Friday, February 4, 2011

Mass E-mails

Maybe I'm just past the rage portion of being on the job market (for now). It seems like every year I get at least one mass e-mail rejection with the e-mail addresses of a good number of my fellow job candidates cc'd. This year Siena's the culprit. And, every year I've gotten a kindly, (I always believe) heart-felt apology mass e-mail trying to make up for the initial error. I appreciate the apology and all, and I think it's good for departments take responsibility when things screw up. That said, who cares! I mean, I'm still dealing with the deep black gmail 'rejection' label I just applied to the mass e-mail. I knew I didn't get the job. I knew I didn't get an interview for the job. Now I'm officially never getting the job. By the time I get the follow up e-mails, the message is already archived and out of my sight. *SIGH*

Time to go stuff my face with pre-super bowl junk food.

--Second Suitor


Anonymous said...

I got a PFO from USC today that must rank somewhere near the top of most annoying PFOs. I'm not even going to comment on it - I'll leave that to the smokers.

"Dear Applicant,

Thank you for applying for the faculty position in the USC School of Philosophy. I apologize for the impersonal nature of this letter, but I wanted to let you know that the Faculty Recruitment Committee has identified a small number of mostly senior applicants who best fit the needs of the department at this time. These applicants have been contacted for further evaluation.

As you may know already, USC is also offering 2-year post-docs in the humanities, for which you may have applied. Those applications were due February 1st, and will be coming to the department about a week from now for review. If you have applied for that position, this announcement, about your status in our advertised job and search, has no bearing on the post-doc applications that will be coming to us.

Despite the near completion of our search for the advertised position, we will keep your application and resume on file for a short time, and, of course, all information will be kept confidential. Thank you again for your interest, and we wish you the best of luck in pursuing your career."

Anonymous said...

This PFO doesn't strike me as fitting into the 'most annoying' category. At least they were honest and tried to be informative. We are only hiring senior people and if you want to try the postdoc thing then we promise our rejection of you now need not be a wholesale rejection of you later. Fairly annoying, yes; but 'the top of annoying', no. I don't know, maybe I'm so battered that a slight beating begins to actually look like an act of goodwill.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why it's annoying at all

Anonymous said...

I don't get why it is that annoying either. I mean its a bit cumbersome to read around the second paragraph and I suppose a touch annoying if I hadn't applied to the postdoc as well. But certainly not worthy of ranking near the top of most annoying PFO's. What am I missing?

Anonymous said...

Here are the reasons why this is super annoying (I am not the person who originally posted this, but i got the same email and was very annoyed and confused):
This is a mass email targeting both the job applicants and the post-doc applicants. First; come on, can you really not send two emails and not make people read through shit that does not apply to them?
Second, it is February 4, and the deadline for the post-doc was Feb 1, so what is the point of including that information that freaks the hell out of those of us who did not even know that was an option and now missed that deadline?
Third, it does not say clearly that the recipient of this email was not among those candidates that were selected for further evaluation (I thought that they were legally bound to say that).
Fourth and in general, it is wordy, confusing, and makes one's heart rate go up for no reason because it includes useless information (more useless than your average PFO, I would say). This is why it is one of the most annoying PFOs. Out.

zombie said...

I must have gotten a different PFO from Siena (or there is more than one Siena). Mine didn't ID anyone. It was annoyingly addressed to "Philosophy Applicant." I much prefer "Philosophy Reject."

I find the USC PFO annoying because it is too long, and large portions of it are completely irrelevant to the rejection in question. They could have just been really explicit about the position it applies to. A waste of time to read it.

Anonymous said...

So perhaps here's a contender for cheekiest rejection and follow-up. Earlier this week I got a rejection stating "I want to congratulate you for your past accomplishments" - which might have sounded halfway sincere if it hadn't been addressed to "Dear Applicant." Not too bad, all told - just the usual faux-regret, made a little more hollow-sounding by trying too hard.

But today, hilariously, I got an email from the same department. Apparently, they can't complete the search process officially because not enough people submitted their equal opportunity/diversity monitoring forms. So now they've sent out an email to all the rejected candidates asking them, post-rejection, to fill in the form and send it back. I'm tempted to do it just out of admiration for their gall.

Anonymous said...


