Sunday, March 7, 2010

You used to be alright. What happened?

In the past, at the old venture and elsewhere on the Philososphere (I wish I had links for you, I really do, but you'll know what I'm talking about; if you don't, go look at Leiter, Phil. Anon. and PJMB archives), we're given brief glimpses into SCs' decision procedures for choosing candidates. Oftentimes, we can glean from these glimpses concrete prescriptions for behavior:
-Publish because if you don't have publications you will obviously be an unproductive colleague, are a lazy shitstain, and your app is going straight to the trash.
-Build a time machine and attend a Leiterrific school because your ability to build a time machine looks good as an extra CV line, but if you can't do that your app is trashed.
-Make sure you match up perfectly with the job ad because if you don't you are a poser (PHONY!!!!) and your app, well, is going to the trash.
-Don't have a gap year in your CV because if you do SCs will think you have gone stale and, in your staleness, are unable to catch up to the fast-moving world of philosophy; additionally, you will be assumed to have forgotten all the philosophy you did for the past 5 - 10 years and your app belongs in the trash.*
Maybe these are good prescriptions, but I doubt it since I don't think everything (anything?) we hear from SCs constitutes actual decision rules they employed. I have strong suspicions that they aren't. Instead, I think what we get are post-hoc explanations that tell us why they picked the particular candidates they have in the past.

In other words, I think SCs think about these things only when prompted by the Philososphere, then, realizing that stories are nice to give to those who, through something beyond their control, were unable to be placed on shortlists or unable to be offered jobs, they construct a story about their decision procedure that makes it seem like it fits into a tidy flowchart.

Let me be careful in what I'm saying here: I'm not implying that SCs don't make the right decisions in most cases or have no decision procedure at all; I think they do, but I think their decision procedure is this: "Which application do I find most interesting and the best fit?" and this varies wildly across schools and maybe even within SCs. As such, I think we should liberally salt the plates they serve to us.

What I take from my conjecture is that the trick to the job market isn't speculating about the decision procedures of SCs and trying to tailor your application and life accordingly (How do I explain my gap year in my application? GASP. Does adjuncting look worse on a CV than VAPing? OH NO!). The big-picture stuff gets you or doesn't get you jobs. The trick is to make every part of your application really fucking awesome such that it makes a compelling case for the SC to choose you.

That's all we can do: Sell ourselves as philosophers who are interesting, smart, and fit well with the school to which we are applying. And this, I think, can be accomplished without worrying about particular decision procedures SCs do or do not use.

So, stop worrying and get to work on being awesome. Sure, oftentimes that's not enough, but it's better to think about than wondering how that typo on the first page makes you come off.

--Jaded Dissertator

*The last one is my personal favorite: What? You mean we aren't still asking why is there something rather than nothing? We solved that problem last year while I was slanging coffee? Fuck, I am stale!


dh said...

Speaking from the other side (for over a decade now), that's very perceptive, JD. I'd say you are maybe 90% right (and probably as accurate as it's possible to be in a relatively short blog post).

Whatever decision procedure I start out employing, I do recognize, in retrospect, that what actually happened was that a few candidates just looked really interesting. (I'm not interested in "fit", though some of my colleagues are.) For about 3/4 of the philosophers my department has offered jobs to, at some point in the process I just thought, "Whoa, this is obviously somebody it would be great to have here." (In the other cases, I guess it was my colleagues who were bowled over.)

Anonymous said...

It seems that what you listed are largely just variations on "fit." Fit is king, just don't try to figure out what it really means. And don't fit in too much, as that won't be a good fit for lots of places. And don't seem like you are trying to fit in... or like you aren't trying to in fit. (Why would we want to hire a suck-up? Don't you want to be here enough to try to look like a good fit?)

Certainly there is no one thing that guarantees you a job in this market: There are fresh Leiterific types with good publications that are struggling, and people landing fab jobs without these. I take it that "fit" just means whatever leads to a SC picking X over Y and Z and the 500+ other people who applied.

