Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Gentlemen and women, start your engines

I hope that many of you are getting good news about interviews in the coming days. And those of you who haven't done the interview thing before (and perhaps those of you who have) may have some questions about what to expect, how to prepare, how not to ruin ChristmaHannuKwanzaa for your families, etc.

This is advice from an historian, but it's quite useful and applicable to APA: http://edgeofthewest.wordpress.com/2008/12/02/aha-interviews-redux/

This from last year's week of dread Smoker:

Mary Sies' extremely useful article at IHE:

And this thread from LR:

What worked for me: create a master list of questions, and write a response. For me, knowing the answer makes it far easier to extemporise on the spot. (I do the same thing prepping for class. I write extensive notes, but only glance at them for prompts.) You can't take your notes with you to an in-person interview (one of the fringes of a phone interview is that you can have all your notes and papers in front of you), so you have to know what you're going to say.

Mundane advice: When you get the call (or email), you will likely be asked to choose among several interview times. It's easier to handle this question by email, but if by phone, you'll need to have your calendar handy to write down the appointment (and to make sure you don't have any scheduling conflicts). This seems obvious, but the first time I got "the call," I had already concluded that I was not getting any interviews, and was completely unprepared and had to run around my house trying to get it together. This is much harder to do when your head is buzzing loudly from that massive adrenaline rush you just experienced. You may be asked if you have any questions. One question you should ask is "Who will I be meeting with?" Get their names. (Later, look them up. Read something they've written that's of interest to you. You'll have time on the plane ride to DC). Ask who you can contact on the SC if you have any questions prior to the interview. Get contact information in case something happens that prevents you from getting to the show on time.

APA is a mob scene. It's stressful. The wi-fi can be really sucky, so don't count on it working. Take snacks (the food is expensive in the hotels). Try to have fun. Silently judge the other philosophers based on irrelevant factors like hair and shoes. Don't get drunk. Few people are as charming as they think they are when drunk.

Take your intervew clothes in your carry-on bag.

Pray to Khione for good weather (the APA can't handle predictable winter storms).

I'll open this up to the floor for questions. And answers, from thems what gots 'em.



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Prof. Kate said...

As every year, I also offer the link to Mary Sies Academic Job Interview questions, which did more to prepare me for the market than did all the professors at Wisconsin put together:

Anonymous said...

Is there a wiki listing which schools have already made calls about interviews?

Anonymous said...

Hi Zombie,

When should we give up hope on getting an interview? Is there a website where people list their interviews and the departments that have contacted them (I'm thinking something like "whogotin")?


Mary said...

This is great advice, Zombie! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

For a phone interview: When they ask you "how would you teach X?" how long should your answer be in minutes, approximately?

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit late in asking this question, as it pertains to application materials -- but those are still being sent out, just for jobs that aren't APA-relevant. Anyway, when I send syllabi, is it just the readings and course description that are of interest? In other words, can I cut out stuff like university policies on cell phones or my own policies about classroom behavior? What do people who have been on search committees want to see, and if I don't cut anything, does it count against me as having provided too much?

Anonymous said...

In response to the question about a wiki listing which schools have made calls about interviews, there is the following site: http://phylo.info/jobs/wiki

Just click on "job status wiki" on the right side of the page. I don't know how accurate it is; anybody can update the status of a job.

zombie said...

3:27 -- I always sent out the complete syllabus.

10:47 and 11:02, the phylo wiki is the place, but being a wiki, I wouldn't bet my future on what it reports.

Last year, my first interview request (for APA) came on Dec 14. More on Dec 16 and 17. It is still too early to freak out, people!

zombie said...

Anon 12:56 -- how fast do you talk? How much do you have to say?

I'd prepare a couple of longish paragraphs for a question like that. There will often be follow-up questions. They want to know stuff like what book(s) you'll use. Orignal sources or textbook? They want to know if you'll base it on discussion, or lectures, what kind of instructional materials you use. Some of this will depend on class size, so you need to know what kind of classes they have. Huge classes in lecture halls, or small seminars of 5 students? Is it a gen ed course, or an upper division course?This is where it pays to do your homework and know as much as you can about the school.

Prof. Kate said...

Anonymous 11:02, don't give up hope until the 24th. one of the best interviews I ever had, and productive of an on-campus interview, wasn't "called" to me until the 23rd. Heck, I wouldn't even have known they called to schedule an interview, if I hadn't remote-checked my answering machine from my parents' house! (Sorry, I realize that telling you to keep hoping on the 23rd does not really decrease stress.)

Anon 3:27, I kept all that stuff on, just re-ordered it so that the weekly schedule of assignments and the required texts came first, the rest after. (Bring extra copies of those sample syllabi to the APA! Even search committees who didn't ask for them have reacted to them like they're catnip when I've offered.)

wv: caleauws (beautiful claws?)

CTS said...

Dear Everyone:

Please also have some institution/department specific questions TO ASK.

It realy looks bad if a candidate canot think of anything to ask about our school/program/department.

Take advantage - especially for SLACS - of the website of the school and also of basic facts such as those available on the college search sites.

(I believe that my success at my first job interview - with an exclusive western private U. - had at least somehting to do with my being familiar with their undergrad retention rates & profiles.)

zombie said...

Bring extra copies of your entire dossier to APA.

Anonymous said...

A few questions about "thank you" notes for interviews. Is it appropriate to send a short thank you note to an interviewer thanking him/her for the interview? Is it required? About how long should the note be? What is the timeline for sending? Thanks in advance for your help. (And thanks to everyone who has contributed to the discussion so far.)

Anonymous said...

I was told (after I had been on the market) that I should have sent thank you notes and promptly too after interviews. In my experience with departmental searches it is mixed fairly evenly between those candidates who send thank-you notes and those who don't. It was not a facor in any of our deliberations. BTW for our search this year don't expect to hear until at least the Dec 15. Some of us are still teaching and serve on many committes that demand end-of-semester time.

Anonymous said...

@3:27: If you decide to include your policies on classroom behavior, read them over carefully for tone. Don't include anything that could lead a search committee member to think (fairly or unfairly), "This candidate doesn't like students."

RexII said...

I was told (after I had been on the market) that I should have sent thank you notes and promptly too after interviews.

I was told that I should not do this. Some felt it was unnecessary, while others felt it would appear desperate, e.g., as a not-so-sly form of ass-kissing or as a clumsy attempt to ferret out my status with the search committee.

I was on a couple of search committees while in grad school, and I never heard about any candidates doing this after interviews with us. However, this doesn't mean much, since the candidates had no real reason to send a note to me. But if others on the committee did get notes, they didn't mention this to me.

I can't imagine a note would have meant much to me one way or the other. I don't expect them now, but wouldn't be bothered by them, provided they were neither ass-kissy nor slyly attempting to weedle information from me.

Please also have some institution/department specific questions TO ASK.

Right, but be careful. I interviewed with a school that didn't have a phil degree program yet. They had six philosophers on staff, all of whom worked as support for gen ed. I asked the interviewer if they were developing a degree program. Wrong question. The interviewer got a bit defensive, and wanted to assure me that they were. He seemed to think I wouldn't be interested if they weren't developing one.

Honestly, I would have loved to work there (for many personal reasons) and to have helped them build a program. But I didn't get a fly-out. I can't say this is the only reason, and I really doubt it is the only reason, but I felt some air go out of the room as soon as I asked my question. I should have known that they might be sensitive about this.

Anonymous said...

I would second being careful about asking about the department. Someone might indeed get prickly and why not -- you are quite limited in your knowledge of what is going on there and websites are often not informative. Be inquistive but aware of your limited knowledge of how things run. This can really stop you looking like an arrogant prick to the committee. My default questions: how many philosophy majors? Do you have an undergrad philosophy club? These can lead to more natural conversations which is a good thing.
Also, be prepared for quirky questions. Yes, the same old questions arise but you can also get thrown a curveball. I've had a couple of interview questions that were kind of shocking to me in their condescension or bizarreness.

Anonymous said...

I also say be cautious in asking questions at the end. You can provide a brief reason - "no, the webpage was informative; can I contact the search chair if questions do come up?"

Really, much of what you might ask is only relevant if you get a flyout, or if you are genuinely willing to turn down a flyout (or job offer) if the answer is not what you are looking for. Why ask at an interview about things like e.g. travel support? Does anyone, you or the committee, really think you are going to change your mind about the job at that stage if the support package isn't good enough? And then, what are they doing but supplying pointless info and taking up the already too-brief break they get between interviews.

Upshot: it can come across as competent to just let them know that at this time, you have no questions, and know who to contact if anything comes up.

Anonymous said...

How many of you have already booked a flight and/or a room? I haven't, but as I am on the west coast it's not as easy for me to just pack my bags and go, and this pushes me in the direction that maybe I should. Of course, should no interviews come through (and likely too: first time out and applying as an ABD), I would have to cancel these reservations, which would be depressing. Side note: traveling is expensive. Thoughts?

peripatetic said...

Book on Southwest. It will be fairly cheap (fly into BWI and take the MARTA in), and if you cancel you get credit which you have up to a year to use.
If you book the hotel at the APA rate, it's fully refundable too.

L. A. Paul said...

Four pieces of advice.

First, try to schedule interviews for earlier in the day. SCs get tired. The worst interview slot is late in the day on the 29th or late-morning on the 30th (if the department is interviewing on the 30th).

Second, between 7:30-9am the hotel restaurants and room service will get completely overwhelmed, since everything--sessions and interviews--starts at 9. If you have a 9am interview, bring something in your suitcase that you can eat for breakfast, like an energy bar. Make your coffee in your hotel room.

Third, at twenty minutes before the hour, starting at 8:40, the hotel elevators will get overwhelmed. If you have a 9am interview, plan extra time to get there. You may need to take the stairs. Do not schedule interviews back to back, or if you must, explain to the SC member who contacts you that you might be late (they will understand if you explain why).

Fourth, before you arrive at the APA, make sure you have the name and ideally, the cell phone number of the SC member who contacted you to arrange the interview. At least, make sure they tell you what their plan is for getting you the information about where the interview is. Sometimes SCs forget to tell you which hotel room the interview is in (they may not know until they arrive on the 27th). Sometimes they tell you the wrong thing by mistake. Sometimes the elevator breaks and you need to contact them to tell them you'll be late, etc. Also make sure they have your cell phone number.

Finally, good luck! I received the interview call (that led to my first job) on Dec. 22nd. So don't lose hope if you don't hear anything next week.

Anonymous said...

I second all of L.A. Paul's suggestions.

I'll add my experience to the list of anecdotes. Last year I had five total interviews, but only one (the first one, in fact) came via a phone call. All the others were via email. So, first off, don't get too jumpy when the phone rings; it's probably your mom calling, but that doesn't mean you won't get an interview.

Last year also taught me not to lose heart in light of what happens with the Wiki. One of the jobs that seemed exactly right for me (and if I weren't getting an interview there, I wouldn't have anywhere) suddenly went to "Interviews scheduled" and since I hadn't gotten a call, my hopes were crushed ... until two weeks later I also got an interview. I learned later that the SC was calling people in batches (Why? Because as I also learned, everything about that place is FUBAR) and I was in a later batch.

My main advice is this: Don't look at the Wiki. When you go to the APA, *don't* commiserate with your fellow marketeers. Focus on your own interview preparations, don't worry about who got a call from where. What calls other people got won't help you in an interview.

zombie said...

Anon 10:10 -- book the hotel now. There's no charge to cancel, and your credit card won'tget popped until you actually take the room.

You can buy a refundable ticket on any airline. They cost more than nonrefundable tickets, and they may charge you a hefty fee to cancel, but they do give you the option of canceling your flight. (But it may be cheaper to just lose the airfare, depending on how much it costs.) The costs to job candidates for flights to Eastern APA is, of course, an important argument against having in-person interviews.

Anonymous said...

Make sure you are WEARING, or HAVE IN HAND something decent enough to interview in. Bags go missing. Few places will have a huge problem with you not looking as tidy as you might have done otherwise, but your pink joggers with 'pink' written on the butt aren't going to help your case.

Popkin said...

