Tuesday, October 25, 2011

There has to be a better way...

... and it seems there is. Via Leiter, there's a pointer to this post at Philosophy, et cetera asking why philosophy departments don't use academicjobsonline.org, an academic jobs portal that lists jobs and streamlines the online application process while still allowing applicants to customize their dossier package. It is an extension of a service create by the American Mathematical Society.

Why, indeed. The current system is all over the place. Some departments want you to email your dossier package. The downside, often, is that you have to make your files tiny, or they get rejected by the recipient's mail server. Or the recipient's mailbox is full, and then you can't submit at all. You also get no confirmation of receipt, unless you BCC yourself everything (and then you at least know that your email got delivered somewhere), or the recipient is decent enough to confirm. Some departments (or HR offices) require you to upload all your files to their website. They pretty much all use the same (not very good) software, yet applicants are required to create an account and login for each one, and fill in the forms for each one. So, do the same work (20 minutes, on average) times 30. There's 10 hours of your life.

academicjobsonline.org is free for applicants. Reference letters can be uploaded to the service, and submitted to jobs for FREE. What the hell?

So, when the question has come up in discussions here as to why the philosophy departments can't get their shit together and standardize the application process, the typical reply is that it is not their fault. It's Human Resources, and university administrations that dictate (with an iron fist, no doubt) how applications are submitted. Let's be charitable and assume that's true. Do they have a separate policy for Math departments? Because last time I checked, a lot of those math departments were operating in the same universities that have philosophy grad programs.

So, to sum up, a system already exists to centralize the job listing and application process, it is completely independent of APA (that paragon of online ineptitude), and it is free for job applicants. In other words, everything we've been clamoring for. The JFP lists three programs (Yale, Duke, and Tufts) who are already using it this year. Someone explain to me why all the others (really, truly) are not using it, too.



Anonymous said...


The University of Denver gets a prize for most onerous application process. They require you to submit everything online, and email everything to them, and send hard copies of everything via snail mail. Interfolio charges you for all this as if it were three separate applications.

zeno's monkey said...

I agree. Filling out the same information to qualitatively identical yet distinct online databases is annoying. Others want the dossier emailed, others want it mailed, and some want online dossiers and mailed in letters.

Letter writers are also, no doubt, annoyed at all the emails to upload their letters to the various systems.

I've been making heavy use of philjobs this year. The save and exclude features and the "mark as applied" feature have been very useful in keeping track of what I want to apply to, when I have to, and what I've done. Philjobs says it is moving toward online submission of dossiers. That would be great!

The academicjobs site seems perfectly adequate and far better than the current mess. But if philjobs really does get the online system up and running, I think that would be even better.

Anonymous said...

I generally agree, except that, having used the Academicjobsonline service I remember it being a little frustrating and confusing. If I recall, once you fill out the application and upload your documents, it's very unclear how to actually submit your application. There is no 'submit' button at the end of the application. Again, if I'm remembering correctly, I actually had to use the back button several times and search around in non-obvious places ('status' maybe) to figure out how to submit it. And it's only free if enough schools use it for it to make sense to have letter writers submit their letters directly to the site. Otherwise, I have to upload letters through Interfolio, which still runs $8-$10 (which, by the way, is ridiculous). So there are some kinks to work out, but the idea shows promise I think.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:58--why do you say Denver requires this? The description of their job (#113) in the JFP makes no mention of hard copies, and doesn't provide a mailing address to which hard copies could be sent.

Maybe they required this in previous years?

I'm just checking--I'm applying to this job, and I want to make sure I'm not missing something.

Anonymous said...

This is neither here no there, but nothing pisses me off more than when a school wants to see transcripts, especially UNDERGRADUATE transcripts. Honestly, go fuck yourself.

Anonymous said...

Here here, I never understood the need to see how I did in my classes when I was 18. What's the justification for undergrad transcripts? Anyone?

Anonymous said...

12:14 - I'm not 8:58, but I did apply for the Denver job. It tells you after you've submitted it online to mail in hardcopies, and provides the address.

(I think I forgot to email it all in as well, though I did have snail mail them; I'll have to go back and check that. What a pain.)

Anonymous said...

What's the justification for undergrad transcripts? Anyone?

It's to show that you actually attended and graduated from the institution. To my mind, asking for all transcripts is legitimate, but not at such a preliminary stage.

Anonymous said...

