Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In Which I Grow Increasingly Frustrated With My Online Applications

About half the schools I'm applying to have online applications this year. Most schools that accept online applications use the same crappy online application web interface. Here are my gripes.

1. It takes a long time. I'm spending 10 minutes or more on some of them, typing in all these little details that are on my CV. Unless the application is by email (the few of those I had went smoothly), it would take less time to stuff an envelope and snailmail this shit.

2. You attach something, and then it says, "confirm attachment," but it doesn't tell you the filename of the document your confirming. I mean, how can I confirm that this is indeed the right document if I can't see what document it is?

3. You gotta confirm a lot of stuff twice without seeing it either time.

4. The interface often doesn't permit flexibility with respect to application materials. So, for example, if you have a syllabus for each AOC listed in the ad, you won't be able to upload them all and maybe you won't be able to upload any of them.

5. Seriously. I am retyping my CV over and over again. Why not just, you know, use my actual CV, which I have carefully and meticulously prepared for just this sort of occasion?

6. FUCK THIS.

7. And if everyone's going to use the same lame software, why can't there just be a central website where you upload all your materials and tell them where to send the electrons?

8. Ok, I've come across a school that makes use of a clearinghouse website. But it's really involved, so it's a lot more of a pain in the ass than the one-time websites. Its built-in PDF maker ignores font sizes, making them larger, but honors page breaks, which doubles the page count on every document. And since only one school I'm applying to uses it, it's not worth it. At all.

9. It took me around three hours to do my online applications last night. I wrote most of this in real time, then polished it for the printer this morning. I believe in online applications, but this system is stupid. We can do better than this. We can take men we've put on the moon and safely bring them back from the moon.

--Mr. Zero

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds much worse than I would've imagined. You've got my sympathies. Just remember that eventually it'll be over.

Anonymous said...

You don't mention cases in which there are discrepancies between what the job ad requires you to upload and what options you're given with what you can actually upload.

Anonymous said...

Yep. Remember applying to grad school?

Anonymous said...

"You don't mention cases in which there are discrepancies between what the job ad requires you to upload and what options you're given with what you can actually upload."

Yep; I had several that I needed to explain in the cover letter where I had uploaded the documents because the options didn't match what was requested. For others, I had to merge PDFs because there weren't enough slots for what was requested.

Just sending the standard documents by mail is far easier and much less time consuming. (Sorry trees.)

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, I've found that when one applies to a school for the second time (as is the case with several of my apps this year), one does not need to re-type all the info. It's already there. Just upload a new cover letter and CV, and click "Confirm" twice. That makes it quicker than interfolio.

All of my application documents are handled in PDF format (through the wonders that is OpenOffice), so I don't need to worry about the conversion process from .doc or .docx.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I was on an English search committee last year. We use that software, and it SUCKS!

The only thing it does is reduce work for the HR folks. The faculty hate it, it's impossible to use on our end and it takes much longer to evaluate a candidate without a corresponding increase in attention to their actual information.

I also think it poses a HUGE risk of loss of confidentiality. For EVERY document I read, in order to read it, I had to download it to my desktop... CVs, transcripts, letters of recommendation etc.. I should not have access to all of this information for the HUGE candidate pool created by advertising 4 English jobs.

On previous searches we had to go to a conference room, pull out the books of applications and read them. The only thing we took out with us were our own notes, which were subject to being requested in case the search was challenged.

Add to it all the fact that the on-line "rating" system either permits people to 'go with the crowd' OR see how others rated the candidate for use later.. Imagine finding out pre-tenure that the department chair gave you an overall ranking of 5/10 -- For this reason, several folks refused to use the ranking process and thus we couldn't even use a tool that could have improved the process...

Overall, it sucks for us -- but it works for HR and the colleges have paid to use this crappy system, so it will be around for a while.

Platowe said...

How about using a clipmanager program (like Clip Magic; freeware) to keep different snippets of your materials ready at hand for pasting into windows? Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

when you say 'we can put men on the moon,' you're not referring to philosophers, right?

Xenophon said...

