Saturday, October 8, 2011

Still Waiting...

As I prepare my application materials in advance of Wednesday's JFP-release, it occurs to me that I still haven't heard one way or the other about whether I got the job I on-campus interviewed for this past winter. I hope they let me know soon, because if I'm going to pack up and move across the country in time to start teaching classes for fall term, I need to get on it, like, yesterday.

--Mr. Zero

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ugh. Completely unacceptable. I once found out by mail that I didn't get an on-campus and that even felt cold. You didn't get in touch? I think I couldn't have helped myself :)

YFNA

Anonymous said...

Curious what you all think: When a job ad specifically requests a certain number of letters (three, usually), is it advisable to send more than that? Would search committees take this as evidence of an inability to understand and follow instructions, and/or as a waste of their time?

CTS said...

@11:37:

It might be best to have three 'official' refs and then send the others along as 'additional' ones.

That way, you are unlikely to step on anyone's absurdly sensiteve tootsies.

Anonymous said...

When a job ad specifically requests a certain number of letters (three, usually), is it advisable to send more than that? Would search committees take this as evidence of an inability to understand and follow instructions, and/or as a waste of their time?

This is all anecdotal, but: I've never heard of an SC viewing an application negatively because more than the required number of letters were submitted.

I have however heard of an SC becoming annoyed when candidates submit a kind of application material which is different from that requested (e.g. evidence of teaching effectiveness when no such evidence was requested). The rationale, apparently, is that if an application introduces a new variable for evaluating an applicant, fairness warrants evaluation of the other applicants with respect to that new variable.

I have no idea whether that sentiment is widespread, but I have heard it raised. (I'm inclined to think that sentiment is unnecessary. If an application includes a new, complicating variable, then why not just set that part of the application to the side? But perhaps things are more complicated on the side of the SC).

Xenophon said...

I'm still waiting to hear back about one on-campus interview that I did seven years ago, and another two years ago.

Then again, Mike Shanahan is still waiting to get paid for the year he coached the Raiders in the 1980s.

zombie said...

If they request three, send three. If it's a teaching oriented position, send one letter that addresses your teaching.

Dr. Killjoy said...

The number of letters above the requested three that you should send is the number of letters in your file that are written by marquis names in your AOS from institutions other than your own that did not serve on your dissertation committee and contain both informative and detailed positive analysis of your heretofore completed and in-progress work as well as detailed and informative positive comparisons between your talent and potential and that of some better known or established person or persons. You got n (where n>0) of those bad boys? Way to go, Champ! You get to send 3+n letters. As for the rest of you slags, Beat It! You're blocking my view of the Champ.

Anonymous said...

"If an application includes a new, complicating variable, then why not just set that part of the application to the side? But perhaps things are more complicated on the side of the SC."

At my small state school, two of the rules we have to follow (as laid out by HR) are:
1. All application materials must be considered.
2. All applicants must be judged on the same criteria.

It does, in fact, bother some of us when applicants send something we don't ask for, because we have to break one of those two rules. I'm sure some people don't care about rules, but some of us like to do our best to balance what we have to do with what we are capable of doing. Personally, I was only bothered by the applicants who sent writing samples, when we clearly noted we would not ask for writing samples until a later stage.

Anonymous said...

The number of letters above the requested three that you should send is the number of letters in your file that...contain both informative and detailed positive analysis of your heretofore completed and in-progress work as well as detailed and informative positive comparisons between your talent and potential and that of some better known or established person or persons.

That's right, because so many candidates know exactly what their letter writers have written and thus can make informed judgments as to how many of their letters to send.

C'mon, Killjoy, you can do better than that.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm....I thought it was a minimum requirement to send three. I always send six (one from my advisor, one from the person with whom I have also worked closely with, two from two others who speak to my expertise on other topics, one teaching letter, and one external letter). I think six really is the max number though. This seems pretty balanced, not excessive, and justifiable. Each letter speaks to different aspects of my abilities. One of them is an external evaluation. I say if a letter adds new positive information about you that is well supported, send it. Just don't go crazy and send 10. Just sending three letters when you have good letters that are not redundant from others seems a bit risky. But I've only been on one search committee. So what do I know?

tenured prof said...

