Friday, November 5, 2010

On being foreign and attending the APA

A pressing question from fellow Smoker, H:
I am a European postdoctoral philosopher, just returned from a conference in the United States. Given the dismal state of the job market in Europe (hardly any tenure-track positions), I am now trying to expand my line of vision to see if I can't get a position in the US. One of the attendees of the conference, an associate professor at an American university, encouraged me to attend the APA Eastern division meeting this winter. He said it was called the 'meat market', and that one could get into contact with people who were looking to hire, and that one could even learn about jobs that were not advertised in the APA jobs for philosophers. I am now applying to TT positions advertised in the jobs for philosophers, but I am wondering whether I would gain anything by attending the APA conference anyway, even if I did not get any invitations for interviews.

Also, the same associate professor mentioned that as a European, I would be in a somewhat disadvantaged position when applying to the US market.

Any thoughts?

My thoughts are: no interviews, no APA. The pickings will be few and far between for the jobs looking to schedule interviews at the conference. I might be wrong. About if being European places you at a disadvantage: I'm not sure about that. Surely departments would have to jump through a bit more hoops to hire you, but I don't think it would be a deal breaker were you already at the top of the list. Or, so I hope it wouldn't.

Anyone else want to weigh in and disagree, speak up in the comments.

-- Jaded Dissertator


Mr. Zero said...

I think there is some value to attending the E-APA even if you don't have interviews, but not because you might pick up an interview once you're there. The chances of that working are so low that it couldn't possibly be worth the costs of attending. Especially if you have to fly in from Europe.

Ben said...

I've never been on the American market, so I can't speak with much authority, but I think there are two respects in which Europeans may be at a disadvantage, though only contingently:

1) The top R1 schools aren't so bothered about teaching, but if a SLAC is a more realistic position then it's worth remembering that they value a rather distinctive American 'liberal arts' education which, to my knowledge, isn't so common in Europe. I understand that these schools may favour candidates who come themselves from a liberal arts background, even ahead of those from Ivy League or R1 institutions (who they fear won't be committed to their ideals). It's quite likely, I'd have thought, that they will look sceptically on foreigners.

2) My understanding is that name recognition plays a significant role in shortlisting. This applies both to institution and letter writers. Of course, a European need not be disadvantaged if they attend a well-known European institution (e.g. Oxford) or have big-name European referees. It would probably be even better to have at least one American-based referee, who may be better known to the search committee, though. (Here there's also an issue that American letters of recommendation tend to be even more inflated than European, or at least British, ones.)

zombie said...

The advice my department gave me was, if you don't have any interviews, don't go to APA.

There is a (lame) mechanism for submitting dossiers to schools that are interviewing, but to my knowledge, no one ever actually gets an interview out of that. I suppose if you are an obvious potential philosophy superstar who just emerged from a coma and thus missed all the application deadlines but are now fully recovered, you might get an interview. But I wouldn't count on it otherwise. And given the expense of going to APA, I wouldn't go without an interview.

Departments are NOT just going to secretly tell you about a job they have that hasn't been advertised. For one thing, they're not going to be at APA just scouting around. Schools pay their search committees to attend APA, and it's a big expense, so nobody's going there just on a whim. For another thing, nobody hires that way anymore because of legal/HR/govt requirements about advertising positions. I recall some discussion last year about the issue of visas, and that for someone to be eligible for a US work visa, the hiring dept has to have advertised the position IN PRINT (and not merely online, and certainly not merely by word of mouth). It is also quite expensive, as I understand it, to get a US work visa (thousands of dollars), so schools probably don't want to have to foot that bill in this economy.

That said, I have been hired for jobs based on word of mouth and on the recommendation of people in my grad dept who got calls from a colleague at a nearby school. But those were adjunct jobs. You cannot get a TT job that way anymore, and you wouldn't immigrate to the US just for an adjunct job.

Things may be a little different with Canadian schools, which get most of their money from the federal government (and where visas are much cheaper). I currently work in Canada. To hire a foreigner, they have to do paperwork showing that there were no qualified Canadians. However, they are also very willing to hire non-Canadians and have been known to pay pretty big bucks to buy superstar overseas talent.

improfound said...

