Thursday, December 18, 2008

I need a totally trojan plan right now

Remember when being a philosopher was but a twinkle in your ill-informed undergraduate eye? When I was applying to graduate school, most schools seemed to get around 150ish applictions and maybe 10ish would get accepted. These were fairly long odds and you knew going in that the odds on the market were worse. Somehow along the way I never realized how much worse. I sort of assumed it would be worse on the order of 1:150, only everyone in the running is a Dr.

Here are the numbers I've found:
Are those numbers high or abnormal? That is a shitty market..

-- Second Suitor

16 comments:

Will Philosophize For Food said...

I didn't want the job at CCNY anyway, after the way they treated Russell. ;)

Zach Simpson said...

I'm in religion, but a few of the jobs I've heard about (and also unsuccessfully applied to) have similar numbers:
* Harvey Mudd College received 250 applications for a broad position in religious theory
* Rice received 270 applications for a position in philosophy of religion, broadly defined
* The University of Oklahoma received 140 applications for a Christian theory position

Part of the problem is that the ads were written intentionally broad so as to cast a large net. But the bigger problem is the fact that academics haven't been getting successful placements for a number of years, and now we're dealing with a tremendous backlog. Add that to a dwindling job market, increased admissions to PhD programs (to compensate for a lack of humanities funding), and a greater dependence on adjunct and visiting positions, and the tenure-track job market has been squeezed such that the ratio for broad positions (ethics, theory, religious studies, etc.) is probably 200:1. This is likely why many of us (myself included) who have publications, good teaching evaluations, etc. can't seem to find or get anything -- there's a lot of us out there, looking for just a few spots.

inconceivable said...

Those numbers don't sound as bad as you make it sound. Suppose the average student applies for 50 jobs and the average job has 300 applicants. We'll make the simplifying assumption that jobs are awarded randomly; then each student has, if my math is right, 1-(299/300)^50 probability of getting at least one job offer. (That's one minus the probability of losing 300 times.) That works out to slightly better than 1:6.

inconceivable said...

Oops. The math was (I think) right, but the description was wrong: one minus the probability of losing *50* times.

philo said...

I had hoped that the bad market might scare off some people, that numbers might wind up being lower for some positions -- positions that might well evaporate -- but I've never heard of application numbers being this high in Philosophy (open Humanities postdocs at places like Stanford or Chicago, sure). I had thought 200 applications was the upward limit. Guess I was deluded.

It's hard to take rejection in this climate personally. I suppose that would be some silver lining...

Damn.

Zach Simpson said...

Yes, but for any one position your odds are still 1 in 200. The 1 in 6 number only works if the other applicants are iteratively pulled from the applicant pool and there aren't any other applicants who continue to apply to jobs (it's not the same 200 every time). The fact that many of the applicants apply to the same jobs increases your chances, but not by an order of magnitude.

amor fati said...

I don't think these numbers are all that uncommon--especially for (a) good R1 jobs with grad programs, (b) jobs in desirable places, and (c) SLACs. When I was on the market a few years ago, several of my interviews were with places that had 300+ applicants (one department told me they had nearly 700+). This was even more common for the open and ethics positions. So, while I am unsure whether this is all the comforting to hear, I suspect that the number of applicants per job is not quite as atypical as you might have thought.

tithonus said...

Since there are probably only about 1200 people on the market, about half of all the job candidates applied to CCNY. That's incredible!

Imagine what a pile of 600 applications might look like.

And how many people were on the search committee? The CCNY department only has (or only lists) 4 faculty, and at least one of them is on leave and not involved in the search. So that leaves 3 people to look at 600 applications in just over a month. Did they role dice?

It's not possible to carefully consider that many applications in such a short time span. It just can't be done. So, I'm very interested in the selection process. How did you decide?

I don't feel so bad for not getting an interview--not because there are certainly at least 12 people better than me out of the pool of 600, that's a given--but because it's just not possible to evaluate that many applications in way that reliably tracks merit. Hence it's worth noting that no one who got an interview at CCNY should be proud merely for getting an interview. It just can't mean that much.

I don't think I'm being petty. At least I don't mean to be. Sometimes it's hard to tell. And I don't mean to insult anyone on the committee or anyone who got an interview. In fact I appreciate how communicative the department was during the process.