When they ask for three, I think three is the minimum unless they explicitly say it's the maximum. It's very normal to have three research letters plus one teaching letter. Only two research letters looks bad. No teaching letter looks bad. (but some people have three research letters, one of which also includes substantial discussion of teaching.). And some people have more than one research letter. (you should only have one teaching letter. If more than one person could write about this, one of them should write his comments to the other and she should summarize in her letter.)

Dr. Killjoy said...

Of course, for those with letter writers who are not of noble birth, a marquee name will suffice.

Anonymous said...

While eating out a few weeks ago I noticed that a nearby table was discussing Rationalism/Empiricism. I also discovered that one of the participants was from a department that had interviewed me at the APA but hadn't contacted me after.

I briefly imagined walking up and asking about whether they had made a decision yet. I'm sure it wouldn't have gone well, but god it would've been deliciously awkward for a few seconds.

Anonymous said...

Another question for you all (not the same person as above): suppose there is a job in a department outside of philosophy (e.g. political science). I take it that people outside of philosophy probably don't know what counts as a good "pedigree" in philosophy. Does anyone think it would be a good/bad idea to include some mention of one's pedigree in a cover letter? Example: my department is ranked #XX in [...]. I'm torn between thinking this sort of thing might come off poorly (i.e. as bragging), and thinking it might be useful (particularly since my department is ranked high in philosophy but not otherwise a "name" school). Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

you should only have one teaching letter.

Why? I get that teaching letters have little-to-no significance when applying for a job in a research department. But 80% of the jobs in our profession are at institutions which have as their primary function undergraduate teaching.

In my experience, many search committees are either not particularly adept at or just not interested in seriously assessing the quality of an applicant's research. In those cases, I suspect multiple letters lauding one's teaching are more helpful for the applicant than they would be with other committees.

That's a pragmatic reason for including more than one teaching letter. Hopefully, search committees which care little about teaching letters will refrain from looking down on applicants who have pragmatic reasons for submitting multiple letters.

Dr. Killjoy said...

My dear Anon 11:28, if one has her letters properly vetted, then one should know which letters ought to go to market and which ones ought to stay home.

Sending unvetted letters is akin to eating a pack of expired baloney slices--they may not all be spoiled, but a rotten one in the bunch will still ruin your trip to Sea World.

Anonymous said...

I'd say the number of teaching letters should vary with the type of institution to which you're applying. I'm at a Leiter-ranked research university and have served on a couple of search committees, and I can say with certainty that candidates having more than one teaching letter in their file convey the wrong message to us. Having fewer than three research letters is also a strike against you. Three research letters, no teaching letter: fine. Things may be very different at institutions that put a greater emphasis on teaching, so you should tailor your set of letters to the school to which you're applying.

Anonymous said...

I'm at a Leiter-ranked research university and have served on a couple of search committees, and I can say with certainty that candidates having more than one teaching letter in their file convey the wrong message to us.

What's the rationale for this? Assuming a candidate has three, or more, strong letters speaking to his research, why is evidence of good teaching a negative? Is extensive teaching experience (as instructor) also considered a negative? That just sounds stupid.

I get that philosophers on search committee's are often not nearly as rational as they take themselves to be. But are SC members seriously endorsing the following inference: 'If applicant X is good at teaching, then applicant X either doesn't care about or is simply not proficient at scholarly research'?

Anonymous said...

My dear Anon 11:28, if one has her letters properly vetted, then one should know which letters ought to go to market and which ones ought to stay home.

My dear Dr. Killjoy, not every applicant has as much control over the handling of her dossier as you think is optimal. So, fuck them, right?

Anonymous said...

2:34 - yes, philosophers at fancy shmancy Leiter ranked research institutions are most certainly endorsing that inference. And it is a crying shame. I'd even call it immoral.

Anonymous said...

200 apps.

