Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Isn't this kinda rubbing my nose in it?

I got one of those thanks but no thanks emails today. It starts out by announcing how pleased the department in question is that So-and-So from the School That is WAY More Prestigious than my school has accepted the department's offer of a position. Then it goes on to thank me for my "willingness to share [my] work" with them at the APA interview.

It's not a surprise, at this point, that I didn't get the job. I didn't even get the campus interview. And it's not that I wish So-and-So any ill. I really don't. I am sincerely happy for So-and-So. I'm damn happy when any of us gets a job these days. And it's not like I probably couldn't have found out who was hired if I wanted to (it could be posted on Leiter's thread, for instance). What I question is the etiquette, or the propriety, of starting a rejection letter by identifying the "winner" and informing me of how pleased the department is to have hired him. That just seems like sending me a card to tell me I'm not invited to your party.

~zombie


52 comments:

Anonymous said...

Totally improper. And I always disliked "thanks for sharing your work with us" kind of bs. Ivory Tower must be seen engaged in the "life of the mind" at all times, even when the issue is hiring people for teaching jobs in exchange for money.

Was the letter signed by the chair of SC?

Anonymous said...

I received an email from what I imagine is the same tone deaf department telling me that they were "pleased to announce" that they hired someone who wasn't me.

Anonymous said...

I've been wondering about this too. These winner-naming emails are especially rude when the AOS is fairly narrow or when the person hired is similar to you. In those cases, you can only read the email as saying "well look, you have to understand, Dr.X is so obviously better than you. Really, go back to the minor leagues." The role of the PFO is to tell you your status w/r/t a job; it shouldn't be to discourage you from aiming at a certain tier of schools or to give the school a bragging mechanism.

Anonymous said...

I haven't had many interviews, but the one that stands out as the worst was the interview I had with the department that I think sent this email. I didn't do a great job in the interview. My bad. I think I would have done better if it hadn't started by dealing with an incredibly rude interviewer. While I'd like to live in their city, I get the sense that I wouldn't ever want to work with 2 of the 4 people from that department I've had contact with. Best of luck to the winner.

Mostly Anonymous said...

Huh. I'm not entirely sure, but I think I actually prefer more information to less. With these letters it's always hard (for me, anyway) to tell what the attitude of the sender is, exactly.

I guess I just find the whole process so inscrutable that I would rather have any random bit of detail than over-courteousness.

Anonymous said...

On a similar note, I recently got an email from a school to which I applied, suggesting that they had narrowed their search down to 12 finalists, and that I was among those finalists. However, there was no mention of an interview, and no response when I responded to inquire about one. Some folks on the phylo wiki suggested that the department may simply forgo first round interviews. If that's the case, i can't decide how to feel about being informed of making the first cut without having any more opportunity to influence the next one. I guess I appreciate the update, but on the other hand, I don't see the point of narrowing down the applicants to twelve, informing them, and then narrowing them down to 3 or 4. Why not just pick 3 or 4 in the first place then? I'm curious what others think about this practice.

Anonymous said...

My initial reaction to your post was: 'You're being overly sensitive.' (I say that as someone who's also on the market and hasn't yet landed anything). But, after some thought, I can sympathize. If there was no Leiter hiring post nor any update to the hiring department's website in the near future, then the letter you received would be the most immediate way to get the relevant information. But times are changing, and it's not difficult to get that kind of information. So, the letter-writer's approach is a little dated and, perhaps because of that, comes off as bad form. The thing is: a surprising number of SC chairs are oblivious to things like Leiter's post, Phylo, etc. So, perhaps it was on account of ignorance that the author of the letter came off as sounding a little ass-holish.

Also Mostly said...

My situation is a little different. I have a job, and a few years ago I applied for another, "better" (= higher status) one. They offered it to a pretty famous person in my field instead. The department chair phoned me immediately and told me, and said I was second in their vote (but that this didn't guarantee I would get the offer if Famous Dude turned it down).
There was a very clear implication that I shouldn't be offended or anything because obviously nobody was going to pick me over Famous Dude. Although in retrospect this strikes me as quite offensive, in fact it didn't bother me at all at the time. As I said, it's certainly different when you have a job and are applying for a 'higher' one (how could I get all wiggy about the chair picking the higher-status candidate, after all, when I was in effect trying to do the same thing?).
But, in short, I guess I'm agreeing with Mostly Anonymous: more info is better.

Anonymous said...