About the hotel reservation: I was told that I had to cancel a week in advance in order to avoid a charge (at APA conference hotels in previous years it's been 48 hours). So make sure you cancel in time if you need to.

Anonymous said...

7:54, your comment is offensive. Do you really picture your fellow female colleagues wearing crap like that? Make your point without implying that women in philosophy are, deep down, a bunch of giggly chicks trying to get you to check out their rear.

Moreover, your comment reveals that you think women need more guidance in this process than men. From a woman, let me assure you that this is not the case.

zombie said...

Hey 9:26, I think 7:54's point was about making sure your interview clothes make it to DC (i.e. either wear them when you travel, or pack them in your carry-on). I don't think s/he was suggesting that anyone would wear their workout clothes to an interview on purpose.

RexII said...

I was on the market for 6 years. I never stayed at the APA hotel, mainly because it cost too much. I'd always wait until the last minute and then find a nearby hotel.

One time I ended up across the street, and I saved a significant amount of money. On another occasion, I had to take the hotel shuttle to the airport to get a train to the APA hotel. Still, even in that case, it only took me 30 minutes to get to the APA hotel. This is the silver-lining to the APA's perverse desire to hold the winter meeting in big, expensive cities.

Anyway, my point is just that there are a lot of ways to get what you need this winter. Don't feel locked in to the standard plan. Google maps can show you exactly how close any hotel is to the APA hotel.

Anonymous said...

Hi Zombie,

9:26 here. I needed to say that I am a woman and I was offended by that comment. I agree: s/he wasn't implying that women, or anyone, is silly enough to wear sweats to an interview on purpose. The sexist aspect was the image of female philosopher s/he seemed to have in mind: a youngish, un-serious woman who likes those silly clothes that say "hey, look at my ass." The comment implies that a female philosopher might put on a suit when need be, but deep down and in her spare time - when she is her true self - she's the kind of person who wears those ridiculous clothes.

I don't think the person was trying to offend, but, again, the image of a female philosopher that comes to his/her mind upsets me. The comment brought to mind the video that was temporarily on Leiter of the beauty queen talking Hegel- even if she dresses like a professor and says smart things, she's still silly, frivolous, and wanting only to attract men deep down.


Anonymous said...

Would it be possible to have one single thread on this blog not devolve into accusations of sexism over petty nonsense like East German swimmers or pink sweatpants?

I'm not the author of that comment, but they were clearly offering helpful advice and making a joke about inappropriate attire—i.e. the kind we see our students wearing.

If you take comments like that to be "implying" something about you, that speaks only to your own state of mind.

Anonymous said...

Hi Zombie,

I need to say that I'm a woman and am offended by 9:53/2:18's comment. She implies that the person who wrote the original comment couldn't have been a woman herself, and moreover that the obviously fun comment has sinister undertones that are apt to harm the interests of women when read by mildly intelligent people.

In assuming and implying those things, she reinforces the view that the promotion of women's standing is somehow tied in to humorless yet laughable standards, and that the presence of women in the discipline must bring with it a high level of anxiety for all concerned that must stay with us at every moment of our philosophical (and even non-philosophical) lives.

In doing those things, she sets the place of women in philosophy back a good decade or two. That is offensive.

Anonymous said...


I find your comment offensive. As a procrastinator for whom this blog meets a superficial standard of relevance for my professional well-being that Joey Greco and the rest of the hard working folks at Cheaters just can't match, I resent your implication that sexism is superior to pedantic grammar as a topic for thread digression. I hope no one as out of touch as you ends up on any search committees this year.

Anonymous said...


I find your comment offensive. As an adulterer, I resent your implication that we are not as entertaining as people who make humorless accusations of pedantry, sexism, and bad manners.

Anonymous said...

Book on Southwest. It will be fairly cheap (fly into BWI and take the MARTA in)

Actually, it's the MARC train (Penn Line) that you want. (Amtrak also runs from BWI to DC's Union Station, but it's usually a lot more expensive). Weekend travelers should note that MARC only runs M-F.

peripatetic said...

Oh, sorry! MARC, right. MARTA is Atlanta, so save that advice for next year.

The APA runs from Tuesday to Friday, so no problem with weekends. If you can't get a Friday night flight out, it's smart to book a room for Friday night at BWI. Much cheaper, and if you're flying out Saturday morning it's a lot easier if you're already right near the airport.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth...

A couple years ago we interviewed someone whose flight as late, and had barely enough time to get to the interview. He showed up in jeans and a sweatshirt, wearing sneakers, out of breath and carrying all his luggage with him.

Because we had some free time the next day, we asked if he'd like to reschedule, as he was clearly not ready for a interview. I don't know if he was nervous, or what, but he wanted to proceed with the interview.

We did not hire him, but he was a finalist. I can assure you that once he started talking about his research, we couldn't care less what he was wearing.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:12

Wow. Now THAT is something which would never, ever, ever happen to a woman in philosophy (or academia more generally, or the professional world even more generally...).

Something tells me that if *I* were the interviewee I wouldn't have been a finalist, no matter how awesome my research is. If I had shown up in anything other than the "professional woman uniform"-- street clothes, messy hair, sans make up, etc--that would have been a significantly bigger deal than it was in the case of the male interviewee. No?


A Female Philosopher

zombie said...

4:46 -- your comment makes sense only under the assumption that sexism is universal in philosophy search committees, no?

While there is certainly a problem with bias (of various kinds) in the search process (so your accusation might also be made about racial bias, class bias, pedigree bias, etc.), it strikes me that the accusation is uncalled for in the context of 8:12's comment. 8:12 wants us to know that his/her SC didn't care about the appearance of the candidate, given the candidate's performance in the interview. Although the candidate in question was male, what about 8:12's anecdote gives us reason to think it would have been different if the candidadte was female?

I would guess that 8:12's anecdote, while informative, should not be taken to express universal attitudes. Some members of some SCs might well care about the appearance of the candidate (although most, one hopes, would take the exceptional circumstances into consideration). OTOH, some might view the candidate's decision to go forward, despite the generous offer to postpone, as imprudent. (FWIW, I would have jumped at the opportunity to postpone, but I also would have done my best to clean up and change my clothes before the interview.)

A Female Philosopher said...

"Although the candidate in question was male, what about 8:12's anecdote gives us reason to think it would have been different if the candidadte was female?"

Suppose we have 2 candidates with equally impressive dossiers -- one male, one female. Suppose further that both show up for their interviews looking unkempt, wearing, street clothes, etc.

Everything else being equal, I submit that personal appearance will be held against the female candidate more often than than it will be held against the male candidate. Doesn't that just strike you as intuitive, Zombie?

zombie said...

It doesn't strike me as intuitive. What does seem speculatively likely is that some members of some SCs will hold it against some candidates. And in some cases, some will hold it against women more than men. (And some will hold it against whites less than persons of color, or against Ivy grads less than someone from, say, the U of Kansas.)

But nothing about 8:12's anecdote tells me that would be true of 8:12 or the SC 8:12 was part of. What 8:12's anecdote tells me is that a candidate who is impressive in an interview can overcome the handicap of not being dressed for the part (at least when said candidate has a good excuse for it). It strikes me that there is no reason to assume that, all else being equal, they would hold it against a female candidate who, due to circumstances beyond her control, could not be as "presentable" as she otherwise would be.

What 8:12's anecdote does NOT tell me is how the SC would respond to the candidate who shows up in an similar condition without a reasonable excuse. Which is to say, the general presumption in favor of dressing professionally still holds, for both men and women, but some may be able to overcome it.

But I'm not sure why this digression is helpful. The purpose of this thread was to offer interviewees prudent advice on preparing for their interviews. I don't see how it is helpful for anyone to assume that they will be disadvantaged by sex or race. It is the nature of racism and sexism as biases that they cannot be overcome by those who are discriminated against. That is what makes them pernicious and impervious.

Female Philosopher said...

Just out of curiosity, Zombie, how much feminist philosophy have you read? I mean, are you really this oblivious to the deeply entrenched expectations that our society places on women which it does not place on men, and the extent to which these expectations oppress women individually and collectively? Women qua women are generally expected to "take care" of our bodies, physical appearance, etc., in a way that men generally are not except in special circumstances (such as job interviews). Even in those cases, it is generally much easier for men to compensate for their failure to meet the expectation, as they do not have as much at stake in meeting it in the first place (it is, after all, a "special circumstance"--not a basic gender norm). Women, on the other hand, are generally expected to be physically "presentable" at all times--but even MORE SO in circumstances which are "exceptional" for men, and then PRECISELY because they are women! It simply just isn't as easy for a woman to compensate for her failure to meet this expectation, since it corresponds to a much more basic and deeply entrenched gender norm.

Anonymous said...

Female Philosopher, why don't you lay off Zombie?

Look: we all know that feminist philosophy says all those things. I doubt that Zombie is any more 'oblivious' than the rest of us about all the facts and arguments that are discussed endlessly on this very blog, among any number of other places.

You showed up and presented a view of what you found 'intuitive'. It didn't further the aim of this discussion thread. Zombie explained that to you patiently and politely, twice. And yet you persist.

We all get it. You've accomplish what you set out to accomplish. We're suitably reminded of what none of us probably had forgotten. Now, can we please get on with our discussion?

Female Philosopher said...

Oh, dear, I'm SOOO sorry to interrupt. You just go right back to your important discussion, gentlemen--er, I mean, folks.

Anonymous said...

I'm the person who asked:

"Would it be possible to have one single thread on this blog not devolve into accusations of sexism over petty nonsense...?"

Insofar as most questions on here are answered by criticizing the grammar of the question itself, I'm glad to have mine answered in such a straightforward manner by "Female Philosopher." I have a feeling that future historians of philosophy, when combing early-21st century internet records, will conclude that the preeminent philosophical debate of our period concerned the status of women in academia. Given that this "debate" breaks out basically in every single thread on this blog, I wouldn't blame them.

I will say this to "Female Philosopher," though: The biggest way sexism has victimized you is by turning you into a humorless eternal victim whose monomanical resentment alienates you from everyone around you—even those who otherwise agree with your point...or share your gender, which is apparently deeply important to you.

Seems rather essentialist to me...

Anonymous said...

Also, philosophy (feminist or otherwise) really must place itself on something more than one's own private intuitions.

That's all Zombie was really getting at.

zombie said...

I am aware of the "deeply entrenched" expectations and biases, and discrimination against women in hiring decisions. What's not remotely obvious to me is how a job candidate is going to singlehandedly fight those biases just in case her plane is late, her luggage is lost, or some other misfortune befalls her, forcing her to appear at an important job interview underdressed.

It is, therefore, useful advice, as has been stated above, to be prepared for such contingencies by keeping your interview clothes at hand while traveling. If you don't plan to wear anything "special" for your interviews, contrary to generally accepted practice, then such advice doesn't apply to you. Wear your sweatpants and sneakers, or your leather pants, or your hairshirt and crocs, and rail against the injustice of a system that, I will readily acknowledge, is sometimes unjust. Personally, the "wear a suit" battle is a battle I don't really think is worth fighting.

Anonymous said...

Zombie: unless you're completely ignorant about feminist philosophy, you will surely know that women face the inconveniences of having their luggage 'lost' by airlines, and having their planes 'late', more than men.

Doesn't that seem intuitive to you? It sure does to me.

Female Philosopher said...

"The biggest way sexism has victimized you is by turning you into a humorless eternal victim whose monomanical resentment alienates you from everyone around you—even those who otherwise agree with your point...or share your gender, which is apparently deeply important to you."

No, actually, I was raped when I was 16 years-old. THAT's the biggest way sexism has victimized A close second is when a high school chemistry teacher offered to give me an 'A' in exchange for fellatio.

Are you seriously pulling out the old "angry feminist" trope? What, are you going to call me a "feminazi" next and suggest I "lighten up and get laid"? Unbelievable.

Mr. Zero said...

This has sure gotten acrimonious.

Female Philosopher said...

1:19, you're hilarious.

Mr. Zero said...

Yeah, I don't know how 1:19 got through. Dropped the ball there. That one's my fault.