Say 50 get real scrutiny.

6 letters apiece--300 letters.

I'm on a TT committee this Fall.

Submit 3--MAX.

Anonymous said...

This is where I think the Mark Lance "homerun" strategy is salient. Sure, there will be some douche-baggy committee members who'll hate on you for having more than 3 letters, but who cares. If your letters are good, they increase your chance of a homerun, and ultimately that's what matters.

Anonymous said...

This is Anon 1:22 again.

I stated earlier:

I'm at a Leiter-ranked research university and have served on a couple of search committees, and I can say with certainty that candidates having more than one teaching letter in their file convey the wrong message to us.

Anon 2:34 then commented:

What's the rationale for this? Assuming a candidate has three, or more, strong letters speaking to his research, why is evidence of good teaching a negative?

That's not what I said. We like evidence of good teaching. The wrong message you're sending by including two or more teaching letters is that you either (a) feel insecure about the value of your research and are trying to compensate by hitting us over the head with your teaching ability, or (b) are really looking for a teaching job and thus not a good fit for us.

Anon 2:34 then asked:

Is extensive teaching experience (as instructor) also considered a negative?

No, it's not. It's positive, but not particularly so. What we're looking for in the first place is evidence of research excellence.

Finally, Anon 2:34 wrote:

I get that philosophers on search committee's are often not nearly as rational as they take themselves to be. But are SC members seriously endorsing the following inference: 'If applicant X is good at teaching, then applicant X either doesn't care about or is simply not proficient at scholarly research'?"

No, we're not. We're making an inference not from the quality of your teaching, but from the emphasis your application to a research-oriented school puts on your teaching ability.

Anonymous said...

RE: "The wrong message you're sending by including two or more teaching letters is that you either (a) feel insecure about the value of your research and are trying to compensate by hitting us over the head with your teaching ability, or (b) are really looking for a teaching job and thus not a good fit for us."

Anon 1:22, that may be the message you're receiving, but that doesn't mean it's the message the applicants are sending.

Anonymous said...

what about a teaching letter from your graduate institution and a teaching letter from your current non-tenure-track-job institution? still overkill?

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:22 here.

To Anon 8:00:

I'd recommend sending only the teaching letter from your most recent institution (assuming, let me emphasize that again, you're applying to a research school). SCs are not likely to be interested how you did as one of five TAs in Intro to Logic if there is data on how you did teaching your own course on The Philosophy of Time, say (and even if you taught your own courses in grad school, do only send a letter from your current place, unless, of course, you've been doing abominably badly).

Incidentally, we always welcome informative letters talking about your research. We want at least three, but if you have ten, hey, the better for you, we'll read them all.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:22,

I'd be glad to hear how you recover that message from the fact that two teaching letters were sent. Seriously.

I'd be even gladder if the way you recover it is plausible.

Once you're unable to formulate a plausible way of recovering that message, then I hope you stop interpreting it that way.

Dr. Killjoy said...

Comparatively few ads actually explicitly ask applicants to include a teaching letter. Almost no job ads from obviously, heavily research-oriented places ask for anything substantial in the way of exclusively teaching-oriented material, let alone teaching letter(s). So, perhaps you'll understand why search committee members (like myself and those of approximate awesomeness) are immediately suspicious of files containing a dedicated and extensive teaching portfolio sporting 30 pages of student evals and multiple teaching letters. Though no guarantee, it's still a safe bet that an unsolicited teaching-heavy dossier is from a candidate that either a) lacks the skill/talent to be productive research philosophers at least of the caliber expected at R1 institutions, or b) fundamentally has professional aims and goals favoring contributions principally made at the teaching level rather than via research. (**This goes both ways-- a search committee member at Southwest Pedagogical State would be immediately suspicious of a file containing all manner of unsolicited research oriented materials**).