I was told that I had an interview and then got a PFO 3 months later with the name of the guy who got the position. Everything was the same about us except that I had more education than him (2 additional grad degrees). As for the Leiter list, does anyone feel sorry for these people with amazing pedigree who end up at shite schools? If I was degreed at Yale I would definitely see it as a disappointment to be hired by Franklin & Marshall College in the ass-crack of PA.

Mr. Zero said...

I think that starting out a rejection letter by saying how pleased you are is a dick move. I think that it's fine for the rejection letter to say who they hired; I don't think it's wrong ton include that information. But you don't send out a rejection letter to people that says how happy you are to be rejecting them.

Anonymous said...

Franklin & Marshall is a good school on a beautiful campus in a nice, medium-sized city an hour from Philadelphia. A person could do a fuck of a lot worse. I am the opposite of sorry for the person who got that job.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:21,

You are delusional about the job market. That Yalie is probably dancing for joy at the job offer while his classmates who struck out look on in envy. Programs better than Yale are placing about 50% this year (Did you read McMahan's post?)

Anonymous said...

Agreed that 5:21 is totally delusional.

Yale is a good graduate program, but to think that all of the people coming out of good graduate programs will get positions at graduate-degree awarding programs is delusional.

And if you're not going to get such a job, the next best thing (on the "desirability" metric we all are assumed to accept) is a job at a good SLAC in a nice location. F&M is in a fabulous town a short drive from Philly and has good students, resources, and a beautiful campus.

We should all be so "un"lucky.

Anonymous said...

Just to follow up on Zero's post, the last two PFOs I've received told me who got the job. The first of these was the classiest PFO I've ever received. It told me who got the job, but it was thoughtful and sensitive. The author made a point to say that they were sorry to have to break the bad news to us. The second I received yesterday. It was tacky and insensitive. It stated how pleased they were that they could have selected someone rather than me. Whereas I'm thrilled to be applying again for a position with the first department, I think I'd regret having to work with some members of the second. The author of the letter, for example, seems like a total clod. To put it in a more personal context, I've been dumped by lots and lots of women. Often, this is because they've met someone else. The one that still gets to me is the one who told me she met someone else and then went on and on about how wonderfully talented he was. I understood the point of that letter. Spite. I don't understand the latest PFO letter.

Anonymous said...

What sucks is that you end up at F & M and many of your colleagues, hired long before you when the job market was easier, have Ph.D.s from Ohio State U. You're still low man on the totem pole even with a Ph.D. from Yale. Lancaster is a crap hole, BTW. Its proximity to Philly does not make the fact that you're living among Pennsylvania hillbillies any more bearable. I'd only settle for it if I had a Ph.D. from Ohio State U, not Yale U.

Anonymous said...

If I was degreed at Yale I would definitely see it as a disappointment to be hired by Franklin & Marshall College in the ass-crack of PA.

Fortunately you weren't, eh?

Mr. Zero said...

Obviously there are some elitist jerks on the job market this year.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:05 - I got the same 'top 12' email from that department, and I'm the one who posted on the wiki about the move from 12 to 3 sans interviews. It doesn't make any sense to me. My connection with that department informs me that, yes, they intend to cut the list to 3 without first-round interviews. This seems a bit weird to me, but weirder is the total lack of information given by the department to this effect. If they're going to bother contacting the 12 in the first place, at least come right out and say that they don't intend to do interviews, or give some information about procedure/timeline. Without this, you just have a bunch of people awkwardly writing back to ask about interviews, to be met with no response. It doesn't exactly make you feel great about the department...though maybe this doesn't matter to them, if the purpose of contacting the 12 is *not* so much to let us know that they are interested as it is to find that some people have already accepted positions and so make the narrowing process easier.

Anonymous said...

"That Yalie is probably dancing for joy at the job offer while his classmates who struck out look on in envy."

Presupposition failure.

Anonymous said...

Hey, stop picking on F&M! When I was on the market ten years ago with 20 interviews -- yes, different times -- my most philosophically satisfying interview was with F&M. Half of my interviews were at leiter-ranked research departments, and I thought the F&M interviewers (all of whom are still there, I think) were better philosophical conversationalists.

Anonymous said...

McMahan's post? Anon 6:36, where can I find it?

zombie said...

Exactly right Zero. I don't mind being informed about who was hired for the position. That kind of information is potentially useful. What I mind is the tone deaf attitude. I mind being told how happy the department is about hiring this individual, and by implication, not hiring me.