One huge disadvantage Europeans face is letters of recommendation. European letter writers (especially those from continental Europe) write very short, matter-of-fact letters. American search committees expect long, detailed, glowing letters.

I seriously doubt the visa costs would deter any institution from hiring you. At the worst, they would simply require you to pay those costs yourself. I know several academics who have had to do this. It's also sometimes preferable, though that's a comment for a different thread.

Anonymous said...

I know of two people who have gotten interviews from onsite applications at the APA. One of those people actually got the job. So, the value of those onsite applications is not zero. But, I don't think this is a particularly good reason to fly over from Europe.

Anonymous said...

To summarize:
1. Europeans face no disadvantage because they're Europeans, for they are measured by the same criteria as the other candidates.
2. Europeans will, however, generally speaking do poorly measured by these criteria. - If they're from an unknown university, advised by an unknown professor, have a hard time with written English, offer realistic letters of recommendation, etc. then they won't stand a chance. This is true for Europeans and Americans alike, but will be true of most Europeans, wherefore few Europeans will succeed in landing a job at an American University.

Good luck to all.

Anonymous said...

"I currently work in Canada. To hire a foreigner, they have to do paperwork showing that there were no qualified Canadians."

Let's not play into the fear that Canadian Departments prioritize Canadians (as the quote and their ads suggest). Hiring a non-Canadian is as hard as doing the search that every US department does, then signing a from at the end that say that the person they are hiring was better than any Canadian. It is nothing but a governmental requirement that it routinely ignored (with the exception of filling out the form).

As for Europeans at the APA: the onsite jobs are VERY rare, and all unattractive. Europeans tend to be overlooked because it's harder to compare them (unless you, or your letter writers, are widely published in well known journals, or we are talking about the English part of Europe).

Don't got to the APA without an interview. $10 Buds won't even allow you the pleasure of drowning your sorrow.

Anonymous said...

Imprecise said:

"I seriously doubt the visa costs would deter any institution from hiring you. At the worst, they would simply require you to pay those costs yourself. I know several academics who have had to do this. It's also sometimes preferable, though that's a comment for a different thread."

It is illegal for an employer to have an employee pay the costs of an H-1B visa. I doubt there are many universities out there willing to break the law on this issue, and I am sure most or all HR departments are aware of this requirement. I suspect Improfound has no idea what he or she is talking about.

On the broader question: I became a U.S. Resident about half way through the one-year job market last year, and started advertising that fact on my CV. I noticed a distinct increase in the proportion of positive responses to my applications after I had done so. It's possible that was a coincidence, but, given the numbers, I doubt it.

Also, at all three of my campus interviews, the HR departments asked me about my residency status. One state university told me they could not hire me unless I had authorization to work in the U.S., although they had not stated that in their original ad.

zombie said...

"Let's not play into the fear that Canadian Departments prioritize Canadians (as the quote and their ads suggest)."

I don't think I was playing into any fears. Are there fears? I stated that they have to fill out paperwork, but that they are perfectly willing to hire non-Canadians. Which is why I suggested that it might actually be easier (and less expensive) for a European applicant to get a job in Canada.

"Canadians first" is a Canadian federal policy, but it is not iron-clad. I happen to know, because I was told so by my supervisor, that they are required to do two searches. The first job search has to fail to find a suitable Canadian for the job, at which point, they have to do a second search (which just amounts to advertising the position again), and can hire a non-Canadian after doing some paperwork stating that they could not find a qualified Canadian. This is not a hugely onerous requirement. And a Canadian work visa only costs a couple hundred bucks.

Anonymous said...

I am a prof at a relatively major Canadian university. I've been involved in a number of searches and seen both Canadians and US citizens hired. We have never done multiple searches to hire the US citizens. They just happened to be our first choice. In one search our top Canadian choice was roughly tied with our top non-Canadian choice. There was some discussion that we might want to give the Canadian some priority. But I'm pretty sure the Canadian would have been picked even without that consideration.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Canadian universities: It used to be the case that departments had to do two searches in order to higher a non-Canadian.The first search considered only Canadians and demonstrated that there were no qualified Canadians. The second search was an international search. This practice ended about 10 years ago, with a change in how Immigration Canada ruled that it had been established that there were no more qualified Canadians. This has greatly simplified the hiring process. And indeed, non-Canadians should certainly apply to Canadian jobs. The principle in hiring, and at Immigration Canada, is that the best candidate gets the job.