Here's a tortured analogy that likely won't help but in nevertheless fun. Suppose I ask you on a date, specifically a get-to-know-you lunch-date at my neighborhood French bistro. When you show up, I find that you're carrying a condom in your wallet/purse. While that might give me slight pause for concern, I'd quickly get over it--after all, it is not terribly uncommon for people to carry condoms with them and in fact, it seems rather prudent to do so. However, now suppose that I find that not only do you hate both French food and small talk but in addition to condoms, you've also brought your own tooth-brush, towel, pajamas, eye-mask, hand-cuffs, copy of the Kama Sutra, and a box of SleepyTime Herbal Tea. It is obvious we have different expectations. It is also obvious that you are not my type. It is also obvious that either you haven't the slightest clue as to what my type in fact is or you haven't the slightest interest in my preferences. That is, you're just hoping to get lucky, and you've convinced yourself that any chance to get lucky justifies paying $3 to ride the subway only to eat food you hate and engage in forced small talk with someone who just is not now nor likely ever will be that into you.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:34 here.

Search committee member, Anon 1:22, writes: The wrong message you're sending by including two or more teaching letters is that you either (a) feel insecure about the value of your research and are trying to compensate by hitting us over the head with your teaching ability, or (b) are really looking for a teaching job and thus not a good fit for us.

Inferring either (a) or (b) seems really dubious, and at least for the following reasons:

(1) The job market's so bad that many candidates who would prefer a job in a research department are nevertheless willing to market themselves for jobs at SLACs and other institutions whose primary mission is undergraduate education.

(2) Some of those candidates are relying on departmental dossier services, at least some of which send out all of the letters in a candidate's file and don't give the candidate opportunity to pick-and-choose which letters go where.

An applicant who satisfies (1) and (2) and who has two letters speaking to his excellent teaching is an applicant whom Anon 1:22 will view as either (a) insecure about his research or (b) not really interested in a job in a research department. That strikes me as being both excessively presumptuous and oblivious to the peculiar circumstances faced by candidates in the current abysmal job market.

Anonymous said...

While you're waiting for the JFP to drop, you should consider signing this:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/philosophers-in-solidarity-with-the-occupy-movement

If the rule of the 1% continues unchallenged, pretty soon none of us will have jobs.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about this dubious inference thing. I mean, sure, it's not deductively valid, but suppose I am interviewing for race horse positions and I get a bunch of testimonials about how friendly this horse is. Assuming that the applicants are putting their best foot forward, that is, they are showing you how very qualified they are for the position of race horse, then, wouldn't an application that is light on winning records, but high on friendly testimonials, allow you to infer something about the candidate? I guess the placement services stuff does muddy the waters a bit, but then, candidates I would think would be most rational in choosing to include at least one teaching letter, knowing that you know that they know, etc.

I was wondering though: I myself would like a lighter rather than a heavier teaching load in order to do research, as is the norm, is it not? So, my question is this: I include all info about all teaching I've done right now, but that is starting to get a bit ridiculous. So what should I cut? How long is an average teaching portfolio, etc.?

YFNA

Mr. Zero said...

Hi Dr. Killjoy,

I don't have much to add to this discussion, but I thought the question was what would happen if you sent an extra "teaching" letter to a "research" department, not what would happen if you sent a file containing an unsolicited, extensive teaching portfolio sporting 30 pages of student evals and multiple teaching letters.

So, like, suppose I have a letter from my advisor that addresses my teaching among other things, and a letter from my current department chair that addresses my teaching among other things, and that I have a bunch of publications in good journals and I send only whatever you ask for in the way of other teaching materials (i.e. no evals, teaching statement, or syllabi unless you ask). Am I insecure and lacking in skill and talent? Because, I don't think I can ask that my placement officer yank either of those letters. I think those letters have to go out with every application.

Anonymous said...

So let's say I'm awesome at both teaching and research, and got the credentials to show for them. The right thing for me to do is to produce a shittier teaching dossier for research schools and a shittier research statement for teaching schools? So that the committee won't interpret that I have different aspirations?

That makes sense.

zombie said...

