Monday, November 19, 2012

Interview Miscellany

Some interesting things emerging from this thread. 10:41 writes,
A few years ago (maybe 4, I don't recall), we had an applicant come straight from the airport. He was a mess. He admitted to us that he tried to minimize how much time he'd be on site, so flew in the morning of his interview with us, and was flying out the next day after another interview.

We asked if he'd rather reschedule for the next day (that's when he told us about his plans to fly out the following afternoon after an interview), and then offered to give him a few hours to get himself in order (we offered to interview him at the end of the day). He refused, and said he'd rather just get it over with.

He failed miserably. He couldn't concentrate, and screwed up the answer to every question (including the "tell us about your dissertation" softball). Despite being very strong on paper, we simply couldn't consider bringing him out to campus after such a terrible interview. I wonder what he would have been like with a good night's sleep and a hot meal.

I know this is not really about the original post, but I want to note that you simply cannot overestimate the importance of a good night's sleep and a hot meal. If there is any doubt, try and stay the extra night. Get there the day before your interview, and if you're planning early, get there the day before you might be expected to be available for interviews. Yes, it means spending a little extra money; and maybe because of the realities of grad school/adjuncting, a little extra money is a big deal. Lie, cheat, steal, share rooms with friends, do whatever you have to do. This is your career, and the difference between success and failure just might be a good night's sleep and a hot meal.
This is exactly right. Interviews are hard. You have to be at your best. That means well-rested, well-fed, and not harried from a recent, highly stressful air-travel clusterfuck. Don't take yourself out of the game by not being at your best.

To which 7:03 adds,
10:41's comment underscores the absurdity and injustice of this whole arrangement. It is not only that we must make (very) expensive plans to travel to a city during the holidays when we may or may not have any interviews there. It is also that we must do this in an even less economical way than we might have--staying 3 nights instead of 1, for example--in order to allow for the possibility that schools will want to interview us at any time during that window. And, of course, if that's not true at all, or if we have only one interview, we learn of it too late to make any difference.

This is my 4th year on the market. I have a good VAP job, and know how to navigate the gauntlet that is APA logistics pretty effectively. And even so, I am forced to spend money that I don't have (since my institution's travel funding is limited, due to state budgeting issues). I am, more and more, wary of institutions that--despite all that we know about the financial burden the APA puts on grad students and junior/underemployed philosophers--continue to interview at the APA. There are other options available, and I'm glad to see that more and more departments are choosing them.
This is also true. I realize that not everyone agrees, but there is no reason to hold interviews at the APA anymore. Skype interviews are not at all ideal, but they're a hell of a lot better than $650 to fly to Atlanta and another $100 a night to stay in Atlanta plus food and expenses. And while we're on the topic of a good night's sleep and a hot meal, how about a good night's sleep in your bed and a hot meal that was prepared in your kitchen? Or, like, your favorite restaurant in your town. Or something.

--Mr. Zero

148 comments:

zombie said...

Right. And for people with families, having to deal with all this right after Xmas, and being away from your spouse and kids right smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, also sucks. (Not to slight the unmarried and childless, who also have families and/or friends they might rather spend the holiday season with.)

Anonymous said...

I'm 10:41. I missed the reply to my comment while traveling.

When I was on the market, the conference was the only way to go. I spent the money (on the credit card), made sure I wasn't harried, and I was very lucky to get a job my first year out. (The market was also better, which likely played as much a part as anything else, like doing well on the interviews and being damn lucky). If you have to interview at the conference, I maintain that you have to give yourself every opportunity to succeed. And honestly, by the time you interview, you have sacrificed so much (time, money, blood) to get there, a couple extra nights in the hotel (any hotel, if you can find cheaper rates nearby) isn't setting you back much more than you've already been set back. (It took several months to pay off my conference-related credit card bill, but it was worth it.)

That said, 7:03 is absolutely right. It's long been a shame that the expense falls squarely on the shoulders of those least able to afford it. Those who can Skype, should. It's easier, cost-effective on both ends, and and I have not heard of any serious drawbacks (though maybe I have missed something?).

I've often wondered why we can't change the system. For instance, PhD departments should help fund grad students on the market. (Maybe some do, but mine certainly did not.) Placing grad students into jobs benefits the department, so why not treat it like the investment it is? Pay for (at least part) of the conference expenses. Also, hiring the best applicant benefits the hiring department, so why not treat it like the investment it is? Hiring departments should pay for (at least part of) the applicant's expenses. If every hiring department paid for one night for each applicant they intend to interview, that very small amount of money (compared to the rest of the expense associated with hiring someone) would help out the grad students a great deal. (Plus, offering to help out your applicants may have them think more favorably of your department; treating future employees like desired commodities has only positive repercussions.) And those departments that can't afford such expenses? Move to Skype. It's going to happen anyway; why not do it now?

Anonymous said...

@10:41/6:49 Isn't one relatively painless way of changing the system just to give less weight to the interview itself? Of course, more drastic changes would be welcome, but I don't understand the rationale of why you "simply couldn't consider" bringing out to campus a candidate who was excellent on paper and not so good at the interview (for rather understandable reasons!).

Anonymous said...

10:41 here:

"Isn't one relatively painless way of changing the system just to give less weight to the interview itself?"

---I'd say no. I need to know you are more than a paper application. I need to know that you can handle questions without getting flustered, that you can articulate your thoughts clearly in person, etc. Meeting you in person (or over Skype) is part of how I do this.

"Of course, more drastic changes would be welcome, but I don't understand the rationale of why you "simply couldn't consider" bringing out to campus a candidate who was excellent on paper and not so good at the interview (for rather understandable reasons!)."

---Because other candidates did better in the interview, and were just as good on paper. Let me put it to you this way: I can bring 3 people to campus, and you are my #3. You outperform #4 in the interview, but #4 flew in that morning and was jet-lagged and flustered. Are you willing to give him your campus visit because you feel bad that he was jet-lagged and flustered? How would you feel if I told you, "I'd like to bring you to campus because you did quite well, but I decided to bring someone else instead. He didn't interview as well as you did, but I want to give him another chance." How long would it take before my decision became the subject of a nasty thread on this blog?

Anonymous said...

it's the little things, friends:

http://www.theonion.com/articles/the-week-in-pictures,30440/?slide=5

doris said...

Of course, the practice of convention interviews has been extensively discussed (see link below).

The most defensible verdict is:

The limited (or worse) evidential value of short convention style interviews is insufficient to justify the hardship imposed on job candidates.

Once again, I join my colleagues who have called for the practice to be abolished, and invite others to do so.

Departments who require personal contact before arranging campus interviews may use Skype or other appropriate technologies.

Best Regards,

John Doris


http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2011/09/farewell-to-the-eastern-apa-redux.html

Anonymous said...

@8:22

If the other candidates are *just as good*, then of course. However, suppose the other candidates are not quite as good on paper, but good enough to make the 10-person list. My impression is that the interview will still be a strong determinant for which 4 people are coming to campus.

My question is, given what we know about all the biases with in-person interviews and how people tend to overweight in-person impressions already, why??? Why not treat the interview as just another category: writing sample is worth 40%, CV is worth 20%, interview is worth 20%, teaching and research statements are worth 20%... (obviously I recognize such a strict weighing may be impossible in practice, but you get the idea).

Anonymous said...

While conducting interviews at the Eastern APA is especially shameful, conducting interviews at all should be discouraged.

There is simply no reason to think that philosophers who are untrained in giving interviews are doing anything but giving credence to their gut and introducing noise into the process.

We should be better than this. But, alas, I ain't had no luck convincing my department that they have no special skill at forming first impressions. I am doing my best to teach that lesson, though, by being an utter dick to them.

Anonymous said...