The information could have been relayed otherwise, and in a more professional way: "The department has offered the position to Dr X of Prestigious U., and he has accepted." None of this dancing on the grave of my crushed hopes and dreams business. That's just rude.

Anonymous said...

I think the comments on this blog have really taken a wrong turn if we are going to criticize specific jobs that specific people took at specific schools. Most of the people here are so bitter that they scrutinize every single rejection letter they get-- yet they are willing to pick out a person on Leiter and talk about how crappy that job must be for him. How do you think that would make this person or people from that school feel? I think it's unclassy, unprofessional and rude. Most of you'd be so lucky to get any position, from what I can tell based on your constant griping.

Anonymous said...

Right on, Zero and zombie. I appreciated knowing who got the jobs that I didn't, even if it sometimes made me wonder why that person got the job. But there's no reason to make this kind of letter anything other than a nice PFO that also says, preferably near the end, "The department has hired X."

If there's one thing worse than getting a gloating PFO, though, it's having to work with a bunch of dumbasses who got their Ph.D.s at Ohio State.

Anonymous said...

"Most of the people here are so bitter that they scrutinize every single rejection letter they get-- yet they are willing to pick out a person on Leiter and talk about how crappy that job must be for him. How do you think that would make this person or people from that school feel?"

I agree, sort of. Bad form to talk about how bad a job is for so and so. Most? That, I think, isn't supported by the evidence. Most, I imagine, don't post at all. Even those who do post, we cannot say that over half talk shit about someone who has a job (or doesn't).

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:48 - thank you. Does anyone else sometimes feel like the analogy between PhilWorld and Mean Girls is just too much to bear? (Maybe my way to job market success is to start a Philosophy Burn Book! Actually, that might be a kind of awesome blog to have. Something tells me that despite being a morally despicable idea, everyone would love it and secretly visit and post to, all while publicly denying it. Like trashy reality TV.)

Newsflash: We don't know people's lives. Or, as I like to put it, "You don't know me!"

I get judged constantly for my job -- which involves teaching philosophy in the ghetto to a bunch of 20somethings with the average literacy level of an 8th grader. I also teach part-time at a local posh private school with fantastically smart froshies. And yknow what? I LOVE LOVE LOVE working with the ghetto 20somethings WAY more than I love working with the posh froshies. Yeah, it's a lot of work, and teaching the posh froshies is in many ways a lot "easier". Would I switch jobs if offered? Maybe I'm the fool satisfied for it, but I'm not gonna take on a life of misery in the Ivory Tower when the Ebony Dungeon seems to make me happy.

Plus, one person's hillbilly nightmare is another person's dream town. I have lots of friends that live in places I'd find completely unbearable (like *shudder* Texas) and totes love it, and I've got many friends that would rather die a thousand deaths than live in my Urban Metro Nightmare, which I quite enjoy.

To the original point of the post: zombie, I think you are right that such an approach is shitty, thoughtless, and totally and completely without class. Cf. above reference to Mean Girls.

Anonymous said...

The tone-deaf attitude, plus the fact that the most recent winner-naming school was never before in touch - no application acknowledgment, no "sorry, we will not be interviewing you at the APA" - is what makes it especially obnoxious to get their email.

And 5:21, you are an idiot. Beyond the fact that it's inappropriate of you to bring up that specific case, and that F&M and Lancaster county are both great, did you ever stop and entertain the idea that the person might want to work at a SLAC? I very honestly would rather work at F&M than a grad program any day. Congrats to the person who scored the gig.

zombie said...

"You're still low man on the totem pole even with a Ph.D. from Yale."

I see no reason why being from Yale should cause you to leap ahead of scholars who have more years on the job and more scholarly experience than you do. Yale's not THAT special, and neither is a Yalie qua Yalie. (see: George W. Bush.) You want to rise up on that totem pole? Prove your worth. Do your job well. Get published. Be a colleague who doesn't think he's automatically better than everyone else because he went to Yale.

I happen to know one of those OSUers on the F&M faculty. I was that prof's TA at a different school. He was an excellent teacher, and his students loved him. I learned a lot observing him in the classroom.

Matt Jordan said...

Um, it's The Ohio State University, 7:37.


Verification: Stionab, as in, "He issued a wicked stionab to that sucker who dissed his alma mater."

David Merli said...

Matt Jordan in the house!