It is not advisable to have a single dossier package that you send out for every job, for all the reasons cited above. This is part of tailoring your app to the specific job. This includes having more than one version of your CV (emphasizing research or teaching), more than one teaching portfolio, more than one cover letter, etc. If you're not asked for a complete teaching portfolio that includes student evals and all the rest, don't send it. But some jobs will ask you for evidence of "teaching effectiveness" or "teaching excellence," and those are the SCs that want to see your entire teaching portfolio.

One of the benefits, I found, in having my letters on Interfolio was that I could send the specific letters needed for each application. But, I never had the luxury of having my letters or dossier sent for free by my dept or placement office. That service was not available (and the placement office at my school charged more than Interfolio for letters, offered less service, less convenient service, and less reliable service). Likewise, having someone else put your dossier together for you has customization costs, I suppose (again, not a problem for me). You pay in your own time (and/or money) for tailoring your dossier, but you gain control.

FYI, I only ever included the student eval summary data sheets in my portfolio -- never any student comments. There would have been WAY too many for me to include them all, and choosing only some would look like cherry picking. As it was, my teaching portfolio was close to 30 pages, and I only sent it if it was requested. (And FWIW, I have a research-oriented position at a research-oriented university)

One of the virtues of having a website where you post your dossier is that you can direct SCs to it (in your cover letter) if they want to see something you have not included in your package. (But if they ask for it, include it.)

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:22 here.

Look, guys, I appreciate your efforts at improving my moral and intellectual standards. But face it: I'm simply providing you with an empirical data point that is intended to help you strengthen your applications. If you present yourself to a research school as someone who is eminently interested in teaching, well, that's like presenting yourself to Playboy as someone eminently interested in feminism. It doesn't just show that you're a bad fit; it also shows that you didn't care much about how you would look to the institution you're applying to.

As to placement services: Ask your placement person to have two files on record for you, one for teaching jobs, one for research jobs. If they're unwilling to do so, complain and don't have your applications sent out through them. I understand that this creates some additional work, but the use of a placement service is no excuse for not tailoring your application materials to the place to which you're applying.

Anonymous said...

Wait, I completely agree that _as things stand_ people should tailor their applications. What I take people are questioning is that the way things stand is remotely rational. And hey, given that there are people here who are on search committees, maybe they can do something to stop the irrational practices.

Anonymous said...

1:22 - I can understand research schools being suspicious of an application which seemed to focus *primarily* on teaching. But do you also mean that a strong research-oriented application will likely be hurt by inclusion of a second teaching letter?

Dr. Killjoy said...

Perhaps the most important lesson here is that grad students need to disabuse themselves from the notion that they cannot exercise sufficient control over, or are incapable of otherwise shaping, their own dossiers, either in terms of content or manner of dissemination.

Seriously, I frequently find dossiers that contain poison letters of varying lethality. Moreover, some of these dossiers would have otherwise looked pretty impressive had they been vetted or simply subjected to all but the most cursory of glances.

"But Doc Killjoy," you cry, "I ain't got no Plasemunt Deewrecktor to lookit my recomendashuns."

Fear not, lowly plebe! Dr. Killjoy says to Eat Your Veggies and Speak with your Advisor and/or department chair to arrange--with the consent of your letter writers--some simple system by which your letters can be competently vetted (or at least quickly run through a body scanner to detect for explosives).

Now you know, and Knowing is half the battle!

Dr. Killjoy said...

One more thing:

Folks need to realize that teaching letters, even when they glowingly attest to your teaching awesomeness, provide little to no information about your actual effectiveness as a teacher. Why? Because they are frequently written by professional philosophers--you know, those snooty, poorly dressed folks WHO HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO FORMAL PEDAGOGICAL TRAINING WHATSOEVER! Basically, professional philosophers are professional teachers in the same way that my Yoga instructor is a professional teacher. As such, a letter from Dr. Bigname McMetaphysics saying you're a peachy-keen teacher ought to hold no more weight than a letter from some muckety-muck in the education department praising your philosophical research.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is so ironic.

Killjoy, that unsuccessful date you had at the French bistro? That was my yoga instructor!