I'm 7:03, and I appreciate 10:41's response (as well as the extra attention given this issue). I do think that suggesting departments help fund grad student placement trips to the APA would be a start, but unfortunately, it's not nearly enough. First of all, as 10:41 suggests, a great many departments simply will not/do not/cannot (for various reasons) do this. Given this reality, it seems problematic for departments who insist on interviewing at the APA to bring up this possibility as mitigating their role in putting unnecessary financial burdens on people they interview. Moreover, as a great many of us who are on the market have not been grad students for some time, this particular solution is not particularly helpful.

I think that 10:41's second suggestion--about having interviewing departments help defray applicants' costs seems more helpful, as it takes into account the two realities I mentioned above (the fact that grad depts on the whole don't help with this, and the fact that many of us are not grad students). Of course, it also sounds like it would pose some significant logistical challenges--though these would necessarily vary by institution.

So yes, I agree that interviews should be moved to Skype or phone. I say this as someone well-aware of the drawbacks of each. Last year, I had a skype interview that went just about as technically wrong as it could have gone--multiple freezes, call getting dropped, etc.--and I would still prefer this to schlepping myself (and this year, my family) to the APA *in the hope that I MIGHT* have an interview there. The benefits to be gained by an in-person interview simply don't warrant the exorbitant expenses. Those expenses, by the way, are still quite steep EVEN IF one is savvy enough to know not to stay in the APA hotel, and how to find the best flight/car rental deals. And this is not even to address the very real possibility that applicants will pony up this cash only to wind up with no APA interviews, and thus be stuck spending their funds on an expensive conference that they could have used for another one where they (say) had a paper accepted, etc.

Anonymous said...

One doesn't always have a choice. I once got invited for an interview (this was Europe, so there was no first-round interview, but it was straight on campus for 20 mins, and I one of 6 candidates) that took place right after a conference where I was to present a paper. I told the SC months in advance the hour and day were no good, because I would be returning from a 9-hour flight across the Atlantic. But they just wouldn't change the day, *not even the hour*, and I wound up doing the interview a few hours after my plane landed. I barely made it to the interview location in time, I had a splitting head ache, barely the time to change into interview clothes (shamefully, in the loo of the building where the interview took place), and my hair looked like a mess. And I couldn't think clearly at all.
Now I did not want to give up my conference, which was important, as I got the inkling that a department that was not even flexible to move the interview forward *one hour* would not consider me seriously anyway (who would treat a future colleague like that)? And I was right: never in my life have I had an interview that was so brutal, with inappropriate questions on my personal life and all. I'm saying: if the SC doesn't even want to change the hour of your interview, you're just a sitting duck candidate, and they probably already have someone else in mind. Don't bother to go to the interview.

BunnyHugger said...

I agree with John Doris and with the eloquently blunt 6:41. Furthermore, I think that interviews at this point in the process have a potential to be harmful that outweighs their (I think dubious) potential to be helpful. They bring prejudices into play which will be inevitable at some point in the process (i.e. the fly-out) but should be delayed until more of an opinion has been formed to help offset them. I am thinking of unjust (and presumably unconscious) biases against certain physical appearances (being overweight or considered less aesthetic), age (which can be inferred from the CV, true, but may be even more likely to make an impression in person), etc.

Anonymous said...

I think one aspect of the interview that's being ignored here is using the interview to gather more information. Interviews are opportunities for hiring departments to sk for more information, to ask for clarification, etc. If we can, let's move this to skype; but let's not talk about eliminating interviews. Here are just some of the questions I received in interviews:

Can you explain the choices behind the works you selected for X class?
How might you design a new senior seminar in your area of specialization?
Can you explain how you might engage in cross-disciplinary work with other departments?
How might our university's special collection in X be of use in your future research?

Giving up on the first interview (a pre-campus visit interview) limits the amount of information a search committee will have to make their decisions. I like the idea of moving to skype; I want search committees to have the opportunity to get more information. But there's no reason it can't be done online or over the phone.

Anonymous said...

Personality should count for something. Lots of smaller teaching schools are less concerned about whether you are the next Saul Kripke and more concerned with whether you will or won't be a total jerk or anti-social neurotic for the next 20 years or so. Since there isn't a jerk evaluation header on your CV, I can see why some schools would want multiple chances to filter out the jerks before deciding on their 3 campus visits.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if we could have a discussion about the following topic. Usually job ads require that applicants submit a writing sample. One of the writing samples I am currently submitting is under revise and resubmit in a very good Journal. My concern is that one of the members of the search committee end up stealing the paper, or using the ideas that I develop in the paper to write his own paper. I am particulary concerned about this because I believe that the idea of the paper is truly novel. Am I being too paranoic? Should I stop sending writing samples that are not currently published?

zombie said...

8:26 -- your experience was unfortunate, but I'm not sure how much can be inferred, as it is my understanding that sort of arrangement is not uncommon in Europe (or at least the UK).

zombie said...

11:43 -- if you are really worried about someone stealing your idea before it is published, then you should stop sending that paper out in your dossier. Stop presenting it at conferences. Don't present it at a job talk. And don't send it to journals either (reviewers might steal the idea).

But I should think you'd want to show yourself in the best light, and if this is your best work, send it. SC members are reading hundreds of applications, and your paper will probably only be read by those who think your dossier should make it through the first round of review. I've had a number of interviews where some of the committee members told me they hadn't read my writing sample yet (which, I infer, means they planned to read it only if I made it past the first interview).

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:43,
Your concerns are justified. My unpublished paper was stolen/plagiarized when I submitted it as a writing sample for a pre-doctoral fellowship. It was taken and published by a tenure track philosopher who I have since had to sit next to on several panels. When it was stolen I was a graduate student. Unfortunately it would be too impolitic to expose her now, many years after the fact.

Anonymous said...

@11:20

Why not just email? Unless you think it is important that the person have an answer to such questions ready to go, or can generate one of the top of her head. But why would you think that?

@11:30

"Personality should count for something. Lots of smaller teaching schools are less concerned about whether you are the next Saul Kripke and more concerned with whether you will or won't be a total jerk or anti-social neurotic for the next 20 years or so. Since there isn't a jerk evaluation header on your CV, I can see why some schools would want multiple chances to filter out the jerks before deciding on their 3 campus visits."

Yes, I agree whole-heartedly... conditional on it being the case that philosophers can reliably detect jerks through interviews. Which of course they can't.

We jerks can be tricksy. And part of being a jerk is being able (and willing) to trick non-jerks into letting us close. But, we can't take too much credit. Turns out non-jerks are typically morons who think they are good at detecting jerks.

Anonymous said...

And by the way, 11:20: Those are some true shite questions. How might you X?!? Really? One might do it in any number of ways. One might use a special collection in her future research by jamming it up yer arse. One might.

And one might think it a good idea to better learn how to formulate questions before insisting that others spend large sums of money to be asked those questions.

One might. But, alas, one won't.

Mountain Feminist said...

Interesting that sodomizing someone with something is mentioned in the very sentence with 'her' as a pronoun. Oh, but I must be imagining things.

Anonymous said...

@1:05--Why did not you contact him/her immediately after the plagiarism happened? Would it not have been easier to prove that there was plagiarism involved?

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm neither as bright nor as experienced as 1:39, but what's wrong with the questions asked of 11:20? What kinds of questions are supposed to be asked during interviews?

Anonymous said...

How do you contact someone immediately after the plagiarism happens? Do you mean after you eventually discover the plagiarism? That could be years past when the plagiarism occurs. If the plagiarist beats you to publication then it appears that you are the plagiarist. If the plagiarist is a well known or a very senior scholar, then it becomes a credibility contest that you will more than likely lose. Moral of the story: Don't send out your unpublished work in job or post-doc apps, especially if it's any good.

Anonymous said...

"Interesting that sodomizing someone with something is mentioned in the very sentence with 'her' as a pronoun."

No doubt this is a bad idea, but:
Interesting how?

Sounds a little sexist to me -- like you don't think women can sodomize, just be sodomized, or something.

There were some offensive things said in these emails, but I don't think that the use of "her" was one of them. (I personally would have started with the use of "moron" if I felt the urge to feel outraged about an anonymous comment on a blog.)

