Monday, October 31, 2011

Not all job market advice is a lie

Update: Bearistotle reminds us that the APA did have a session on best practices recently. I vaguely remember that. My bad:
Fun fact: The APA had a session at the pacific last year on best practices for hiring and placement. It was not well attended, but it is worth acknowledging when the APA is working to provide the very thing you suggest would be ideal.
I also think the name 'Bearistotle' is pretty awesome.


Among the noise at the comments here about cover letters, John Doris provides what seems to me to be good advice:
I'd suggest: write a generic letter that treats both research and teaching, and is long enough to not risk insulting those who might be insulted by perceived cursoriness (1-1.5 pp. ?). Then, tailor pretty selectively, where 1. There's reason to think the institution has retention anxiety ("While the homicide rate in St. Louis is off putting, I just love those plucky Cardinals.") or 2. You are an *especially* good fit ("I'm delighted to see you have an AOC in Philosophy of Baseball; I was a minor league utility infielder for three seasons.") I'd be pretty selective about this selection, and not stretch too much: my cover letter to an appealing SLAC arguing for fit on the grounds my sister went there did not, sad to say, take me very far.
I might add also that if you are a member of an underrepresented population in philosophy, that you mention that also.

Anyways. Many of the other, more detailed comments on the thread are good too. I wish all job market advice looked something like some of the comments on this thread. So, please everyone who writes into these threads, keep writing in; it's a great courtesy and much appreciated.

However, speaking more generally and separate from any particular comments in the thread, I do think that it is time to dispense with personal anecdotes that sound like so much ad hoc reasoning justifying past practices. I also think that job market advice should not be framed in terms of how annoyed one is by reading certain parts of dossiers: "You stupid applicant. You think your stupid cover letter is going to help you get this job. Stupid. I'm so offended by your stupidity that you think you can pull the wool over my eyes with your stupid cover letter. Gah. Stupid applicants. *SIGH*" I find such framing offensive and I'm probably not alone. (YOU HURT MY FEELINGS!!!! I'M JUST TRYING TO GET A JOB!!!!)

Finally, I think something like what Anonymous Job Seeker suggests in the same thread is right:
The simple fact of the matter is that the hiring process is so variegated that nobody has any real idea how it happens outside their own local experience.

What would be *really* useful to job seekers and search committees alike is a compendium of best practices. This would outline profession-wide norms and expectations, against which individual institutions and applicants could then note differences. Everything from what goes into a dossier to timelines and procedures. The short notices in the back of the JFP are as insufficient as they are ignored.
Ugh. Job market.

--Jaded, Ph.D.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sorry to send such a new thread off in a new direction, but I need to ask: does anyone use the APA Placement service? If so, what is it, and what does it do?

I've applied for many jobs over the years, had many interviews, and have a good job. I've never used it. But now I'm wondering what it is, and whether I should have done.

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

From what I understand placement services basically just tells you where to go for your interview at the APA. They give you a badge, the coordinate on-site interviews, et cetera.

If you have a good job, then you don't need it and you didn't need it.

Anonymous said...

But the most important part is the badge. Remember the badge. That's what I paid for. Goddamn it.

Anyway, I think it's a pain figuring out how to write cover letters too. A page and a half? You've got to be kidding. The longest mine get, even the tailored ones, are maybe 3/4 of a page. What the hell would I talk about for a page and a half?! I also only tailor those that ask for it, unless there is a special reason for me to say something else like: hey, your U is in a potato field? Well, I grew up in a potato field and quite like them. I really just feel confused about what the right thing to do is. I guess we're all in the same boat.

YFNA

Bearistotle said...

Fun fact: The APA had a session at the pacific last year on best practices for hiring and placement. It was not well attended, but it is worth acknowledging when the APA is working to provide the very thing you suggest would be ideal.

zombie said...

At the conferences, the "placement service" tells you where to go for your interview, because this is top secret information and you wouldn't want a non-APA member to know something like that. Also, you wouldn't want any Tom, Dick or Harry barging in uninvited to your interview.

They also have a setup whereby you can leave a CV/dossier for jobs that are still accepting applications and might consider interviewing you on the fly at APA. The legends tell of people who actually got interviews this way.

If there is a non-conference placement service, I don't know about it, which doesn't prove it doesn't exist.

Anonymous said...

Ha! I am just imagining a scenario in which some non-APA member would decide to crash an interview. Thanks for the laugh z.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

I actually managed to get one of the legendary interviews last year. The interviewers spent the first five minutes trashing their own institution, then asked me whether I would seriously consider going there after what they'd just said.

Later on, they offered the job to someone else without even sending me a PFO. Even later, they sent me a belated EO form, which suggests the following question: "What's the best use for hardcopy EO and PFO forms?" The best answer I've heard so far is to send them to banks in the prepaid envelopes that come with credit card pre-approvals.

Anonymous said...

Here's a "best practice" to adopt:

DO NOT — under any circumstances whatsoever — apply to a job that lists an AOS in an area that you do not list as either an AOS or an AOC.

Hiring in Philosophy of [Something pretty specialized] this year. Twelve applications have arrived so far. Only TWO list "Philosophy of [Something pretty specialized]" as either AOS or AOC.

WTF?!?

Anonymous said...

Ha! I am just imagining a scenario in which some non-APA member would decide to crash an interview. Thanks for the laugh z.

I'm sensing a new thread, here. "How would you go about crashing an APA interview, and, more importantly, what would you do if you were successful?"

Anonymous said...

Crash strategy #1:

I'm thinking something along the lines of a strip-o-gram in which you ever so casually start telling them about your dissertation topic in an ever so breathy voice or baritone while taking it off.

Crash strategy #2:

Knock on the door in tears (assuming you could pull this off). Tell them that you are there to let them know that your best friend, and their next interviewee, choked on an olive at the bar and won't be able to make it, but that it's OK since you are there to accept the interview on their behalf.

Crash strategy #3:

Show up with tinfoil on your head and something that vaguely looks like dynamite strapped around your waist. Announce that you are there for the interview.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

ps: if I were successful, well, I would take the job ;)

YFNA