Anyways, I think we can all agree that a generic man would have an easier time pulling off the "interview in street clothes" trick. However, I think we can all agree that intuitions that this is the case are of no evidential value whatsoever. Probably more likely the literature on cognitive bias supports the idea that people would have an easier time ignoring the fact that the man was dressed inappropriately, and would have an easier time regarding the woman as responsible for her predicament. And that since this kind of thing can totally happen to anybody, it would be wise to have access to a presentable-looking outfit as a contingency plan. And that the various personal jabs don't help anything. Anyways, that's the way it seems to me.

So let's all try to simmer down a little.

Anonymous said...

Zero, why was it a mistake to let 1:19 through? Makes me wonder what's being censored here.

Yes, this has got needlessly acrimonious. Also, as Zombie and others pointed out, it's gone way off-topic.

To all those who hope to promote various feminist causes by diverting threads that don't really have to do with feminism or sexism, let me say, without a word of sarcasm or dishonesty, that I have really got to the point where I can't tell which of the feminist posts are darkly satirical and which ones are the real thing.

This isn't helping.

Mr. Zero said...

Zero, why was it a mistake to let 1:19 through?

In retrospect, it struck me as excessively hostile and dickheadish.

Makes me wonder what's being censored here.

If you say so. I think the preponderance of evidence suggests that I continue to exercise a pretty light hand.

Yes, this has got needlessly acrimonious. Also, as Zombie and others pointed out, it's gone way off-topic.

It has, hasn't it?

Female Philosopher said...

2:42, methinks thou dost protest too much. The fact that you honestly believe I (or any other self-described "feminist") would write satirical posts about rape says more about YOU and your views about feminists than it does about ME and my feminism.

Anonymous said...

So...to change the subject...

Yesterday I read Zombie's advice about being prepared for a phone call, so as not to be caught off guard and have to run around like crazy. "Good advice," I thought to myself. Exactly one hour later I got a phone call - and proceeded to have a massive adrenaline rush and run around like crazy. But I will be prepared for the next one, for sure.
Thanks for the helpful post, Zombie.

Anonymous said...

Not to derail the thread, but:

I just got an interview at an awesome philosophy department, and I'm pumped. (Seriously.)

Also, the a typical interview:

15-20 mins. research
15-20 mins. teaching
5-10 mins. dept info
5-10 mins. questions

How much does this change for an R1 school?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

1:19 (who wasn't me, by the way!) posted a clever retort to an obviously silly and disruptive post.

Since you have posted many other such retorts, I see no good grounds for wishing to have censored that one.

If I may suggest, a much more productive use of your censor's veto would be to stop feminist ideologues from derailing thread after thread into pointless buffoonery.

This thread was in great shape up to the point where Feminist Philosopher started her schtick. Her posts clearly had no relevance to the topic, and were bound to lead us down another one of these pointless digressions to nowhere.

Why on earth would you allow it through without regrets, but regret allowing 1:19 through?

Sigh said...

With hopes of re-railing the thread, a request for more advice.

People have mentioned airports and mass transit, and it sounds like there are a few DC-knowledgeable folks around the thread. Any advice for someone flying into DCA re: getting to/from the APA hotel on mass transit?

(It looks like a simple subway ride. But you might think that about, say, riding BART on Halloween, and then you'd get stuck in the Castro after midnight with no way to get home, and wind up spending way too much money on a taxi ride back to the east bay. Hypothetically.)

Anonymous said...

Hey 3:15, why don't you just drop it? Seriously, STFU and get back on point.

Anonymous said...

By the way, speaking of jobs and interviews, the wiki is blowing up today...

Anonymous said...

9:26. 7:54 here. You are giving women a bad name. Last APA my bags didn't arrive on the first day. Or the second. I had to go out and buy some clothes because I was was flying in my jogging pants with 'pink' on the butt. I didn't care to go to my interview quite so casually dressed; but I do like flying that way (it was the better part of a day I was traveling--I like to be comfy).

Just thought I'd pass on my wisdom and save others the anguish I went through waiting for my bag and eventually getting so close to the time that I had to buy new clothes.

But thanks for spitting on my advice and calling me young and unserious. Who are you to tell me how I should look when I'm not in a professional setting? I don't teach in joggers, but I like to wear them at home and at the gym and on long flights. Hopefully you don't think this gives us female philosophers a bad name.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so, let's go back to interview tips. Make sure you leave the interview room with everything you brought. I left my phone behind once, and that was awkward. Make sure you remember the name and face of anyone who interviewed you. Otherwise, when you bump into one of them in the elevator or lobby later, you might look like a fool. Finally, practice your spiel out loud while you're driving in your car, while you're getting dressed in the morning, while you're cooking dinner at night. Speak to your cat about your research. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 3:12pm: research schools (not all, mind you) might ask NOTHING about your teaching. My experience in highly ranked research schools' interviews is that it is 70% writing sample discussion, 29% what other research do you have planned, 1% do you have any questions for us?

FemFilosofer said...

Also, don't plan on there being printing facilities available, or accessible behind the crowd of philosophers. I desperately needed to print sample syllabi before an interview and found a Kinkos at the last minute. Bring extra copies of all of your dossier materials and then more extras.

Also, the advice about bringing snacks is good. I'm not sure about the facilities in DC, but these places can get overwhelmed during break times. I've given many a talk on an empty, growling stomach because I couldn't get lunch or breakfast before a session.
Granola bars FTW!

Prof. Kate said...

I lived in the area for several years, so maybe I'm biased when I say YES, it's reasonably simple, but includes a transfer:

DCA has the Metro right inside it, and you’ll be on the “Yellow Line,” so just walk into it and take the northbound train (take the side bound for “Fort Totten;” do NOT go to Huntington, wrong direction). You’ll go about six stops to Gallery Place/Chinatown, and you’ll transfer to a Red Line train bound for the northwest (“Shady Grove,” are the signs you’re looking for, NOT Glenmont, which will take hours of your life to get to and from).

You’ll take the Red Line four stops to Woodley Park Zoo/ Adams Morgan. The stop is very, very close to the hotel, highly wheelable if you’re walking. If you Google-map it, ask for walking directions from “Metro Station, Washington, DC, United States” to “Marriott wardman hotel”, and you’ll see an aerial view of how close it is. It’s the equivalent of three blocks.

(Here’s the link to DC Metro, so you can see the colorful Metro map:)


Prof. Kate said...

Okay, having just posted my comment, I guess it doesn't sound 100% easy. But the Metro rail stops right there in the airport! And it takes you to within a couple blocks of the hotel!

I'm just saying, I would have killed for this convenience in Boston. Who loves the DC area? We do!

Mr. Zero said...

I see what you're saying, 3:15. I didn't mean to imply that Female Philosopher was an innocent victim of the malicious 1:19, or that I'm on FP's side. She's not, and I'm not.

I guess I thought she had a point at 4:46, even if she overstated it a bit. As I said a little bit ago, I think the literature on cognitive bias supports this point. But the idea that you can have a special insight into the empirical question of whether ceteris paribus men are less likely to be harmed in that kind of situation than women by reading feminist philosophy is awfully silly.

But I guess I thought that the comment at 1:19 was kind of mean.

However, it's not as though I thought 1:19 started it. I also thought that FP's post at 1:22 was pretty unhelpful, and I thought about holding it back, too. I realize she was responding to an accusation of "humorless feminism," but she really is angry in a way that's completely out of proportion with the topic.

As a general rule, though, I attempt to err on the side of publishing. At 2:19, it seemed to me that I really did err on that side when I published the comment at 1:19. I guess I could be talked out of this view--I'm halfway talked out of it now. Maybe I erred someplace further upthread. Maybe I didn't err at all.

In any case, it makes me sad when this happens to a nice thread like this, and I wish I could prevent it. But I'm not really sure how I could do that without occasionally witholding comments that didn't deserve it, which I would rather not do. And I worry about giving one side an unfair advantage. So here we are.

Female Philosopher said...

@ Mr. Zero

Guess what? You just gave the "other side" an unfair advantage by shitting all over me in your post. But whatever. If you're really interested in getting your thread back, why don't you just drop it? You win, dude.

RexII said...

Also, the a (sic?) typical interview:

Sounds like it (i.e., typical, not atypical). But don't be surprised if they switch the order of the topics, especially of research and teaching. Not a big deal, but know that it can happen. Just go with it.

How much does this change for an R1 school?

I served on a couple of search committees as a grad student at an R1. When we interviewed at APA, we asked nothing about teaching. We spent 50 minutes on research.

We asked each candidate some specific questions about the dissertation project and writing sample, and then some more general questions about how the particular project/research agenda fit into the larger history of the candidate's general area.

Roughly, we wanted to see how well the candidates could describe their particular research interests, and how well they understood the history of philosophy in their areas.

FWIW, I don't think all departments put as much emphasis on history as mine did. I think my professors believed that you didn't really know why your work mattered if you couldn't explain how it was related to important themes from the past.

Mr. Zero said...

ou just gave the "other side" an unfair advantage by shitting all over me in your post.

No. You don't no the difference between an unfair advantage and a regular one. If I withhold a post of yours in which you defend yourself or your views from some attack, then I give the other side an unfair advantage. I don't give the other side an unfair advantage when I articulate and defend my reasons for disagreeing with you. Whatever it is, it's not unfair.

Anonymous said...

Are you seriously pulling out the old "angry feminist" trope? What, are you going to call me a "feminazi" next and suggest I "lighten up and get laid"? Unbelievable.

I like how you put words in my mouth and then denounce me for saying them. Regardless, "humorless" was an criticism made earlier by a female commentator. (12/7, 2:48)

Returning to topic at hand, does anyone have advice on how to answer the "Is there anything you would like to ask us?" question? My preference would be to say "No" and perhaps mention the dept. website; but the crazy thread the other day had made me paranoid about judgmental assholes and the minor things they take issue with.

Female Philosopher said...

@Mr. Zero

Wow, you just had to get the last word (read: dominate), didn't you? I'm really surprised you didn't dismiss my claims as "awfully silly" again (read: "silly girl, trying to do philosophy with the men") or describe my anger as "out of proportion" (read: "hysterical").

Look, you've very clearly put the little lady in her place, big man, okay? Now drop it and give these good people some job advice, already!

zombie said...

Something to keep in mind, for those of you more than a year post-PhD:
I had an interview last year (2 years post-PhD) where I was surprised by how much the SC wanted to talk about my diss, since my subsequent research and publications (and postdoc fellowship) were on a different topic. I was fully prepared to talk about my research, but they grilled me on my diss instead, which required me to reach back a couple of years to work I had not been thinking about.

So, be prepared to talk about your diss even if it was years ago, and you've done better work since.

Anonymous said...

Hypothetical situation: a person gets offered a tt job before the APA, where they have x interviews scheduled. Given the shitty market, how high should x be before you recommend that the person, who is excited about at least some of the APA jobs, turn down the job offer?

Anonymous said...

Prof Kate is right. It is absurdly easy to take Metro to the Marriott, and her directions are accurate. The only downside to Metro is that it does not run 24 hours. Stations close at midnight during the week, 2 AM on weekends. So if your flight comes in late, you'll have to take a cab.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:25

Excuse me, but how are you not being blatantly sexist? You're attributing the worst of motives and stereotypes to Mr. Zero, putting all kinds of words into his mouth, and implying that he must think these things because he is a man. This is offensive and sexist. You are making your cause and yourself look more and more ridiculous.

zombie said...

6:25 -- we had a pretty lengthy discussion here last year about the ethical dilemma of continuing to interview after accepting a job offer.

Much depends, I should think, on the timeline for accepting the in-hand offer. Are they insisting on an answer before APA?

A job offer is worth a lot more than a first-round interview, or even five first-round interviews. Unless it's a job you really, really don't want, or you're such a hot property that you can reasonably expect other offers to come pouring in.

And there is some value in avoiding the stress and hassle and interminable waiting of APA interviews.

Anonymous said...

Fem. Philosopher needs counseling. The unnecessary nastiness is at a fever pitch. I know you. I know your pain. I have women friends who have had similar experiences. I would strongly urge you to get some assistance. I mean that in all sincerity.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:25.