Let them boil like frogs from their ignorance of harm that should gradually destroy them if their stupid call for help is finally unheard by you and your rejected comrades. Don't let your impulses cool the flames of growing acknowledgment of their stupidity as the return emails don't come in. Doing nothing here does everything that justice finally requires.

Anonymous said...

Does any search chair have the guts to send this letter:

Dear Applicant.


Not Your Future Colleague

If not, what's the shortest, most reasonable, way to say it with out writing "PFO."

zombie said...

Dear You,




zombie said...

Speaking of annoying: I have gotten two separate PFO emails (a few weeks apart) from the same school (a CC), each of them almost immediately followed by an emailed request for more information indicating that my candidacy was proceeding. I question their efficiency and organization. In each case, a follow-up email from me confirmed that I'm still under consideration.

One can only hope that working for them would not similarly be a series of highs and lows and abrupt changes of course.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the worst part of the USC reject: the subject line, which read, "From: USC Recruitment Committee."

Yes, I knew I already lost this job. Yes, I know that a "recruitment committee" may perform different tasks beyond recruitment -- but COME ON! I don't want a single positive indicator to show up in my Inbox's subject lines unless it is actually attached to a positive email.

Did I expect them to say "From: USC Rejection Committee"? No, but it'd be awfully honest and refreshing.

How about: "From: USC Search Committee"?

And, yes, 3:32 is right, I found the second worst part of this PFO was the sending of it right after the postdoc was due and talking all about the postdoc as if to rub it in that us junior people who only applied for the one job clearly shot too high and should have read, "Open Rank" to mean, "Just apply to the PostDoc, dumbass."

By the way, I thought it was ok to out schools. Who the heck did that, 7:49?

Anonymous said...

"It seems like every year I get at least one mass e-mail rejection with the e-mail addresses of a good number of my fellow job candidates cc'd."

I've been on two searches, and both times we've had a number of applicants who failed to cut and paste our university's name into the cover letter they used for another application. But I've yet to have an applicant send an email apologizing for the error.

Anonymous said...

7:49 Do not return that form! That the EEO or EOA or what ever they call it's problem. No one has to send that shit in, and I wouldn't do any extra work for a but of people who cannot even send you an acceptable rejection email.

Anonymous said...

At least Siena apologized. My earlier PFO from Valdosta State (the one that preceded any on-campus interviews, and began "We are pleased to announce that we have hired [person who is not you, but our inside candidate]...")was also mass email style, with everyone's email address visible. There was definitely no apology follow-up. Interestingly, looks like a few of us applied at both places. :(

Anonymous said...

I hardly got any PFOs at all (true, I only applied for 7 jobs since I can afford to be selective, just starting a research-oriented postdoc position). If it weren't for the job wiki I would still be in the dark.

Anonymous said...

7.49 here... It was UC-Riverside who sent the plea for equal opps forms out. Really, at this stage I'm much more amused than insulted - "Please do this so that we can formally complete the process of rejecting you. Yes, that's right, we need you to contribute to the confirmation of your own rejection." Maybe if I don't do it, and they can't officially close the search, it means I'm still in the running!

Anonymous said...

I think that the mass email issue and a number of other SC-candidate communication issues could be resolved by sufficient standardization. So, for instance, when one applies to law school (something I have experience with), one applies through a centralized electronic clearing-house (LSAC). The universities then communicate with released or waitlisted candidates via highly vetted mass-emails (which are not part of the clearinghouse, but could be). This eliminates all variance in expectation as well as all mistakes by overtaxed (and often technologically inept) SC members.

Xenophon said...

I haven't heard from any of the schools I got first-round interviews with. I know it's not too late to give up all hope, but it also seems unwise to hold out too much hope that I'll get an on-campus.

BTW, Anon 7:08, do you really think the two situations are parallel? I think job applications are somewhat confidential -- that's why online applications require that you set up passwords, after all -- and to broadcast a list of applicants to the philosophy world is very unprofessional. Not fully updating an application is a harmless oversight. I can't believe you feel personally injured when you see typos.

Anonymous said...

10:25--UC--Riverside??? You have to be kidding me. As Spiros would say--DOOM.

wv: "droni" as in I am a self-imposed drone target.

Anonymous said...

