Advice on Applying for a Position

How to apply?

You have to send me all of the following information and data:

  • Your transcripts from all relevant degrees, Bachelor and Master, if you have both. With transcript I mean the official document from the University which lists all your courses and marks per course.
  • Your overall GPA (average mark). Make sure to provide the possible maximum as well.
  • A short motivation why you apply with me (and thus within my field). Don't make things up, just be honest.
  • A statement about your knowledge on AI planning and complexity theory. The more information you provide on this the better.

Make sure to not "link" any files (like google documents), but attach them all as file attachments.

That's basically all! We can go from there and have a meeting to discuss further steps. Note that this advice (including the one below) applies to all kinds of applications, for PhD positions or anything else.

How not to apply? (aka what you should never do)

Whether you apply for a PhD or a summer internship, or anything else: If I can recognize that you did not read this webpage here, then I will not even reply, no matter how many reminders you send or how strong your transcript or CV is. This is because I am only accepting exceptional people to my team, and those who are not even capable to inform themselves about the available positions and requirements, are clearly not worth my time. Being a good scientist is about more than just having a strong transcript; you also need to be reliable and competent in general -- and not reading what I have to say about my positions is a red flag that cannot be compensated. In Industry, nobody would apply for a job without reading the job announcement, so clearly becoming a top-tier scientist has even higher requirements!

So, in summary, what do you need to do to at least receive a reply from me? Two things:

  1. Follow all the advice given on this webpage, i.e., provide all information I ask you for. (From this, I can infer that you read this webpage; no need to mention this explicitly.)
  2. Something concrete you should not do: Many applicants try to flatter me by telling me how much my work has inspired them or how great or impactful I am or my work is. Some even add the title of one of my papers and tell me how much they liked it (just like those auto-generated mails from SPAM journals, so embarrassing!). Do this, and chances are close to 100% that your mail will land in the trashbin without me even reading it completely. Why? Science is about unrevealing truth, nothing else. I admire honesty, and telling me how "inspiring" my work is (that most likely was not even read) is hardly honest, it's a shallow attempt to catch my attention.

The bar for me replying is really very low: Tell me about your qualifications, your goals, attach all required documents (see above), and you are sure to get a friendly reply.

How to address me? (aka Title Usage)

I receive applications from all over the world thus with all different kinds of traditions regarding the usage of titles. To create a common ground, let me explain a few rules regarding naming conventions:

  • If you wish to use a title (such as "Dr." or "Prof. Dr.") then do this in combination with the family name. In my case that would be "Dear Dr. Bercher". In Australia one uses the title "Prof." only after somebody literally acquired it, i.e., once he or she has the rank "Associate Professor" or "Professor". My rank is currently Senior Lecturer, so using "Prof." would be wrong.
  • If you wish to skip the title(s) but still like to remain formal, then use the last name. In my case "Dear Mr. Bercher".
  • If you wish to communicate in an informal first-name basis, then only use the first name while skipping all titles. In my case "Dear Pascal".

What do I prefer? I strongly prefer an informal first-name basis. (I really dislike formalities.) So please feel free approaching me like that from the very beginning. We can also switch to a first name basis after we exchanged a few emails if you prefer. (Note that scientists are all on a first-name basis among each other. Only with students it's sometimes different because of the age gap. I am however still very happy with a first-name basis; it's all about content, not rank!)