There's not actually a totem pole. If anything we as a department try to protect the time of junior people by giving them lighter administrative duties and limited course prep. That way they can publish, get tenure, and be mired forever in the hellish cesspool of Lancaster, which, I have to say, is one of the nicer ass-cracks I've been in. And that's saying something!

David Merli
Franklin & Marshall dept of philosophy

Mr. Zero said...

I approved the comments at 5:21 and 7:37 with reservations. It was my hope that the comment at 5:21 and especially at 7:37 would be seen as harmless, unreasoned ramblings of elitist assholes. It was also my hope that the views expressed would be immediately and decisively demolished. This last hope was adequately realized, I think.

I also hope that if the F&M people read these comments, they will not be hurt by them. And if they are, I apologize for approving them.

Finally, it seems to me that if a job like the one at F&M would really be unacceptable to you for the reasons outlined in the anonymous comments at 5:21 and 7:37--if you think the western edge of eastern Pennsylvania is the "ass crack"; if you think "unbearable hillbilly country" starts within a frisbee toss of the suburbs of Philadelphia; if you can't stand the thought of being untenured in a department that had tenured someone who studied at Ohio State--you aren't cut out for this profession.

Anonymous said...

(8:48AM here). Thanks, Mr. Zero, for commenting. Though I think some of the comments here are ridiculous, I think it good of you to not censor them, so they can be demolished. (Of course, that's not to say that we couldn't imagine comments worthy of censorship).

9:11AM- I agree with you. The "most people here" claim I made is overreaching. My point is that the main thrust of this blog is to be a place to ask questions, complain a bit and bear some insecurities. No problem in that. When a few people choose to make personal attacks on people and schools-- unfortunately, combined with the above-mentioned kind of entries-- the collective feel of the blog is, as someone aptly put it, that of Mean Girls. But I think we also collectively put those sorts of comments to shame.

Zombie, I wouldn't assume that the person in 7:37AM is from Yale.

Andrew said...

I also got the email in question (the one that started the thread), and I didn't find it offensive at all.

One reason I'm not offended is that I think *very* highly of the candidate who ended up getting the job. The hiring department made an excellent choice and should be pleased about it; so it doesn't bother me one bit for them to say as much!

Mostly Anonymous said...

+1000 internets to David Merli

Anonymous said...

First a PhD from The Ohio State University and now a thousand Internets? Now we'll never get him off the totem pole.

Anonymous said...

David Merli: my fucking hero

Anonymous said...

"Finally, it seems to me that if a job like the one at F&M would really be unacceptable to you for the reasons outlined in the anonymous comments at 5:21 and 7:37--if you think the western edge of eastern Pennsylvania is the "ass crack"; if you think "unbearable hillbilly country" starts within a frisbee toss of the suburbs of Philadelphia; if you can't stand the thought of being untenured in a department that had tenured someone who studied at Ohio State--you aren't cut out for this profession."

Hear hear Mr. Zero! I would only add: "and no other position worthy of the description 'profession'."

"Colleague" means--or ought to mean--more than "co-worker". I want respectful and even friendly colleagues. And I suspect that I am far from alone on that.

zombie said...

Anon 11:06 -- quite right. It ought not be assumed that 7:37 is a Yalie, and I will henceforth cease to do so. Likewise, I did not intend to impugn all Yalies. Only the ones who are elitist douchebags, if there are any.

zombie said...

See, THIS is how you do it:

"I am writing to update you on the status of your application for the tenure-track philosophy position at Claremont McKenna College. We have made an offer to one of the applicants for this position, and the candidate has recently accepted – our search is thus complete. We received almost 500 applicants for this position, and the candidate pool was ridiculously strong. We have been forced to make difficult decisions among highly qualified candidates, many of whom would have been excellent additions to our faculty.

Thank you for allowing us to consider your application. On behalf of my colleagues in the Department of Philosophy at CMC, I wish you success in your philosophical career."

Was that so hard? Even if the candidate's name had been included here (and I'm not sure that publicizing it wouldn't create some confidentiality issues), this is better than telling me how happy the department is that they didn't have to hire the likes of me.

FemFilosofer said...

I thought the same thing about the CM PFO, Zombie. I also like the use of "ridiculously strong." It actually sounded sincere.

Ps ... its seems I applied to the same jobs as ALL OF YOU :-P (Or maybe there's just lots of identically awful PFOs going around.)

Anonymous said...

I got a letter like this once. Not only did the department identify the person they hired and his research interests (fairly close to mine), they also went on and on about how wonderful he was.