And I hope you find what you're looking for, but, damn, you missed out.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:22,

"Look, guys, I appreciate your efforts at improving my moral and intellectual standards. But face it: I'm simply providing you with an empirical data point that is intended to help you strengthen your applications."

Yes, indeed, it is an empirical fact that you misinterpret application materials in that way. Thanks for helping us face up to that sad reality.

In other news, many SC members misinterpret the significance of gender and ethnicity. Any advice on how to handle those empirical data points?

***

Sending a second teaching letter does not amount to "present[ing] yourself to a research school as someone who is eminently interested in teaching," which is what I took you to be conveying.

And even if it did amount to presenting yourself that way, your commentary seems to presuppose that being "eminently interested in teaching" was somehow, some way, in conflict with research excellence, or evidence against research excellence, or some such thing.

I challenge you to either make a plausible case that sending a second teaching letter, or being eminently interested in teaching, should be interpreted the way you suggest, or to stop interpreting those things that way.

If the former, then we all benefit from your contribution. If the latter, then you benefit from becoming a more just person, and candidates benefit from better treatment. It's a win/win.

Dr. Killjoy said...

One more one more thing:

Search Committees at heavily research-oriented places are looking for stellar research philosophers who are at least minimally decent philosophy teachers. As such, a teaching letter is useful because it provides evidence that you are not a complete fuck-up in the classroom, but that's all we really need.

Tortured Analogy #267: The fact that my paperboy can throw a newspaper while doing a back-handspring is awesome no doubt. In the end, however, I just want my newspaper to stay out of the fucking bushes and off my fucking roof. So, although some paperboys are substantially flashier than others, I'll always go with the one that gets my newspaper closest to my front door.

Anonymous said...

What lazy SC members. I sent 8 letters and got a job at a top 25 school (7 interviews, 3 campus visits, 1 offer). Now I had two very different AOSs and needed letters to speak to each. But even if that weren't the case, why wouldn't the SC want as much info as possible. I've been on the other end. I read all the letters. It's your job to do so. It's wise to do so.

Anonymous said...

And to all you no-doubt AOS virtue-theorist posters who facilely call people "assholes" and "douche-bags" while courageously hiding behind anonymity--if there's any justice in the world, then I will never call you "colleague".

So go ahead--make my day and yourself feel better--just as any good 8-year old bully would--and let me have it. I have dossiers to read.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

And to all you no-doubt AOS virtue-theorist posters who facilely call people "assholes" and "douche-bags" while courageously hiding behind anonymity


Ironic? Yes/No

Anonymous said...

" but if you have ten, hey, the better for you, we'll read them all."
"I sent 8 letters"
I teach at a top Leiter-ranked school and applications with this many letters (a) are very rare, and (b) really, really annoy me.

Anonymous said...

7:06 No. Glad to make your day--and mine.

wv: toped: effete self-referenced composition metaphysics

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...maybe I have been doing things wrong. But for every damned suggestion, there is one that contradicts it.

I typically send six letters (1 from my advisor, another with whom I've worked closely, another who speaks to my other AOS, another speaking to my competences in other areas, and one from a big name external writer, plus one teaching letter), write pretty generic cover letters unless they ask me to specifically address some issue or other, and send all of my application materials (typically) including my teaching dossier (which has a TOC as its first page so that the SC can easily see at a glance whether there is anything of interest). I figure that deals with the problem of sending something they don't want -- they can trash it, if they don't care about it. I do not include the actual evaluations -- they are just a mess to try to follow and there's just so many. However, I don't send my teaching dossier for specifically stated research positions -- post docs, etc.

But now there's been a new wrinkle introduced: that SCs might be bothered by introducing a new variable -- I hadn't thought about that. Nevertheless, I assume most places, even the top places, want *some* evidence of teaching effectiveness. At least I think I've noticed that even research places, by and large, state that they want this evidence.

But now I am wondering whether I should send it to places that do not ask for it. I always kind of assumed that SCs would like as much relevant info as possible, and I assume that they wouldn't mind seeing more of than they asked for since if they don't want it, they don't have to bother with it.

