Monday, October 26, 2009

Okay; Here's the Situation...

So far, including web ads, I am applying for somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty jobs. This is about half what I applied for last year, though I have no idea how many of those were ultimately canceled. (Because, why would I go through and find out how many canceled searches I applied to when I could just slit my wrists instead?)

I am also applying to several jobs for which I am probably a "poser applicant." Although Spiros's correspondent might get pissed off and send me a nasty email, that's a chance I'm comfortable taking. Even in good economic times, it makes sense to apply as widely as possible. Furthermore, given the obvious influence of deans and other administration officials over the text of job ads, it seems pretty rational to take everything in the ad with a grain of salt. If the dean wants someone who specializes in X, and the department just needs somebody who can cover courses in X, the department might well wait to have that fight until they've got a particular candidate to fight for--I've seen it more than once. And anyways, if I got a nasty email from a search committee chair about how I was a poser applicant and how annoyed he was about having to consider my application even though I'm not exactly what he was looking for, I guess I'd just be grateful that I didn't have to take that job. Because, you'd have to be a real dickhead to do that.

--Mr. Zero


Anonymous said...

I agree with you completely. FTW.

Jaded Dissertator said...

Mr. Zero, FTW again!

I was pissed off by Spiros' search committee friend's comment, too (assuming you were also pissed off). As if my applying to a job that I may not be the best fit for is somehow an affront to his dignity, that it would be beneath him to even consider such applications from people who are trying, hopefully not lazily, to cast a wide net.

Those poor search committee members what with the duties that go along with actually having a fucking job!

Please, please, let's not grow up to be like them. I need to write a post on this...

Anonymous said...

Just for that, I'm applying to every job advertisement there is. Every single one.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with folks casting their nets far and wide.
What I do have issues with are people who apply for positions that they are in no way qualified for - Having just rotated off a search committee – we advertised a TT position had a flood of applicants of which only about 40% meet the requirements s that we were looking for – however the weeding of the applicants was done pretty quickly.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine who did meta-ethics applied for a job in a field of applied ethics (I forget the specific field they advertised in) and ended up getting the job, joint with a good philosophy department and better-paying than typical philosophy jobs.

And that's not the only example. Sometimes the "poser applicant" ends up being hired.

Glaucon said...

Recent searches I've been involved with have been sticklers for applicants meeting the stated criteria, because -- I've been told by people who know about such matters -- the grain of salt/cast your net widely approach Mr. Zero favors tends to be a strategy not employed by female and minority candidates, who tend not to apply for jobs for which they don't straightforwardly meet all the stated criteria. For us, it's not just a matter of general procedural fairness, but also a matter of gender equity -- not to mention not running afoul of our EEOC/AA office.

I think there may be an interesting analogy to a feature of the many discussions of pedigree on this and other blogs. While much/most of the suspicion about pedigree as a criterion is substantive, some of it is formal: it's unfair to employ unstated criteria (e.g., pedigree, usually) when sorting applicants. Search committees that accept Mr. Zero's suggested strategy would not only be procedurally unfair in a general way (by not employing stated criteria, the flipside of employing unstated criteria), they may be fostering the gender imbalances in our discipline, which was a recent topic on this blog.

While much of the discussion of the fairness of the job market turns on employers, I wonder if readers think there are ethical constraints on the application side that go beyond avoiding outright deception. ("Posers" seem to fall into this category, but since it's usually pretty easy to see through the pose, my reaction has always been mild annoyance rather than indignation -- and I can't imagine any search committee member sending a poser an email!)

If it is the case that women and minority candidates tend not to apply for jobs for which they do not meet all the stated criteria -- and since I can't at this moment cite the empirical studies that bear this out, let's leave it as an 'if' -- is it wrong or at least problematic for male applicants to employ a strategy that tends to advantage them over female applicants?

Anonymous said...

Sign of the apocalypse: the idea of casting a wide net when applying for jobs is regarded as phallogocentric. Maybe getting a job in a different, less world-inverting, field wouldn't be so bad after all.

Anonymous said...

I think you might not be reading the term "poser applicant" correctly.

Your scenario was one where you get a job that isn't quite your AOS. But applying for a job with a slightly different AOS wasn't what they called a "poser applicant".

They considered a poser applicant to be a person who misrepresented his/her AOS on the application. So, writing down "Philosophy of Mind" as your AOS when your dissertation is in Metaethics (and perhaps you have some competence in Phil. Mind, but not AOS-level competence) is what I took as a paradigm example of a "poser applicant".

And we can all agree that misrepresenting one's AOS is not good.