Anonymous said...

"ridiculously strong" and "500 applicants" in the same paragraph. Generally smells like ridiculously strong doom for a lot of us out there...

Anonymous said...

FYI: Brian Prince is this year's Rusty Jones. Rice Ph.D. 3-Year post-doc at Oxford. That is badass.

Anonymous said...

What was the average number of applicants this year for specific AOS and open AOS? What do you think/know? Higher than last year or about the same?

nlk said...

Anon/Troll 5:21,

Please do not feel sorry for me. I am absolutely thrilled with the job at F&M. But if for some reason your heart still goes out to me, there are some things you can do on my behalf. For example, I'm a terrible at proofreading; so maybe you could help me out by proofreading my dissertation? Or perhaps you could start an ass-crack awareness campaign with my picture on the homepage? In any case, I appreciate your concern and the time you took to express it publicly.

Anonymous said...

Nlk: congrats!

It's nice to hear a direct refutation of the elitist douchebag

Anonymous said...

Damn, this is some turbo-charged smackdown. I almost feel sorry for the troll.

Andrew Smith said...

Anon 11:05 and 8:03, I believe that I am a member of a department that proceeded with our hiring process in the manner that you describe: with an initial list of 12 semi-finalists that was subsequently cut to 3 finalists without interviews. I say I "believe" because I am unaware of certain of the details of our search process even though I was on the committee (I joined late due to an illness). But what you describe is deeply troubling.

I was hired at this institution last year and went through the same process, but semi-finalists were asked to submit additional materials. As a result, the communique from the department did not seem odd--although being told later that I was a finalist without having been interviewed definitely was strange. If no additional materials were requested this time around, then I agree that acknowledgement by us of your status was not only superfluous but unprofessional. For this I apologize. Also, I for one sympathize with your concerns that you were being blown off insofar as you received no responses to your requests from the chair. Suffice it to say that (if we are talking about the same person) s/he does not communicate well even with fellow faculty members about critical issues via email. So the snub was not personal, and the intention was not to test who was still interested in the job--at least as far as I know.

So, again, as a member of a department that MAY have proceeded in the problematic manner you describe (i.e., if no additional materials were requested from semi-finalists who were notified of their status), please accept my apologies for the strangeness of the process and lack of communication. In the future, I for one hope to alter how searches are conducted to avoid such an outcome. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

zombie said...

Anon 8:06 -- I can only judge based on the PFOs I received this year. The numbers ranged from 250+ to 500 (the 500 being Claremont McKenna). That's a big range. CMC is obviously in a pretty desirable location and would be a nice job, which may skew those numbers higher. That's for ethics jobs. I rarely apply for open positions, unless the school and/or location is especially desirable for me.

So, unless the 500 is the new typical, it seems to be roughly the same as it was last year when, as I recall, the numbers were also in the 200-300 range. But as more and more people graduate into a bad job market, the numbers can be expected to steadily climb (unless there is comparable attrition).

Anonymous said...

Andrew Smith: 8:03 here. I appreciate your response, though I'm unsure whether we're talking about the same department--since (unless you're using a pseudonym) you don't seem to be listed on the department website. The other odd thing is that the 'top 12' email I received actually ASKED about whether I was still interested--without further request for materials--so it seems like the motive actually was to find out who was still interested. I suppose this makes sense if the goal is to arrive at a list of 3 candidates without having to worry that one of the top 3 may already have taken a job, which maybe makes the process somewhat more efficient for the committee (though I wonder how this cashes out in the long run, since you'd have to factor in the time it took to send and read emails to/from the top 12).

Anonymous said...

No need for me to pile on 5:21, that is elegantly accomplished. But I didn't notice if anyone explicitly pointed out a more significant (for all of us who aren't 5:21) delusion.
5:21 said "Everything was the same about us except that I had more education than him (2 additional grad degrees)." 5:21 goes on immediately to demonstrate that everything was,in fact, NOT the same. The fact that credentials alone don't give the necessary and sufficient conditions for the best candidate in a particular search leaves room, sadly, for all kinds of injustice. Still, 5:21 shows that search committees have an obligation to make judgments that may not be fully captured by algorithms which are transparent to every candidate. If you don't see why they didn't hire you, that doesn't mean they didn't have a good reason. (Doesn't mean they did either, but...)

Andrew Smith said...

No pseudonym, 8:03. That's not our dept. So they actually asked if you're interested? Odd....