Monday, June 14, 2010

Send Me a Postcard—Drop Me a Line—Stating Point of View

An interesting fact about last fall's job search is that I have heard back from most of the departments I applied to. An email; a letter; a postcard; something. But I haven't heard anything from the departments I actually interviewed with. Not a peep. Not even a response to an email I sent letting them know about how I got a new publication after they interviewed me.

I mean, I get it. I know I didn't get the job. I didn't get a campus visit, and here it is Flag Day already. I know they hired somebody else. It's obvious.

But that's exactly why they owe me the courtesy of a kindly-worded PFO. They expressed an interest in me. They said, "We think you might be a good fit here; we'd like to interview you." If the people who were never interested in me can let me know that I didn't get the job (like, duh), why can't the people who were, kind of?

--Mr. Zero


Anonymous said...

A couple thoughts:
(a) get over it/take a hint. (Insert analogy with dating interest who stops returning calls.)
(b) weird shit happens sometimes. Two years ago I got an interview offer in JUNE for a TT job starting in August; someone had been hired, Leiter-reported, and then backed out (of academia). A colleague of mine got an interview request for a TT job the fall after the year he applied. Those are the sorts of exceptions that prove the rule, but still, maybe there's a reason some places don't send out anything until the new hire walks through the door in August...

(word verification: dismss)

Anonymous said...

I'm someone who barely hung on to get a half-time TT job that evolved into a livable position--so I can't complain. But I distinctly remember making 70+ applications in one year way back when, and I got precisely one interview--my present job--and two acknowledgements of received application and one of those as followup of interest in my app. The black holes of received apps with no response were well at work then--so I'm not surprised that the comportment of academia hasn't evolved much since. I am happy to report that my department sends well-worded PFOs to any disappointed applicants as standard policy. And we ain't brightened by any Leiter-star lumination by a long shot.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you'd think they could bother to let you know, and the fact that they might still be keeping you in mind (in case the person they hired backs out or in case they secure funding for a second line or whatever) doesn't mean they can't say something.

The most charitable reading I can think of is that they're paranoid. (One administrator offered me the following as advice once: you can be sued for unintentionally saying the wrong thing to the candidate you didn't hire, but you can't be sued for keeping your mouth shut.)

ModalPontiff said...

Maybe departments should start hiring some of those professional job terminators (yeah like the George Clooney from Up in the Air) for these sorts of things.

"I think you should take into consideration all the possibilities that are available to you."
Philosopher's Response: "In which world?"

Anonymous said...

I've been reading this blog for a while (since the job market started in October) and I haven't figured out what "PFO" means.

Please enlighten.

Mr. Zero said...

Please Fuck Off

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify for Anon 8:04, Mr Zero was mentioning, not using, the expression 'Please Fuck Off'. Don't be offended.

Anonymous said...

This year I had a fly-out (after an interview, of course). After two weeks of not hearing from them I wrote asking what their timeline is, though I stressed there was no particular rush. They replied saying they're still "in the process" but would let me know as soon as they made a decision. I never heard from them again. No contact after an interview and a fly-out? Outrageously rude.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to spawn any false hopes, but one reason they may not have yet said anything, even if they did offer the job to someone else, and even if that someone else has accepted the job offer, is that this person hasn't yet moved into town and set up shop. Hey, for all they know, this person could back out on them, get seriously ill, or die, or whatever. It's only the middle of June!

Granted, you may not get anything once this person is firmly ensconced, either - but as an earlier comment pointed out, they lose nothing by saying nothing. They haven't said anything, so they could always come to you with an offer if they were in dire need (even if it was just a matter of some other adjunct dropping off the face of the earth, and not the job you applied for at all).

Is it lame? Yes.

Unethical? Perhaps.

Will it ever change? No. (Because the APA will never act to change this state of affairs...)

Anonymous said...

I had thought that PFO was "politely, fuck off". I like that better than "please fuck off", but maybe that's for P,FO. But, then again, shouldn't it be "Please, fuck off"? It's not as if you are requested to please, pleasure, entertain, etc... old fuck off sitting in the corner over there.

PA said...

I'm still waiting for a PFO (or anything) from a school which flew me out in 1999.

Mr. Zero said...

Anon 5:17,

get over it/take a hint.

I think I pretty explicitly have taken the hint. I know I didn't get the job. That it is so obvious that I didn't get the job why I don't see why they can't do me the courtesy of a nice note thanking me for my time and telling me to please fuck off.

Insert analogy with dating interest who stops returning calls.

For a variety of reasons, I think the analogy is inapt. My relationship with these people is professional in nature, so standards for professional courtesy apply.

anon 9:00,

Thanks. I totally should have put it in single quotes. This is totally the sort of situation for which they were designed.

Anon 8:04,

Just so there's no confusion, Anon 9:00 is right. I was not telling you to please fuck off.

Xenophon said...

The people who think departments are waiting for the person they hired to arrive on campus: you may be right that that's what departments are thinking. But how could they be thinking that? Are they assuming that you're more likely to be available, if they call in July, if you haven't received a PFO from them? That you've given up other offers of empployment reasoning "well, I'm still in the running at school X because they haven't told me to fuck off yet"? If so, then wouldn't it be more kind to put the poor candidate out of his misery, because the chances are good he'll be waiting for a long, long time. In any case, a candidate who's still looking for work won't be upset if he gets a PFO in April, and then a call in June saying the previously hired candidate backed out, would you like the job?