In the end, it is groups of philosophers making the decisions. As such, the real reasons behind the decisions are bound to be strange in many cases.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I've been on a few SCs (for a CC) -- while the selection criteria are different, the process is probably similar.

Really -- I think you have the best advice -- make your CV as awesome as possible. I'd add to it a couple of things, especially since any new applications going out at this time are probably for CCs or other less than desirable jobs.

1) adjust your CV for the school type. CVs that look awesome for R1s don't appeal to CCs. This probably means you'll need three versions, one for SLACs, one for Rxs and one for CCs. For SLACs, include the most interesting research and the most interesting teaching experience. For Rxs, all the research comes first -- teaching is a small section toward the end -- right above community service and your college debate experience. For CCs, the variety of teaching (courses and demographics) is most important -- then other kinds of work with a variety of kinds of students -- then anything you've published about teaching.

2) Write a kind of generic cover letter and leave space for how you meet the specifics of the job posting. This may take more time than you'd like - but, at least from my perspective on a SC, it matters.

Think about SCs this way -- as an individual member you need to first, catch my attention as a great candidate for my position and then I need to be able to keep you on the interview list -- because all the other SC members will have their favorites and they rarely overlap. This means we'll have a little discussion -- make some compromises and weed out candidates in a long and kind of icky meeting.

Anonymous said...

Last year I worked my ass off to put together that freaking time machine; went back to year of 2000, re-applied to Rutgers and got in. Well, here I'm, in 2010 and my CV is still in the trash. Take my word for it, that time machine business is a huge waste of time.

Anonymous said...

I honestly believe that most SCs start with the friends and families plan, then when they exhaust relatives and grad school buddies, settle for interesting colleagues. Look at any faculty and you'll often see 3 or 4 faculty from the same grad school...coincidence? I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Is this the ideal process for hiring?:

The search committee thoroughly investigates and evaluates each candidate. Lack of publications and lack of pedigree doesn't necessarily reveal an unworthy philosopher. All writing samples should be read at this stage.

A short list of candidates is compiled for interviews. Most of these candidates would be put on the list by majority decision, but each seach committee member should be entitled to at least one "wild card" pick, i.e., candidates not selected to be on the short list by a majority.

At this point, there is no "ranking" of candidates -- the list is without prejudice, i.e. no pre-ranking on a secret list. Following the interviews, candidates are then ranked by each search committee member, argued over, etc. until there is a super-majority consensus of the rankings. If no super-consensus, then other procedures would be installed, e.g., dept chair gets to break ties, etc.

Candidates would then be informed of their ranking, and job offers expire within 2-4 weeks.

Does this sound right? If so, you should already see that such a process would take a year if not longer. At the same time, candidates are demanding a quick reply so that they can celebrate or plan to move on.

No search committee wants its tedious, but mission-critical, work to drag on for a year, so they need to find shortcuts, which also is in the candidate's interest. Some of these shortcuts include drawing from friends, grad school alumnus, pedigree, etc.

In the end, we're left with an imperfect, far-from-ideal process, yet it seems to be a necessary compromise given a goal to be timely and not get scooped by another school.

This is to say that candidates need to stop complaining about the reliance on pedigree, publications, etc. If you're lacking in one area, you should be able to make up for it by excelling in another area. If you're lacking in two or more areas without redeeming accomplishments, then it's understandable why a search committee would not regard your application as competitive. Unfair? Maybe. But not unreasonable.

Jaded Dissertator said...

Anon. 2:29, I think you missed my point. I wasn't trying to say the decision procedures employed by SCs are somehow faulty because they lean too heavily one way (pedigree?) or another (publications? both?) or to say that the system is unfair or unreasonable.

I was trying to recommend to job pursuers that they should try not to obsess over information they have received via the Philososphere about the decision procedures of SCs and tailor apps accordingly because I think the information we get consists of post-hoc reconstructions. In other words, we aren't getting a glimpse into actual reasoning processes that SCs employ come hell or high water.