Remember that all the 'rules' here are not laws but best practices. Things like the two weeks to accept offers etc are what is done so as to keep a nice order. If a place offers you a job before you know about other jobs, then you are fully within your rights to accept it in a slightly longer timeframe, and even to get out of it once you have accepted it. You burn the mother of all bridges, but you'd only do that for a better job.

Female Philosopher said...

7:24, please do not expect me to feel sorry for "Mr." Zero, or for any man for that matter, on account of his gender.

Please DO expect me to regard him and other members of oppressor groups with suspicion when they speak to me with incautious and condescending language, as there is ample historical, sociological, psychological, etc. evidence to suggest that they might be trying to oppress me when they do so. If they are not, they are exceptions to a well-established rule.

There are many things one can call a woman (or her ideas), but one shouldn't call her "silly." Nor should one EVER accuse a woman of being overly emotional as a means of dismissing her ideas.

Now, why don't you follow the herd and go back to discussing the job market?

Doctor J said...

I was on the market 5 years ago, and I've served on 3 TT search committees since. Here are some tips I posted on my blog last year: Notes From The Other Side of the Job Market

Sigh said...

Prof Kate and Anon 6:37,
Thanks for the ridiculously indulgent rundown. As a functional adult, navigating public transit is something I'm usually confident about—but, oddly, this year something is sapping my confidence…

Separately, on the "do you have any questions for us" moment in the interview—the advice I've received is that it's important to have *something* to ask, to show that one has some interest in the position and has done some research ahead of time. How to balance that against the risk of inadvertently asking about a sensitive topic, I don't know. Totally anodyne (boring) questions seem like the obvious (dreary) answer.

Anonymous said...

For those who haven't made flight arrangements yet (there were a few earlier in the thread)- I highly recommend DCA even if its a bit more expensive- worth some extra $ b/c Metro is soooooo easy from there (As Prof Kate pointed out) and no need for supplemental $ on cabs or the like into the District.

If DCA is substantially more $$$$, consider BWI - its actually as close as Dulles (at least as far as travel time - stupid 66) and generally much cheaper.

Someone mentioned MARC from BWI, but I'd recommend the Metro Buses from either BWI or Dulles - really cheap and drop you off right at the Metro - The 5A from Dullus stops at the Roselyn Metro and the 30B from BWI stops at Greenbelt.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Just had my first shot at replying to an interview request with "Can I please have a skype interview". (I'm from the UK, and only applying to 5 jobs, so haven't booked to go to DC). Anyone else ever tried this? I know one person who did with great success, but perhaps I'm basing too much on that sample.

zombie said...

Doctor J's blog post is informative and well worth reading.

Thanks for posting it.

Anonymous said...

If a search committee asks about it in an interview, how should one talk about inconsistency among one's student evaluation scores for one's teaching? For example, suppose that one's scores are very high for some courses taught but significantly lower for others (suppose further that the scores do not steadily increase through time, so the explanation that one's teaching improved with experience is not easily available). I assume it would be good to have prepared a story that explains this inconsistency, but I also assume that there are some explanations that would be unwise (e.g., those that sound as if one is making excuses, blaming students, etc.). Any advice?

CTS said...

As one who raised the 'have some questions' suggestion - and seeing the refutations of it - I would like to revisit the suggestion.

Of course, you want your questions to be non-threatening ones. The idea is simply to show that yu have, in fact, looked over their materials and that you have some interest in their program.

This may be of less importance for an R1 position than for a SLAC position, but I think that most SCs are pleased when a candidate has taken afew minutes to look into the program in question.

For an R1 you might focus more ont he research of the faculty. For a SLAC, you would focus on the undergraduate program, numbers of majors, etc. There is no harm, at all, in mentioning that you noticed this or that fact on the website (or elsewhere), and there is absolutely no harm in asking a question that allows them to extoll their own program.

As to the previous near-blowout of the thread: I'm a women and a philosopher. I did not find the original jokey post about sweatpants even slightly offensive.

Anonymous said...

Doctor J:

Thank you for that link. That was a very helpful post. I have a question pertaining to "not acting like a graduate student".

Say you are corresponding with the search chair after your first round interview. How does one address the search chair? "Dear Professor Smith", or "Dear Melinda" ?

Maybe the answer to this is obvious (i.e. of course do not address them by first names). But I worry that calling the person "Professor Smith" might make me seem more like a graduate student and less like a colleague. After all, once we're colleagues, I assumed we'd all be on a first name basis.

Can anyone offer good advice here?

Anonymous said...

Dr. J,

Many thanks for the link; it was surprisingly helpful.

Female Philosopher,

Please do take the advice of Anon @10:30 and get some help. I'm very sorry for what happened to you, but by not getting help, you are allowing your past to continue to victimize you.

I doubt you will take my advice insofar as you have a strong tendency to contort the views of others in such a way as to support your negative assessments of them, as well as your own sense of victimhood.

Nonetheless, this tendency is what allows personality disorders to be self-perpetuating.

Anonymous said...

Not a single interview yet...so depressed :(

Anonymous said...

I'm an old timer. The best advice I got 40+ years ago, was from a prof to whom I was not particularly close but whose name you would recognize. I ran into him in the supermarket a day or two before my on campus interview, which I told him I was going to. He said, roughly, if they ask you if you can teach X, say yes. I got the tenure track job and tenure, learned a lot from teaching varied courses, and don't regret it. Of course you have to be nuanced about this: you can acknowledge that aesthetics or political philo is not your specialty, but say "That's an exciting prospect I hadn't thought of. I've always thought it would be good to do some more teaching and research in X."

Anonymous said...

There are at least 2 false announcements on the wiki regarding first-round interviews. The wiki is completely counterproductive.

Anonymous said...

@1:16: Which ones?

Anonymous said...

If some postings on the wiki regarding interviews are indeed inaccurate, what is the explanation for this? At this stage, why would anyone (1) intentionally post false information or (2) mistakenly believe that interviews have been scheduled? Doing (1) seems to have no strategic value now, given that application deadlines have passed. As for (2), why would anyone think that interviews have been scheduled unless she or he has first hand knowledge of this? Are people just posting based on hearsay?

Anonymous said...

Lake Forest College and Binghamton have not scheduled interviews.

Anonymous said...

1:43 - announcements based on hearsay strike me as more likely than intentionally false announcements.

Anonymous said...

If the wiki is wrong and you know this to be so, why don't you change the status to what it ought to be? It is not as if, once changed, the status cannot be changed again.

Anonymous said...

I could, but they'll probably just be changed back. This is what happened last year, again and again. It's a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

ummmm.....lake forest has scheduled interviews. sorry to inform you of that.

Anonymous said...

Not according to their administrative assistant they haven't. I received an e-mail on Tuesday that they were just beginning to review applications, and the Wiki announcement was changed yesterday. That seemed strange, so I contacted the department. It's not true. (I'm not surprised, either. No SC is capable of making a decision about first-round interviews in 2 days.)

Doctor J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Do not follow Dr. J's advice. You might as way say "Hey Dude." If you don't know someone, you shouldn't assume a first name basis. Show some respect. The fact that people don't address their colleagues by their titles is irrelevant. They know each other.

Anonymous said...

10:50: If you've received an e-mail from this person that addresses you by your first name, then at the very least it's okay to write back with "Dear [Name] (if I may)".

Anonymous said...

Why is there no room for PFOs on the Wiki? I actually got a PFO letter from a job that doesn't list any interviews on the Wiki (namely the U.S. Military Academy at West Point), and I couldn't find anywhere to put that info on the Wiki.

Anonymous said...

Here are two alternative theories as to why the Wiki has false information.

1. Someone got an interview and stupidly mistook it to be for the wrong school (or stupidly reported it as the wrong school unintentionally).

2. Some idiot is calling people pretending to be search committees and offering interviews.

I find either of those about as likely as the hypothesis that someone is updating the Wiki maliciously in order to improve their own chances on the job market. I find none of them very likely, but it's got to be one of the fairly unlikely explanations. We just don't know which one.

Mr. Zero said...

I always figured people posted false information on the wiki out of trollishness/malice.

Anonymous said...

Did you notice that in his post linking to this, Leiter laments the way this thread degenerated into a pissing match? Because Brian Leiter has never been involved in a pissing match in his entire life.

Anonymous said...

You are not getting called for Lake Forest, if you haven't already. Don't believe it, if you don't want to.

zombie said...

I always addressed SC members formally (in writing/emails) as Professor or Dr up to and after the first interview.
Thereafter, follow their lead. If they seem to be inviting you to be less formal, be less formal. If not, remain formal.

Anonymous said...

Lake Forest has scheduled interviews. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Anonymous said...

sorry to tell you, but Binghamton has scheduled at least some of its first-round interviews

Anonymous said...

7:06, are you on the Lake Forest SC?

Anonymous said...

6:18 pm: Leiter doesn't generally let his comment threads on useful subjects get derailed by the kind of crap on this thread.

Anonymous said...

I applied for an "assistant to the chair" position at Madison. (A handful of Dwight Schrute jokes come to mind.) Since this is primarily an administrative position, I'm thinking about new questions that might be asked should I be lucky enough to get an interview. I suspect they'll want to know about my ability to multitask, deal with disgruntled students, etc. What questions do you think a candidate for this position might be asked?

Anonymous said...

Wow, look what I did.

8:12 here again.

Had no idea that my comment would spark such a digression about sexism in the profession. Live and learn, I guess.

I gave my example to make a simple point: what you say is far more important than what you wear. To me, to my department, and to most of my colleagues in the field. Granted, this is not universally true - there are those in the field who will judge you at first sight - but in many cases, we honestly don't even remember what anyone was wearing. (I don't remember any other applicant's clothing, for any other job. This one stood out for obvious reasons.)

But on that note, I'd like to end by stirring the pot a bit. While many may - and rightly, I might add - note the sexism in the field, I'm continually dismayed at how few in the profession seem to address the classism in the field. Given the state of the market, at least from what I can tell, those who have a better chance of succeeding are those who have/had the economic privilege of pursuing funded graduate work with the least amount of accumulated debt. That is, while most PhDs at top programs will be funded in some way, this is not at all the case for undergraduates (increasingly so, I might add). Students who bring student loan (or personal loan) debt with them to graduate school often cannot even think about paying it off until after graduation. So right out of the gate, many good, young philosophers are in under-funded post-docs or adjuncting while trying to pay back what can be rather large loans. There's only so long someone can do that before it becomes an economic necessity to find full-time work elsewhere. Those who begin from a stronger economic position - and those who come from enough money to help support themselves while trying to land tenure-track work - are far better positioned to wait out a terrible market in the hopes of stringing together enough part-time work to keep support their publishing.

But classism appears elsewhere on the market as well. I've been around long enough to have heard my fair share of shitty discussions about candidates, and I can say that while I have heard a remarkably large number of sexist comments, when it comes to conversations about candidate dress, it's classist crap that strikes me as most pervasive. That is, I cannot even begin to count the number of times I've heard people comment on how poorly grad students (male and female) dress, comments about cheap suits, cheap shoes, hand-me-down interview clothes, and some people wondering aloud of certain small departments have "shared suits" because all the applicants from those programs seem to wear the same cheap suit to interviews. Male or female, I've never heard such comments made about someone dressed to the nines, someone in a sharp outfit who looks, well, "professional."

I hate to say this, but given my (admittedly limited) experience, I'd say the best thing you can do to prepare for a job is to go into debt for a really nice bit of "professional" clothing.

Anonymous said...

7:06, I'm not sure I understand. At the beginning of your post, you suggest that what the job-seeker is wearing is not important to most interviewing committees. At the end, however, you advise that "the best thing you can do to prepare for a job is to go into debt for a really nice bit of 'professional' clothing." This seems inconsistent--have I missed something? (That aside, you are surely right both that classism is pervasive in academic philosophy and that it is rarely talked about.)

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:54,

Why do you think Binghamton is not yet finished with interview requests? Clearly they've invited some people. I thought I was out of luck, but then your post made me hope again (stupid, I know). Do you have any hard info?