"Not fully updating an application is a harmless oversight. I can't believe you feel personally injured when you see typos."

I suppose it's a harmless oversight until it's your school that an applicant can't be bothered to identify. Are they parallel? Not exactly. Just noting that it's not just committees that make errors, regardless of the relative weight of those errors.

If nothing else, this is a lesson to those on that market. If you can't properly identify the name of the school to which you are applying, expect to be rejected immediately. Nobody wants to read a form cover letter that wasn't given the very minor attention of making sure you correctly identify the university you are asking to hire you.

If your blind date's name is Susan, don't expect to be invited upstairs if you spend the evening calling her Peggy.

Mr. Zero said...

I suppose it's a harmless oversight until it's your school that an applicant can't be bothered to identify

Dude. It's a typo. If that sort of thing really, honestly hurts your feelings, if you genuinely think it's not harmless, I recommend that you attempt to develop a thicker skin.

Anonymous said...

What if I call Susan Sue? Will I then get invited upstairs for a makeout session? Is getting a PFO letter like getting rejected by the girl or is it like a cock block from the town drunk?

Anonymous said...

Applicants send many letters. SCs send one or two mass e-mails. So, come on.
Also, it may also happen that an applicant forgets to change the name of the school, e.g., on the first line of a letter the rest of which they have in fact tailored for your school.
Rejecting a candidate for a typo like that is crazy....

Anynomous said...

If I had 50-70 blind dates that I had to go on (not by my choice but because each one had a less than 0.5% chance of being willing to continue dating me next year, and I really need a date next year), and they all knew these circumstances, and I forgot a name, then, yes, I'd be the jerk.

Look, if someone got the school's name wrong, does that indicate you probably aren't the person's first choice? Yes. Are you likely to be anyone's first choice? Probably not. Does it mean they don't care about the school, that they wouldn't be happy to be there, that they wouldn't be an excellent colleague who occasionally makes a random mistake? None of these follow.

After I applied to about 95% of the schools I was applying to, I found a typo in my dossier that went out to all of those schools. I felt sick about it for at least a week. But, I kept telling myself, "No one would care about a single typo." It turns out some schools may have actually rejected me for my typo. Good. I would never want to work with such people.

Anonymous said...

Heh. I'm not really thin-skinned, but I am a bit experienced having been on 2 job searches. Our last search brought in nearly 200 applications. We had to narrow that down to 10 interviews, 3 finalists, and 1 hire. Applicants may not like this, but one way SCs thin the herd is to eliminate those whose letters mis-identify the school to which they apply. Does it suck? Probably. But to be honest, it's a means of cutting the pile down. And doing so may eliminate a good potential hire, but honestly, any means we use to trim the herd eliminates good potential hires. It's no more or less arbitrary than any other means (like basing the first cut on letterhead, for instance).

One thing job applicants need to keep in mind is that to get the job, they first have to get the interview. To get the interview, you have to stand out. You have to be one of the 10 out of the nearly 200 that strike the committee positively, immediately. In this regard, academia is no different from the business world. Talk to people in your business programs about successful job applications. They will tell you the same thing: it may be silly, and unfair, and you may hate that it happens, but if you dismiss the impact of such minor typos on your chances of being hired, you do so at your own peril. When you are chairing a search committee, you may choose whatever arbitrary means you want to cut the many dozens of fully qualified and potentially great colleagues. Reject applications by any means you choose. But know that mis-identifying the school is one such means SCs employ.

When I was on the market, I was that over-achiever who wrote an individualized letter for every school to which I applied. Not coming from a top-25 program, I needed every bit of help I could get to make it past the first cut, given that it was my first year on the market. I had a dozen interviews, and at each the SC noted the attention I put into my letter. I had several fly-backs, and accepted the offer I found most appealing. I have no doubt at all that one major factor in getting those interviews was the quality of my cover letter. Details matter.

Of course, once you get past that, you still need to nail the interview and demonstrate that you are the best fit. But the first step is getting the interview, and the best way to get an interview is with the best application. And part of what makes an application "best" is its attention to detail in such a way that impresses the SC.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi anon 8:33/7:15 (I presume you are the same person),

It is one thing to take a cover-letter typo misidentifying the school as a sign of carelessness or something, for the purposes of narrowing things down. It's one thing to use an arbitrary weed-out criterion in the clear absence of a suitable or accessible non-arbitrary standard. I have not "dismissed" this.