Instead, what we should be doing is trying to figure out how to make our apps as attractive as possible with what we have during the job season (really selling your project and self in a clear and straightforward way) and look to improve them in obvious ways outside of it (publications).

Because, as dh affirms about my post, oftentimes what matters is just how interesting SCs find you rather than, say, publications or pedigree.

Anonymous said...

"This is to say that candidates need to stop complaining about the reliance on pedigree, publications, etc."

Do SCs rely on such things? With regard to pedigree, for example, it is clear that some do, but equally clear that others do not. It all depends on which job you are looking for: There are many, many jobs for which high pedigree and high level of publication will likely hurt your chances.

In fact, I frankly doubt that there is much (if any) correlation between Leiter ranking, for example, and landing jobs. But, feel free to produce actual data to prove me wrong.

Anonymous said...

"Fit is king, just don't try to figure out what it really means."

Yes, fit is entirely dependent upon context. It probably is only know to the people on the ground and can't be sussed out from websites etc. Well, places you are not going to fit can probably be sussed out with enough work.

It's largely a matter of dumb stupid luck like most important things in life. :) Frustrating when we've been led to believe that it's our hardwork and genius that entitles us to success.

Popkin said...

"In fact, I frankly doubt that there is much (if any) correlation between Leiter ranking, for example, and landing jobs. But, feel free to produce actual data to prove me wrong."

I don't think there's much question that candidates from highly ranked departments have an easier time getting good jobs. For evidence you need only look over the Leiter hiring threads.

Euthyphronics said...

Jaded, I thought 2:29 was commenting on 2:05, not your original post.

Popkin: depending on "good jobs", I think that's absolutely right. But I thought 4:19 was commenting about Leitterific candidates getting *any* jobs. "If you got a "top" job, you're probably from a Leiterrific school" is consistent with "If you got any job at all, it's equal odds as to your school's leiter ranking."

Actually, I think there are four things to be looking at here:

(1) Odds of being from a "top" school given that you get a (TT?) job first year on the market.

(2) Odds of being from a "top" school given that you get a "top" (TT) job first year on the market.

(3) Odds of being from a "top" school given that you get a (TT?) job... ever.

(4) Odds of being from a "top" school given that you get a "top" (TT) job... ever.

My suspicion is that the answers to (1) is "about even" (maybe slightly in favor of the Leiterrific schools), and (2) is "high". I also suspect the numbers reverse over time: (3) is "high" (but not as high as (2)), and (4) is "about even".

(Evidence for my suspicion on (4) comes primarily from looking at the CVs of superstars and asking how many of them went to places that were "top" schools for their time.)

The big question, of course, is:

Odds that you get a _____ job given that you are from a _____ school,

which is the number that really matters. But you won't get that data by looking at Leiter job postings, because he doesn't list those who strike out.

Anonymous said...

6:12: Of course top programmes get more people into `good' schools, but I think 4:19 was suggesting that overall chances of employment might not be correlated to rankings, and that seems right to me. My Leiterrific school produces quite a few people who never get a job - we have great luck placing people in top-20 jobs, and little success in getting people into lower-ranked places (in the States, at least). A teaching-focussed school would probably bin my application in seconds, no matter how I tailored it.

Anonymous said...


If your reply is meant to respond to the quoted claim, rather than just add to it in some way, then:

(a) It depends on what you consider to be a “good” job.
(b) What you say could be true even if Leiter ranking doesn’t correlate with jobs.

Let’s assume that a “good job” is a TT job. The postings on the Leiter thread are, I suspect, somewhat biased toward Leiter ranked schools. (For example, I don’t recall seeing many CC jobs posted on past threads.)

Ignoring potential bias, looking at this year’s thread, I do not think that it is evident that candidates from highly ranked departments have an easier time getting good jobs. For that we would need to decide what counts as “highly ranked,” then figure out how many candidates are on the market from highly ranked departments and departments that are not highly ranked. That information is simply not available from the thread.