Anonymous said...

Feminine pronouns should not be used in sentences containing reference to traditional male homosexual activities. The pronouns can be very sensitive. Proper English usage requires such constructions as, "I used her t-shirt to wipe up the mess", and "She kept texting me while I was trying to watch the Home Shopping Network," cleaning and shopping being traditionally feminine activities.
Difficult cases may arise, as: "The boys got together for a midnight screening of 'Cabaret', on account of a rumored live appearance by Liza *herself*". Of course, 'himself' is out of the question, but is a night out for some Liza with the boys really an appropriate place of a feminine pronoun? Better to rewrite the sentence.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm naive, but
I think it's very unlikely that interviewers will plagiarize your work. After all, interviews are conducted by committees, and so chances are that someone on that committee will probably know that the work is yours - although I realize that not every committee gets more than one person to read something. And if it's very good work, then people at other universities will have read it too. One thing to be aware of is that it's quite possible that someone else has independently come to a similar argument as yours. Maybe reading your paper just put a fire under their ass to get their stuff published as they realize someone else is arguing something similar? People do come to similar arguments independently - when I was on the market I found out that someone's unpublished (but under review) work was very similar to mine, so I had to do last-minute reworking of the paper. It's far more likely, unfortunately, that plagiarism happens with reviewing. The people reading it are also working in your field, and there is a certain amount of privacy - two things that are often lacking in interview situations. And things that seem like plagiarism here can be very easy to fall into - perhaps someone reviews your paper, thinks it's a terrible argument, but can see some germ of an idea or something similar in the vicinity that might be right. In that situation something should be attributed to the original author, but blind reviewing (a very good thing, generally) makes it hard to do so.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe I'm neither as bright nor as experienced as 1:39, but what's wrong with the questions asked of 11:20? What kinds of questions are supposed to be asked during interviews?"

I was mainly just playing, but the issue is that the interviewer surely doesn't care how the interviewee *might* do these things, but how the interviewee thinks that she actually *would* do these things. Likely the interviewee would take that to be implied, of course. But if I were being interviewed, I would take it as an invitation to provide the answer that I thought the interviewer wanted to hear, even if it was not what I thought I would actually do, and I would not take myself to be lying by doing so.

While I was mainly just joking, I do think that there is an underlying point. The point is that most philosophers have no training with regard to how to conduct interviews or formulate interview questions. Further, there is ample evidence that conducting an interview that provides reliable information is far more difficult than people naively think. And this is the primary reason for thinking that it is a bad idea for philosophers to place weight on interviews in hiring decisions (even as interviews, per se, are not necessarily bad).

Anonymous said...

So has anyone else encountered a job search that has closed due to "receiving too many applications"? I went to apply to a job posted with a Nov. 30 deadline only to find the job no longer listed on that university's online HR system. When I called their HR office, I Was told that the assistant professor search was closed after receiving "almost 200 applications." No apparent concern for the fact that a Nov. 30 deadline had been advertised.

Mountain Feminist said...

My point is just that 1:39's comment is beyond sexist and talks about violently shoving things up a woman's ass. And nobody else seems bothered by that.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi Mountain Feminist,

No, it doesn't. The person 'her' refers to in 1:39's comment is the shover, not the shovee.

Linguistics matter (originally anon 7:05) said...

Mr. Zero, I'm sorry but you're missing the point. Being that, 'Reference' is a social construction. The fact of which remains that the feminine pronoun is sharing a sentence with sodomy (or 'sodomy', if one buys into the dubious use/mention distinction).

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:27,

You are naive. First of all, senior scholars only give credit to junior scholars if they are the senior scholar's advisee or the advisee of a friend of the senior scholar. Otherwise it is best to steal the idea rather than confess that a junior scholar who bears no relation to you or your friends is more brilliant than you. Second, plagiarism is wrong whether you intended to do it or not. Negligent plagiarists are still plagiarists. If your student says that she was reading Aristotle and came up with the "novel" idea that we are all political animals, you would tell her that that is Aristotle's idea. Aristotle should be cited. Otherwise it's plagiarism. Third, we can all be self-delusional about whether or not our ideas are original. But the only way to guard against philosophical charlatans/plagiarists is to keep our ideas to ourselves and otherwise only share them through publication. Most committee members do not read writing samples. So if one does and finds a brilliant idea, then there is very little risk that once she gets it published as her own she will ever be found out.

Anonymous said...

I find these discussion so naive. You are applying for a professional job. It is expensive now, but that's part of the process. Graduate school is expensive, the opportunity cost of going to graduate school is expensive.

But as someone from a hiring department, I can tell you that I want to sit across from you at a table and talk for an hour.

You aren't going to be teaching via skype. We aren't going to have department meetings via skype. And if you aren't invested enough in your profession to show up at the professional meetings for an interview, then you don't deserve the job.

And don't talk to me about family time either. Every year when I visit my in-laws, they have to go back to work the day after X-mas. Only people who have been students their whole life think that X-mas is a big break time.

The vast majority of the freaking world works between X-mas and new years. You aren't special.

Go to the meetings, be professional, meet people, and get over your "it's expensive" selves. Life is expensive. Sorry you have first world problems.

zombie said...

MF: "One might use a special collection in her future research by jamming it up yer arse"

"yer" could refer to a man or woman, but the jammer is clearly female in this sentence. Nothing can be inferred about the sex of the jammee, and there's nothing here to be outraged about, as the act in question is not literal, but figurative. It would be nigh on impossible to literally jam a scholarly collection up anyone's arse.

Now I can't think about jam anymore.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 7:44, I'm all for naming names in a case like this. It's quite possible HR did this all on their own, and the department doesn't even know. And if they do, I think public shaming is acceptable. That's just unprofessional.

Anonymous said...

@744

I can't imagine that it is legal to stop receiving new applications before the stated deadline. If this is true then that is seriously bad news.

I might add, 744, that if this is the job I think it is (is it in the 'New England' area?) then I can say that the job was accidentally taken down and should be back up (I too called the HR office and weirdly that's what they told me). I was able to apply today even though the job was not up yesterday.

If yours is a different job then yeah, it sounds crazy illegal.

Anonymous said...

Sigh. When you see yourself as a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

zombie said...

11:44: the vast majority of the working world may have to work between xmas and New Year, but nobody here is complaining about that. I certainly wasn't. It is being forced to LEAVE one's family and go to another city in the middle of the holiday season to go to work that is unfortunate. And if anyone in another profession has to do that, it is unfortunate for them as well, but at least they are being paid for their work. Job-seekers going to APA must pay exorbitant prices for the privilege of being interviewed by people like you who apparently think it's the equivalent of clocking in at the office or the factory. Clearly going to an interview in which you have maybe a one in ten chance of success, and having paid several hundred dollars to do it, is not the same as simply having to go to work between xmas and New Year. (And success, in APA terms, just means you advance to the final elimination round.)

No one ever claimed that they would go to dept meetings or teach via Skype. A job interview is not teaching or attending a dept meeting, so your point, whatever it is, is irrelevant. A first round interview, on the basis of which no one is ever hired, is not the same as teaching or attending a dept meeting. And since no one would be hired on the basis of the APA interview alone, and since any person hired will meet the committee again, as well as the dept and school admins before they are hired, it is disingenuous to claim they have some kind of professional obligation to show up at a "professional meeting" where they will be unable to engage in the normal professional activities of a typical conference just so they can meet the committee face to face. Going to APA as an interviewee is not remotely like attending a professional conference. And I've had APA interviews where I know, because I was told so, that the entire committee was not there for the interview. So whatever value meeting face to face might have for the committee, they clearly did not think it was significant enough to pay for the entire committee to be at APA.

Jamie Dreier said...

"But as someone from a hiring department, I can tell you that I want to sit across from you at a table and talk for an hour."

I do, too.
But, like John Doris, I doubt the conversation would yield real evidence. So we shouldn't be interviewing at the APA meetings.

