaching, we thought it would be nice to provide a tutorial on how to create simple and free job market website. Having a clear, concise, and simple to navigate job market website is of particular importance to health economists since we usually apply to jobs across a few different disciplines and schools.

There are already a number of nice tutorials on how to create an academic website, but most focus on established academics. There are also a number of paid-for options that work nicely. This tutorial is designed for new job candidates that want to create a simple job market website using entirely free tools. We will use freely available software R, Hugo, and Netlify. You can check out a preview of the website we will make here: https://job-candidate.netlify.app.

Why focus on job market candidates?

There is already a lot of advice out there about how to make a website. There’s even advice geared towards a building “general academic website” (See https://www.dsquintana.blog/free-website-in-r-easy/). While much of this advice is quite good, I think it slightly misses the mark for new graduate students seeking their first job. This is because most of the existing material is suited for established academics that are not actively seeking jobs.

Established academics have lots of published papers and many other accomplishments/efforts to be outlined. Since they have so much content, many of the themes/tutorials for academic websites separate content into pages like Research, Teaching, and Conferences. New PhD students seeking their first job have don’t need complex websites with many pages.

More importantly, the website’s target audience and goal are both different for established academics than first time job market candidates. The target audience for an established academic’s website is an interested party (colleague, reporter, conference attendee, etc) that has sought out this specific website, perhaps through a Google search of the academic’s name. The goal is simply to provide relevant information to this interested party. If you’re a graduating PhD student seeking your first job, your target audience are those on the hiring committees at the jobs you applied to and your goal is simple. To get hired.

Always try to think about how your website is structured from the perspective of your goal and target audience. Those visiting an established academic’s site may be willing to poke around and spend some time to find the specific content they are looking for. Busy hiring committee members may have 400+ job candidate websites to look through and might not be willing to explore every nook and cranny of your site. It’s possible that adding a fancy bell or whistle to your website may make it harder for a person to find something they were looking for. If you’re a job market candidate, you want to make it easy for time-crunched hiring committee members to find the most relevant and important information about you that increases the chances of you being hired.

What should my website look like?

Think of a job-market website as a better, and less-standardized, version of a CV. It likely won’t be printed out so you can use hyperlinks and color; you’ll often include a picture of yourself; you can omit/add sections as you see fit; and you can express creativity/personality if you want to.

If you think about a job market website as type of electronic CV, then Sarah Jacobson’s advice (https://twitter.com/SarahJacobsonEc/status/1026231483638460417) for CVs applies well. You want the site to be a “clean and compact” conveyor of relevant information. Make sure the most important information is at the top. Don’t include the unimportant. A starting guide for the order of importance is:

  1. Name
  2. Contact information
  3. Education
  4. Research interests
  5. Publications
  6. Working papers
  7. Work in progress
  8. Teaching
  9. Anything else (e.g., grants, cool pictures you took, recipes, your travel blog)

What should you include in the Anything else category? I agree with Sarah that it’s “stuff you want discussed when you are not in the room.” So no need to include “Stata/Word/Latex/Favorite Software” experience unless it is truly noteworthy. However, if you want to show off a cool set of hiking pictures that you think really reflect your personality well, why not? This is your website, there are no actual rules, just keep the end goal in mind.

When is a paper a Working Paper v. a Work in Progress? My personal rule is that a paper goes in the Working Papers section if it is posted online at a place like SSRN or SocArXiv. Most of the time I consider a paper to be a working paper around the same time that I would be willing to submit it a journal. There is no one-size fits all rule here, but my advice would be to have a link to the paper if you consider it to be a working paper.

I completely agree with Sarah’s advice that it is not a great idea to post loose/very preliminary ideas in Works in Progress. You may be asked detailed questions about work you put in this section during an interview. Basically, don’t use this section as a brainstormed list of pie-in-the-sky ideas that you haven’t actually started unless you’re ok revealing that.

Your job market website should also contain a link to your CV, job market paper, and any other publications/working papers you want people to see. Ideally these links would not take you to an external site. I have heard stories that CVs or papers hosted on Google Drive/Dropbox may not be accessible in all parts of the world. You can avoid issues like this by simply hosting these documents on your own site.

Lastly, as a goal, try to keep the site very simple and avoid unnecessary bells and whistles. You want it to look good on mobile and across various browsers. Keeping it simple maximizes the chances that it looks good when used by these different technologies. I try to keep my site on one single page.

Making the site.

You can absolutely create a successful job market website using other tools, like wordpress, squarespace, or Google. But if you’re interested in making a quick and free site using R, Hugo, and Netlify, read-on.

Prerequisite installs

  1. You’ll need to download R (https://www.r-project.org) and R-studio (https://rstudio.com/products/rstudio/download/) since we will be using these to interact with the bones of your website. Note: You do not need strictly need R for this, but the bookdown package is fantastic and simplifies the whole process.
  2. After you install both, open RStudio and install the blogdown package by typing install.packages("blogdown") in the console.