Focusing on the question of correlation, we don’t need to decide what “highly ranked” amounts to: We can just go by the general Leiter ranking numbers. Again, however, it is not evident that there is a correlation. We would still need to know how many people are on the market from each of the programs. Even ignoring that, it still isn’t clear that there is a correlation between TT job postings and Leiter ranking.

Focusing on TT jobs for candidates from Departments in the US, reading down the Gourmet Report list (ignoring ties so as not to systematically raise the rankings), and continuing the numbers past those tied for 48 (so past 53), here is what we have:

Rutgers (2)
Princeton (3)
Harvard (6)
MIT (6)
Stanford (9)
Stanford (9)
Columbia (13)
University of Arizona (14)
University of Texas, Austin (20)
University of Texas, Austin (20)
Indiana University (23)
Ohio State University (27)
University of Pennsylvania (32)
Northwestern University (41)
Northwestern (41)
Boston University (48)
University of Missouri (51)
University of Rochester (52)
Saint Louis University (56)
Oklahoma (62)
Emory (unranked)
Kentucky (unranked)
Tennessee (unranked)

I’ll try to run the stats to see if there is a correlation later today. Eyeballing it, though, it simply isn’t clear to me that there is. So, there are more unranked than top 5, the same number of ranked over 50 as 6-10, more in the 40s than the teens, and more in the 20s than the 30s. Taking the breakdowns in groups of ten (1-10, 11-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, 51+) here are the numbers:

1-10: 6
11-20: 4
21-30: 2
31-40: 1
41-50: 3
50+: 7

Based on this, if there is a positive correlation, it is slight.

Looking at it another way: If we breakdown “highly ranked” at 15, then there are eight candidates from highly ranked programs that got TT jobs so far… and there are 15 candidates from not-highly-ranked programs that got TT jobs this year.

Without knowing the numbers of candidates from different programs, and suspecting that this list is incomplete and perhaps biased with regard to Leiter ranking, I’m not convinced.

Popkin said...

"Looking at it another way: If we breakdown “highly ranked” at 15, then there are eight candidates from highly ranked programs that got TT jobs so far… and there are 15 candidates from not-highly-ranked programs that got TT jobs this year"

There are many, many more not-highly-ranked programs than highly-ranked programs. So the numbers you point to are indeed evidence that your chances of getting a good job are much greater if you come from a highly-ranked program.

Anonymous said...

Much greater? That requires numbers to establish: Not just of programs, but of the number of people they put on the market.

Let's ignore the unranked programs so that we can get roughly even numbers of programs. Using Anonymous 4:27's counts for the 53 Leiter ranked schools, cutting in half and giving #27 to the bottom half, we get 11 for the top half and 7 for the bottom half (with another 5 off the list).

By that, you are more likely to get a job coming from the top half. Maybe you even want to say that those 4 jobs make the chance much greater given the low numbers. But: That assumes that the programs put out equal numbers of graduates and that the jobs we are seeing posted aren't biased toward the top half. Is it the case that both of these assumptions are obviously correct?

As I understood it, you were responding to a claim about the correlation between Leiter ranking and getting a job. You claimed that the Leiter thread provides clear evidence that people from highly ranked departments have an easier time getting jobs. But, it doesn't do that unless we make some other assumptions. And it seems like we could make assumptions that go either way. Further, it doesn’t obviously establish the correlation at issue in any straightforward way: Right now, more people in the bottom half of the top ten landed tenure track jobs than the top half, more people from the departments tied for 48th at the bottom of the rankings have landed tenure track jobs than those in the top five, and so on.

It just doesn’t seem as obvious to me that pedigree (as defined by Leiter rankings) makes the sort of difference that it is often claimed to with regard to just getting tenure track jobs.

Popkin said...

Anon 9:01, you seem to be missing the point. If you define "highly ranked" as falling within the top 15, then there are 15 highly ranked programs in the U.S. and hundreds of not-highly-ranked programs. Consequently, there are many, many times more job seekers coming from not-highly-ranked programs than from highly ranked programs. Yet, by 4:27's numbers, of the jobs listed on the Leiter thread, 8 went to candidates from highly ranked programs while 15 went to candidates from not-highly-ranked programs. So, candidates from highly ranked programs are hugely overrepresented; so clearly your chances of getting a good job are much greater if you come from a highly-ranked program.

zombie said...