CTS said...

So, I'm going to REALLY stick my neck out here (in honor of the many turkeys who have done the same this holiday).

1) I am an old[er] philosopher who 'came out' in what was purportedly a bad year or two. It was expensive to go to the APA. We tried to find ways of offsetting the costs, such as staying with local grad students, sharing rooms in very questionable hotels, bringing our own food, etc. It was still very expensive. We sort of thought of it as a financially unfortunate part of the process.

2) I don't know if going to APA meetings is now more (adjusted) expensive than it used to be. But, the fact of the matter is that only the most flush places could even consider paying for candidates' rooms - even for a night. Alas, it is unlikely that the administrators at those flush places are willing to spend extra $$ in a philosophy search.

3) Skype interviews might be a good alternative, for everyone, to in-person interviews. Giving up on interviews is a nonstarter for any department that cares about teaching, collegiality, and/or probability of tenure. And, there are many more such places than R1s that only care about your publishing record.

4) People look far more alike - or inscrutable - on paper than some might think. This is why some kind of interview is important even for research institutions.

5) It costs colleges/unis money to bring people out for on-site interviews. No one wants to end up with three 'cannot hires.' Off-site interviews are part of the screening process.

Anonymous said...

For those interested in a model of what a department might do to financially support its students on the market, my department (public, Leiter top 20), pays travel and lodging (at the convention hotel) for candidates who have scheduled interviews, and pays the cost for each students applications. I believe it does the latter for multiple years, even after students have graduated.

It might be useful for departments to provide this kind of information on their websites, perhaps in the placement section, so students applying to programs can make informed decisions. Given the state if the market these days, this kind of financial support is a really big deal.

CTS said...

PS.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Elizabeth Harman said...

I'm very concerned to hear about the job not accepting applications anymore even though the deadline hasn't passed. I'd like to know which school this is.

Anonymous said...

@CTS

What evidence regarding probability of tenure do you expect to get from a 30 minute interview? Or, why do you think a 30 minute interview can reliably indicate the probability of tenure 6 years down the line?

Anonymous said...

9:00, why don't you tell us what department this is?

As you say, this information might be useful.

Anonymous said...

CTS said: “Giving up on interviews is a nonstarter for any department that cares about teaching, collegiality, and/or probability of tenure.”

CTS, this comment implies that you don’t understand the argument against interviews. Again, the idea is that (despite what it *seems* like to many people) interviews do not provide reliable evidence of things like teaching, collegiality, and probability of tenure. So that’s where your claim should have been focused, i.e. you should have presented convincing reasons to believe that they *do* provide such evidence, if you’re to defend interviews. It seems, of course, that such reasons are nonexistent; and that’s the point.

Anonymous said...

To all those who want to get rid of interviews:

What would we replace them with? Just paper applications? Is there really anyone out there who thinks that paper applications are all we need before hiring someone?

Personally, I'm fine with that. PhD program, journals published in, courses taught, academic press that is publishing your book. Can't for the life of me think of anything else I might want to know before hiring you.

Anonymous said...

The idea that you can't hire good people without a conference is just stupid, sorry.

Tell that to Princeton and other programs that routinely invite people straight to campus visits without bothering with conference interviews.

They seem to do OK.

Trust us philosophers not just to try to maintain the stupidity of the status quo at any cost, but also do gymnastic to justify doing so.

Anonymous said...

Where is the research on interviews that establishes the strong skeptical stance? Just curious. A cursory look at the psychology lit suggests structured interviews can yield evidence of relevant sorts if it intelligently collected, interpreted, and weighed. Not that that is how things are run now, of course.

Mr. Zero said...

Is there really anyone out there who thinks that paper applications are all we need before hiring someone?

That's how Princeton does it. Contrary to what 2:32 suggests, Princeton's procedure is to make job offers without bothering with any interviews of any kind. (Please correct me if I'm wrong, though.)

There is a discussion in PEA Soup from a few years ago about this topic, in which Gilbert Harman argues pretty persuasively against the idea that interviews have any evidential value whatsoever. As I recall--too busy/lazy to look it up--the argument goes something like this. If I interview with you and I blow the interview, your opinion of me is irreparably harmed--no matter what my other qualifications are, what my letters say, whether you know for a fact that I wasn't at my best for reasons beyond my control (see the OP), or if you heard from someone whose judgment you trust implicitly that I nailed an interview with them. However, if I nail the interview with you and then you hear from someone whose judgment you trust implicitly that I bombed an interview with them, it wouldn't matter at all. You--meaning, "we"--care about a bombed interview only if we witness it; otherwise we completely discount it.

So anyways, the point is, interviews yield unreliable information that is literally impossible to ignore. My understanding is that the literature on this is vast and basically unambiguous. The information is a little better, as 2:42 points out, if the interviews are structured (which philosophy job interviews sometimes are) and the interviewers are trained to conduct interviews (which philosophy faculty on search committees never are).

And as far as weeding out the jerks: maybe my jerk-detector is broken, but most of the jerks I know didn't seem like jerks right away. In fact, the jerkiest jerks I know actually seemed really nice for the first little while. And I guess I thought that was pretty typical jerk behavior. Be nice long enough to gain everyone's trust, then slowly start doing jerky stuff. As I think about it, most of the people I thought were jerks right away were just having a bad day or something, and all of the truly malevolent people I know seemed really nice at first. For whatever that's worth. I know it's not science.

zombie said...

I know of at least two philosophy hires made without any first round interview, after only a campus flyout. I had a flyout with both, was hired by one. I've also had several phone interviews, including one that led to a postdoc offer.

Abandoning the costly conference interview does not mean abandoning all interviews. So let's be better philosophers here and stop attacking strawmen. As has been said numerous times, skype and phone interviews are reasonable, cost effective alternatives for SCs that really think they need the additional data an interview provides to winnow their list of candidates to the few who will get flyouts.

Princeton has deep pockets, can pretty much take their pick of candidates, and won't be ruined if a hire doesn't work out, so their hiring practices are unlikely to be adopted by more risk-averse SCs. But risk-averse SCs ought to look at the evidence against their interview practices, rather than maintaining the status quo for its own sake. The fact that the burdens of these interviews fall so heavily on those who can least bear them is reason enough to reconsider them.

Anonymous said...

The Princeton model would fail at my university. We have such a low bar for tenure, that it could easily be met by people we might now want to keep. (This is the function of a strong faculty union.) Princeton has the luxury to tell people that they aren't going to make their hight standards, but they will have the stench of Princeton on them, and will be able to get another job.

A few years ago, we interviewed some candidates who were non-native English speakers. One had excellent English skills, one had marginal, and one could barely speak English. The committee was shocked. All the letters said great things about them and how their English was great.

The one with unacceptable English skills was at the top of our list until we met the person. They fell off.

My point is that Princeton has a back up for removing people if they don't fit: high standards. Most of us don't work at places that can function under that model.

I need to know if you can convince an undergraduate to major in philosophy. Or explain to a dean why a new class is a good idea. If you can't speak English, or you can't make eye contact, or you are just plain boring, I need to know these things.

I cannot learn any of this from your CV alone. There are lots of things I want to learn from meeting with you. And because you haven't ever been a faculty member looking for someone to help run a small program where everyone needs to do some heavy lifting, then you don't understand why I really want to meet you in person.

Anonymous said...

The idea that the Princeton philosophy department doesn't care whether a candidate can speak English is so bizarre it's hard to believe it was meant seriously. It's also fairly odd to believe that the reason they don't interview is that it doesn't matter to them if they hire a disastrously bad candidate. To the contrary, they believe, based on the available evidence, that they will on average hire *better* candidates if they do *not* interview (as Mr. Zero explained).

The ugly fact that's not being mentioned is this: search committee members like the feeling of power than comes with interviewing. They like the control. I think that's human nature. But nobody wants to offer it as a reason to continue to interview, so we get instead reasons that barely make sense.

zombie said...