And to correct another piece of misinformation: Canadian universities are funded by provincial governments -- education is a provincial and not a federal mandate. What the federal government does fund is research grants.

Anonymous said...

So we now have a pretty complete picture of the Canadian process.
Have we answered the original question? APA only if you have an interview?

Anonymous said...

Here's the original poster: Thank you to everyone for your input. I'll only attend if I have an interview, and so can potentially save a lot of money.

Anonymous said...

My U.S. department hired a western European a year before 9/11 and the paperwork then was onerous. As with the Canadian discussion, we had to certify that no U.S. legal resident or citizen was qualified for the job, and that was not merely a pro forma signature; we really had to make the case.

Although we started the paperwork in February of that calendar year, the H1B visa did not come through until late August. I understand that post-9/11, it takes even longer and new hires often have to postpone their start date by a full semester or even a year on my campus.

In reviewing applications from European candidates, we have found it difficult to assess the degree, as most European graduate programs do not have the coursework/transcript that we are familiar with. So the reference letter from the dissertation advisor is even more important than it ordinarily is (which is very important).

As applicants pay their own way to APA meetings for our screening interviews, cost to us is not an issue at that juncture. But we pay their travel costs for finalist visits to our campus, so we need to be convinced they are serious candidates and that we are very interested in them.

As we are a teaching institution and ability to communicate well with our students is essential, their English fluency at the APA screening is relevant. The one we did hire long ago had several publications in English-language journals, along with many in their own language, which was significant for us. Those English-language off-prints enabled us to assess the research, but also told us something about English fluency.

juniorperson said...


You might well be right about institutions having to pay the costs of a visa; I suspect you ARE right here, given your experiences.

BUT I think that it's worth noting that there are costs AND costs of visas. The US Government fees need to be paid by the institution hiring you; but (in my experience) the greatest costs of securing US visas (I had a year-long work experience visa, an H1B and now a Green Card) are legal--and the institutions I've worked at didn't cover these.

Moreover, institutions can vary in their attitudes towards non-Americans. My former institution CLAIMED profusely that they would cover my legal fees when recruiting me from another TT position, but when it came down to it the HR department even refused to meet with me to discuss filling in THEIR paperwork for my application (and I was told outright by my Chair that "foreigners" shouldn't be working there while Americans didn't have jobs. Nice. And I wasn't the only person who got this treatment...) By contrast, my current institution offered to pay part of my legal fees for a Green Card through marriage, since they'd otherwise had spent money on legal fees for a work-based Green Card. A very different experience....

Tangential to the main discussion, sure--but worth knowing!

imprecise said...

Yeah, I was imprecise and Anon 7:44 is right. My bad. I had in mind the legal fees that are often involved with visa applications. These are, to be sure, optional, but if you really, really need your shit to go through on time, it's way better to visit an immigration lawyer. Sometimes you can get help from the university's general counsel, but depending on their experience with immigration law, this can actually hurt you as they provide bad advice.

Anonymous said...

Improfound, this claim of yours:

"I seriously doubt the visa costs would deter any institution from hiring you. At the worst, they would simply require you to pay those costs yourself. I know several academics who have had to do this. It's also sometimes preferable, though that's a comment for a different thread." completely false for some obvious reasons.

Costs could deter insitutions with no real budget from hiring -- I'm thinking primarily of community/junior colleges and some state universities which suffer from the same kind of underfunding as CCs. At my CC, we simply do not accept applications from candidates who are not legal to work in the US because, as was mentioned earlier, the employer is required to pay for certain visas and paperwork, and typically does so by keeping an attorney on retainer to handle these issues. Some schools simply cannot afford that expense.

Anonymous said...

To my knowledge, a couple of top research schools hired last year a couple of Europeans as assistant professors. I want to add, though, they received phds from the programs in US. But I also assume they still need working visas to stay in US. So schools sometimes bother to obtain new visas for foreign scholars.

zombie said...

How about posting that cancellation on the Phylo wiki so others can know about it?

There's nothing currently posted as cancelled there.