A number of people have posted a question along these lines:
How do you improve your chances for next year on the job market if you're stuck at your PhD granting institution?This year, I was lucky enough to land a few first-round interviews and a couple on campus ones as well. However, I'm nearly certain I won't get a job.Since my publication and presentation records, I think, are not at issue (I have around 7 or 8 papers in good journals) and I also have a decent amount of teaching experience, I'm not sure the best way to improve my portfolio for next year. Another pub won't hurt, I imagine, but I'm not sure it will help either.
In many cases, the questions came from people who had several first-round interviews. Getting several interviews is good. It's great. The job market, as you have heard ad nauseum, is incredibly competitive. I've heard from SC members (in multiple discliplines) that the calibre of candidates right now is extremely high. So if you got several interviews, you are in very good company. This is, of course, cold comfort if it did not result in you getting a job. But perhaps cold comfort is better than none at all.
I came from a so-so department (modestly ranked in my AOS). I was lucky enough in my first year to land a postdoc that required no fewer than 4 pubs a year, which means I went from next to none to having a half dozen by my third year on the market. During that postdoc, I developed a coherent and original research program. I think those factors made a huge difference in my getting significantly more first round interviews in my third year. It did not hurt that it was a decent year for jobs in my AOS. I ended up getting interviews for about 10% of the jobs I applied for. Out of that, 2 on-campus interviews.
What I think got me a TT job, however, was that unpredictable and difficult-to-quantify matter of "fit." In addition to my AOS, I had desirable AOCs, a research program and a relevant and unusual side career (developed over more than a decade) that were attractive across the university's disciplines and departments, plus interdisciplinary postdoc experience. Which is to say, I fit in several different slots for the university, which is something most philosophers would not have been able to do for this particular job. "Fit," unfortunately, is not necessarily something you can control. How you fit in a department or job may be something that is difficult to glean in advance, although knowing as much as you can about the school and department, and the research of its faculty (not just in your department, but across the unversity), can help. (If you know someone who knows someone at the dept in question, ask them for help and information.) Your idea of where you fit may be quite different from where others think you fit. I now work at a research unversity. I always saw myself (from the minute I entered college), teaching at a SLAC. I never got a single interview at a SLAC. Apparently SCs did not view me as SLAC material, and research schools viewed me as research material. How you fit is, to some extent, also a matter of luck, a felicitous combination of the right job in the right place at the right time. Getting a first-round interview means you at least look like you'll fit. Your interviews are where you have to demonstrate your fit -- that you'll be a decent, interesting colleague, a good teacher, a successful researcher, someone who can get tenure at the particular institution.
But your failure to get a job, after several interviews, may only mean that some other candidate was just a little better than you in one or more of several criteria. The differences can be small enough to be barely significant to the SC -- such that, if candidate #1 declines an offer, they'll be just as happy to offer the job to #2. (I can attest to this from discussions with SC members who are hiring this year. It is really interesting to be sitting on the other side of the hiring table.) Which is to say, there may be nothing much you can do to enhance your chances if you're already a desirable candidate. Short of killing the competition. Which would be wrong.
Generally, we think that if what you're doing is not meeting with success, there's something wrong with what you're doing, and you should change it. I don't think that advice necessarily holds for candidates who got several job interviews, unless there is some obvious shortcoming that sabotages in-person interviews, like horrendous hygiene or abysmal interpersonal skills. If you are not getting any interviews at all, you're probably in a better position to make some changes that could improve your prospects next year.
As a practical suggestion, seek out the most recently hired professor in your department, and ask them for help, now, when they have time and you're in a position to get ready for next fall. I got no useful advice from the placement director in my dept, and conflicting advice from other faculty, but I received a tremendous amount of help from a junior faculty member who came to the dept years after I finished classes, who did not know me personally at all, but was recently hired and keen to help. Find someone like that.
The floor is open.