Friday, March 18, 2011

The Minimum Requirements

A pseudonymous Smoker writes in with the following story:

after having me out to an on-campus interview, the school then sent me a PFO from their HR department which reads:

"Dear Sir or Madam" (they couldn't even plug my name in there)
"Thank you for giving us the opportunity to interview you for the position of Assistant Professor of Philosophy. Although your background and credentials are impressive, they do not meet the minimum requirements for the position."

The letter is signed by the "Business Coordinator" (so not even someone in the department).

What does that even mean? And out of all of the hundreds of applicants you had, you managed to select three to come out and interview for the position - and at least one of them didn't even "meet the minimum requirements for the position"??? Thanks for wasting my time? And for the super-personal post-on-campus-interview PFO?

Seriously.


Seriously, indeed.

--Mr. Zero

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was the chair of a search that just ended. The HR coordinator at my school said that only she could send out rejection letters, and that the letters in question were generated by their automated system. When I sent personal notices to our campus visitors who weren't hired, she reprimanded me for doing so. So don't blame the department, but the HR people. They really are unthinking and unfeeling robots, who care only about potential litigation and nothing about human beings.

Xenophon said...

I got jerked around a few weeks ago during a phone interview, and I was pissed. In retrospect, that's nothing compared to this story.

I actually feel better now.

Anonymous said...

LOL. "Minimum requirements"? Probably the central problem with the philosophy job market is that pretty much EVERYONE meets the "minimum requirements". Fail, and I award this school 0 points.

Anonymous said...

I think that's unbelievable conduct. And I was upset when Stanford sent out similarly impersonal (and unpersonalized) rejection emails to its first round interview candidates for the ethics position. They came from a secretary of a person not on the interview panel or even in the philosophy department! How much worse when this is done to someone who has visited campus. I think the programs should be called out for this-- with the hope that it will encourage a more courteous response in the future.

Word Verification: weakee-- someone too insensitive or too cowardly to provide disappointing/bad news to persons in accordance with the norms of respect.

As in: "Stanford philosophy showed themselves to be a bunch of weakees in sending out impersonal rejection emails to their interview candidates."

(Something stronger might be applied to the original poster's situation).

Anonymous said...

That is outrageous, and has to be an instance of the HR department being totally out of touch with the normal academic hiring process (and I think this school should probably be outed)...

That is, unless there was some gaff made on the part of the department where they were not clear on all of the policies of their institution. I think this is very unlikely, though--the only possible instance I can think of is if the department flew someone out ABD, but the institution has the policy of interviewing candidates with PhD in hand (I think this is an extremely unlikely scenario, though).

Anonymous said...

It's really, really horrible that this letter was sent to you. I can try to explain what it means, as far as I know.

This type of HR PFO can be sent because the institution is beholden to state regulations that do not differentiate between academic and all other hirings. The institution's bureaucratic structure runs rough-shod over hires (and most likely all expenses, etc.). In such situations HR sends these types of letters and the department might not even know about it--or might not be able to control HR content. If the search committee and department aren't vigilant and send their own letter, a job candidate is treated with a standard job rejection letter that has been reworked by an HR person.

The phrase that your credentials "do not meet the minimum requirements for the position" does not make sense for an academic applicant who has made it to an on campus interview--and this is because the letter itself follows a form that the "business coordinator" was revising. State regulations may require that any job applicant for virtually every campus job be rejected on a rubric in which "cause of rejection" is posed in terms of requirements met or not met. In such situations, a very highly qualified candidate fails to meet minimum requirement, by HR's assessment, merely because the candidate wasn't hired.

Anonymous said...

From my view, every on campus person should get a phone call from the chair of the department or the chair of the search telling them (a) when an offer is made, (b) where they stand in the search, and (c) when the search is completed -- that is, if they weren't the first choice, then to tell them the first choice has accepted.

If this happens, then no one cares about the effing HR letters.

Use the phone and call people for christ sake!!!

Anonymous said...

I received two phone call rejections this job season, and while I greatly appreciate that the SC chairs were doing it because they respected me, it also was a sock in the stomach to get a phone call that turns out to be a rejection. When you get that email, you at least know it isn't possible that you got accepted over email.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:57 again...

Reading a few of the other comments, I'd like to emphasize that, if in fact the institution is a state institution, outing the department because of systemic state regulations and entrenched bureaucracy isn't going to help anyone. Departments don't make the rules nor are they in control of the bureaucracy. If the candidate wants to be helpful, forward the letter to the chair of the search committee and provide them with the example of the HR document. In turn, the chair and the department can bring this to the dean and provost, arguing for new policies. It may be that only the Provost can intervene to some extent with HR. That's the reality of how things are at State Universities.

I realize this doesn't help the candidate at all and that receiving a letter like this is horrible. But I do urge people to consider the fact that faculty at State Universities are under ever-increasing constraints.

Anonymous said...

