Thursday, August 30, 2012

Academic Jobs Online dot Org

This came up in comments a couple of days ago (h/t anon 3:42), but I haven't had time to write a main post about it until now. In the meantime, Elizabeth Harman wrote to Leiter, so rather than write my own thing, I'm just going to steal hers:

Please take note that is a great service that makes things *much* easier for job candidates and departments that are trying to place their students. This service is free for job applicants and only requires applicants and letter-writers to upload all their materials once. Then to apply to each of the hiring departments using the service, applicants merely need to tick a few boxes. Several philosophy hiring departments did use the service last year (Duke, Tufts, Yale, Stanford, Tulane, Oregon, and Washington Tacoma), and hopefully more will this year. (All mathematics hiring uses this service. It is much more humane for job candidates.)

Couple of questions: Does anybody have any experience with How does it work? Is it user-friendly for applicants? Is it user-friendly for search committees? Is this the solution we've all been waiting for all this time?

One final note: while I realize that the cost of applications is substantial and represents a financial hardship, people have to realize that conference interviews are a much greater financial hardship. Airfare to Eastern-APA cities is generally in the four- to six-hundred-dollar range, and then there's food and lodging. I would never dream of complaining about a free way to submit applications. But a less costly way of conducting interviews is much, much more important to me.

--Mr. Zero


Xenophon said...

I think I used it twice (?), and I found it curiously irritating. I don't remember why. Probably it gets easier to use, like all these systems, once you get used to its idiosyncrasies. Originally I hated the PeopleAdmin system that about 80% of colleges use, but now it's my favorite. As long as you remember to never, never, use the back button on your browser, and you don't have to submit any large documents, it's convenient.

I like to be able to customize cover letters, and occasionally other parts of my file, so I don't mind uploading new files every time. And I don't like being forced into a system that doesn't allow me control over how my application looks.

I think AcademicJobsOnline required me to use the double secret method for getting reference letters out of Interfolio, and that took several hours of agony and required me to resubmit the application. Plus, I don't remember how it worked, so I'll go through the same agony next time.

By the way, am I the only one who can never read the "prove you're not a robot" word verification that eBlogger is using now? It takes me four or five tries to get it right.

Anonymous said...

It is not terribly well-organized, and the search functionality sucks. I haven't used it to apply for jobs, but using it to look for job listings is real pain in the ass.

Nevertheless, only having to upload all my stuff to one place seems like a positive. Perhaps it will get better as more people use it.

Anonymous said...

i haven't used it to search for jobs, but i did use it to apply for one job last year, and i found it fine, at least as user-friendly as interfolio, if less aesthetically pleasing than interfolio.

only doing one job through it, i can't speak to xenophon's irritation with customizing cover letters, etc.

i don't remember how the letters worked, either, which may mean i found it not to be irritating, or it may mean that i've blocked out my rage over that in favor of rage over other irritations about the application process.

and, yes, xenophon, the new 'prove you're not a robot' thing is illegible. ironically, i can imagine only an imaging program should really be able to read it.

zombie said...

I vaguely remember using it last year to apply for a couple of jobs. But I have nothing specific or worthwhile to say about it except that if it had been a terrible experience, I would remember.

Anonymous said...

But a less costly way of conducting interviews is much, much more important to me.

This can be achieved with technology. Skype could possibly substitute for face-to-face, if both parties were willing to accommodate. For a better face-to-face simulation, Kinko's may have a higher-end camera and room to conduct the interview.

But i say that knowing it's a bad idea. Because the interview is a competition. And once a person loses a competition, they research why did i lose?. And then experts tell them You must meet the selection committee for X, Y & Z reasons. You must hand-deliver your CV on expensive stock, and firmly shake hands and exchange strong eye-to-eye contact..
So, the idea of a "less costly way of conducting interviews" is missing the point that the selection process is a competition, and it will naturally evolve int an expensive arms-race, and everyone is caught in a Prisoner's Dilemna of having to match the $ outlay of their competitors.
(I express this opinion with a deep sadness. job competition is brutal; i don't control the rules, i don't like the rules, and i can't excuse myself from the competition.)

Anonymous said...

The issue of interviews is up again, and traditionally there have been three alternatives offered:
(1) Skype
(2) Phone
(3) Narrow down the pool to fewer candidates and fly them out.

Many places are switching to (1). I would like to enter my plea to strongly discourage (1). I have had two Skype interviews, and both sucked. I would prefer to never have one again. First, not all of us have access to great, reliable, internet connections, and losing your connection in the middle of an interview is pretty crappy. But I, for one, have absolutely no control over this. There just isn't a place with a reliable connection where I can set up.