Anonymous said...

This is my second year on the market. I went into the market last year thinking that there were two kinds of interviews: teaching-oriented ones, and research-oriented ones. My assumption was that in research-oriented interviews, the committee primarily wants you to demonstrate your prowess as a philosopher. Further, I assumed that the best way to demonstrate your prowess as a philosopher is to show your ability to respond to objections. So I figured that if I found myself in a research-oriented interview, I had better be ready to respond to objections.

So, I had one interview, in particular, that was research-oriented. They asked me a bunch of questions about my diss project. I interpreted all their questions as objections. And I had good answers to all those objections. So I thought I did great.

Months went by. No invitation for an on-campus interview came. Then one day, the wiki indicated that the job was filled. I was crushed.

Over the summer, I had a chance to speak with someone who was on the committee. S/he told me that I was a top candidate for that job--until the interview. I ruined my chances in the interview. I came off as arrogant, s/he said. It turns out that all those questions about my diss were straight-up questions, not objections. They just wanted to have a research-related conversation; they didn't want to have a fight. In fact, they didn't know enough about my research to have a fight. In that interview, all that I did was (a) demonstrate that I confuse questions for objections, and (b) embarrass the committee-members by making it seem like they were raising dumb objections.

So here's the lesson I took away from this experience. Be really attentive to what the committee members are actually saying and asking. Don't go in spoiling for a fight. Of course, if they really are issuing objections, you should probably respond to those to the best of your ability. But don't assume they're going to issue objections, even if it's a research-oriented interview.

Anonymous said...

Re: wiki

So, why are the social/political and continental searches suddenly moving in concert with each other, hmmmmm?

Anonymous said...

Argh! I tried not to get sucked into this but now I want to know whether Lake Forest really scheduled interviews or not. I'm assuming, yes. But, why, did you give me hope?

Anonymous said...


Even if 2:49 is lying about having called the department, s/he still raises an interesting point. If LFC really just started reviewing applications on Tuesday, how is it possible that they scheduled first-round interviews only 2 days later? I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's certainly weird.

As for the wiki, it's obviously been hit by a troll.

Anonymous said...

Serious advice (for men, at least)--if you are in need of an interview suit, check out Target (including online). They sell pretty good looking suits (under their Merona brand) for under $100. The suits are cheaply made, but that primarily means that they don't stand up lots of wear or multiple cleanings. When they are new they do not "look cheap." If you live in a bigger city, you should also check out H&M for good looking and cheap suits/sportcoats.

Anonymous said...

There is no good reason at all to use the Wiki. It is not reliable, and contains clearly false information (I know this from last year, when the SC for one of the positions that was listed as 'on campus interviews scheduled') contacted me a month later to tell me they were just now beginning to arrange Skype interviews. I later got an on campus, with everyone else).

If the information there is false, you will cause yourself needless stress and heartache. If it's true, then that won't help you because your knowledge will be gettiered.

The whole thing should be taken down and replaced with one that only the SC can update.

Anonymous said...

Great post, 1:07. I agree completely. The wiki should absolutely be replaced with something only SCs can edit and update.

Anonymous said...

The wiki should absolutely be replaced with something only SCs can edit and update.

Are you volunteering to replace it?

John Turri said...

The job market is gruesome, to be sure. But if it's gotten to the point where even knowledge can be gettiered, then Armageddon can't be far behind. Either that, or we need to seriously reconsider adding impossible worlds to our ontology. ;)

Anonymous said...

@2:20 - Yes.

Anonymous said...

The wiki should absolutely be replaced with something only SCs can edit and update.

How many SCs would actually go to the trouble of doing this? How many SCs might think it works against their self-interest to do this?

If you've been on the market before, you know that you might apply for a job and never receive either 1) acknowledgement of receipt of your application or 2) a PFO.

If you've had fly-outs before, you might also know that not everything SC members tell finalists is true (e.g. 'We'll let you know as soon as an offer has been made').

SCs are not going to do what the Wiki tries to achieve. Part of being on the job market involves having woefully incomplete information. What's worse, it's easy to manipulate that situation by trolling on the Wiki. Unfortunately, it appears the aim of the Wiki is best achieved simply by candidates posting accurate information when they've been contacted and/or debunking false information when they're in a position to do so. It's far from perfect, but I'm not sure there's a better option available at the moment.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the wiki is probably not good for anyone, since it is only informs when it disappoints. Still, some people want to know the reality, grim or not.

As to its accuracy, I'll say this: I now have 5 interviews. In each case, shortly after getting the call/email, the wiki has been accurately updated (not by me) to reflect that the school contacting me has started contacting people. So, that's something.

What evidence is there that it isn't accurate? The person suggesting that Lake Forest and Binghamton had not contacted people was wrong about that. I suspect that, if anything, the "wiki is being manipulated" folks are the ones doing the manipulating. God only knows why.

Anonymous said...


You are right; it does seem inconsistent. I certainly don't give a damn what you wear to an interview, but from what I can tell, those who do care seem to care a great deal about looking a certain way, a way that tries to hide the poverty that many grad students endure.

Part of this, I suspect, has to do with that general notion that SC don't want to see grad students; they want to see (potential) colleagues. On the one hand, that's great advice: speak to the SC as a professional, and not just as one of their advisees; don't be overly deferential, and be confident in your work; etc. However, the negative to this is that SCs want to "see" you as a professional, as a colleague, and their colleagues dress better than grad students do.

And I wish more people would talk about issues of class in the profession.

Anonymous said...

2:51, the problem is that no one is in a position to distinguish between "accurate" and "inaccurate" information. Everything you say about SCs is probably true -- they probably wouldn't provide any information via the wiki. But personally, I think NO information is better than unverifiable information. I say, either get rid of it all together, or else revamp it so that only SCs can update the information. Either way the situation will be vastly improved. I honestly miss the good 'ole days when everyone was equally in the dark. Fuck the wiki.

Anonymous said...

The better option is to get rid of the fucking wiki.

Mr. Zero said...

If you don't like the wiki, or wish it didn't exist, why not just not check it?

Anonymous said...

2:59 -- why should I believe you rather than the person who posted about Lake Forest and Binghamton?

And why do you feel the need to mention--specifically--that you have 5 interviews? You seem like a braggart.

Anonymous said...

5 interviews? Congratulations 2:59! Good luck to you! Is one of your interviews with Lake Forest?

Anonymous said...

If you go by the wiki, all 5 of 2:59's interviews are most likely in Continental and/or political... since every single department hiring in those areas decided to schedule interviews on the same day.

Anonymous said...

The reason to mention the number of interviews was simply to highlight that the wiki was being updated, properly, on several different occasions. That this happened once would be less significant.

Sorry if it seemed like bragging. It's pretty weird to think someone would get kicks from anonymous bragging, but I guess it's possible.

I would have thought that people were pretty responsible with the wiki, for the most part. The job market sucks enough without people trying to mislead others about that kind of thing.

Anonymous said...

@3:49, "And why do you feel the need to mention--specifically--that you have 5 interviews? You seem like a braggart."

Maybe because it's the poster's evidence for their claim that the wiki has been pretty accurate? You seem like you have some envy issues.

Anonymous said...

4:13 - This is precisely my point. It is impossible to read anyone's intentions accurately online. Impossible. So, too, it is impossible to distinguish truth from falsity without independently verifiable evidence, and we don't have that when it comes to the wiki. All we have is hearsay. I'm sorry, but I have reason to take your word over that of the person who said that Lake Forest and Binghamton HAVEN'T scheduled interviews. The rational thing for me to do is to suspend judgment and ignore BOTH OF YOU, and, as Mr. Zero and others suggest, stop reading the wiki altogether.

Anonymous said...

Jon "Bones" is the Plato of mma.

zombie said...

The problem with the wiki is the users. Ya'll don't have to look if you don't like what you see. I assume you tell your students not to use Wikipedia for research. Likewise, don't live and die by phylo wiki.

But since it is the only source of information about interviews, and at least some of the information there is accurate, if you want to know, it's useful.

Anonymous said...

Zombie, I agree with 4:32. The problem is that we can't know what information is accurate and what information is inaccurate. Or do you disagree?

Anonymous said...

Zombie, your answer reminds me of Lewis Carroll's joke about the usefulness of a stopped clock. Like the wiki, the clock does sometimes give absolutely correct information. The problem is that one never knows quite when.

Anonymous said...

Zombie and Zero, I reckon that those complaining about the wiki are doing so in part because they want some more reliable source of information. If, as some have suggested, a more reliable source cannot be established (e.g., because search committees wouldn't cooperate), then your advice simply to ignore the wiki (and stop complaining) seems best. However, it is not clear to me why we can't do better than what we have at present. Take 1:07's call for a wiki that only search committees can update. Although, presumably, some committees would not post information, others presumably would. This would be an improvement over the current situation. While the Phylo wiki could be kept as well (along with its allegedly inaccurate information), we would also have a more reliable wiki for at least some jobs. So perhaps complaints about the current wiki can be fruitful, if they lead to discussions about better alternatives or supplements.

Anonymous said...

When I went on the market for the first time two years ago, two members of my committee told me in no uncertain terms -not- to wear a suit to the APA. Their advice was to wear a sport coat and slacks. So I'm surprised to see so many people think that wearing a suit is required.

An advantage of the sport coat and slacks option is that it's less expensive. If you're on a tight budget, it's almost certainly a better choice than buying a cheap suit.

Anonymous said...

3:12 and others: Is a *suit* really necessary? Or isn't a nice shirt / tie / nice slacks, with dress shoes and maybe a sweater or sportcoat, good enough for interviews and campus visits? This is not Wall Street, after all.

Anonymous said...

3:12 again:

"Is a *suit* really necessary? Or isn't a nice shirt / tie / nice slacks, with dress shoes and maybe a sweater or sportcoat, good enough for interviews and campus visits? This is not Wall Street, after all."

I'd like to say that no, it is not "necessary." But let's remember, we are not dealing with issues of necessity; rather, we are dealing with a rather pervasive bias.

Again, I don't think it should be necessary. I think I can get everything I need from an interview if we moved it to a local bar and talked casually for half an hour over drinks, dressed in whatever makes you comfortable. But let's remember that part of the SC's job - especially once they interview candidates - is to eliminate. Does it suck? Absolutely. But does it happen? All the time. And for some people, the better dressed candidate will come across as more "professional," will seem more like a colleague, and will have a better chance of getting the job.

So is it really necessary? No. It's necessary that you dress for the interview, as opposed to showing up naked. But I am saying that the better you dress, the better you will come off (to many in the field). (Is it necessary that you have multiple future research projects planned out? No. But being prepared to talk about them improves your chances. Is it necessary to have a wide-ranging teaching background? No. But the more classes you have taught, the better prepared you will be to talk about teaching in the interview.)

Anonymous said...

Gah! Do we really have to have the "suit or no suit" conversation again?

All the confusion and uncertainty and disagreement that you all, as job candidates, are having is mirrored by members of the SC's on the other side. Some don't care, others (very very few I hope) will dismiss your candidacy on the basis of the most incident sartorial choice. You cannot second-guess search committees' expectations to this degree of detail. Give up.

The best advice you're going to get is something like this: Look as nice as you can while still appearing to be reasonably comfortable. Sometimes a suit is fine. A nice shirt, slacks, nice shoes, etc. is also fine. There is no further insight on this matter forthcoming that will apply in all the cases you'll end up encountering at the APA unless the chair of the search committee sends you a super-secret email with links to particular articles of clothing on the web.

RexII said...

Funny/Annoying Story: Acquaintance lands interview with Big Name Program. Goes to suite at designated time, wearing nice suit, hoping to impress. Big Name Philosopher opens door, looks at Acquaintance and says "you don't wear a suit when you teach, do you?" Acquaintance feels doomed from start.

Anonymous said...

Last year for my interviews I worse slacks, shirt and tie, and a badass blazer. I thought I looked far more like an academic than all the suit-wearing folks, who to me looked very much like bankers.

Anonymous said...

The correct response to Big Name Philosopher is "No, but I'm not teaching right now."

Anonymous said...

