Monday, September 28, 2009

You gotta spend money to make money

So, I'm looking at some grandiose humanities post docs. Might as well start big before we all try to figure out what to do in the spring. Thing is, a few of these post docs have an application fee. I understand there's probably big time administrative costs (and clearly a market of people willing to spend who are looking for work next year) but come on. I want to work for you! At $30 a pop these things are really going to run up my tab.

Ballpark, how much do ya'll usually spend on apps?

-- Second Suitor

p.s. T-minus 2 weekish for the 'no-jobs-sky-is-falling' edition of the Smoker.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting the train back on the rails

Amidst all the discussion about fucking and fatties here, Asstro has a comment up defending interviews that should be responded to and that I don't want to get lost (I snipped quite a bit so be sure to go back to the original comment here, for a nice and encouraging personal anecdote from Asstro):
[...] Being a professional philosopher takes an extraordinary set of skills, including: ability to give impressive talks to other philosophers, ability to think on one's feet, ability to convey an idea succinctly, ability to teach, ability to engage others, ability to generate new ideas, and so on. My list isn't exhaustive [...]

The interview offers a way of testing these factors, up close and personal. It offers a way to get a multidimensional picture of a candidate and to get a sense of how that candidate will fare in a range of real-world professional scenarios. When we're considering a job candidate, we really do talk about how a candidate answered the questions, about whether the approach in the talk was innovative, about the breadth of a candidate's research, about prospects for future research, and so on. Sometimes we may discount some aspect of an interview -- maybe a flopped response to a particular question -- because there are other things that happened during the interview that we really liked. Sometimes, yes, we talk about nervous ticks; but we usually try to weigh these against other more relevant candidate attributes [...]
Asstro may be on to something with the list of what makes a good philosopher and that some of those factors might only be testable in person. However, the question is how good the information provided by interviews is regarding certain elements of the list, which leaves me with a few questions.

Is it really enough to determine if one has these qualities, testable only in person, through two interviews? Do we really think that just because we're philosophers with awesome reasoning skills and years of training in thinking that we can overcome the biases that are in effect in interviewing? Is being aware of interview effects enough to counteract them?

I would provide answers, but I need to change the tagline of the Smoker to "No Fatties".

-- Jaded Dissertator

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A nice article about interviews

Antony Eagle has written a nice article about interviews. He provides a more detailed survey of the relevant empirical data than I'd seen before (though it is admittedly incomplete), and makes a fairly detailed set of practical suggestions, in light of the fact that it seems to be psychologically impossible not to do at least some kind of interview. (See, for example, Asstro's comment here; I don't mean to distance myself from this attitude. I share it.)

Although this essay is written from the point of view of the interviewer, it seems to me that it's important for job candidates to be up on this stuff. It's a very "noisy" process, and the judgments being made in this deeply imperfect environment are about us. Our asses are on the line. You want to be able to do what you can to diminish the noise, or at least get it to work in your favor, or at least minimize the degree to which it works against you.

Thanks to Dr. Eagle for permission to post.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, September 21, 2009

One of these days i'm going to get organezized

You know we're getting EVEN MORE anxious about the job market what with all the talk as of late about CV organization (see Ben's comment here which directs us to his site, here, and which references the ever lovely Spiros, here, and was promoted by fellow Smoker, JS, via e-mail). In particular, Ben wonders,
Do people prefer to put all publications (i.e. journal articles, book chapters, book reviews, conference proceedings, etc) in one bigger list, with peer-reviewed stuff somehow highlighted? Or is it better to have lots of separate lists - and, if so, how many?
and for JS, he
find[s] it rather unclear what categories for publications are worth including. I currently divide them into books, journal articles, and book chapters. But, journal articles can be divided in various ways and I'm not quite clear how to understand the typical suggestion that you distinguished between peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed.
I'm not sure there's a standard answer here and those of us without such problems probably shouldn't weigh in about the separation of publication*s* issue (though it certainly seems like a nice problem to have), but those of you who have opinions should weigh in.

In any case, that's just one facet of the issue at hand. There's also the question of how to divide up talks (does it just fall into: 'Peer-reviewed Conferences' and 'Other Talks'?) and which ones not to include (graduate conferences? probably not; [good/prestigious] summer school presentations? maybe), whether or not to include a 2-4 sentence dissertation blurb on the first page (I say that it works well for, and probably only for, the newly minted Ph.D), and what should appear first after Education, AOS, AOC (probably publications if you have them, but teaching experience before talks? that doesn't seem right to me).

Additionally, for those of us just going on the market, we should remember to not use the CV's of the well-established as the end-all, be-all templates. They may be worth looking at, but they ain't trying to get jobs.

That said, have at it.