" If you can't speak English, or you can't make eye contact, or you are just plain boring, I need to know these things"

You should be able to tell from a phone or skype interview whether someone's English skills are up to your standards.

Eye contact is hard with Skype. Granted. Hard for everyone. But you know what? We are told to try to make good eye contact during interviews, so this could be faked by someone who has had enough practice with interviews.

"Just plain boring." How are you measuring this? Have you had interviews with people who proved so objectively boring that you could decisively eliminate them for that reason alone? Are you able to definitively distinguish between being boring and being nervous or cautious? Is it possible that someone who is boring in an interview might still be a great teacher or scholar?

Succeeding in job interviews requires its own skillset. There is some overlap between that skillset and being a good teacher and scholar, but not complete overlap. It is quite possible to be a great teacher and scholar without being good at job interviews. I've known some really boring people who were really good at their jobs. The fact that I found them boring doesn't mean that everyone would find them boring.

The face to face interviews, teaching demo, job talk, and social interactions during the campus visit are going to tell you far more about a person than a 20 or 30 minute convention interview in a hotel room with a nervous candidate.

Antiquiphile said...

Are interviews useful? The literature offers different findings on this. One highly-cited paper from the 80's overthrows the claim that interviews are worthless, at least for structured interviews: "In fact, the validity coefficients of structured interviews,
both individual and board, are comparable with the best other predictors available to
industrial/organizational psychologists, including mental ability tests (Hunter &
Hunter, 1984)." See Wiesner and Cronshaw 1988 http://boardoptions.com/jobinterviewpredictivevalidity.pdf

A study not long after tests the structured interview technique to find that "an interview developed using this technique demonstrates interrater reliability, predictive validity, test fairness for minorities and females, and cost/benefit utility." It seems that asking questions based on the requirements of the job, asking the same questions of each candidate, recording their answers, rating their answers, and illustrating the ratings with examples are key steps for successful interviews. See Campion Pursell and Brown 1988 http://www.krannert.purdue.edu/faculty/campionm/Structured_Interviewing_Raising.pdf

Anonymous said...

So the University of South Carolina had a position up with a December 1 deadline on PhilJobs, but now the deadline shows up as November 19th. I'm not sure how long ago they changed it. I wrote down the December 1 deadline in late October. What are the odds that other departments will close positions early or shift deadlines up?

BunnyHugger said...

Antiquiphile, that's interesting. If I'm understanding things right, the fairness of it is bolstered by the writing down the answers and reviewing and comparing them after the fact. If done properly this goes some way toward addressing my concerns that interviews unfortunately serve as a way of introducing unfairly prejudicial elements (e.g. physical attractiveness).

On the other hand, as others have noted, APA interviews probably are not conducted nearly so well. And I think that some of the comments in this thread suggest that people don't want to conduct them that way; they want to feel out "collegiality" which in a 20 minute interview really amounts to "vibes that I like this person and want to hang out with her." I think the value placed on face-to-face rather than Skype or phone interviews (which could surely meet the interview standards cited by Antiquiphile) stems from this desire to judge with the gut.

Anonymous said...

I tend to be socially awkward, and on top of that, I was so nervous that I got about 2 hours of sleep before each day of APA interviews. Nonetheless, I had very positive experiences at my interviews and, believe it or not, at the smoker. Of course, I'm just one person, so take these for no more than they're worth.

I worked on an unusual dissertation topic, and so there was just not enough space in my writing sample and research statement to, on one hand, explain what I was up to in the project, and on the other hand, respond to the many, many objections that I expected search committee members to have. So what I wanted more than anything was a forum where the committee members could put their lingering doubts on the table and I could have a chance to address them. No doubt I had some bad experiences -- the one prominent philosopher fell asleep during my interview, and then refused to talk to me at the smoker. But other philosophers were magnanimous enough to sit with me at an empty table at the smoker and forthrightly state their concerns about my project. I wish I felt comfortable naming names, because I really am incredibly grateful for this.

And while I understand many of the arguments against interviews, but I do take some issue with the idea that philosophers aren't "trained" to do interviews. We often converse with other philosophers with the aim of finding out, e.g., how they would handle this or that objection, whether their research program takes for granted this or that methodological stance, etc. Indeed, this practice strikes me as an ineliminable part of the discipline. It seems like a regulative assumption of this practice what we are capable of finding such things out through these conversations. I suppose I think of interviews as conversations of this sort, or at least as having the potential to function as conversations of this sort.

Justin said...

P1. There's evidence that many interviewers can be led to the wrong conclusion by irrelevant factors in interviews.

P2. Moreover, some people with bad traits are good at concealing those traits in interviews.

C. Therefore, we should stop having interviews.


Similarly,

P1. There's good evidence that people (even trained professionals) reading professional articles, attending presentations or engaging in discussions can be led to misevaluate the merit of the ideas argued for on the basis of irrelevant rhetorical, etc. factors.

P2. Moreover, some philosophers with false beliefs are particularly good at concealing the weakness of their views through sneaky rhetorical devices we are all trained to use.

C. Therefore, we should ignore journal articles, conference presentations and peer discussions when evaluating the merits of philosophical views.

Anonymous said...

I'm 7:44am, and 1:55pm was correct - after contacting the hiring department, they reported that the job was taken off of their site for a short time, but that it was available again. The information I had about the search being closed after receiving too many applications was what someone in their HR department told me. Clearly they were uninformed, or else perhaps HR took it down for that reason without the department's knowledge. Either way, the job is on their website again.

Mr. Zero said...

Justin's reconstruction of the anti-interview argument is a mischaracterization. The idea is not simply that interviews are unreliable so we should stop using them; it's that they're unreliable, and there are other, more reliable sources of information--such as the candidate's publication record, writing sample, and letters (to the extent that letters are themselves reliable)--and the unreliable information provided by interviews drowns out the more reliable information sources.

I think there's something of a lesson in the analogy, which is that we should be pretty tentative about accepting what we hear in conferences and journal articles as incontrovertibly decisive. And we should be similarly tentative about the information we gather from interviews. The problem with this lesson is that the psychological literature is pretty univocal in suggesting that our minds are so constituted that we find it literally impossible to be appropriately tentative about the information we gather from interviews.

Anonymous said...

"there are other, more reliable sources of information--such as the candidate's publication record, writing sample, and letters"

This also sounds like a reason to get rid of letters. I can read your writing sample and your CV; why do I need to know what your advisor thinks about your writing sample and your CV? If I don't need to meet you in person, I certainly don't need to know what anyone else thinks about you outside of your paper documents. That your advisor knows you personally is of no value if I don't ever need to meet you personally before hiring you.

Mr. Zero said...

This also sounds like a reason to get rid of letters.

I don't totally disagree. Although I think that getting rid of letters altogether might be taking it a little too far. One thing you get from the advisor's letter, though, is a deep familiarity with the candidate's project from someone with enough philosophical experience and training to be in a position to serve as someone else's advisor. But the advisor's letter should be read with the fact that it is the advisor's job to promote the candidate in mind. It's also a reason to weigh letters from people outside the candidate's grad program more heavily.

Justin said...

Mr. Zero, several contributors to this thread have pointed out that they want to know much more about candidates than what they work on, what they have published, and where they went to school. They have also explained why at most schools, these other factors will be much more important.

In particular, they are interested in whether candidates are collegial, able to teach effectively, pleasant to work with, and so on. That kind of information can't be obtained by having candidates send in CVs, transcripts and writing samples. Hence, interviews.

If your response to that is, as it seems, that there still shouldn't be interviews because the information you get from them is unreliable, then I didn't mischaracterize your position.

Anonymous said...

"someone with enough philosophical experience and training to be in a position to serve as someone else's advisor."

Yes, because as we all know, anyone not advising PhD candidates clearly isn't qualified to do so. If they were qualified, they'd be doing so.

Mr. Zero said...