Of course, your interpretation of "poser applicant" might be the correct one, in which case the search committee needs to pull its head out of its rear-end.

Applicantus said...

OT, a question regarding research statements: How many 'projects' should one list there? 2, 4, 6? How many are too many? How many are too few?
If I list and explain 2, would the SC think I'm serious, and truly have 2 I will actually embark on right away -- or that I don't have a clear program of research? If I list and explain 5, will I be perceived as creative, or unrealistic? etc etc.
Any insight welcome!

Mr. Zero said...


That's an interesting point and one I hadn't considered. But my understanding is that women and minorities are hired at a rate commensurate with their presence in the applicant pool--that is, whatever disadvantages they face seem to take effect upstream with the result that they self-select out of philosophy. So, on my understanding, it's not (necessarily) that the application processes are unfair and a disproportionately small number of woman and minority applicants are finding jobs; it's that a disproportionately small number of women and minority candidates are applying for grad school, and so there aren't many in the job-applicant pool to start with.

That said, there's something to be said for search committees running the ad they think is best and sticking to that ad. It's an imperfect world.

Mr. Zero said...


My reading of 'poser applicant' is based on the inclusion of the word 'really'. Compare "applicants who don't fit the specified AOS" with "applicants who don't really fit the specified AOS." To my ear, the effect of 'really' there is to suggest that although the applicant does not fit the AOS, she almost does.

Anonymous said...

I am on a SC and we have a number of applicants who are not qualified for the job as it is described (e.g. PhD in religious studies, not philosophy) which is very annoying. They are not posers; that is too kind a description for them.

Here is a true poser: our ad metions a particular AOS/AOC and teaching need in area X and a number of applicants enthusuastically describe all of their expereince in area X in their letter and yet they fail to make the requisite adjustments to their CVs.

"Oh yes, I can teach X, it is a special interest of mine, lots of expereince doing that, yadda yadda yadda," and yet there is no mention of X on the CV anywhere. Poser.

On the other hand, a number of applicants simply do not satisfy the job description, they never claim that they do, but they sent an application anyway. Why? BTW, the thought that deans write job ads and have ideas of whom should be hired does not fit with my expereince at all. In most cases the dean would not know very much about philosophy and would leave it to the department to determine its needs.

In a perfect world people would only apply for jobs for which they fit the listed qualifications and experience(PS, we cannot by law hire anyone who doesn't meet the requirements described in our ad), the ads would be well-written clearly stating such qualifications, and of course, every deserving candidate would get a job.

Best wishes to you all!

female philsci-er said...

I read the "really" in a different fashion - as part of an awkwardly worded sentence in which the "poser applicant" emphatically does not fit the AOS, rather than only barely missing it. Someone who does meta-ethics and applies for applied ethics job is not a potential waste of time.

But someone who has a PhD in a field other than philosophy, but "took some interesting courses in ethics as a grad student and is willing to teach applied ethics," is a poser applicant. Or someone who does not have a PhD, but a master's (or even just a BA, I have heard of such optimistic jobseekers) who feel personally qualified to teach the subject.

Evidently a relevant percentage of the 600some applications that CCNY got last year were of this variety, people who were desperate for any academic job in New York, but didn't actually do philosophy.

Popkin said...

Do other people have thoughts about this:

"Furthermore, given the obvious influence of deans and other administration officials over the text of job ads, it seems pretty rational to take everything in the ad with a grain of salt. If the dean wants someone who specializes in X, and the department just needs somebody who can cover courses in X, the department might well wait to have that fight until they've got a particular candidate to fight for--I've seen it more than once."

Does this mean that when a job ad lists X as an AOS and I have X as an AOC, that I should go ahead and apply? The idea that such advertised requirements might not be set in stone had honestly never occurred to me (and now I feel silly).

Mr. Zero said...


I've seen this happen a couple of times: the department needs somebody to cover courses in X; the dean becomes convince that the department requires a specialist in X; the ad requests an AOS in X. In one case, the department subsequently hired a nonspecialist who could cover the courses.

I make no claim about the typicality of this scenario. 1:51 has never heard of it.

Female Philscier,

If it was "really don't", I'd read it your way. But it's "don't really", so I don't.

Anonymous said...

If it lists X as an AOS and you have a good AOC in it, and you, for other reasons such as geography, want that job, I'd say go for it. Sometimes there are disagreements among the faculty writing the ad about what is more important, and the wording reflects that.

Or, someone wrote the ad without to much thought about the fine nuances of detail that might be read into it by a desperate job seeker.

Put something in your cover letter about why, even though its your AOC and not AOS, you are a good candidate for their school because blah blah blah.