What I customize: as I said, cover letters when asked, some places ask for transcripts, some ask specifically for only one writing sample (I often provide 2 because I claim two AOSs), some specifically ask for a personal research statement, some only for a CV. I might send different writing samples depending on whether I have applied there before.

I've had quite a few APA or first round interviews for tts and temps -- I don't know how many exactly. Some of them at R1 places (if I know what that means). I've had a few on-campuses (the first one was abysmal, but the others went really well). No tt job yet though, and ultimately, that's what I need. So while I thought I was doing OK, maybe I wasn't or could do better.

What say you? SC member comments and those who have recently scored tt jobs are especially welcome.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

YFNA,
You said it best: there's a lot of contradictory advice out there. In fact, the one thing that emerges from this thread and the similar one on Leiter is that nobody knows what the fuck they're doing when it comes to hiring, least of all search committees.

The presumption that teaching and research are somehow incompatible competencies is laughable on its face. That an application would be dismissed because the research statement is longer or shorther than a paragraph is fucking insane. Since when does more proficiency and more experience make you less qualified?

And in the end, it doesn't even fucking matter, because the SCs won't end up following the advice they give here. Just look at who's been hired recently. How many freshly minted PhDs are hired in lieu of long-experienced teachers with the kind of research profile that has kept them in the game to this point?

Y(other)FNA

Christopher Hitchcock said...

I have done a large number of searches. These are just my own opinions. Personally, it does not bother me if a candidate sends more material than is necessary for our search. In our searches, we typically ignore teaching materials. (Not because we don't care about teaching, but because we hope candidates will be here long enough that the teaching experience they will gain swamps anything they come in with.) But I would never interpret a lot of teaching materials in the application as evidence that the candidate is not serious about a research job.

I have learned how to skim materials quickly and decide what is relevant. E.g., if a candidate has a large number of letters, I can quickly figure out the relationship between a letter-writer and the candidate, and what type of information a letter is likely to contain. (E.g., whether it will focus on the candidate's dissertation, her teaching, her work on a separate project, etc.) If you send a large number of letters, I may not read every word unless you make it past the first cut. But I wouldn't hold a large number of letters against a candidate.

I expect that candidates are applying for a large number of jobs, and that these will not all be of the same kind (e.g. some will be at large research-oriented schools, some at small liberal arts colleges). Applying for jobs is a huge amount of work, and I think it is unreasonable to expect candidates to tailor their application packets to different jobs (with the important exception of the cover letter). This is especially true if the candidate is lucky enough to have someone, such as a departmental secretary, managing the application process. (And this will always be the case with the letters, which the candidate won't have in his possession.) Asking someone like a departmental secretary to send some material to some schools, and other material to others, is a recipe for disaster. (This is not because secretaries are incompetent -- mine have been fantastic. But this kind of information degrades very quickly as it travels from person to person.)

Anonymous said...

But I would never interpret a lot of teaching materials in the application as evidence that the candidate is not serious about a research job.

But I wouldn't hold a large number of letters against a candidate.

Applying for jobs is a huge amount of work, and I think it is unreasonable to expect candidates to tailor their application packets to different jobs (with the important exception of the cover letter).

THANK YOU CHRISTOPHER HITCHCOCK!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"Another question for you all (not the same person as above): suppose there is a job in a department outside of philosophy (e.g. political science). I take it that people outside of philosophy probably don't know what counts as a good "pedigree" in philosophy. Does anyone think it would be a good/bad idea to include some mention of one's pedigree in a cover letter? Example: my department is ranked #XX in [...]. I'm torn between thinking this sort of thing might come off poorly (i.e. as bragging), and thinking it might be useful (particularly since my department is ranked high in philosophy but not otherwise a "name" school). Thoughts?"

I was on a search committee last year, and one of the candidates did this. That candidate's file was immediately thrown into the "NO!" bin after reading such a letter... and after we all had a good laugh. Mention of pedigree comes across as snobbery and bragging. Don't rely on your institution's reputation. What have YOU done besides get into the program?

