Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Worst Defense of APA Interviews In The World

I was rereading the recent comment thread at Leiter about whether or not APA interviews are worth it, and was struck by this comment:

Suppose a dept. moves entirely to video conference interviews or forgoes interviews altogether. Some candidates for the job will likely be at the APA anyhow, and some members of the search cmte. might be too. A candidate might go to a dept.'s table at the Smoker and talk to a member of the search cmte. and get a leg up that way. How could this worry be alleviated? Options:

1. No one from the search cmte goes to the APA. (This might not be possible, and it's an odd result.)
2. No one from the search cmte talk to job candidates at the APA. (This can end up creating some really awkward situations.)
3. All the interviews and the decisions about whom to bring to campus be made before the APA. This is perhaps the best solution, but it might not always be so easy to do, depending on a lot of scheduling factors.

He's saying that we should do interviews at the APA so as to eliminate the possibility of a candidate gaining an unfair advantage over her competitors by going to the APA meeting and chatting with someone from the search committee who also happened to be there. I mean, there are problems, and then there are problems.

--Mr. Zero


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't write this off. While I haven't been on the market in years, I can easily imagine my advisors in grad school telling me/pressuring me to do exactly this - to go to the APA and shmooze whereever I can.

As a side note, this is a version of the same problem that happens when a jobseeker is also giving a talk at the Eastern APA. In this position, I had one school I was interviewing with tell me that they had decided that no one from that school should go to the talk, b/c it would be unfair to other candidates.

I had representatives from another school, with whom I had already had a phone interview with, go to the talk even though they were not interviewing at the APA.

I also learned after the talk that I had an entire search committee from a school that was not "formally" interviewing at the APA in the audience.

This sort of thing happens all the time and I would not discount the power one has to shmooze it up at the APA even if interviews were not happening!

Anonymous said...

No, he is not saying that we should do interviews because of this consideration. He is saying that this is a consideration that needs to be dealt with if we dispense with APA interviews. This is poor reading.

Anonymous said...

This is not a huge problem. But it is a problem. I know that our grad admissions committee, for example, does not make personal (that is, in person, as opposed to via e-mail or phone) contact with applicants before admissions decisions are made just to avoid this sort of cognitive bias.

Mr. Zero said...

I wouldn't write this off.

I would, for lots of reasons. For one thing, any such schmoozing is no more likely to work than it is to backfire. Philosophers as a group are socially awkward weirdoes. The probability that one of the two, the schmoozer or the schmoozee, lacks the requisite social skills for an effective schmooze session is high.

For another thing, people who aren't interviewing at the APA don't get tables at the Smoker. If I were doing that, I probably wouldn't bother. What good would a table do me?

For another thing, a lot of people don't like to be schmoozed. If I were on a search committee and was attending the APA even though we weren't interviewing there, and somebody who applied for a job in my department came up to me and started trying to schmooze, she would probably be interrupting me while I was having a conversation with a friend I hadn't seen in a long time. I would not welcome the interruption.

For another thing, candidates don't really know who is on the search committee and who isn't. You can't just go up to somebody from some school you applied to and know whether she's on the search committee.

For another thing, candidates apply to lots of jobs. If I were to commence Operation Schmooze in a good year, I'd be hunting around the Smoker for people from as many as 80 or 90 colleges and universities. In a bad year it would still be like 45.

For another thing, there are lots of conferences. This logic, consistently applied, would advise against any any search committee member or job applicant attending any conference between October and February.

I mean, I can see where something like this might happen once in a while. But this is not something to legitimately worry about, it is not a genuine problem that will demand attention from departments as they transition away from interviewing at the APA, and it will not have such negative effects that is worth thinking of ways to ameliorate them.

Mr. Zero said...

This is poor reading.

Maybe my "recap" is a little too strong. But I don't think I am completely misreading the comment. He's raising this as an "equity" issue for non-APA interviews, on a par with cognitive biases such as the interview illusion and tall-handsome-dapper-white-guy bias, in a way that tells in favor of APA interviews and against the alternatives, in the context of a discussion in which these "equity" issues are being used as reasons to abandon the practice of interviewing at the APA altogether.

Anonymous said...

Usually departments with graduate students on the market get tables, so a department with a job might well have a table even if it weren't doing APA interviews. That said, I agree that this is not a good reason to continue with APA interviews.