From the guy who earlier recommended Target and H&M:

No, of course a suit is not necessary. A sport coat and slacks are fine. A (good looking) cheap suit makes it easy to put the look together, though. I can't imagine anyone holding suit-wearing against you, unless you look too flashy. But that could go for wearing other kinds of clothes as well.

And stay away from black. Interviewers will be looking for philosophers, not morticians. Think gray and navy blue.

Anonymous said...


Are you seriously suggesting that search committees might hold the color of an interviewee's suit against him (which would be utterly ridiculous)? Or are you just making a recommendation about what colors look good in your estimation?

Anonymous said...

Is it a good sign if you are the first person that the school you are interviewing with calls to schedule an APA interview?

Mr. Zero said...

Are you seriously suggesting that search committees might hold the color of an interviewee's suit against him (which would be utterly ridiculous)? Or are you just making a recommendation about what colors look good in your estimation?

I can't speak for 12:33, I would say it's somewhere between those two alternatives. It's not that the committee will explicitly hold a black suit against you (they way they would hold it against you if your suit was yellow); but neither is it just an opinion. My understanding is that there's kind of a consensus that black suits are stark and funereal. Too formal. Dark blues and greys are more appropriate for this kind of occasion.

Westcoast feminist said...

Anyone care to tell me why it is that men (like MR. Zero) get to give advice on what color of suit is most appropriate for this or that occasion, but women who comment on which fork to use don't (or get called 'classist' if we do)?

This is a blatantly sexist blog with a blatantly sexist host.

Sigh said...

If you don't like the wiki, or wish it didn't exist, why not just not check it?

Because I am weak.

Mr. Zero said...

Anyone care to tell me why it is that men (like MR. Zero) get to give advice on what color of suit is most appropriate for this or that occasion, but women who comment on which fork to use don't (or get called 'classist' if we do)?

That's not what happened, Westcoast Feminist, and you know it. The woman who gave advice about which fork to use, Zombie, was thanked and shown signs of appreciation. The woman who admitted to putting a candidate in the "no" pile because they used the wrong fork, you, was (rightly) regarded as a classist.

I think it's obvious that my advice against wearing a black suit (because it's too formal) doesn't commit me to an endorsement of the classist BS that you're complaining about; it simply acknowledges and reflects the fact that there are people like you out there. However, I think it's equally obvious that your actual admission to making hiring decisions on such petty, stupid, and classist grounds as the ones you have admitted to does so commit you.

Anonymous said...

Oh fantastic. I bet "Female Philosopher" will come back now, or, even if she doesn't, the idiots will start making fun of her again anyway, unprompted, just because that seems to be their favorite passtime.

Anonymous said...

3:55 - Yep. The Wiki is just like crack, and about as healthy.

Anonymous said...

Here's something I am finding very depressing.

West Coast Feminist Troll has a good job teaching philosophy. I do not. Someone who is either grossly dishonest or extremely bad at reading or reasoning has won the game; whereas I am a big loser.

Now I am going to drink and scream.

Anonymous said...

Well, I shall be wearing a black suit, despite the advice that I should be wearing blue or gray. Black is the only color that makes my posterior - which has grown significantly during my time as a graduate student - look marginally smaller and less lumpy.

zombie said...

You can wear a sport coat/blazer and slacks. If I say "wear a suit," I include in that the individual pieces of what typically constitutes a suit, i.e. blazer, pants, nice shirt, etc. If you're a tweedy type of professor, wear something tweedy.

I wore, to all my interviews, an inexpensive black blazer and black slacks. They did not match exactly, but close enough. They fit me well, which mattered. I wouldn't say don't wear a black suit, but I would say don't wear a white shirt with a black suit, or you'll look like a waiter or a MIB. A little color doesn't hurt.

Anonymous said...

To 2:09 (who asked if it is a good sign that you are the first person the school calls to schedule an interview):

I think it's meaningless. It is fantastic you got an APA interview. (Seriously; congratulations! You should be proud.) But having myself called candidates to schedule interviews, the order was completely random. I'm not saying that it was random in your case. I'm only suggesting that you have no way of knowing.

To Mr. Zero:

I've followed this blog for years and been consistently impressed at how you've handled issues related to sexism, however they've come up. I don't think you should feel obliged to respond to many of Westcoast feminist's remarks, some of which are, to my ears, bewildering. She is trolling even though I suspect she doesn't realize it. DFTT.

Anonymous said...

Are you seriously suggesting that search committees might hold the color of an interviewee's suit against him (which would be utterly ridiculous)?

You should read the thread from a week or so ago...and understand that you are entering a profession in which judgmental sociopaths abound.

Anonymous said...

I went to a grad school that was top 20 Leiter ranked the entire time I was there. My dissertation chair is easily one of the three most well-known people in the world working in the area my dissertation was on. My other two committee members are (1)a named chair who made our department one of the best in the world for his field in the specialty rankings all by his lonesome, and (2) a very well thought of younger philosopher who came to my school from a faculty position at a top 5 ranked Leiter program. Now before you get going I am not assuming that the PGR tracks philosophical ability or quality of graduate instruction. I do think it tracks perceived status though, and that is the only reason I appeal to it.

I seem to be about to go through my third year of not receiving a single interview. The job I have is a visiting position I didn't interview for, and they are about to hire someone for a TT position with AOS and AOC requirements that I don't match at all.

I am not writing this to point to a problem with the job market or with the SCs. I do not think I am better than other people and so entitled to interviews. I think I am a good teacher with a few interesting ideas in one area. Before encountering three years of very silent rejection I though the right place for someone with my temperament and achievements was a small state school or SLAC that prioritized teaching over research. So this is not the complaint from someone who thinks he clearly deserves a high powered job based on how fucking smart he is and how god-damned cutting edge his research is.

What I do mean to express is real surprise. I thought that the way things worked was that there was an irrational and unfair bias towards candidates who are the students of well-known people from highly ranked schools. I thought that even if I wasn't good enough to get an academic position, the status bullshit would at least get me an interview somewhere.

After my first year on the market I worried that it was my letters. But I have since been told by professors who have seen them (and who don't know my letter writers in the least) that they are strongly supportive letters. I thought that perhaps my writing samples were weak. But that would imply that people who publish very, very successfully (my committee members) don't know a good writing sample from a bad one, given how enthusiastic they were about them. I thought that maybe my supporting materials were weak, but I have been told by two different placement directors that my teaching and research statements were great (one said 'perfectly written')

There is a big whole in my CV, and that is the list of publications and presentations. My list is small (not non-existent), and all of them are related somehow to my grad school (conferences held there, invited speakers, etc.). So I always figured that I would not get a sniff of a research focused institution. I didn't even think I had much of a chance at any school that had a PhD program. I also didn't really care. Like I said I didn't see myself at those places anyway.

But I haven't gotten interviews from the small state schools and SLACs either. The small state schools and SLACs almost always hired people from lower ranked or non-ranked schools. The successful candidates’ CVs usually have no more in the publication and presentation areas than I do.

So I am wondering if people who have been more successful on the market than I have been can give me suggestions for where else to look for what seems to be making me very unattractive. I have a young daughter and we are expecting another child this June. I have to get a job soon or just leave the profession. But I really don’t know what is going on. Other than bad letters, bad writing samples, bad teaching dossiers and research statements, what else might make someone continually get culled before 1st round interviews?

Anonymous said...

5:21, You are in a terrible bind. And the best I can explain it is as follows:

Top research programs want a top researcher, and by your own admission you are not that. You will not be interviewed for those positions.

Teaching-heavy programs want someone who is focused on teaching and not just focused on research (though certainly both are important).. While you may in fact be just that kind of applicant, your letterhead is doing you a disservice. If candidates from your program are known for landing top researching jobs - and more importantly, if your advisors are known for producing top researchers - SCs at teaching colleges may wonder how long you plan on staying there until you too up and move to a more research-heavy institution. Such SCs may see you as little more than a part-time solution to a long-term need, and may dismiss you for that. (Yes, it's common for people to leave jobs. But few SCs want to hire someone they think is already looking for the next step up the ladder.)

How do you fix this? A strong letter speaking to your teaching ability will certainly help. Also, as much teaching experience as you can get, or some sort of teaching-related professional development. That is, you need to make sure that your application paints a picture of you as someone committed to teaching. Otherwise, some SCs at teaching-heavy schools may - and it would seem that many have - dismiss you as not a dedicated educator.

Now, some will likely say that even teaching colleges like applicants with strong research profiles, and will even sacrifice teaching for research in some cases. This is true. But by your own admission, your research profile isn't high enough to convince SCs that your value as a researcher should trump your skills as a teacher.

Sadly, this brings us back to the best advice anyone can get: publish, and publish well. If your writing shows as much promise as your esteemed advisors claim, you should be building a stronger research profile.

Despite any advice anyone here (myself included) has given regarding table manners, dress, and interviewing skills, nothing spells "colleague" better than a strong publishing record.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:21: How have you presented yourself in your applications for jobs at SLACs? In particular, have you written substantial cover letters, explaining your interest in undergraduate teaching and giving reasons why you think you'd be a good fit for the particular institution you're applying to? Have you included significant amounts of information on your teaching (including a substantial teaching letter), and asked your other letter writers to talk about your promise as a teacher as well? And what other things have you done to strengthen your profile as someone who is not a "mere" researcher?

I ask all these questions because I have a degree from a top department and now teach at a less-than-great SLAC (by choice, fwiw), and when I interviewed for this job there were many ways in which my pedigree made it hard for me to be taken seriously as a candidate. If not for the fact that I am committed to the school's religious mission and knew someone in the department who could vouch for the seriousness of my application, I'd not have gotten a sniff; and the same goes if I hadn't written a substantial cover letter that went on for several paragraphs about my interest. The fact is that schools like mine hardly care *at all* about whether your research is world-class rather than merely solid (especially if it's in an area they're not familiar with, and so not sure if they're qualified to assess -- this was true in my case): this matters once you're up for tenure, but before being hired it's really not an issue. And seeing that you have a degree from a top department can just make departments worry that you're going to leave them after a year or two, and departments like mine would rather not go through that. (As for your advisors, many search committee members won't even know who they are.)

The last thing I'll say is that presenting yourself as "a good teacher with a few interesting ideas in one area" is probably the worst thing you can do, especially if that area is one that the hiring department doesn't already have a stake in. Rather, you should make yourself -- and market yourself -- as a *great* teacher who will research productively in his specialization and has *lots* of interesting ideas in *lots* of areas (especially ones that relate to the history of philosophy), most of which are not going to end up in published papers, but all of which will nevertheless be great fodder for classroom discussion and also connect in interesting ways with the interests (in research, but also in teaching) of the other faculty in the department.

In short: if you want a job at a SLAC, then you need to make yourself into the "kind" of person who teaches at a SLAC, and present yourself as such in your cover letter, writing sample, and supporting materials. At a department like mine, these things are probably even more likely than "bad letters, bad writing samples, bad teaching dossiers and research statements" to get your application passed over. But perhaps you already knew all this?

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:11pm, Anon 5:21 here

Thanks for the response.

I am trying to bump up my publication record, but I only started doing that after defending my dissertation. At my grad school we were often told that attempting to publish while in graduate school was a bad idea. Better to focus on the dissertation. So I did.

Once I got my current visiting position I started working on some papers, two of which are done and making the rounds. One thing I have been wondering about is whether it is better to go for less prestigious journals to increase the odds of getting the line on the CV, or whether it is better to try for more prestigious journals so that if I get it, the line on the CV is more weighty. Also it takes half a year or more to hear back from anyone once you submit a paper.

But weak publication record doesn't explain what I have experienced all by itself, since the people hired at places I didn't even get to interview for sometimes/often have even thinner publication records than I do. That still leaves the potential problem that no one thinks I want to stay at their school. Perhaps I should include a line in my cover about how much I detest moving (joking).

FemFilosofer said...

To 5:21....

Has someone looked over your cover letters?

My placement director remarked that my letters from last year read as very "graduate student" (which makes sense, as I was still a graduate student), by which she meant that I didn't come across as confident and ready to take on new challenges as a professional. So, I changed some of the language in my letters this year (and along with having the PhD done) I've gotten more interest on the market.