Second, and perhaps more significantly: the video feed is slightly out of sync, and usually not crystal clear, so it is nothing like a face-to-face encounter; you just don't get the visual cues that are supposed to be the whole advantage of seeing the person you are talking to. There are also weird issues about the fact that if you look at the screen so you can see the people you are talking to, it looks (to them) like you are not looking at them. This adds, for me at least, an extra stress factor: I'm not just worrying about what to say, but also about my computer not freezing, my internet not acting up, and my eyes staying glued to the camera.

In effect, a Skype interview is much crappier than a phone interview. It's just like a phone interview (though perhaps with lower sound quality), except that on top of that people can see your facial expressions, so you have to constantly be concerned with those, without really having the benefit of seeing theirs. (Aside from all the points above: they see you on the screen, while you are seeing anywhere between two and five people, typically; so you really can't make out or focus on their expressions even if you were to look away from the camera. This just isn't a problem in a phone interview or a face to face one.)

Upshot: please urge your hiring departments not to use Skype. Ever.

Anonymous said...

@1:21: I guess our experiences differ. I've had a few Skype interviews and I thought they worked well. It's true that you need to get a reliable internet connection and computer, but I've had technical problems twice with simple phone interviews on account of the call set up on the SC's end. The APA conference interviews, for which I've gone to more than half a dozen conferences, are very expensive and require sometimes exhausting travel at a bad time of the year. Additionally, I've found the whole APA conference experience to be deeply unpleasant just because there are so many nervous and arrogant young job-seeking philosophers in such a contained setting. The interview ballrooms can be loud, confusing, and far more anxiety provoking than a Skype interview IMO. Then there are the hotel room interviews, which are sometimes hindered by a less than professional ambience (before one hotel room interview, I had to chat for five minutes with the wife of the department chair, while he went to find the other two interviewers in the lobby - his wife was not an academic and she "innocently" asked me questions about my family life and religious background!). A Skype interview is, by its nature, "staged" in a way which gives the candidate more control and makes the candidate less susceptible to unprofessional or "real life" intrusions into the interview situation.

Upshot: please urge your hiring departments to use Skype. Always.

Re. non-bot verification: use the audio version (click on the speaker icon)

DJ said...

Google+ hangouts solves the problem of you not being able to see the committee members' faces. Right now it's still pretty new technology but I imagine search committees will start using it at some point.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon. 1:21. There are structural problems with Skype that make it worse than a phone conversation for an academic interview. The most important of these is that the time delay can impede serious conversation by making it difficult to know when a questioner has finished asking a question or making a comment. This effect is amplified when there are many people in a room who can jump in and interrupt one another. And problems with eye contact and accurately reading body language on video (especially when the camera angle is off) also make correctly understanding and responding to questions difficult.

In response to Anon 5:59: Everyone agrees that the APA is expensive and unpleasant. (Actually, I kind of like the smoker. But I agree it is awkward beyond anything else I've experienced.) But the anecdote about how things can go wrong even there isn't very helpful. Surely we don't do Skype interviews in order to avoid sneaky questions from committee members' spouses! (Similarly regarding phone interviews -- do you really want to say that the telephone is less reliable than Skype, or that access to reliable telephone service is less widespread?)

In any case, I take the point to be that Skype interviews are strictly worse than phone interviews; they are not an adequate compromise between talking on the phone and meeting in person. I think that more schools should do what many West Coast departments (and NYU, for that matter) do: cut the APA altogether and use the money you'd spend sending your committee to the conference to instead bring more candidates to campus. If you want to pre-screen, do it on the telephone, but keep it informal. A philosopher's qualifications are far better measured by reading her papers, listening to her job talk, and having informal one-on-one conversations than a formal interview anyway!

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:52 PM: Amen. I agree entirely.

The trouble is that having a "long" list of preliminary interviewees is much easier from the SC perspective. Why? Because it cuts down on the fights between committee members about who makes the quarter/semi-final cut. Instead of making hard choices based on the dossier, the committee will make choices between those who interview based largely on their interview. I disagree with this method. But it's what happens, over and over again, and the incentive to avoid hard work and tough choices is a strong one.

Anonymous said... is a terrible website. I just used it to submit an application for the second time, and it allowed me to fill out multiple forms before telling me I was already registered and would have to log in again (and submit all the data again). Also, it gives you a standard cover sheet that's supposed to be for all employers, but includes things like a ranking of your research interests and description of your project -- as if you'd want that to be identical for everyone. Interfolio is much much better from the applicant's standpoint, and I think it's becoming the standard (the MLA just signed on with Interfolio, for instance) -- and I say that even though Interfolio is going to be taking a lot of my money in the next month or so.