Anonymous said...

Is it really the case that no one has noted the awesome DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince reference?

Anonymous said...

People who write "to" instead of "too" should be shoot.

Anonymous said...

People who write "to" instead of "too" should be shoot.

Grammer Nazi looser.

Anonymous said...

Question: Are applications from people who don't fit what they want literally thrown away? Or are they simply put into a file cabinet that may as well be the garbage?

Why I ask: My partner and I are both philosophers. We'll be on the market in a couple years. I've read that when you're trying to get jobs together, you should both apply to every place the other one applies, so that once you mention your partner, they already have their file. That'll mean both of us applying for jobs that we're clearly unqualified for. Obviously this is only worth doing if they won't immediately trash the applications.

Anonymous said...


Applications aren't actually thrown in the trash till much -- maybe years -- later, since administrators will want an accounting of the applicant pool. In my department we still have *all* the application dossiers for all the searches we've done going back five years taking up space in the department office.

What you've heard is roughly correct about how to apply in a career-coordination search. My spouse and I are in the same position (and pulled it off a few years ago). If you're not telling departments up front that you're a couple (and there are reasons not to), then I'm not sure it makes sense for you both to apply, though. Application deadlines don't usually apply for spousal hires. Spousal hires are usually at the dean's discretion. But if you're telling departments up front that you're doing a coordination search, then both of you should of course apply.

Filosofer said...

when you're trying to get jobs together, you should both apply to every place the other one applies

I'm not qualified to know whether this is good professional advice, but wholly cow does it ever sound like shitty relationship advice.

Anonymous said...

1:51: I have a job where I did not fit the specified AOC. I felt competent that I could teach the course they were looking for and had real reasons for thinking that I was competent, and said as much in my cover letter. But I did not change my AOC because I believe that it is wrong to list an AOC in something that you haven't either taught or researched on before. I think there should be principled reasons for limiting what goes into the AOC, and so think it would have been mis-representing myself to just tack on the AOC they were looking for. AOC should not be "everything I could be competent teaching" - people who interpret it as such do themselves no favors.

zombie said...

I am intrigued by this notion that women and minorities hew more strictly to the AOS/AOC in an ad. Since I fit in both categories, I am trying to figure out if I do that. How would I know?

I do not EVER apply for a job that I do not think I am qualified for. I'm not competent to teach symbolic logic, I don't want to teach it, and there's no point pretending that I can/will/want to. Likewise phil of religion, or Asian phil, etc. There's a whole lot of other stuff I can (and have) taught in lots of intro classes, but I don't, e.g., list epistemology in my AOC, I'm not applying for epistemology jobs, although I could teach epistemology if a dept needed me to. But we should all be able to teach intro anything, really.

But I thought I was interpreting ads somewhat liberally. Maybe I'm not. But how does that have any influence over a search committee? They can't assume that anyone applying, who meets their criteria, is female/minority. I just got an acknowledgement letter this week addressing me as Mr. (on account of I have a sort of unisex name) (and it pissed me off, because I'm a doctor, dammit! and not a Mr. and why presume male instead of female?)

Should I change my name to something femmy and minority so I can get hired? Beyonce or Britney, maybe?

Anonymous said...

But my understanding is that women and minorities are hired at a rate commensurate with their presence in the applicant pool--that is, whatever disadvantages they face seem to take effect upstream with the result that they self-select out of philosophy.

Zero, your writing on this topic is generally excellent, but I'm not sure this follows, especially in the context here. Couple reasons: women aren't distributed evenly throughout all the subdisciplines, nor are all the subdisciplines equally represented on the job market. The applicant pool isn't the same for every job.

And given that the proposal (women are less likely to stretch) counts as a reason someone might self-select themselves out of the applicant pool, I think it's worth taking seriously, even if, like you, I suspect the primary reasons women are under-represented in philosophy lie elsewhere than the junior hiring market.

That doesn't, to my mind, imply anything like a moral obligation on the part of male applicants not to stretch. But it might mean that a search committee might want to consider the wording of its ads more carefully, or that if one is mentoring a woman, one might want to emphasize the influence of deans on hiring. (I only have the job I do because someone told me to stretch for an AOC.)

Mr. Zero said...

anon 5:16,

I don't disagree with anything you say there.

I guess the upshot of my position is, although applying widely might create an advantage, it does not create an unfair advantage. Ads should be clear and precise and accurate. But since they aren't all, everyone should apply as widely as possible, short of clogging up search committees with obviously unqualified candidates. If women and minorities in particular tend to apply narrowly, they should be encouraged not to.