-- Jaded Dissertator

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Frederick C. Bumfizzle Society

I had a question from a fellow Smoker, Three Sickles Short, that was e-mailed to me a blue moon ago and I've been meaning to throw my two cents in on, but I was sick as a dog (maybe a pig?) as of late. In any case, here's the question:
Is there any point to joining professional organizations? I see the point to the APA in that they're the source of job postings, but what about things like the International [Plato/Kant/Wittgenstein/Whoever] Society? Does anybody care whether you're a member of such things, or are they just so much C.V. filler? If your dissertation is on Frederick C. Bumfizzle, had you better shell out the 20 bucks a year to join the Frederick C. Bumfizzle Society and prove your devotion to the profession, or is that 20 bucks better spent on alcohol to dull the pain of a crappy job market? Thoughts?
I can think of a few reasons that you'd want to join a professional society. Perhaps your dues pay for a journal that puts out good research and you get a subscription by being a member. Or, you need to join the society in order to present at their conference, which is a good one where every one who is anyone in your field will be in attendance. Or (as Three Sickles Short notes) it's the only way to get a poorly organized listing of jobs every once in a while that is sometimes published after the conferences at which interviews could be, and once were, but not anymore, conducted.

But, besides that, I think your money might be better spent on alcohol. I presume being a member of a professional organization that you pay to be a member of (think Who's Who?) doesn't pad your CV in anyway or make you anymore of an attractive candidate, even if the practical reasons noted above make it advisable to join the organization.

Of course, I could be wrong. And people should tell me if I am. After all, I do harbor some deep-seated resentment for one organization in particular (figure it out!). I mean, if you pay dues for a whole year, you should get a whole year of membership in return from the date you paid and you shouldn't have to renew mid-year and pay for a whole 'nother year just so you can submit a paper to a conference you probably won't get in to, but you worked your ass off for regardless. Right?

-- Jaded Dissertator

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

APA Eastern Meeting Group Rate S.N.A.F.U.

An anonymous smoker writes,
WTF is up with the APA not reserving rooms at the group rate for the 26th of December? The meeting is from the 27th to the 30th. Those lucky enough to have interviews on the 27th should probably arrive on the night of the 26th. Of course, there is no special rate (student or otherwise) for that night. If a candidate wants to avoid traveling to NY the morning of their interview, they will have to pay an extra $300+ dollars for the privledge.

Seriously: WTF was the APA thinking? Can we have a post about this? Who do I complain to?
-- Mr. Zero

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are Interviews Worth It?

At Leiter, Richard Holton of MIT wonders if the recent backlash against interviews isn't overblown. (This issue was discussed at PEA Soup and the Old Job Market Blog, but I couldn't find where.) He cites someone who researches interviews, Allen Huffcutt, who told him:
Some may argue that academic positions are unique so the results of research do not apply to them. I would argue against that. The process of the interview is to identify key characteristics needed for a position, and then ask questions to assess those characteristics. The research out there has been applied to a vast range of job types, a number of which have very similar key characteristics to faculty positions.
I guess I would agree with this. I suspect that there is nothing especially special about philosophy interviews that would make them immune to the larger body of research surrounding interviews. (I don't know who's been saying there is.) I also think it's an absolutely terrific idea to consult the research in a deep way, correspond with people who study this sort of thing, and try to get to the bottom of things. Huffcutt goes on:
What I might suggest is a carefully thought out approach to hiring philosophy faculty. In the job talk, looks for key elements related to presentation. E.g., are they well organized? Do they find ways to make the material interesting and relevant to the students? Do they deliberately bring people into the presentation (e.g., ask them questions) or just stand there and lecture the whole time? Do they handle questions well?
Interesting thing about several of these key elements: they are not normally elements of a philosophy job talk. (I distinguish the job talk from the teaching demonstration.) I've seen some successful job talks that would have been incomprehensible to students. While I don't recommend deliberately disengaging from your audience, it would be weird to pause in the middle of a job talk to ask them a question.

And suppose the candidate was disengaged, over the heads of the undergraduates, and handled the questions poorly during her job talk. What would that prove? Maybe she had a bad day. Maybe she doesn't handle high-pressure, whole-future-is-riding-on-the-outcome interview situations that well. None of that is evidence that she's a bad philosopher or that she'd make a bad colleague. None of it would outweigh the evidence in her dossier that she would be a good philosopher.

Gilbert Harman makes a point in the PEA Soup thread that bears repeating. Suppose you are told that your candidate has really effed up her interview at some other school but did okay at yours. It wouldn't affect your opinion of her--you'd ignore it. But if she effed up yours but did okay at some other school, you'd never hire her. This makes no sense, and illustrates why these sorts of interviews have been called vivid noise. They introduce unreliable, distracting information that seems to be neither unreliable nor distracting.

More Huffcutt:
During the interview, look for key elements pertaining to social interactions. For instance, using the behavior description format, you could ask them to describe a time when they had to handle a difficult student, a time when they went out of their way to help a student, etc. Same for their interaction with other faculty.
This is maybe a little better. I think it's worth it to try to find out what kinds of questions will elicit useful information. But I still don't see how this addresses the Harman point. Suppose the person fumbles the "difficult student" question, but you've got a bunch of evidence from her dossier that she's a dedicated and talented teacher. What does that tell you? How would you react if you learned that she fumbled somebody else's "difficult student" question but aced yours? How would you react if she aced yours but fumbled somebody else's?