But that's not what you said. You said, "it's a harmless oversight until it's your school that an applicant can't be bothered to identify." You said, "If your blind date's name is Susan, don't expect to be invited upstairs if you spend the evening calling her Peggy."

If you want to change your initial story to a more reasonable one, that's fine. But I was responding to what your comment actually said. FWIW, I agree with your advice about cover letters. I think it's true that the details matter, and your cover letter is your only chance to make a first impression. And it's hard to overcome a bad first impression. (That said, it would be kind of foolish to round-file an otherwise strong dossier just because the cover letter said 'Delaware' instead of 'Connecticut' on it.)

Asstro said...

I'm actually kinda surprised by these responses from other SC members. When I've been on an SC, or more recently, when I've been on admissions committees, we routinely see misnamings in the letters.

"Berkeley is ideally suited to my areas of interest..." I'm happy to give the student a pass on the misnaming; but if the student identifies an area of interest that isn't one in which we have a strength, then _that's_ a reason to reject the student. [nb: Berkeley is not my school.]

So too with cover letters and teaching statements in job apps. Sometimes people make mistakes. Obviously, misnaming a university or college is not a big deal. However, if the applicant says something to this effect, or implies as much: "I am applying to your job at Teaching College because I would make such a great teacher. I stay up late at night thinking about all the great collaborative games and group activities that we'll play in my class the next day," I know they're not right for my research university.

It can also hurt a candidate when paired with other information in the dossier or in the broader market. If the candidate notes a school that lists as its AOS metaethics, and we're hiring in philosophy of law, this is a bad sign for the candidate. In that case, she's given me an extra reason to question whether she's applying for the right sort of position. In at least one of the two cases, she isn't qualified for the job.

It's not, in other words, the care with which the applicant prepares her cover letter, but the information that is conveyed by playing sloppy poker.

Anonymous said...

"(That said, it would be kind of foolish to round-file an otherwise strong dossier just because the cover letter said 'Delaware' instead of 'Connecticut' on it.)"

Me again.

Out of curiosity, what would you recommend using as a means to "round-file" strong dossiers? We're going to reject nearly every application that comes our way. Most of them will be strong applications that fit the AOS and hit the qualifications we are looking for. Most of them will have strong letters of recommendation attesting to the value of the applicant.

Or put it this way. You're chairing a SC. You get 170 applications and narrow them down to, let's say, 75 strong applications from fully qualified candidates. Each one is appealing. Assume that by "strong" I mean the usual: the right conferences, good publications, strong letters, relevant teaching experience, degree in hand. What do you use to thin the herd, knowing that you are "round-filing" strong dossiers?

Anonymous said...

Another many-times SC member here. In my experience, the case made by 8:33/7:15 is too strong. My department gives not one shit that you sell yourself specifically to us. We want to hire the best not-totally-irresponsible philosopher we can. But a cover letter that misaddresses us makes us wonder if the application isn't actually a mistake. 'Did this person really mean to apply for this job?' we wonder. (People do apply for jobs by mistake, conflating branches of a state system or schools with similar sounding names.) Of course, we'll clear it up eventually if we want to interview the person. But I attest that it's unsettling to read a file while wondering if the applicant really is addressing it to you. The "typo" is always immediately circled, and it becomes the most immediately (however superficially) salient thing about the file.

It's a small thing. But since most of my colleagues and I don't like the eager-beaver approach that 8:33/7:15 advocates -- we don't care at all about individualized cover-letters, and I'm personally a big fan of the two-sentence letter -- I wanted to spell a simpler rationale for proof-reading carefully. (If your cover letter is two sentences, it would be very easy to proof read!)

zombie said...

I have a basic cover letter that I use as a template. Then I tailor every single letter I send, and I applied for 50+ jobs this year. To my knowledge, I never forgot to update the institution name on a letter, but more than once, I realized after thinking I had finished a letter that I had forgotten to change the name in the last paragraph. The preceding several paragraphs? Tailored to the school and job.

I don't doubt that getting the name wrong is a good way to get your dossier tossed, given that SCs have so many apps to look at, and they need ways to reduce the load. Which is why applicants need to be vigilant.