Whether the department's or HR's fault, the school is seriously fucked up.

zombie said...

That's some bureaucratic incompetence, that is.

In protecting themselves from liability, I guess -- they don't want to just tell you they chose someone else -- they instead opt for offending with an inaccurate, insulting form letter. Indecent. Rude. Unconscionable.

Anonymous said...

I am still waiting to hear on two om-campus interviews I had . . . five years ago.

leftyconcarne said...

I'd look at the job posting again and contact the department directly if you are qualified according to the posting. This could easily be an HR error, as it seems kind of odd for a department to do an on-campus interview for someone who doesn't meet the minimum quals --

If you don't meet the minimum quals, don't bother with it all -- or if there are no minimum quals I'd send a kind of polite note to the search chair and follow up. After having several experiences with HR screw-ups I simply don't trust them.

Anonymous said...

Minimum requirements HR style apparently means: the winner is filet mignon, everyone else is just a piece of meat. Feel sorry for the filet mignon.

Anonymous said...

The letter does come off as insulting, and it’s ludicrous and embarrassing for the institution, but come on, it isn’t "horrible". We need a good laugh this time of year. Laugh at the HR bureaucracy.

My bet is that the explanation is the one kind of hinted at but not stated in other comments. The HR department thinks there are two kinds of rejections: you aren’t the first choice but you’ll get the job if the people ahead of you decline; you aren’t getting the job. As far as HR is concerned, the second category is equivalent to “didn’t meet the minimum requirements”. Of course, there are all kinds of reasons that a department might know that it will not be hiring its second choice even if its first choice declines. The Dean may have already told everyone, “The way we’re going to keep hiring down is to let all hiring departments make one and only one offer.” (This is a stupid policy, but I know that it’s being used these days.)

Anonymous said...

At my university, you have to provide a reason that each candidate didn't get the job, from a checklist of 8 or so reasons. I think it's for the diversity / equal employment opportunities office. We usually just check off "didn't meet the minimum requirements," because it's the one that makes the most sense. So I imagine something like that is going on here. (The letter is not from my department -- we didn't hire this year.)

Anonymous said...

Email the HR monkey and CC the department/SC chair, thank them for letting you know that you didn't get the job, and then ask what the fuck it means that you were one of three (out of however many hundreds) invited for an on-campus interview, and yet you somehow don't meet minimum specs.

Xenophon said...

I'm wondering about this hypothesis that HR sends out idiotic letters to avoid legal liability. If you got a flyout because they thought you were qualified and in fact one of the best candidates, and then they meet you and say you never were qualified after all, maybe it's because they had "hidden" requirements. Or at least that's what it could look like. But doesn't that open them up to greater liability, if it allows for the presumption that you weren't "qualified" because you turned out to be black/female/disabled/over-40? So I wonder whether the HR drones never consulted a lawyer on this one.

Word verification: impar. Wouldn't that be a safer alternative to "unqualified", since it isn't a word? "We're rejecting you because you are impar/brillig/mimsy."

Anonymous said...

I agree with 6:29. This letter is not "horrible".

Anonymous said...

In case you've ever applied for travel reimbursement and felt anxiety over whether you met the minimum requirements, check out: http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php?n=1425

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, HR departments use vaguely business-sounding code for things that universities cannot legally consider when hiring. I know of two search committees (at different institutions) that were told by their respective administrations to use a particular job to make a "minority hire." Search committees certainly cannot ask about race or ethnicity (or gender, in the case of an applicant named "Pat" or "Jamie," but they can easily determine it after an in-person meeting.

Anonymous said...

I'm in grading hell. Gave students a take home exam. There were some questions on laws of nature. Among other things, students were asked to say whether they preferred Ayer's view of laws or Dretske's view. So far, I've had four students write that they prefer one author's view to another because they only read one author or didn't understand one author.

While the student who writes, "I prefer Ayer's account of laws because I didn't bother to read Dretske's paper" provides a kind of psychological explanation, I can't help but think it didn't answer the question I intended to ask. I also think that this is just someone who will never get what Moore's paradox is about. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I really have to read through forty more of these before Tuesday.

Some of you are probably reading Lewis and drinking coffee while smoking a cigarette. This is the future that's waiting for you if you don't quit now and apply to law school. You were warned.

wv: defurstr

I'm tired. Have at it.

Anonymous said...

Undergraduates want Sartre and Nietzsche, not Ayer and Dretske. It's your own damn fault for not knowing what to teach.

James said...

Sometimes I wish we had Facebook's Like feature so I could appreciate a comment without having to leave one. Those last two posts (9:09 and 5:24), among many others, I could certainly like if I only I had a button to express my liking.

Mr. Zero said...

I guess I sort of agree with 10:55. I think you should just ask the HR people what this "minimum requirements" stuff is supposed to mean. I, for one, would like to know what they say.