Holton ties it together:
discussing someone's paper, which is what many APA interviews and on-campus talks consist in, is rather like a mix of a behavioral descriptive interview and a situational interview; you spend much of it finding out how the candidate responded to various philosophical problems (BDI), and then you find out how they would respond if someone said something like what you then say (SI).
While I appreciate the effort and admire the empirical approach to what is clearly an empirical question, I guess I just don't see why I should think that this sort of thing is likely to yield useful knowledge. What is the useful Behavioral Descriptive Information supposed to be? And how is it useful to know how the candidate would respond if someone said something like what you then say? And what distinguishes the BDI from the SI in this situation? Maybe I'm dense, but I just don't see how that would result in helpful information about the candidate that would be more reliable that what's already in the her dossier.

--Mr. Zero

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Woe is us roundup

Hopefully everyone's got everything in order to hit the ground running. For people who like to wallow, here's a little not-philosophy-job-market-sucks-too roundup:
  • Planet money mentions this study that finds the unemployed are "a shaken, traumatized people." Sound familiar?
Just sayin', it's not all that rosy outside the discipline either...

-- Second Suitor

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Graduate programs that teach you to be a teacher

As promised, here is your thread about teaching-oriented graduate programs. I'll get us started: my grad school was pretty good about emphasizing good teaching. Of course, I can't tell you which program it was, or even what, specifically they did, without badly damaging my pseudonymity. Sorry.

Anyways, it would be nice if people could be as specific as possible about what good teaching programs do, and include tips I can take into the classroom. Thanks.

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I am a sinner who does not expect forgiveness, but I am not a government official

Quick story:

It's long been established that when I work I coffee shop hop. After 2-3 hours I got to move, and that usually corresponds pretty well to a cup of coffee and a refill. And I'm friendly.. I chat with my neighbors, one of whom is a fellow academic (professor, not philosopher). They know I'm a grad student finishing up. Because of the timing I usually run into one of them when I leave my place and we exchange pleasantries where I usually mention that I'm off to work.

S0 I walk outside and run into my neighbor. She asks me which coffee shop I work at. I go into my little spiel about the strengths and weaknesses of the various coffee shops about (cheaper coffee, limited internet, etc..) and this look of comprehension comes across her face. Somehow it hadn't occurred to me that: "I work at a coffee shop" would translate to.. I work at a coffee shop.

Who knows? If things don't work out maybe next year..

-- Second Suitor

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Some further thoughts on pedigree

1. The smokers love to talk pedigree. By a lot, our two most prolific threads are pedigree-related.

2. I think that in Marinoff's case, the "pedigree" charges are clearly warranted. It's not like he used it as a tie-breaker for APA interview invitations; he used it as a first-round weed-out criterion. It's the first consideration he mentions. That's pretty heavy.

3. In the first Marinoff post, I was inclined to be forgiving of the use of pedigree. In light of the discussion that followed, I am no longer so inclined. Whether fancy places really are better at producing productive philosophers is an empirical question; I'm not aware of any correspondingly empirical investigation.

4. And even if pedigree is good evidence of future productivity, there are enough exceptions in both directions--fancy people who aren't productive; non-fancy people who are--that it makes sense to look deeper. And Doug Portmore's suggestion that fanciness is related to productivity due to self-fulfilling prophecy ought not be ignored, neither.

5. I endorse Clayton Littlejohn's point here, about fairness. An advertisement is a request for applications. They're saying, please send us your dossiers. If you comply with the request, they have an obligation to give you a fair shake. Roundfiling your application because your Ph.D. is from a proletarian university does not satisfy that obligation.

6. There's no such thing as the Harvard of the proletariat. If your thing is a Harvard, it's not of the proletariat.

7. Grad-schools-that-train-you-to-be-a-teacher thread coming up.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A search committee chair speaks out

Lou Marinoff, chair of last year's search committee at blah City College of the City University of New York has written an article for Inside Higher Ed about his experiences. You should totally read it.

I'm sure I'm not revealing too much about myself when I say I applied for that job. I thought Marinoff ran one of the best search committees to have ever ignored me (and they have almost all ignored me). He sent out several email status updates--I always knew where I stood (on the outside looking in), and I was grateful.

One thing that stood out was Marinoff's attitude about the whole thing. He clearly saw chairing the committee as an opportunity to give back to help his department. I like this attitude. I think it's worth having.

A couple of issues came up in the comments at IHE: Marinoff used "pedigree" as a weed-out criterion, which some people took issue with. I take issue with it. But I'm inclined to be forgiving when I read that they had over 600 applications. At a certain point, you just don't have time to find that lovable mutt. Beware of hip dysplasia, though.

Several people complain that Marinoff doesn't seem to have employed diversity as a criterion--it is suggested but not entailed by Marinoff's account that no attempt was been made to diversify the faculty. This strikes me as a legitimate concern, though It's hard to know how diverse the pool was at each stage of the process. Maybe their attempt to diversify just didn't work out. Maybe they really didn't try. Seems like these possibilities warrant different attitudes.

H/T anon 1:48.

--Mr. Zero