But given that applicants have a heavy burden come application time, SCs could also be a little forgiving. If I use the wrong name in my cover letter, it doesn't mean that I don't care about your school/job. It only means that I applied for other jobs before I applied for yours -- we all realize that's a function of deadlines and not preferences/values right?

C said...

On the dating analogy.

Isn't the better analogy speed dating? If I know that the gal across from me has to meet and chat up fifty plus guys in a short amount of time and she slips and calls me "Blaine" and then on those grounds I cross her off my list, my mom would say that I'm a dick. And, let me add, my mom is pretty forgiving.

[word verification: shons. As in, "He who shons the candidate for making a small fool of him or herself is the greater fool."]

Mr. Zero said...

Look, dude. I get that you've got a lot of applications to deal with, and it's difficult or impossible to find non-arbitrary ways to narrow the field. I understand that it is perfectly fine to use an arbitrary criterion in the absence of a suitable non-arbitrary one. I know that, and I know you know I know that. Because when I say, "that said" in the text you quote, that is what I am saying I said.

I get that it's tough to be on a search committee. That it's a royal pain in the ass. But it is a rich man's problem. It is a pain in the ass I would give almost anything to have. Because that would mean for one thing that I was in a tenure-track job. It would mean that my days of dealing with the agony and uncertainty of the job market were over. And, intrinsically, it would represent an awesome opportunity to have an influence on the future direction and quality of my department. It's an extremely important decision and it seems to me that the responsibility of making it is a great honor.

I know it will give me a pain in my ass. I know it will be time-consuming, frustrating and difficult. I know I will complain about it. I know I will look at the pile and not know how to proceed. But the idea that the anonymous search committee member would come over and tell the perennial job marketeer how tough it is to be on the search committee, what with so many highly qualified applicants to eliminate, is extremely silly. And if I'm ever in your shoes, I hope I take the responsibility more seriously than to get offended and round-file applications that call me by the wrong name or something.

Again, I will emphasize that it's one thing if you think the typo is an arbitrary criterion to be employed only in the absence of any workable non-arbitrary criteria. This idea entails that the typo is not literally a good reason to eliminate the candidate--it's just that you have to eliminate some candidates somehow, and you don't have a good way to do it, and this way is no worse than the others.

But that's not what you have said. You have said that the typo is not a harmless mistake. You said that it's evidence of a kind of clueless insensitivity, like calling your date by the wrong name all night, and therefore literally counts as a good reason to eliminate the candidate, even if the rest of the file is strong (as in, strong; not merely not weak). My point is, you can use it if you have to, but don't say it's a good reason.

Anonymous said...

12:19pm just owned you. Hahahaha.

Anonymous said...

"12:19pm just owned you. Hahahaha."

Actually, 11:09am, that was written by Mr. Zero. Because of your mistake, our SC has tossed out your application.

zombie said...

Giving credit where credit is due, a good PFO from Bowling Green and Louis Katzner arrived today.

"Dear zombie,

I am sorry to inform you that our Faculty Personnel Committee has decided not to pursue your candidacy any further for the position of Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at Bowling Green State University. The Committee was very impressed with the quality of the applications submitted, and the selection of candidates from a very large pool was not an easy task.

On behalf of the Department, College and University thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to review your credentials. We wish you the best of luck in your job search."

Was that so hard? The letter gets right to the point. It accepts responsibility for not selecting me in direct language. None of this "your name does not appear on our list of candidates" or "your application has been set aside" crap. It wishes me luck.

Well done, sir.

Ben said...

Credit to Bowling Green indeed, that is a good one - in the sense it's the kind of PFO I'd want to receive if getting one, rather than a good example of how not to reject someone.

Anonymous said...

Two completely different remarks.

1. I've been on many SCs. I have never known anyone who cares if a cover letter contains a typo or has the wrong university name on it. I certainly would not care. Mind you, I usually merely skim the cover letter anyway, since it rarely contains useful information. I'm with Feb 8, 9:04 AM: I'm personally a big fan of the two-sentence letter.

2. Typically, when a mass email accidentally cc's rather than bcc's all of the condidates, it's a clerical error made by an administrative assistant. I have seen otherwise excellent and efficient admin assistants in tears after such a mistake.

Anonymous said...