I guess I don't totally agree with 3:46, for the reason mentioned by 3:55. I would much rather get a rejection over email. At the very least, I would rather not be talking to someone on the phone at the moment I received the news that I had been rejected after a campus visit.

And to 10:38, I guess I would like to ask you to not just check the "minimum requirements" box, particularly if this information is ever going to get back to the candidate. Of course, I don't know what your university does with the information, and I don't know what the other boxes say. When the information gets back to the candidate, it will be regarded as confusing at best, and it might be regarded as "horrible." And it is more than likely literally untrue. (And if it is true, it suggests that something has gone awry in your application-reviewing procedures. As has been pointed out, I think, it is one thing if someone else better satisfies the requirements than I do. It is another thing if I literally do not satisfy them.)

9:09, that sounds pretty crappy. Once I had ascertained that the paper says "I prefer Ayer's account of laws because I didn't bother to read Dretske's paper," I wouldn't feel too bad about assigning a failing grade without reading the rest of it very carefully. Of course, this will do nothing to ease the deeper existential angst, but it will make the grading go by faster.

Anonymous said...

Throw their legal department into confusion by asserting that this inexplicably rude letter constitutes evidence of discrimination in their hiring process, and that you are seeking legal advice on the matter.

Anonymous said...

You know what I'd like to bitch about? People who take two jobs in the same year by deferring a TT job to do a prestigious post-doc. I mean, good for them and all, and I might do it, too, if I were able to get such offers, but damn. That hurts.

Anonymous said...

Anon, 10:58-- do you really mean that people shouldn't take a post-doc and defer a job in the same year? Or are you just venting about your misfortune? Since you said you might do it too, then I'll assume it's the latter. But if the former, I'd be curious what your reasoning is.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:58: I guess that's a pretty directed comment, since there's just one person in this situation, the Bersoff Fellow/UCLA hire. Since both the post-doc and the job are top-notch, she must be a total badass. Congrats to Katrina Elliott for cleaning-up!

Anon 10:58 said...

I'm Anon 10:58.

I'm pretty sure there's been at least one more case this year, and there have been some in the past few years. Katrina's posting was just the most recent, and this wasn't aimed at her in any hostile way.

Yes, I'm just venting frustration, and yes, Katrina must be a total badass.

I can see some reasons for not taking both jobs in such a rough year, but I don't think they're decisive -- especially when both jobs are so appealing.

Anonymous said...

I've heard that a job in hand is a possible advantage for post-doc candidates because it means that the fellow won't be preoccupied with the job market during the fellowship. Not sure if this is true, but if it is, then it means that getting a post-doc and a good job may not be independent events.

Anonymous said...

I'd be shocked if "minimum requirements" here isn't being used to refer to something in the ad. (For example, the ad says "PhD in Philosophy" and you're ABD, where the search committee didn't realize the ad's language would mean they would have to turn you down even if they liked you best. Or: the ad says "excellent teacher," and your campus visit revealed you only to be very, very good but not excellent.)

I, too, am very tired of receiving vacuous and off-topic comparative evaluations of arguments and theories from students. (Typical of what I see: "I think Sartre's argument/theory is better than Nietzsche's argument/theory because it was easier to understand (or easier to relate to, or I like the writing style better, or because it felt more like what I agree with, or because Nietzsche wasn't a Christian, etc.)

This isn't pure laziness, of course. The students can't handle the thought that they really are being expected to do something they've never been expected to do before, and so they go with what they think they already know how to do (report on their experience of skimming through the readings), assuming that must be what I really meant.

350125 said...

I applied for a TT position last year and didn't hear anything from them until a couple weeks ago: yes it was a PFO letter. I had completely forgotten that I applied to them (it's not that they're a bad school; I just didn't expect to get an interview, and rightly so). I've never gotten a PFO letter like this one. Here it is in its entirety (proper name changes placed in [brackets]):

"The Philosophy Department of [X University] is pleased to announce that [Person A] ([Person A's Ph.D. granting institution]) has accepted our offer of a position in the department. On behalf of the department, I thank you for your interest in [X University] and for your application. I wish you the best in finding a suitable position.

Sincerely,

[Chair]

Anonymous said...

When I was on a search committee for a mid-level state university a few years ago, our HR people told us that in coming up with a list of candidates to interview at the APA, we had to provide an explicit reason why someone did not meet the minimum qualifications for the job (on their little forms we turned back to them). We tried explaining that in all probability, there would be over a hundred people in the pool who met those qualifications and that it would be impossible to interview more than around 20 of them during the APA. Nope: you have to interview anyone who meets the minimum standards. Okaaay. . . . So we came up with our list in the usual way and then made up bullshit reasons why someone didn't meet minimum standards. Fortunately, this madness didn't infect the rest of the process, but I can see that it could. Perhaps the HR department at this school insisted that they had to *hire* anyone who met the minimum qualifications! [facepalm]