I think it is safe to say that the Leiter list of hires is not a comprehensive list, and we cannot safely extrapolate from the limited data there what is going on beyond Leiter. I know of individuals last year who were hired, but did not post on Leiter. I posted my fellowship myself last year -- my dept does not seem to bother with such things.
My guess is that the top depts are more Leiter-conscious, and more likely to brag about their hires on Leiter than the lower ranked depts. Maybe their placement advisors are just better organized. (The one at my school last year was worse than useless.)

If I'm right, then we are seeing a skewing of the data in favor of top programs, so it should be expected that it appears that more candidates from top programs get hired. The non-Leiter depts just don't represent.

Hanuman said...

While I'm very happy to see people using actual data to get to the bottom of this, don't you think it would be better to use last year's thread at this point? I take that it's hard to measure the impact of going to a Leiterrific school if we don't yet know the outcomes for everybody.

Still, kudos to Anon 4:27 for compiling those stats.

Jaded Dissertator said...

Why are we talking about pedigree again? Besides having nothing to do with my post, aren't we sick of it?

The real issue that I see with pedigree entering into the decision of SCs is that insofar as SCs' views about pedigree are correlated with the Leiter Rankings and these rankings reflect sociological facts about philosophy as a discipline as much as they reflect the quality of philosophical education, then this seems unreasonable.

However, it's an open question as to whether or not SCs really take Leiter Rankings to reflect pedigree or not. I would hope they would take letters from the people who have bred us and our dissertations over the past 3 years to be a better mark of pedigree than they do a survey about essentially what's hot and what's not in philosophy as decided by the very people instituting and taking the survey.

Still, that's not the issue I was highlighting with the post. The issue is that no matter what SCs tell us post-hoc about how pedigree or anything else enters into their decision procedures, I think what matters ultimately is that they find your project interesting and compelling. There's a lot that goes into that other than pedigree and while we can't do anything *now* about who are philosophical parents are, we can make our applications awesome in the other obvious ways.

Xenophon said...

But you won't get that data by looking at Leiter job postings, because he doesn't list those who strike out.

I wish he did list people who struck out, because then I'd finally make his list. (Actually, I would have made it four or five times by now.)

Anonymous said...

Exactly right, zombie: The Leiter thread just doesn't tell us much.

Popkin: Even ignoring the bias issue, based on what arbitrary decision you make about what counts as "high ranking" versus "medium" ranking, etc., the Leiter thread can be used to support the claim that the highs do better or that the mediums do better and so on. Further, just about whatever way you carve it up, we can make up reasonable numbers for candidate output such that the "highs" would be worse off. And that is the whole point: The Leiter thread really doesn't provide clear evidence for your claim.

Example arbitrary division:

High = top 19
Medium = 20 to 52

42% of high programs placing someone in a TT job that is posted versus 31% of medium programs.

Looks good for your claim. But, suppose that the high programs average 4 candidates each while the mediums average 3. Then highs got posted TT jobs at a 10% clip and mediums got posted TT jobs at a 10% clip. Now it looks like it doesn’t matter.


High = Top 5 (40%)
Good = 6-15 (60%)
Medium = 16-30 (27%)
Low = 31-50 (27%)

Doesn't look so good for the arbitrary highs, but better than for the arbitrary mediums and lows. Suppose that highs average 4 candidates, goods 3, and the rest 2. Then candidates from high ranked schools have gotten posted TT jobs at a 10% clip, very goods at a 20% clip, and goods / mediums at a 13% clip. Looks like the highs aren't doing so well.

But, JD is right: The pedigree stuff gets old.

Anonymous said...

Re: why the conversation has shifted in the way it has:

Aren't there studies that show when things go well, we are inclined to explain our success with reference to that we can control and when things go poorly, we tend to explain that with reference to things that are out of our control?

Anonymous said...