Mr. Zero said...

Usually departments with graduate students on the market get tables,

You're right. I forgot about that. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

The far more offensive part of his suggestion, however, is his repetitive use of "cmte".

Anonymous said...

I dont understand the problem. He is saying that if you do not interview at the apa you need to do phone/video interviews before the apa and come to a decision on the short list before the apa. That sounds reasonable to me.

zombie said...

There are lots of ways candidates (or their boosters) can try to get a "leg up" on the competition. Your advisor calls a friend on the committee, for instance. Or you graduated from the same school as some member of the committee. Or you graduated from Prestige U. Or, you had a good hair day. The "schmooze advantage" strikes me as not impossible, but, for all the reasons Mr Zero points out (most important being the socially awkward weirdo part), not likely to be a tremendous advantage.

That's not to say that unfair bias shouldn't be rooted out and eliminated. But the possibility of a schmooze advantage is not a very strong argument against ending APA interviews. It certainly doesn't outweigh the advantages, for candidates and committees, of the alternatives.

Ben said...

Off topic, but I just saw this in an email:

"THE UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE, Knoxville, TN. Department of Philosophy. 2 Tenure-Track Positions. Starting August 2012. Rank: Asst./Assoc. Position 1) AOS: History of Modern Philosophy, to include Kant. Position 2) AOS: Philosophy of Science. For both positions, the AOC is open, but, other things equal, ability to contribute to one or more research area in the Department is an advantage."

I know the AOS/AOC thing has been debated before, but can anyone explain how my AOC is supposed to contribute to the department's research? And, if they have a research cluster in area X, why would they want to hire someone with only an AOC in X? Wouldn't those researching X be more likely to teach it?

Am I missing something, or does this seem an unusual use of the AOS/AOC distinction?

Anonymous said...

What's the argument again? We should keep APA interviews because NOT having them would lead to more advantages for those who attend the APA anyway? Question: what job candidate in their right mind would shell out all that money during Christmas to go to the APA when they have all of their interviews, if any, going through skype, on the off chance that they might be able to talk to someone associated with the search at the smoker? I mean, seriously? Seriously?! Did anyone pay attention to what the job seekers over on Leiter were saying about how hard it is for them to go even if they do have interviews?

Anonymous said...


I imagine they want your AOC to "contribute to research" in the following way: you will have the ability to have scintillating (or at least fun) conversations with your fellow faculty members in the department lounge and at department parties about their research areas.

Anonymous said...

An AOC would contribute to the department's research areas if the department offers special areas of concentrations for majors, has a MA program concentrating in a specific sub-discipline, or a PhD program offering strengths in specific sub-disciplines. Asking for an AOS that broadens course offerings while seeking AOCs that compliments and strengthens a research concentration makes sense if you consider that departments may seek a niche-effect--offering a curriculum concentration that is specialized or somewhat to attract students. Curricula and research niches like these can be part of a long-term goal to seek research grants and/or open a center. I have no idea what UT intends, but their website could provide clues--look at the program offerrings, requirements for the major, etc.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 3:29 AM:

Maybe it's not an argument at all. Maybe, instead, it goes like this:

Once we get rid of APA interviews, we will still have a worry about equity. Here are ways of trying to deal with those worries.

Nothing in his comment suggests that it is an argument for continuing to do APA interviews, or does it suggest that candidates will go to the APA just to schmooze at the smoker. It asks what the best practice would be to eliminate advantages by candidates who are at the APA, for whatever reason. (Some departments pay for their grad students to give papers at the APA, etc.)

Nor, Mr Zero, does he say that this is an equity issue 'on a par' with the others. But not all issues have to be huge and overwhelming to be issues that are worth thinking about.

Mr. Zero said...

He is saying that if you do not interview at the apa you need to do phone/video interviews before the apa and come to a decision on the short list before the apa. That sounds reasonable to me.

I would agree if I thought there was a compelling reason to go to the trouble. But the reasons cited in this post are entirely trivial. There are interesting and important equity issues involved with Skype interviews and non-APA interviews of other sorts, but these are not them.

August said...

Personally, I think we should continue with APA interviews because discontinuing them would marginally affect major brewing companies' bottom line. After all, why would anybody pay obscene prices for shitty beer at the smoker unless they thought being at the smoker was important for their job search?