In particular, they are interested in whether candidates are collegial, able to teach effectively, pleasant to work with, and so on. That kind of information can't be obtained by having candidates send in CVs, transcripts and writing samples. Hence, interviews.

The problem with interviews is this: although they irresistibly seem like they reliably transmit this information, they do not. So if that's your argument for interviews, you don't have such a great argument.

The reason I thought your comment mischaracterized my argument was that there is no clear alternative to conducting philosophy via journal articles, conference presentations, and discussions, there is a clear alternative to getting information about, say, a candidate's collegiality via interviews. Such as, a letter from one of the candidate's colleagues that testifies to her collegiality. I attempted to express this idea in the second sentence of my comment, after the semicolon.

Anonymous said...

"there is a clear alternative to getting information about, say, a candidate's collegiality via interviews. Such as, a letter from one of the candidate's colleagues that testifies to her collegiality"

Only in academia is a letter attesting to a candidate's personality a more reliable barometer than meeting that person.

Mr. Zero said...

Yes, because as we all know, anyone not advising PhD candidates clearly isn't qualified to do so. If they were qualified, they'd be doing so.

I seriously have no idea what you could possibly be talking about. The basis for the claim that you object to was the simple observation that it is likely that most people who are in a position to serve as someone's dissertation advisor are so positioned because they are qualified to do so. I obviously didn't mean anything as strong as, necessarily, if someone is a dissertation advisor, than s/he is qualified, and I obviously didn't mean to suggest anything like, necessarily, if someone is qualified to serve as a dissertation advisor, than s/he is one. I mean, duh.

Mr. Zero said...

Only in academia is a letter attesting to a candidate's personality a more reliable barometer than meeting that person.

Sometimes I meet a person and they seem nice, but then later, as I get to know them better, it turns out that they weren't all that nice after all. This happens more often when, at that first meeting, the person wants me to give them something that is very valuable. I guess that only happens in academia, though.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I read a letter about a person and they sound nice, but then later, as I meet them, it turns out that they weren't all that nice after all. This happens more often when, reading a letter from someone invested in their future employment, the person wants me to give the person something that is very valuable. I guess that only happens in academia, though.

Anonymous said...

"- the one prominent philosopher fell asleep during my interview, and then refused to talk to me at the smoker"

This kind of thing, unfortunately, is so typical in philosophy. It is why people outside of philosophy do not see philosophers as professionals, but as a bunch of social misfits teaching esoteric subject-matter mooching off the system (i.e. taxpayer $) because they can't function outside the ivory tower.

I recall many years ago when in grad school a new student, a business executive wishing to write a dissertation on business ethics, being told by our professor, a lifetime academic, that he had no talent because he couldn't understand the Gettier problem. That business executive left the program in disgust. The professor had the balls to say that the relationship between business ethics and business practice was the same as Mill's claimed relationship between higher and lower pleasure; having the higher, you should always prefer it to the lower. I'm quite sure that the professor could have never have been as successful in business as the executive.

10:02, don't kid yourself that having gained an intellectual mastery of the principles of Socratic dialogue or the epistemology of truth-telling, you now have a mastery of interviewing techniques. Try taking a course in HR management or interning in an HR department. Good practice demands more than sound theory. It demands practice (interviewing, not having academic discussions with students and colleagues). Unfortunately many academic philosophers, such as the Gettier problem professor, have still to realize this. It is why so many practitioners get turned off by philosophy and philosophers.

Anonymous said...

"One thing you get from the advisor's letter, though, is a deep familiarity with the candidate's project from someone with enough philosophical experience and training to be in a position to serve as someone else's advisor. But the advisor's letter should be read with the fact that it is the advisor's job to promote the candidate in mind. It's also a reason to weigh letters from people outside the candidate's grad program more heavily."

I agree with the point on promotion, and the point on external letters. But letters shouldn't involve old job market stereotypes. As the academic job market gets increasingly tough, candidates are no longer necessarily going straight from their doctoral program into tenure-track jobs. Many candidates will spend years teaching and publishing while in a series of temporary or annually renewable positions. There are also a lot of different types of job, not only research-focused positions. For example, if interviewing candidates for a 4-4 or 5-5 position with no research expectations, committees don't need to know the details of their research projects. They may be likely to worry when they see letters discussing the candidate's research excellence extensively, because it may indicate that the candidate doesn't really want to focus on teaching.

Candidates may be lucky enough to have letter-writers who will personalize letters for each application. But most probably don't, given the huge numbers of letters and positions generally involved. So if we must encourage standard letters and we assume letter writers cannot personalize given the scope of the application process, I for one would much prefer to have all departments require a standard letter in which writers recommend candidates on the basis of their experience and achievements in all three areas, research, teaching, and service, giving equal weight to each.

Mr. Zero said...

Anonymous said...
Sometimes I read a letter about a person and they sound nice, but then later, as I meet them, it turns out that they weren't all that nice after all. This happens more often when, reading a letter from someone invested in their future employment, the person wants me to give the person something that is very valuable.


A person's graduate faculty are, shall we say, "automatically" invested in the person's future employment. That's why I was specific that the place to look for information about collegiality would be letters from the candidate's colleagues. My current colleagues, for example, are invested in my future employment only insofar as they are invested in me; that is, only insofar as I have won them over with my--ahem--collegiality.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, only academics are arrogant enough to think they can accurately assess s person's collegiality on the basis of a 40 minute interview in one of the most artificial circumstances on earth for a conversation. The amount of self-deception required for that belief is well beyond the capabilities of non-academics.

Anonymous said...

"A person's graduate faculty are, shall we say, "automatically" invested in the person's future employment."

Didn't we just have a post about someone who had bad letters? Wasn't there a conversation about how bad a job many letter writers do for their grad students?

Anonymous said...

I don't want to hijack this thread but I have a question about submitting a writing sample that I co-wrote with someone else. Anyone think it is a particularly good or bad idea? Does it speak to my collegiality and ability to get along with others or (as I suspect) does it say that I have nothing of interest to show for my own work, so I am mooching off someone else in my writing sample? What think ye smokers? There are advantages to this particular sample vis a vis showing off my AOS; should I send two samples with a slight explanation?

Justin said...

If (like the majority of SCs) you are searching for someone whose collegiality and teaching skills will be more important than his/her research project, what should you look at?

a) how the candidate seems in an interview? or

b) how the candidate seems in letters from referees selected by the candidate?

Rather than go for one or the other, I've got two alternative suggestions:

c) Both. The more perspectives you have on the candidate (including -- dare I say it -- your own), the better your chances will be of figuring out what you need to figure out.

Or, if you don't like that one, how about this?

d) Neither. People sometimes are led in the wrong direction on the basis of interviews, so interviews are counterprodductive. And people sometimes are misled by letters from referees selected by the candidate, so those are also counterproductive. Since the candidate's research acumen can also be misleading (since we all know of people who can research like superstars but can't teach worth shit), anyone applying to a non-R1 school should be chosen by lottery.

I contend that c) and d) are both more consistent and reasonable than a) or b). Perhaps we could discuss the relative merits of c) and d). Any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

4:21,

Only send the co-written piece if you have the chance to explain exactly what your contributions were. Especially if you are hoping this piece demonstrates your AOS.

Do not send two writing samples. If you have another piece worthy of sending off as a writing sample, send only that one, rather than the co-authored piece.

Anonymous said...

To 4:21:

Don't send a co-authored paper. SCs are looking for reasons make the pool of candidates smaller. I've sat on SCs and a co-authored paper would (justifiably or not) raise concerns.

Anonymous said...

(1) Can we please distinguish more carefully between the various claims at issue here?

(2) Interviews aren't going away. However, most of those commenting here and arguing "against" interviewing do not seem to be claiming that we should do away with interviews entirely. They are claiming that hiring institutions could replace APA interviews with Skype interviews at absolutely no cost. I am pretty much persuaded that this view is correct.