I'm trolling for some insight into the appropriateness of this idea of 'fit'. In my department, this notion is regularly and often decisively deployed as a criticism of candidates. When pressed, there's invariably no substance to it, beyond, I don't like him, or she does stuff I don't understand/find intimidating. Maybe I'm asking for an inappropriate level of precision. However, my suspicion is that the notion of fit is bullshit. Any ideas from either side of the process?

Anon 4:27 said...

Using the listings / rankings above and excluding the unranked schools, a linear regression of number of jobs on Leiter rank gives a negative coefficient, although it is not significant and the amount of variance “explained” by Leiter rank is very small (1.4%).

Going just off of what is on the current year’s Leiter thread, it looks like department ranking *might* matter a little for landing a TT job, but really not very much. Of course, for the reasons that have been stated in previous posts, this really doesn’t tell us much (isn’t all of the jobs, don’t know number of candidates from each program). Compiling data from previous years would be better, although the problem of not knowing how many candidates are on the market from each department and that there is likely some biasing in what gets posted would still be issues.

lm(formula = ~ L.rank)

Min, 1Q, Median, 3Q, Max
-0.4147, -0.2990, -0.1216, 0.1192, 0.8260

Estimate, Std. Error, t value, Pr(>|t|)
(Intercept) 1.427029, 0.195373, 7.304, 3.88e-06 ***
L.rank -0.006171, 0.005604, -1.101, 0.289


Signif. codes: 0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1

Residual standard error: 0.4441 on 14 degrees of freedom

Multiple R-squared: 0.07971
Adjusted R-squared: 0.01397
F-statistic: 1.213 on 1 and 14 DF, p-value: 0.2894

Popkin said...

Anon 11:19, the issue isn't the "highs" vs. the "mediums"; it's candidates coming from highly ranked departments vs. everyone else.

I apologize for my part in sidetracking the thread. I just find the suggestion (repeated by a couple different people here) that pedigree might not have such a big influence on one's chances of getting a good job totally nutty.

Filosofer said...

Anon 11:49:

I can only appeal to a very small sample (I've served on exactly one search committee, and I've got a little bit of information about why I was hired myself), but my own experience indicates that the idea of "fit" is not bullshit at all. Here are some of the respects in which one might be thought to be a good fit for the philosophy department at University X:

--The U of X is located in a relatively undesirable place (say, a small town several hours from the nearest major city). You're from the area, and as a result we've got reason to believe that you're going to stick around for a long time. At the very least, we've got reason to believe that you won't be sending out applications every fall like our last assistant professor was.

--The U of X is a Catholic school, and you went to a similar Catholic school. We're confident you "get" the personality of our institution, even though we don't know (or particularly care) if you're Catholic yourself.

--The U of X is an R1 institution. We have fifteen philosophy professors on our faculty. Our ad says "AOS: open," but your dissertation on Duns Scotus indicates that you're a better fit for our department than Candidate B (who wrote on noncognitivism in metaethics) because we think we have a shot to develop a Center for Medieval Studies a few years down the road. Your presence would increase the odds.

--The U of X is a very small private school. You did your undergraduate degree at a similar school. We think you're likely to be a better fit than the candidate who was educated exclusively at large state schools.

--The U of X admits a lot of academically underprepared students. We see from your c.v. that you were an adjunct at a community college while in grad school, and the teaching evaluations you sent along indicate that the students there really liked you. Looks like you may be a better fit than the Cornell grad who's taught only Cornell students.

--Our ad says "AOS open," and we don't have any particular specializations we're looking for, but there are only three philosophers on our faculty. One of them does Continental stuff, and the other does mostly ethics. Your AOS in metaphysics indicates that you might be a good fit insofar as you'd add diversity to our course offerings.

--We have tons of nursing majors at the U of X. They have to take an applied ethics course offered through our department. Our ad says "AOC: Applied Ethics," but we think you're a better fit than Candidate B, because, although B taught an applied ethics course while working on her PhD, her dissertation is on Kantian ethics and her only applied ethics conference presentations are on issues surrounding criminal justice and punishment. Your dissertation is also on Kant, but you gave a conference paper on abortion and claim to have a paper in progress dealing with euthanasia. We suspect you'd be a better fit insofar as your interests appear to dovetail with the professional interests of our nursing majors.