I'm still waiting for a PFO (or anything) from a school which flew me out in 1999..

And Mike Shanahan is still waiting to get paid by the Raiders for the 1989 season.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

I suppose one of the real questions here to be one of power (as if that weren't obvious), and also one of culture.

POWER: What would happen if every single person who interviewed at APA or got a fly-out and who DIDN'T get a job offer and didn't hear anything, then called the department to ask what was up (after, say, 2 or 3 months), and, upon hearing there had already been a hire made, then chided them, politely, for their lack of professionalism in not sending notice ... ?

But this won't happen, because those in this position (a) lack any real solidarity, albeit possessing a collective sympathy for those in their same position (b) are afraid to berate or even say anything to the universities/colleges in question (even to call and ask if a decision has been made yet), because they are still on the job market and don't want to damage their chances by offending anyone or by getting a reputation as a "troublemaker."

The colleges and universities, feeling no negative blowback for their actions, will continue on in the same policies.

CULTURE: To see how it COULD be done, I contrast this with an experience I had some years back as a freshly minted Ph.D. on a fellowship in Germany. In late January, I heard about a position at the Universitaet van Amsterdam.

As the position was equivalent to asst. Prof., I knew my chances were slim, since my list of publications was short and my teaching experience was limited to what I had done as a grad student, but I decided to apply anyway.

The job ad asked ONLY for two things: 1.) A letter of intent and 2.) A copy of the CV, including a list of those professors who could recommend the candidate. All of this, mind you, was to be sent via E-mail (thus at no cost whatsoever to the applicant).

I can only note what a nice easy app this was, as opposed to the 30-40 pages sent by mail plus 3 already-written letters of recommendation most American universities require (and which few of them read). I finished it at my desk one Friday, a few days before the deadline, in under 2 hours. I mean, after all, why CAN'T they make an initial decision regarding a 'short list' based just on the CV and on who this person studied with?

The job ad also stated that those applying would hear back 3 weeks after the deadline. 3 weeks TO THE DAY, I got a polite letter from the chair at Amsterdam, saying, basically, "thanks for applying. We had 39 applicants for the position total, and we chose 9 to come present next month to the department, and you weren't among them. Thanks for applying, and good luck in the future." (They were having all 9 come on the same day and present one after the other, as is the style over there.)

It is a measure of the humiliating character of the American-style job search that I was actually made happy by this response and remember it fondly to this day.

While it is obviously unreasonable to expect a school receiving 250 or even 1,000 applications to write letters to all rejected, it is annoying in the extreme that they can't be bothered to write e-mails and/or letters to the 30-40 who make the shorter list. Certainly to the 3-4 who get a fly-out, this seems absolutely necessary.

The APA ought to officially chide the universities and colleges on such practices, but they will never do that. They're still struggling to get them all not to perform interviews in hotel rooms! Troglodytes.

ccst said...

As someone who has run a few searches, I simply cannot imagine not notifying unsuccessful candidates when the process moves on without them. Rationalize all you want to take those departments off the hook; but their inaction is negligent and rude, by any standard of decency.

Anonymous said...

One department invited me for an on-campus interview and then dis-invited me the next day. This was disappointing but downright rude was the department that never bothered to contact me again after a 3 day on-campus interview.

Anonymous said...

5:17 here: Mr. Zero, I totally understand your frustration, and maybe the analogy is inapt, but my point is just that you have better things to do than worry about getting the PFO. I do think it's bad behavior not to notify candidates--especially because it's so easy to do so with e-mail (though perhaps e-mail is too informal? I wouldn't have a problem with it).

On the other hand, NB anon 11:08 (who makes a similar point to my (b) thought). I'm not sure I agree that this behavior is "lame" rather than prudent from the dept's pov, especially since an administration might not approve a new search if this year's search fails (even at the last minute). I would guess that some of the variance in behavior is connected to the particular search experiences of particular departments. I.e. if you had a search/hire blow up in your face in the past, you may choose to be overly cautious in the future. And I'm not sure it would help anyone to send out letters or e-mails of the form, "We've hired someone, but are keeping you in mind in case this person backs out, etc."

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 7:41 [5:17]

my point is just that you have better things to do than worry about getting the PFO.

Haven't you realized yet that griping about the nature, quality, promptness, existence, and even the grammar of the PFO is what this blog is all about?

Try searching "rocking the passive voice" in this blog, or perhaps its predecessor -- I don't keep up that much, as the gripes are only occasionally entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Having managed searches, it is excruciatingly painful to contact applicants with rejections, especially after having met them. Nevertheless, echoing ccst's remarks above, you just do it. We contacted APA interviewees after our fly-outs were decided. We contacted the fly-outs once an offer was out (but not accepted). We contacted the fly-outs once the offer was accepted. Some of this may have been excessive (I understand that some departments prefer, for strategic reasons, to play their cards close to the chest). Still, it seems that many departments are guilty of a serious breach in decorum.

And @Anon 5:17/7:41: Let it go. You misunderstood Mr. Zero. The original post expressed no worries about not receiving a PFO. It was a fairly gentle expression of disapproval toward hiring departments that continue to be so rude.

R. Kevin Hill said...

In the searches I was involved in, remembering the experience of the candidates from my own prior experience as a candidate, I took some care with these responses for a simple reason: my position might've been the candidate's last shot for the year, or life, and their realization that they didn't get the job may be tantamount to learning that their career is over. I feel I owe them all the considerateness I can muster. Most academics, however, don't give the matter a second thought, which tells you something about most academics.