I agree. The most popular software, by the way, is made by PeopleAdmin, Inc. Bastards.

Anyway, a couple of tricks I've learned may help.

1) Only fill in required fields. This software was designed for staff jobs, and a lot of universities recognize that all this info will be on your CV anyway, so you can skip most of the screens at most schools without filling out much of anything. The downloads are the main thing.

2) When you get to the download page, note how many files you can upload and then do the final format on your documents. A pdf writer is really helpful here, since you can use that to combine documents with very different formatting into a single file for downloading: CV, research statement, whatever. I mean, isn't the most important thing trying to get the info in front of faculty eyes? And if you have three syllabi seriatim in one file, they'll be able to figure that out. They've seen syllabi before.

This should make the process much faster and less irritating.

BTW, not having a central clearinghouse allows applicants to customize applications for particular schools, so I think it's better when each school makes you go through the process separately.

Actually, I've actually gotten to like the PeopleAdmin system after doing so many applications over the years. At least you know what you're going to get. The one-off systems are harder because there's a learning curve, and you're likely to make more mistakes. Emailing a single pdf file with everything is the simplest and best method, but only small schools ask for that typically.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:37,

One clause of your comment has sent me into a tailspin of depression today:

". . . after doing so many applications over the years"

That made me realize how many years I've been doing this, ABD & post-PhD. I, too, have completed many applications "over the years". Time for any line of work.

harvard of the proletariat said...

Seeing this post was a relief. I thought I was the only one bitching about these awful online systems. I'm pretty tech savvy and they are still a major pain in the ass. I don't even have a job yet and I already hate the HR department at my school, wherever that is.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else run into an issue with either submitting transcripts or teaching evals online? Most of my teaching evals are in hard copy, and not all of the past universities I attended offer online versions of transcripts. This is especially unnerving when the job post does not list a mailing address.

4 yrs and counting said...

The depressing thing about applying over many years is that now I am applying to places I first I applied to 3 or 4 years ago. So I get to look at the department sites and see how the people they hired instead are doing. This has happened twice this year and both times the person they hired still has no peer-reviewed pubs. Fuck me! I am up to seven, but at this point I am convinced it does not matter.

zombie said...

Yeah, it sux. One of mine uses academicjobsonline.org, where my recommenders are expected to submit their letters themselves. I heard enough whining from them about uploading them to Interfolio, and now I'm supposed to go through that all over again? Worse, U. Michigan Ann Arbor, whose ad lists a url for online applications. And when you go to the url, it tells you to MAIL your app. Which, at this point, since I am not in the US, ain't gonna happen by their deadline. So screw 'em.
But in general, I prefer online apps since it saves me all that expensive overseas postage. But email is definitely the more rational option.

Applicantus said...

Anon 3:15,
both the school i went to and the one where i now teach do not offer electronic (transcripts or) evaluations. i pdf'd mine: one can scan to pdf, which is the simplest thing to do if you have transcripts. i bet the computer center or library at your school have a scan-to-pdf thingie.
with evaluations, it was more work: some of them were just raw forms, so i had to do the statistics myself, put them in neat tables, calculate averages, and type up student comments. for the odd course where that was already done for me, i either made it look like the others (copied the data into the same layout) or, when it's from a different school and thus with different questions and etc, just added the scanned pages into my pdf.

and a tip for the pdf-software-impaired :
do-pdf is a free tiny thing you can install that allows you to 'print' any document to a pdf file.
you can also do that online at www.pdfonline.com for free, where they also offer a service of pdf-merging, if you register (=get a username; no $$ involved, and no spamming - i've been using it for a while).

Asstro said...

4yrs:

It matters. Keep plugging away. I have no information on you, so I can't say where the holes in your application are, but I suspect that what's happening is that you've had some hole in your application somewhere, and so there was some discussion about whether you'd hit the benchmarks set by the administration. (Obviously, there are "fit" considerations as well, but in cases where the fit is good, it's possible that the SCs passed you over because they weren't persuaded that you'd make tenure six years down the line.)

At any rate, stay in the game and keep getting peer-reviewed publications. Someone will begin to take notice.