In any case, all the winners have my congratulations for winning the lottery. It sure looks like a great job! I would love to have had a shot.

Prof. J. said...

Inconceivable;

It's actually a bit worse than 1/6 the way you are doing it. [Type 1-(299/300)^50 into Google to see the answer, which is 0.1537539.]

The reason it isn't 1/6 or better is that your calculation allows that the same person might get two jobs. This is true if we're talking about offers, but plainly nobody is going to have two jobs next year. So on the simplifying assumption that each job is filled randomly, the chance of getting one is 1/6.
And this makes sense -- if the average candidate applies for 50 jobs and the average job has 300 applicants, then there must be 6 times as many applicants as jobs.
But that seems awfully high. Surely it's more like 3 or 4 times as many applicants as jobs?

use said...

CCNY probably has the highest number of applicants at 600. Surely the Open/Open positions are high, but what about the less desirable positions? I mean, how many people applied to the Stillwater, OK job? (Not me, btw). Has anyone heard of job searches that only brought in 100 or less applicants? j/c

bball said...

Last year I applied for an open/open position in a desirable location with a 4/4 teaching load. When I was notified that I made the cut I was informed that they had more than 300 applicants for the position.

tithonus said...

If schools are getting this many applications, then it's impossible for them to perform an adequate review. Am I wrong about this?

It seems obvious that pedigree will play an inflated role. Again, correct me if I'm wrong. . . .This probably won't give a bunch of false positives--that is, it's not going to pick too many duds, but there aren't that many duds in the general pool. But it's sure going to exclude a lot of great candidates. Many who are probably better suited to the job. . . .

I suppose the first page of the CV needs to be golden. I'm not going to chronologically order my publications anymore. I'm going to put those in the best places on the first page, under a category called "First Page Eye-Catchers" or something. . . . I don't know what else to do.

In any case, departments should stop asking for complete dossiers for the initial review. It's clear they aren't looking past the CV in most case. Here's a recommendation that will save poor people a ton of money and waste fewer trees. Run the initial search in two stages: (1) CV and cover-letter review with perhaps letters of recommendation. If you like what you see, (2) then ask for a complete dossier. In fact, most candidates should have a website with additional materials for departments to browse prior to this step.

Some departments already do this. I now understand why. It's rude and wasteful to ask for a huge pile of materials that you don't have any intention of reading.

dr said...

Tithonus, I really don't get your complaining. What makes you think that your file wasn't read with close, personal attention, made it to the final cut, but only just missed out on an interview call? If you already have interviews at other comparable places, then your file was likely read quite closely.

Not all philosophers are equal by the way. Out of those 600, there were likely a few dozen applicants that stood head and shoulders above the rest. Those few dozen are likely the same few dozen considered for most other medium to high profile jobs. And yes, there are lots and lots of duds, and, yes, a quick look at the 1st page of a CV is a highly reliable way to vet applicants.

So to those with a CCNY interview, well done! But don't think 600 makes it anymore special than 300, since it likely it took all of an afternoon to weed out half of the pool.

bball said...

I think next year my first page of the CV is going to include something like an annotated CV with the highlights of my career thus far. After that I'll have the full CV. What do you SC members think about that?

tithonus said...

I'm not sure that I'm complaining. I don't think that I deserve an interview. But, do I deserve an interview as much as some of those that were called? I think so, sort of, but I'm not positive. Do I think that the search committee should have seen that, well, I'm not so sure. I'm sure that they tried their best to find the best candidate.

I'm stumbling around trying to figure out how to get a job for which I'm well suited. One problem is that I don't have a good way to evaluate my abilities. (I can't say more without giving away my very loosely cloaked identity. . . . )

I reserve judgment on the process until I can see the other side. I assumed that there weren't lots of duds, but if you say so, perhaps there were. That would change things a great deal. . . .

Several departments are running searches in the two-stage process that I roughly outlined. This seems like a good idea. . . .

Obstreperous Dogey said...

Because of the nature of the public's perception of philosophy, it's probably the discipline that gets the most duds applying for jobs. I have heard anecdotal evidence a few times now that search committees regularly get applications from people who don't hold a single degree in a philosophy-related subject.