And so on.

To be clear, I'm not claiming that all of the above conceptions of fit are mutually consistent, nor am I claiming that a job seeker ought to feel happy about being rejected in favor of someone who appears to be a better fit in one of the senses above. All I'm claiming is that the idea of fit isn't bullshit, in at least these two ways: it can have a reasonably clear meaning, and (I daresay) it's not unreasonable for a SC that needs to winnow a stack of 200 applications down to 40 to employ "fitness" as a criterion.

Anonymous said...

"Fit" is extremely important, but many times the perceived "fit" is beyond the control of the candidates.

We were down to two people in a search a couple years ago and the deciding factor in who we made the offer to was that two people on the committee thought that one of the two finalists "just seemed a little weird." "Why?" "I can't put my finger on it..." "Okay, well, we'll go with the other guy."

Seriously. The guy seemed perfectly normal to me...

zombie said...

Academic hires are somewhat anomalous -- there aren't a lot of jobs where a committee of your potential peers decide (or have a lot to say about) who gets the job. So I can believe that "fit," or as they say in Mr. Zombie's biz, "the hang" actually matters some to the people making a decision about someone they hope to be working with for many years to come.
Justifying that decision to the administration is also a matter of "fit." At my recent fly-out, a lot of the questions the dean and VP asked me had to do with fit. Like, how would I deal with nontraditional students who are not full-time students, and who have jobs and families in addition to school?
Fit, broadly conceived, matters. And being "a little weird" might be good or bad in terms of fit, depending on the culture of the dept. I tend to think it is not a bad thing that fit is considered -- you want to feel comfortable in a place if you plan on being there for much of your career. As they say in Japan, "the nail that sticks out gets hammered down."

Asstro said...

Is some of this stuff really all that different than any other job market? I can tell you from experience that my wife, who used to work in business, once struck a person off her list because he answered a telephone call in the middle of their interview. On one hand, that's a dumb reason. On the other hand, she took it as bad business etiquette -- part of the whole package. Mind you, this was for a position with a considerably higher salary than some of our most senior and established people in philosophy make.

Sure, it'd be nice to think that academics hire the very best candidate for the job and don't fall victim to the silly vagaries of bias and prejudice, but many factors go into a determination of the very best candidate. These aren't always limited to lines on the CV and they don't always include bias and prejudice. I think Filosopher summed it up pretty well.

When I evaluate a job candidate, I evaluate the whole package, including the fit -- for the job as advertised, for our needs as a department, for the dean, for the university, and for me. Maybe that's strange, but we all want someone who will work well with everyone else. That requires that the candidate be amazing and that the candidate will be able to make tenure. We do not want to go through the hiring process over again in another three years.

Being amazing is therefore one requirement of any applicant to any job. You must be amazing at research if you're interviewing at an R1, you must be amazing at teaching if you're a candidate at a teaching school, and you must be amazing at stupid shit if you're a candidate for a job in business.

Anonymous said...

Asstro's right again. I'd add: I think there is cognitive dissonance between the expectations that are trained into graduate students (the only criterion that matters is my work) and the way things work in the "real world."

I think much of this is frustration at how people make decisions when there isn't a single set of clear qualitative criteria (grades) and where personality and behavior matter, on a day to day basis, more sometimes than awesomeness.

We invest so much of our identities in being awesome students for the pat on the head from our betters and then our peers, that the discovery that other things we haven't paid any attention to might actually be more important than our transcripts feels like a rip-off.

Anonymous said...

"I think they do, but I think their decision procedure is this: "Which application do I find most interesting and the best fit?" and this varies wildly across schools and maybe even within SCs."

This is what I've been telling people all along, and, honestly, maybe they will listen to you, because no one listens to me, even though I've actually been on a search committee, once.