The requirement to send undergrad transcripts is surely the work of an HR department, not a philosophy department.

zombie said...

If you get a job offer, you'll be asked to provide proof of your degree. Apparently people sometimes lie!

But there's really no good justification for asking all applicants to submit official transcripts, given the hassle and expense. I had a pdf of my unofficial grad transcript. When it was requested, that's all I sent with an app. Plausibly, some SCs might want to see what courses you took, if you took comps, etc.

Anonymous said...

Since the APA will continue to exist, and will continue to be involved in various aspects of hiring, the first step is convincing them to mandate that departments use this or a similar service (rather than using the JFP and some random app collection mechanism generated school by school). I know that many people have complained about the current state of affairs on blogs; I know that some people have complained directly to the APA; and I realize that a few people have helpfully set up wikis and other job sites. But I cannot fathom why no high ranking professor/APA member/APA officer has taken a leadership role on making this change happen. There is really nothing the young'uns can do about this, besides complain. It is time for someone in a position of power to lead a movement to convince the APA to change policy on the application process. (And I realize that my posting this comment here does not represent a step in that direction. Sigh.)

fox said...

5:26, what the hell are you talking about?
You think the APA could pass some resolution saying that all philosophy departments have to use this one job application service, and then that's it, they'd all have to do it?

APA Officer: Harvard Philosophy Department, you are out of compliance, shape up immediately!

Harvard Philosophy Chair: Right, we will immediately, or you could go fuck yourself, haven't decided which yet.

APA Officer: Podunk Second Tier State University Department of Religious Studies, you are out of compliance, shape up immediately!

PSTSUDRS Chair: Right, here's the phone number for the PSTSU Human Resources Department. I'm sure you'll enjoy talking to them!

(Not that the Harvard Philosophy Chair would actually be a dick about it; he's probably a good guy.)

The whining is part of the Smoker, I realize, but sometimes it's particularly clueless.

imprecise said...

The undergrad transcript thing is certainly an HR requirement. If you are sending your dossier to the Phil department itself (as opposed to HR), you can send an unofficial transcript. Then, if you get hired, you can send an official one. I got a TT job that way. Of course, there may have been jobs I didn't get because I sent only an unofficial transcript...

Anonymous said...

What anon 5:26 should really be asking for is a set of best practices in philosophy hiring. That could be determined by some committee formed by the APA, and it could recommend using this or that website. Then, out of compliance institutions would remain out of compliance, but the way in which they deviate could be clearly and concisely noted, leading to less confusion and uncertainty.

And to less whining.

Anonymous said...

5:26 AM here. Um, yes, by "change policy" I meant to suggest that the APA could at least advocate for departments to standardize the practice of soliciting and processing applications, and could deliver the ads in a better form than JFP, rather than simply continuing to do things as they've been doing for years and years, while ignoring all of the problems everyone is complaining about.

And I wasn't speaking out against our whining; I was merely trying to point out that it would be nice if a senior person or committee could step up and try to actually make some progress on this issue.

Jeez. We're on the same side here. I don't really understand how I incurred your wrath, 8:00 AM

Anonymous said...

5:26, why does it have to be some senior famous person? Why couldn't a junior person accomplish whatever a senior person could accomplish? Or is your thought that it would be professionally dangerous to try it, so it should be someone with tenure?

(To the contrary, I think if someone could accomplish what you're suggesting it would be a good way to secure your position.)

Anonymous said...

"why does it have to be some senior famous person?"

I didn't mean to suggest that they had to be famous. My thought was that the people who have the best chance of persuading the APA that this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed are the department chairs (whose students are on the market and whose departments are trying to hire) and/or professors in positions of APA divisional leadership, not least because such people have a network of communication with other such people, and I don't think that a serious change will happen until a bunch of established professors say that it should.

And if some junior person or grad student can find the time and influence to get it done, then great.

Prof. Kate said...

Speaking of a Better Way, I cannot seem to figure out how to register for the Eastern APA. I log on to apaonline. I click on the bright red "Register" link on the homepage, and it takes me to an 'events' page with this sort of calendar interface, as if I'm searching for flights, you know? So I enter the appropriate date range, and it prompts me for the city, and I type Washington. Then... then what? I click 'filter' but nothing happens.

Friends, Smokers, frokers, please tell me what I'm doing wrong. (And DON'T say "you're using apaonline, is what you're doing wrong." Cuz I know, I know... I blame myself.)