Anonymous said...

...apologies for the change of topic, but is the apa website now totally down, or is it just my computer?

CTS said...

I completely agree with Prof. Hitchcock, with the inclusion of the qualifier about cover letters. (I think that is not too much to ask.)

That SC members would discount applicants on the basis of their largely pre-packaged dossiers strikes me as foolish, quite apart from any judgment as to the character of the members in question.

One thing I learned in my many years in our profession - and being at 3 very different places: however desperate you might be for a job and however you might rank a place on some PGR scale, you will live with those colleagues for a long time, and you need to think about this.

If they really are a-holes, they might deny you tenure. If they are a-holes and you manage to trick them into believing you are one of them, you will be stuck with them for many years, possibly your entire working life.

A job in the hand - especially one you 'can move from' is a wonderful thing. But, if you can, you should avoid having petty, nasty, arrogant colleagues.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the most important lesson here is that grad students need to disabuse themselves from the notion that they cannot exercise sufficient control over, or are incapable of otherwise shaping, their own dossiers, either in terms of content or manner of dissemination.

I suspect life is a lot simpler in Dr. Killjoy's world. Here's mine as a job applicant:

1) Two of the past three years, one of my department administrators has fucked-up the dossier service for one or more of the job candidates. (Imagine "applying" to jobs only to find out in mid-December or even post-APA that your application was never received by the hiring department and thus never considered).

2) Our placement officer is clueless.

3) The faculty who are in a position to change the situation are a) touchy, b) not obviously committed to having a strong placement record, and c) people on whom I depend for letters of recommendation.

Does all of that make for a fucked-up dynamic? You bet. But, as best I can tell, it's not one I'm in a position to change. And if, like me, you have extensive teaching and research responsibilities --none of which pay well--, then simply opting out of the system and assembling one's dossier is time and money which you don't have.

Perhaps the most important lesson here is that some tenured faculty need to disabuse themselves of the notion that they have an adequate understanding of the situation of current job market candidates, much less that their knee-jerk 'wisdom' is as appropriate as they imagine.

zombie said...

Anon 4:25, I can claim those same circumstances my first year on the market (but add a young child to the mix and subtract a dept that provided a dossier service). The second year I was on the market, I took complete control of my apps (with Interfolio for my letters). And, I customized every cover letter, and tweaked the dossier package for each job. I got more interviews that year. My third year, I customized the dossiers much more, but by then, I was more organized and had worked out a pretty efficient system for managing apps and putting the packages together. I applied for over 60 jobs, spent every single night working on the applications (which amounted to a third job for me) and got a TT job. It was totally worth it.

Compared to being on the job market, having a TT job is incredibly easy. Nobody should doubt that looking for a job is a job in itself. And a stressful, time-consuming, expensive job at that. But if you want that future job, you have to do the work now. If your dept provides shitty support (like yours does, and mine did), then you have to pull up your socks and do the work yourself.

Christopher Hitchcock said...

Following up on Zombie's comment: For those applicants just finishing their Ph.D.'s, the degree to which a candidate has control over her own application materials may depend upon the policies of one's graduate program. When I was on the job market (not quite the stone age, but definitely still the postal age), my program kept tight control. They 'nominated' certain people for certain jobs. The goal was (a) to protect their 'brand' by not allowing people to apply for jobs for which they weren't qualified, or weren't likely to be competitive; and (b) to minimize competition between candidates from the same program. It was tough at the time, but looking at it from the other end, it seems like a reasonable strategy. If you weren't nominated for a position, you could still apply on your own. But instead of your dossier being sent in an attractive folder with a letter from the placement director explaining how you'd been hand-picked to apply for the position, your dossier would be sent in a plain pile with a terse note saying 'sent at the candidate's request'. I don't know whether some grad programs still exercise that degree of control, but if so, that would make it very hard for a candidate to determine exactly what got sent to whom.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:45 you've accurately described my circumstances, and the circumstances of many job candidates I know personally. Well said.