There's no secret formula for how to get an interview or a job but this seems like something to look at, as it is sometimes the first (and last) piece of the application SCs will see.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:24

Thanks for your response.

I wouldn't self-describe myself in a job application the way I did in my first comment. I say 'good teacher' rather than 'great teacher' because the latter sounds arrogant in this context.

My first year I sent out short form cover letters, because I was told they didn't matter. This year I put a few hours of work into each cover letter, and they are almost always a page or two long. The bulk of my cover letter and my dossier as a whole is devoted to teaching issues, and I have a letter from my current department chair (at a SLAC) which is all about my teaching and collegiality. I really got my hopes up this year. Maybe there is still time to get something.

Thanks again for the help

Anonymous said...

To 5:21:

No one is going to provide you with any illumination here on this blog. We don't know why things aren't working out better for you.

However, let me put forward some of my own views; ones I think might be relevant.

(1) Perhaps some state schools and SLACs seem to hire, as a matter of principle, from non-PGR-ranked schools. But that's just not the rule. Go look at the websites of 20 SLACs and you'll find that faculty who've received PhDs from PGR-ranked school crowd out the others. I don't know where this myth that only R1 departments hire PGR PhDs comes from.

I'm at an SLAC. The feeling here is that it's a buyer's market. One must publish to get tenure, so we're just looking for someone who is strong in every area (teaching, research, and collegiality). Many of us received our PhDs from "leiter"-ranked programs. We aren't biased one way or the other.

(2) Having waded through hundreds upon hundreds of letters of recommendation, I've discovered that having fantastic letters is not enough. Nearly every letter I've ever seen is appropriately described as strong or even excellent. Some letters, however, just glow. If we restricted ourselves to just those candidates who have glowing letters, we'd still have to narrow down the pool to arrive at a manageable number of interviewees. It's rough out there.

(3) People don't like to acknowledge the degree to which good luck plays a role in this whole process. But it does. People just get lucky. Not only is the demand for jobs much higher than the supply, but it is also the case that there are too many gifted, super-qualified candidates than the supply can accommodate. The result of course is that many gifted individuals end up with the short end of the stick.

I find this comforting. But I've noticed that most people don't. Those that find themselves with cherry positions at R1's often don't want to attribute their success even partly to luck. And those who have yet to to find success seem to find their lack of control over the process more frightening than comforting. Nevertheless, the fact stands: you can do everything right and still come up empty handed.

Anonymous said...

This is 6:24 again. Let me just say that I disagree with 6:11 about the importance of publishing. In my own case I'm sure that publications wouldn't have helped at all in getting an interview where I now work -- or at least, they wouldn't have helped to make up for the absence of the other things (institutional "fit", commitment to teaching, apparent desire actually to be at the school in question, etc.) that fortunately came across in my application. Here at least (and note that my department takes research pretty seriously), having a strong publishing is very low on the list of things that make for a good colleague.

Anonymous said...

Thanks FemFilosofer for the response. If will try to find someone to do that. My grad school profs often seemed of the opinion that cover letters didn't matter, something I have since learned is usually quite wrong. I am not sure who would want to read a sampling of my cover letters large enough to be representative. But I imagine that you are correct that it is likely a problem lurks somewhere in my letters.

To Anon 6:45

I realize that luck plays a role, and I realize that the supply of candidates is such that it is a buyers market. These things are beyond my control. I am just wondering whether there is some potential problem that I might be missing but which would be obvious to other people who have been more successful than I.

Also luck gets to be a less and less satisfying explanation as time goes on. At a certain point a failed candidate has to admit that they are or at least might be doing something wrong that is causing them to fail. Sure it could be that it is just bad luck, but this possibility isn't that relevant to the practical deliberations I am currently involved in and if I were to accept it as an explanation I would almost certainly be engaged in ego-preservation of some kind.

I realize that you probably mean to be giving me advice of the sort 'don't beat yourself up, you might be doing nothing wrong' though, and I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

5:21, I feel for you. My situation is similar. Very depressed. Seven years in grad school, three years searching for a job and now approaching my mid-thirties...and no permanent full-time job in sight. Talk about anxiety. Was Thomas H. Benton (writing for the Chronicle) right that the promised "life of the mind" is a big lie? Yeah, likely. Sorry to sound so pessimistic, but I can't do any better from where I stand today.
I wish you the best of luck, 5:21. Luck does happen, as 6:45 said. Know that other people feel (and live) your pain.

Anonymous said...

There is DEFINITELY still time to get something. A lot of action is going to take place between now and, say, December 22nd. Do not lose hope yet!

Anonymous said...

To 5:21:

6:45 here again.

I definitely did mean to be saying something like 'don't beat yourself up, you might be doing nothing wrong'. But your point is well taken. I realize that this sort of advice can ring hollow and fail entirely to ease your anxiety.

I'm sorry about your situation. But truly, you might well be doing nothing wrong. At the very least, that is certainly the case for a huge pool of job candidates who don't land a TT-job. It is dreadful. And there are many of us on the other side (on Search Committees) who are fully aware of how dreadful and unfair it is.

Anonymous said...

simple question. I have a skype interview. is it best to just have a plain white background? a nice homey one? an office background? I know this might seem petty, but I guess people have been talking about suit colors, so I though it worth asking. Also, I suppose I should still dress up for the skype interview, eh? (but I don't need to worry about my bottom half, I suppose.)

Anonymous said...

my advice for a skype interview. take it with a grain of salt.

1. If possible, schedule the interview during the day. Put yourself in a room with lots of natural light.

2. Whatever the light source, make sure it is shining on you from roughly the same direction as where you'd imagine your audience sitting, except slightly to the side and slightly above.

3. A plain background is best; probably better even than a "professional" looking background. The less clutter, the better.

4. Definitely dress up.

5. When talking, spend a lot of time looking at the camera. It looks like you're making eye contact. When listening, it'll be hard not to watch the faces of the people talking on the screen. When you do that, you run the risk of looking like you're not paying attention. But glancing up to the camera occasionally can almost be worse, since it can give the appearance that you are drifting off and only intermittently refocusing on the speaker. So stay focused on the screen and provide gentle but regular non-verbal indications that you are listening (nod your head, smile, etc).

6. Make sure you are expressive and friendly especially at the beginning of the interview. People who are quite normal in person can come off as sullen and uncommunicative over skype.

7. Look for a location with minimal ambient noise. Noise that is invisible to you (traffic) may be distracting to those interviewing you.

8. Make sure your bust fills the frame. Don't seat yourself far away from the camera.

that's all I can think of right now. I hope this helps. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:06,
Thank you. Lots.

Unknown said...

To 5:21:

I believe you have put your finger on the problem: a weak publication record. This does not explain your failure to land an interview your first year out, but if you have no single-authored paper in a good journal three years out, search committees will probably surmise that you are unwilling or unable to publish at the rate required to secure tenure down the road. This, at any rate, is the attitude with which your application would likely have been met on the search committees I've sat on. Assuming that this is the correct diagnosis, the only cure is to publish aggressively, so that if nothing comes through for you this year, next year people will look at your application and think, "How does this guy not have a TT job already?" instead of, "If this guy is as great as his letters say, why doesn't he have any meaningful publications?"

zombie said...

5:21 -- You're getting two pieces of advice here. Improve your cover letters, and improve your publication record. I think they're both right. If you are 3 years out from your PhD, you should have publications by now. You really should. Without knowing what your research area is, I would say that it is more important to get published than to get published in a top journal. You should at least have some papers "under review" so you can put them on your CV as such. Under review is better than nothing, and at least shows that you're productive and putting your work out there, and it is being taken seriously enough to be peer-reviewed. If this year doesn't work out for you (and it's not too late -- interviews are still being scheduled!), focus your efforts on getting some publications out ASAP.

If your aspirations are to land a teaching-oriented job, make sure that's apparent in your cover letters. I agree that it is simply not true that coming from a top research school disqualifies you from a teaching job at an unranked school. The opposite -- that you won't get a research job unless you go to a top dept -- is also false. My own experience is that I fully expected to get a teaching-oriented job at a SLAC or state school. I never got a single interview at a SLAC. I ended up in a research school (one that sincerely values teaching), where I am quite happy, but it is not at all the way I saw my career going. The point is, you should be trying equally hard to get a teaching job and a research job -- in the current market, you have to go for everything. I was quite surprised by the schools that interviewed me -- it was often places where I would have thought I was a very long shot.

Finally, although your reference letters are all said to be good, how do they compare to the letters of other grads in your dept? I wonder if, for example, compared to Candidate X from your school, your letters are not quite as good. (I realize you have no way of knowing this, but perhaps you could ask someone who has looked at your letters.) How are other grads from your dept doing on the job market? How are you doing, that is, relative to your dept's placement record? (That might give you some indication as to whether it is your weakness as a candidate that is hobbling you, or something systemic that's affecting everyone.)

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

To those who have suggested a wiki that only search committees can update:

Many search committees won't agree to use such a wiki. If you are "backup" for a position, the search committee does not want to communicate that fact to you. Search committees often stagger interviews, so that they can interview more candidates if the first few bomb. This might also explain why certain folks think the wiki contains bad info: some interviews might be scheduled before others, and those in the know have an incentive not to let others know.

Anonymous said...

A few things about a wiki updated by depts:

(1) About first-round interviews: Depts have no incentive to hide whether they've scheduled first-round interviews. When Christmas comes and you haven't gotten a call from a given dept, it becomes completely obvious that you weren't picked for a first-round interview. There is no point in trying to hide this information. So depts have no incentive not to voluntarily make it public.

(2) Depts DO have an incentive, *as individual depts,* to hide whether they've made invitations for on-campus visits. But even here, I think that depts should favor a situation in which all hiring processes are more transparent. I believe that generalized transparency would typically help individual depts more often than it would hurt them. If Fancy U wants to hire ABD #243, and ABD #243 knows for sure that Snazzy U has already made their on-campus invitations and that ABD #243 was not among them, then ABD #243 is more likely to accept the offer from Fancy U. The whole hiring process would be smoother for everybody in a situation of generalized hiring-process transparency. So, between now and next year, we should be lobbying for generalized transparency.

Anonymous said...

I think the thing that some people are missing about my original post is that I have direct evidence that publication record can't be the only thing holding me back, because the people hired for jobs I missed out on have no stronger publication records than I do. In some cases no publications at all.

And just so that no one thinks I am whining about my job status without trying to publish, I do have two papers currently under review and a third I am finishing up. I am also not three years out from my PhD, I am just on my third job market. My first was before I defended, my second was when I was ABD, and this year is my first since I have been done. My hope is that I am not already dated.

Anonymous said...

"My first was before I defended, my second was when I was ABD"

Wait, you went out on the market two years in a row *before* you finished your dissertation? Honestly, that may be part of it.

Who on earth told you it was a good idea to go out on the market so early? Or, the more obnoxious question, if you were prepared for the market your first year out, why did it take you so long to finish?

zombie said...

10:27 -- if this is your first year out with PhD in hand, then you have less to worry about. Seriously, the market is so competitive now that there isn't much reason for schools to interview ABDs and pre-docs, unless they are incredible hotshots (which, by your own admission, you are not). There's risk in hiring someone without a degree -- the risk that they won't finish, and therefore won't get tenure. It happens.

I understand how your personal situation is lighting a fire under you right now, but for depts looking at you, you got a whole lot more qualified when you got your degree. (That said, it's tough out there, and not unusual to spend a few years on the market.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Anonymous, December 11, 9:50 PM! I was the person who asked about for the skype interview, and that advice was what I was looking for. I'll have to practice the camera-viewing thing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the Skype interview tips. I would just like to add that it is important to make sure the computer is on a stable platform and that you are not unconsciously moving the table with your arms or legs. I have had this problem in practice Skype interviews.

Anonymous said...

Oh 5:21/10:27, you silly goose. (I mean that affectionately; honestly.)

You left out the most important bit of information in your original post: you were on the market for two years without a PhD in hand.