(3) Nevertheless, for most schools--and keep in mind that most schools are not PhD-granting institutions focused on primarily on research--whether a candidate possesses the minimum qualifications for teaching really matters (e.g. the candidate can give a stimulating lecture, have a conversation, make a little eye contact). APA interviews aren't much help here, in part because they introduce a lot of noise. This is the point of on-campus interviews. And don't mistake my claim here: I'm not claiming I have a reliable jerk-detector. I don't think I do. But highly structured 2-day interviews can provide some useful information on the minimal qualifications.

(4) As already indicated, I believe that Skype interviews could, with no harmful results to either the hiring department or the candidates, replace APA interviews. However, this is unlikely to occur soon. The problem is that I'd have to convince the other half dozen or so tenured faculty members in my department to scrap the APA interviews. And that's very unlikely to happen even though most all of them dislike going to the Eastern APA in order to conduct interviews. (Contrary to what 7:23 suggests above, I very much doubt that in general most SC members get off on "the feeling of power than comes with interviewing." For most of us, watching candidates squirm is extremely unpleasant.) But none of my department colleagues read these blogs, many of them still believe that APA interviews will help them collect useful information, and it's going to take a while to disabuse them of these views. (I am looking forward to taking up the issue though.)

Members of departments that will be interviewing at the APA are not monsters; they're just not in the loop. Hopefully, those of us who are hearing the message here can carry it back and it will (slowly) be heard. Give it time.

Anonymous said...

For those of you who have served on search committees and who have interviewed candidates at the APA: on what APA-interview-given basis do you narrow the field? In your experience, how does sitting with someone in a hotel room and talking for a while affect the probability that this person will be invited for an on-campus visit? I suspect that very often the top candidates are already selected, before the APA. Is the primary function of the APA interview to try to ensure that the three or four favorites aren't monsters?

Mr. Zero said...

Rather than go for one or the other, I've got two alternative suggestions: c) Both.

Geez. I feel like I have already explained this. Interviews are unreliable sources of information that irresistibly seem like reliable sources of information. Do you really not understand why introducing a source like that into your information stream would be bad? Even if you've got other sources to go with it?

But anyways, I'd like to register my basic agreement with what 6:49 says. I realize that interviews aren't going anywhere, and the point I wanted to raise in this post was that Skype interviews are so much more cost-effective than APA interviews that they are all-things-considered better. We should stop holding interviews at the APA. Furthermore, whatever interviews you conduct should be highly structured and you shouldn't even begin to imagine that you can get any information whatsoever about what this person is going to be like in faculty meetings with over the next 25 years.

Justin said...

That was my point, Zero. Since interviews and letters both have the power to seriously mislead, a consistent person seems forced to choose between doing both and doing neither. You think we shouldn't do both. So you seem compelled to say we should do neither. That's the reductio.

DoggyDogWorld said...

Interviews are unreliable sources of information? Until recently, this was the conventional wisdom in HR research. However, many recent studies have challenged this conventional wisdom. There is still a lot of support for the claim that *unstructured* interviews produce a lot of noise. But a lot of research conducted over the past 20 years shows that *structured* interviews do provide useful information. The issue is really how the interviews are designed, conducted and scored.

Macan, "The employment interview: A review of current studies and directions for future research." Human Resource Management Review 19 (2009) 203–218.

Judge, Cable, & Higgins, "The employment interview: A review of recent research and recommendations for future research." Human Resource Management Review 10(4) (2000) 383–406.

Anonymous said...

@ DoggyDogWorld

Yes, of course. Read the thread and you will see many note that there isn't anything wrong with interviews per se, assuming that they are conducted well.

The problem, though, is that philosophy departments do not typically conduct well designed structured interviews. If they did, I would have no issue with the practice.


@Justin

I'll bite. I would go with neither.

Sucks, but I don't think that letters or interviews are a reliable means of assessing teaching or collegiality. (My department is not R1 and places heavy emphasis on both, btw.)

What's to be done, then? I don't really know. What is needed is reliable evidence concerning teaching and collegiality. And I'm not sure how to get that (given the resources available to us and what my colleagues are willing to do). I'm fairly confident, though, that interviews and letters ain't it.

So, what I do for teaching is to focus on research. I don't think that the correlation between being able to express complex philosophical ideas clearly in writing and in the classroom is overly strong, but I think it is better than what I would get from letters/interviews.

And for collegiality I focus on whether the candidate has "done shit." Did she organize this or that, serve as a grad rep, etc., etc.?

Mr. Zero said...

Since interviews and letters both have the power to seriously mislead, a consistent person seems forced to choose between doing both and doing neither.

For one thing, I acknowledged in a comment at November 24, 2012 12:41 PM that letters are not all they're cracked up to be.

For another thing, though, interviews are (often) unreliable in a particularly insidious way. Although interviews are (often) unreliable, they seem to be extremely reliable. The information they provide is unreliable but vivid, and so overwhelms the other, more reliable sources of information. Letters, while potentially unreliable, are not unreliable *in this way.* (As far as I know. If someone has data on this, I hope you'll share. Because, if letters are as unreliable as interviews are, then I would advocate against their use.)

For another thing, how is that a reductio? The data suggests that interviews, as they are typically employed by philosophy search committees, are unreliable. As far as I can see, this point has not been seriously disputed. Then you say, "well if that's true, then here's another unreliable source of information that should also be avoided. Reductio!"

If letters are unreliable, that makes letters a (potentially) bad source of information. If some of the information provided by letters is reliable, and it is possible to distinguish the reliable bits from the unreliable bits, then they are probably at least somewhat useful. (Again, any real data would be appreciated.) But if they're not at all reliable, or if it is generally not possible to distinguish the unreliable bits, then I don't mind recommending against them.

I mean, just think for a second about this "reductio" you're advancing. You're saying that letters are unreliable, just like in-person, unstructured(?) interviews (which I don't concede), so we should use them. That's ridiculous. If letters are really that unreliable, then of course they shouldn't be used in the hiring process. The idea that you can reductio me into favoring the use of what I know to be unreliable sources of information is silly. So silly that I don't know what your problem is.

For another thing, even if structured interviews are better than unstructured interviews, they are still subject to various latent cognitive biases that favor tall, handsome, thin, non-disabled white men with neutral accents who still have all their hair.

Finally, anyone who points out that structured interviews are reliable in this context should then immediately lament the fact that interviews for philosophy jobs are so seldom structured.

Justin said...

The reductio shouldn't be that difficult to understand, Zero.

You're saying that, owing to a certain range of Xs having a bad quality, we should use Ys instead of Xs.

I pointed out that Ys have the same bad qualities as Xs (not all Ys and not in all respects, but you concede exactly the same for Xs).

Since Xs and Ys are both flawed in the same way (i.e. both of them can give people mistaken impressions that seem highly veridical), then if there are grounds for rejecting either outright, there are grounds for rejecting both. But it would be absurd, I claimed, to reject both (since on those grounds one could reject any method of assessment. therefore, one should not reject Xs out of hand.

Your contributions to this thread were pretty clearly an endorsement of doing away with interviews entirely. You endorsed Princeton's non-use of interviews, and said "interviews yield unreliable information that is literally impossible to ignore. My understanding is that the literature on this is vast and basically unambiguous. The information is a little better, as 2:42 points out, if the interviews are structured (which philosophy job interviews sometimes are) and the interviewers are trained to conduct interviews (which philosophy faculty on search committees never are)."

In other words: on the basis of the 'vast and basically unambiguous' literature, which perhaps you now acknowledge is far from ambiguous and much more nuanced, you argued that we shouldn't have interviews at all because most philosophers don't have the right training and presumably have no way of getting it.

If you've now changed your view and are saying that we should keep having interviews but train SCs on how to conduct them effectively, then I withdraw the objection. But if you maintain it, then you still have to justify your apparent double standard.