Anonymous said...

One thing in particular about some of the "online only" applications is that they expect letters of recommendation. My department sends out my letters and will not email them or upload them online. This means I have to call for addresses, and if I don't get them, hope my individual letter writers are willing to time out of their busy schedules to go back and do more shit that they thought they were done with.

On another note: I have no publications. In part, this is a matter of principle for me. I read way too much total bullshit that should never have been published. My worst fear is contributing to it. I hate the fact that academia expects people to publish crap.

Anonymous said...

My worst fear is contributing to it.

Really? Really?

My worst fear is being tortured to death, followed by spiders, followed by heights, followed by not getting any kind of job at all.

Anonymous said...

Rationalize much?

Mr. Zero said...

Xenophon,

The sort of system I am imagining would work this way: you upload all your materials--1 cover letter per job; CV; writing sample; research statement; teaching statement; course evals; sample syllabi; etc. Then you tell the system which jobs you're applying for. Then you tell the system which subset of your total packet to include in each application: this cover letter, this syllabus but not that one, not the research statement, etc. I don't think it would be that complicated to set up (except for privacy/security settings, which would probably require some serious shit). Also, I don't think there exists any person or organization with the capability or motivation to do it.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

That sounds a lot like the law school application process -- and their motivation was/is money. I don't remember how much we paid -- but, even though all of Hubby's application fees were waived, he still had to pay to set up an account with them -- and it wasn't a small fee.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero, exactly that system exists for academic jobs in math. It is run by the American Mathematical Society and doesn't cost anything for job applicants. It works well, so it is definitely quite possible to have a functional system like you described.

Anonymous said...

On the Phylo wiki, it's been reported that the job at Illinois Wesleyan has been canceled. Has an official announcement to this effect been posted anywhere?

Anonymous said...

It's still listed on the IWU website: http://www2.iwu.edu/iwujobs/PhilosophyAssistantProf.shtml

Anonymous said...

The Phylo Wiki seems to have some serious problems. One problem is that it appears as if someone is messing with the job statuses. Evidence: (1) As mentioned above, the IWU job was listed as canceled, then changed back to 'Accepting Applications;' (2) The Barry University job was listed as canceled, then changed back to 'Accepting Applications;' (3) Another job was listed as 'First Round Interviews Scheduled,' but then went back to 'Accepting Applications.' In the last case, I have some reason to believe that interviews have been scheduled. The other problem is that the website has been taking a very long time to load recently - if it loads at all.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why there was a forced switch over to this wiki. The old one was working fine. You could also see who edited it and additional information could be posted. Someone then went and disabled to old wiki. Boo.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone - I have a question (and I apologize if this is a repeat or out of place). I've applied to several positions already, but recently my paper was accepted for presentation at the APA. Should I send the schools to which I applied an updated CV? I'm guessing that it's not worth it, except maybe in the case of a publication. Thanks in advance - and thanks to the bloggers here for helping us get through this craziness

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 5:13,

Just send your updated CV to the dpt secretary, with a simple note requesting that it replace the one in your dossier. You don't have to call attention to the specific change or contact any member of the search committee.

If you're already in the reject pile, this won't change things. But if your dossier has yet to be reviewed or is slated for further consideration, it's probably a good idea to update.

Anonymous said...

Addition to the original post: I just had to email a pdf document to a dept secretary because when I uploaded it to the online submission site, it showed up blank... and I couldn't get it to do differently. And as was mentioned, you have to confirm your upload before seeing the document, so it's a good thing I didn't just trust that I had uploaded the right document...

Jon said...

Tell me about it. I'm actually working on a technical workaround by looking at how PeopleAdmin submits forms and manages session identity, in hopes that I might be able to provide (and more importantly, use myself!) a tool that lets people submit a centralized resume to jobs that use PeopleAdmin. Even if you had to create a new account at each school, at least you wouldn't have to re-enter every single job and every single school a million times. It's incredibly stupid, and I don't know why on earth PeopleAdmin thought it was a good idea to set it up that way... and worse, to go selling it to 50% of the schools in the country (their statistic, not mine).