As zombie and 2:06 have pointed out, this explains a lot. Our search committees (at a mid-level SLAC) have no reason to give anything but brief glance at the application of a candidate who isn't done writing their dissertation. There are just way too many excellent candidates out there with their PhDs in hand (or, at the very least, are ready to defend by the time they are on the market).

Anonymous said...

I understand telling someone without a Ph.D. in hand why they didn't get a job the previous time on the market. But it's a bit presumptuous to say something like the following:

Who on earth told you it was a good idea to go out on the market so early? Or, the more obnoxious question, if you were prepared for the market your first year out, why did it take you so long to finish?

I'm not the person being targeted here, but the answers to those questions might well be fairly reasonable, and only someone with a relatively easy life could be unable to imagine possible answers. Some people are graduate students while raising a family. Sometimes their family is such that they can't just leave the kids in childcare while the other spouse works, so the one in graduate school has to teach several courses per semester. You don't usually get to pick your kids, and you might end up with kids with serious time-sucking features, such as disabilities of various sorts.

The short of it is that you might reasonably think you'll be defending by May but have too hard a time negotiating with your spouse for time to work on it and not make much progress before the job market rolls around again, then doing the same thing again the next year, and then you have to take a year off the job market just to get time to finish, ending up not applying again until three years after the initial round of applications, now with Ph.D. in hand.

I'm an extreme case, I realize, but lots of people have tough situations and don't make as much progress as they thought they would. It's hard to predict these things, and if other people depend on you then you are even less able to know when you'll be done.

It turns out that the amount of work it took me to finish could easily have been done that first year on the market if things had worked out better in my negotiations for time and if certain unforeseen kid issues hadn't escalated to become much more time-consuming and energy-draining than they had previously been, but it also took those years of not getting as much done for my spouse to see that I needed more time to work than I was able to negotiate during those years. I don't think my letter-writers were dishonest in saying they thought I could be done in a year the first time I was on the market. Apparently the SCs believed them too, because I had four interviews (but no flyouts).

Anonymous said...


I realize all that sucks, but the fact of the matter is...it's not relevant to SCs. Unless those issues are addressed in your letters, none of that information will ever be considered. The sad truth is, the reasons why someone doesn't finish on time are largely irrelevant from the perspective of the SCs.

And as a more recent post on this site is demonstrating, most seem to think it's wrong - if not actually illegal - for SCs to ask any questions regarding family issues. (if it's wrong to note that a school is in a great place to raise a family, according to some, then it's really wrong to ask "so is the reason you've taken so long to finish because of family issues?")

The short of it is, it's a tough market. And the person who spent 2 years finishing a dissertation after his/her first run on the market will certainly be competing with people who managed to finish the dissertation faster. The reasons why really don't come into play during a search.

And at the risk of sounding like a real douche, I'm going to say it anyway: anyone who is actually ready to defend in May of a given year really should have that dissertation finished within *2 years*. Because the fact of the matter is that the tenure track is rough. And life happens to everyone in some way.

Anonymous said...


I don't know if this has come up yet, but we non-research places want to know that you understand our institutional environment (our SC will frequently look to candidates undergrad experience to see if they have a sense of our culture or what we want). If you are lacking that sort of undergrad experience, it'd be helpful to speak to your understanding of a more teaching focused environment and how you could contribute to the overall campus community.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't commenting on whether it was relevant to search committees. I'm pretty sure there is some reference to it in my letters, but I was actually commenting on the particular comment I quoted, which was not the judgment of a search committee but of a commenter on this blog.

Also, exactly why do you think it's relevant to bring up the completely different case of someone who is actually ready to defend in May of a given year who somehow takes two further years. That's not the case I presented or the original one discussed above. In both cases, the dissertation simply was not done when it was expected to be done. Your case, rather, is of a completed dissertation that never gets defended for two years. Of course there's little excuse for that. But you can't defend a dissertation that's not done being written, which is what occurred in the two cases that have actually been presented here.

Anonymous said...

"Also, exactly why do you think it's relevant to bring up the completely different case of someone who is actually ready to defend in May of a given year who somehow takes two further years."

Because this all started, if I'm getting it right, with my earlier comment (12/12 2:06):

""My first was before I defended, my second was when I was ABD"

Wait, you went out on the market two years in a row *before* you finished your dissertation? Honestly, that may be part of it.

Who on earth told you it was a good idea to go out on the market so early? Or, the more obnoxious question, if you were prepared for the market your first year out, why did it take you so long to finish?"

You objected to this, and gave an example of someone who might need those two years to finish the dissertation.

I stand by my original point: anyone going on the market should be preparing for, if not actually ready for, the defense. Going out on the market before one is ready to defend is a very bad idea, especially given the current market. And anyone who needs two years *after* going on the market for the first time to finish a dissertation, wasn't really ready the first time they hit the market.

In the case you present, I still hold by my advice. If it's taking you longer to complete the dissertation than planned, then you need to not go on the market. Though we cannot know, I wonder how clear it was during your interviews that you were not ready to defend, and if that was held against you, resulting in no fly-outs. Unless they told you what the reasons were, this is speculation, but not impossible.

WV: "swise," as in "'swise to be ready to defend before going out on the market. 'sfoolish to hit the market too early."

Anonymous said...

None of that explains why you moved from:

(a) someone expecting to defend by May who turns out not to


(b) someone ready to defend who chooses not to and then takes another two years to defend.

That was the move that baffled me.


As for my own case, my department recommends going on the market if you're 2/3 done with the dissertation by the beginning of October. I was. I didn't make it much beyond 2/3 by the end of the year, though, and I didn't make it much further the next year either. Then I basically finished it the following fall and winter, with a complete version existing pretty much by Spring Break and then some minor revisions as I waited for my supervisor to email me comments on each chapter (we're not in the same location). I was following my department's policy/advice, and it partly did cost me that year, but I had four interviews, and they were valuable experiences. And this was 2008 that we're talking about, when the economy hadn't yet had enough time to affect the market significantly.

I can say what happened with most of those interviews. One was an R1 job for a very specialized AOS. They had very few applicants and invited people who were a bit of a stretch. I was one of the stretches. The other three were teaching jobs. One had 20 interviews at the APA. The others had about 12 each. All four positions went to people with several peer-reviewed publications with their Ph.D. in hand. So whether I did or didn't come off sounding prepared to be on the market, I don't think I stood much chance that year against that competition given that I didn't have any publications (except a couple forthcoming pop culture and philosophy pieces, which don't count at most places) and didn't have a defense date scheduled.

I thought four interviews given all that was actually pretty good from a Leiter-ranked but not highly-so program. I even had an interview the following year, and I think I applied to exactly two jobs. It's disconcerting to watch places piling up on the Wiki now without any bites, given that I had four interviews without a defense date and with no publications and then a 50% interview rate the following year.

Anonymous said...

I feel like this needs to be its own discussion, but I guess I'll add it to the 196 comments. A comment above from an SC member states:

"Having waded through hundreds upon hundreds of letters of recommendation, I've discovered that having fantastic letters is not enough. Nearly every letter I've ever seen is appropriately described as strong or even excellent. Some letters, however, just glow."

Now I had an instant dislike of this person. I think SCs that rely on glowing app letters are irrational beasts and I don't see why they aren't getting a hard time here.

Look, some people are shocked--shocked!--that SC members might be influenced by whether a person is wearing a cheap suit or not, a suit or a jacket, etc etc. That, for some reason, is taken to be an irrational consideration in deciding whom to hire. Well, guess what: at least people have control over what they wear.

On the other hand, nobody has any freaking control over whether their letters "glow." Yes, you have some control over the quality of your work (though there are deep and obvious question about this). You have some control over who your letters writers are. You have some (very limited) control over what those letter writers think of your work.

You have no control whatsoever, in any normal scenario, over whether you have glowing letters. Again, barring highly unusual circumstances, you probably did not select your letter writers on the basis of sample rec letters you've read by them. You are not even allowed, for some reason, to read the letters they've written for you to decide whether you should include them or look for more competent letter writers. You are, by design, completely in the dark and completely cut off from any control with regard to the process determining whether or not you have glowing letters. The glowing or non-glowing quality of your letters is likely not connected, even remotely, to the actual quality of your work, your ability as a scholar, your loveliness as a human being, or your geniality as a person.

So can we stop pretending that using glowing letters of recommendation to decide whom to interview is an even remotely respectable precedure, and point out that people who do rely on this are hurting both the profession and themselves, since they'd probably be much better off flipping a coin to select candidates, and then using the time they've saved looking for ways to be just a little smarter?

Anonymous said...

I hear you, 10:54 AM. I recently learned from a friend, who is not in a SC but knows from people who are in a SC that my LoRs are weak - not only are they unknown people, the letters are short, and not only do they not glow, they aren't even the normal strength that LoRs usually are. It seems that this has really hurt my chances on the job market this year and probably also last year. Yet, because I didn't see the letters I had absolutely no idea about that before my friend pointed it out, because my LoR writers have only spoken to me about my research in terms of praise. I have no idea how to remedy this. First, how on earth do I seek out more famous people (I can't very well start stalking them by sending them research samples)? Second, how do I delicately point out to my LoR writers (some of them incontournable, like my advisor) that the letters need some beefing up?

Anonymous said...


I'm the poster (6:45) you are referring to above. Perhaps instead of disliking me immediately you could suspend judgment for the moment and see this as an opportunity to positively influence my views. I am genuinely open to the possibility that my practices on a member of search committee leave something to be desired. Rather than dig my heels in and blindly defend everything I said, I'l like to hear more about what you're suggesting.

To start, a couple questions/thoughts for you.

1. If I'm reading you correctly, you seem to be suggesting that letters of recommendation are not helpful data for differentiating candidates. This does not, on the fact of it, seem plausible to me. To be sure: letters are not decisive. They are not entirely reliable. They are problematic for many reasons. But they do seem to me to be helpful; extremely helpful in many case.

2. Probably, however, this is not a correct reading of your comments and you are not claiming anything so strong. You might put the point this way, "Letters can of course be helpful, but eliminating candidates whose letters do not 'glow' is seriously problematic." Among the various reasons you could cite: (a) Some letter writers are much more gifted than others. In this case, the strength of the letter tracks the virtues of the letter-writer and not those of the candidate. (b) The quality of the candidates' written surely trumps any information the letter writer can provide. Why pay more than cursory attention to letters when the candidate has provided concrete and independent evidence of their scholarly strengths and weaknesses?

Let me clarify my own views. (To the extend to which what I say here does not fit with my earlier comments -- those you were reacting to -- I expressed myself poorly in those earlier comments.)

I think we're in agreement that it is hard to get useful information from letters. The first time I served on a SC I noticed that many letter-writers from "leitterific" institutions were particularly skilled at drafting truly lovely letters. In assessing those application packets I had to consciously keep in mind that this did not necessarily reflect the strength of the candidate so much as the many years of practice the writer had.

Next, I can't help thinking that we are forced to rely on letters to a substantial extent. Three reasons come to mind. First, there is the ugly fact that SC members simply cannot read every writing sample. Second, even for those we do read, many of us are not experts in the candidates' AOS. Some of us rely on letter writers to give us information about the quality of the candidates' work. I'm not sure what the alternative is (given that we refuse to presume that our judgments about the merits of work outside our expertise are reliable). Finally, scholarly ability isn't the only criterion for determining a candidate's suitability. We are hiring a colleague and sometimes we rely on letters to give us information about personal characteristics of candidates. This is, in my experience, quite minimal. But it can play a role.

Finally, I worry that none of this has addressed the concern you were raising. Perhaps you took me to be asserting that glowing letters are a necessary condition for making the cut. If what I wrote seemed to imply that, then again, I expressed myself poorly. I was addressing concerns raised earlier by someone wondering why he or she had not had more luck getting interviews. I meant to be merely noting that SCs notice the difference between great and glowing letters and that likely plays a role in many SC's decision making. This was meant to be a possible explanation and not necessarily an endorsement of that practice.

Anonymous said...

"First, how on earth do I seek out more famous people (I can't very well start stalking them by sending them research samples)?"

Publish in top journals and present at top conferences.

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