Rather than check yourself to see whether the method that you are recommending (letters of reference) are any better than what you are condemning, you shift the burden onto me. Well, here's a start: "https://www.aamc.org/download/284226/data/turner-lackofpredictivevalue.pdf" and "http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1978728?uid=3739400&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=3737720&uid=4&sid=21101479872967"


@7:34

It's a breath of fresh air to read your response to me, with its forthright discussion of alternatives rather than the childish bickering we've all come to expect from elsewhere. I appreciate your intellectual integrity and your reluctance to overstate your case.

I concede your point about the candidate's record of "doing shit" being a good indicator of doing shit in the future.

Still, as I think you will agree, it is far from satisfactory to base one's impressions of a candidate's ability to be a good teacher, etc. from an examination of his/her research.

Wouldn't it be _somewhat_ better to have SC members learn to structure their interviews and review the results more effectively, given that there is good empirical evidence that that makes a difference?

Mr. Zero said...

The reductio shouldn't be that difficult to understand, Zero.

It's not that I don't understand the reductio, Justin. As I have explained several times, it's that I think it's silly and wrong.

You're saying that, owing to a certain range of Xs having a bad quality, we should use Ys instead of Xs.

If "X"s are supposed to be interviews, and "Y"s are supposed to be letters, no I am not saying that. In my initial response to you in this thread, I included letters along with several other items in a list of potentially reliable information sources, and in that comment I explicitly acknowledged the potential shortcomings of letters. I did this several other times, as well. The fact that you don't seem to understand this makes me question whether you're behaving honestly and in good faith.

I pointed out that Ys have the same bad qualities as Xs (not all Ys and not in all respects, but you concede exactly the same for Xs).

And I have pointed out that the unreliability of letters is importantly different from that of interviews. Which, again, you show no signs of having comprehended or even noticed.

Your contributions to this thread were pretty clearly an endorsement of doing away with interviews entirely.

In the context of a larger discussion in response to a post of mine in which I advocated doing away with APA interviews in favor of Skype, I corrected a misunderstanding of how Princeton does things, and registered my basic agreement with that practice, yes.

If you've now changed your view and are saying that we should keep having interviews but train SCs on how to conduct them effectively, then I withdraw the objection. But if you maintain it, then you still have to justify your apparent double standard.

I don't know what you're talking about. My position is that interviews are a bad source of information in that they are generally unreliable and seem, irresistibly, to be reliable. I realize and acknowledge that structured interviews are less unreliable than unstructured ones, and so if you're going to do interviews at all, they should be structured. I have also acknowledged that interviews conducted by people who are trained to conduct them are better than interviews conducted by untrained interviewers. I know you know this, because you pulled a quote from me in which I acknowledge these things.

But I continue to harbor reservations about structured interviews conducted by trained interviewers, because I worry that even those interviews would be tainted by other latent cognitive biases. And philosophy job interviews tend not to be structured or conducted by people with this training. And so my objection to interviews in general stands.

I don't think letters of recommendation are unreliable in this way, although I am open to new evidence about this. You can tell I am open to new evidence because I asked for it. If you have evidence regarding the unreliability of letters, I hope you'll share it.

So I don't see what the double-standard is supposed to be. My position is that interviews are particularly unreliable and should, ideally, not be used; and that letters are somewhat less unreliable and should be used but with caution. Although I don't think letters are unreliable in the manner of interviews, I have displayed an openness to new information and have offered to change my position on letters in response to this information, should it turn up.

Wouldn't it be _somewhat_ better to have SC members learn to structure their interviews and review the results more effectively, given that there is good empirical evidence that that makes a difference?

Of course it would, which is why at 8:02 this morning, I wrote this: "Finally, anyone who points out that structured interviews are reliable in this context should then immediately lament the fact that interviews for philosophy jobs are so seldom structured."

Anonymous said...

@Justin

In a perfect world, we'd have philosophers learn all about how to structure interviews to provide useful information, and put candidates behind a curtain and their voices through a filter. We'd also blind all CVs and letters of gender and race/ethnicity and socioeconomic class information. Oh, and we'd have the interview over Skype or in a way that is free to the candidate.

I'm fairly certain we don't live in that perfect world. And we won't any time soon.

In the world we live in, it's better that we get rid of interviews altogether, and not use letters for things like teaching and collegiality either. The difference between interviews and letters is the cost to the candidate. Even when it is over Skype, the candidate still has to spend a lot of time preparing for and attending the interview.

Honestly, I'd be happy with (d). Rolling the dice is probably no less epistemically good in the real world, and certainly a lot less costly to the candidates (and the committees too).

zombie said...

Just to be clear, I think getting rid of interviews altogether would be a bad idea. But as many have pointed out, the APA interview is also a bad idea. If you want to know about someone's collegiality, teaching ability, body odor, etc., the campus interview is a far more reliable indicator. Spending two days with a person, from dawn to dusk, is going to give you a much more accurate picture of that person (not perfect, by any means) than 20 high stress minutes in the hotseat. Obviously, people don't get to the campus interview until they've passed through other filters first. But an APA interview doesn't have to be one of those filters, particularly if it is not a very good filter.

Some here seem to think that the proposal in question is getting rid of all interviews, but I don't think that's actually what is being argued for.

zombie said...

4:21: I agree with the others. Don't send out a co-authored writing sample. It will only raise questions about the extent of your contribution to the paper, and since you will be competing with single-author writing samples, yours can only suffer by comparison.

Justin said...

Zero: It's not that I haven't "comprehended or even noticed" your argument. I understand it and reject it. I've given reasons for that.

You say that my reasons come to little without studies showing that letters are ineffective, and wonder why I haven't sent you any such studies. I did send you links to two such studies in my previous post.

Zombie, you doubt whether "getting rid of all interviews" is what's being argued for. But it sure seems that Mr. Zero is heading in that direction when he says "I continue to harbor reservations about structured interviews conducted by trained interviewers, because I worry that even those interviews would be tainted by other latent cognitive biases. And philosophy job interviews tend not to be structured or conducted by people with this training. And so my objection to interviews in general stands."

Zero, if you're not advocating doing away with all interviews, then could you please explain why you object to "interviews in general" including "even those interviews" that are structured and conducted by trained interviewers?

Anonymous said...

"Wouldn't it be _somewhat_ better to have SC members learn to structure their interviews and review the results more effectively, given that there is good empirical evidence that that makes a difference?"

Yes. In my experience, though, it isn't quite so easy as this might make it sound. Not only is there a good deal of skill involved in designing and conducting effective structured interviews, but I've found that philosophers are resistant to taking the steps needed to make an interview effective. In brief, they want to act like philosophers -- they want to ask "penetrating" questions about this or that and follow it up with further "tough" questions.

My sense of it is that it will be easier to get departments like mine to give up on first round interviews than to get them to conduct effective first round interviews.

-7:34

DoggyDogWorld said...

Yes, of course. Read the thread and you will see many note that there isn't anything wrong with interviews per se, assuming that they are conducted well.

I have read the thread, and some have insisted that interviews produce nothing but noise, including Zero and Dreier. This is not inconsistent, of course, with your claim that many have expressed satisfaction with interviews. So what? There are many themes in this thread, and not every comment is directed at every theme.

The problem, though, is that philosophy departments do not typically conduct well designed structured interviews. If they did, I would have no issue with the practice.

This may be true. How do you know it? My department conducts structured interviews. How do you know that other philosophy departments do not as well?

What do you mean by "structured" interview? This is a contested issue in the HR literature. What is your definition? This will help us assess your claim that philosophy departments typically don't use them.

When you say "typically," do you mean for us to think some, most, or nearly all? And what do you base your empirical claim on? Again, help us assess your claim.

Anyway, I think you may be right, but why are you being a jerk about it? Also, what did I say that seems to contradict your claim? I said "The issue is really how the interviews are designed, conducted and scored." As far as I can tell, you're not disagreeing with me. So, good, I guess. I think we should direct our attention to conducting good interviews. So do you. Huzzah!

In any case, there is research out there for us to use in developing better interviews, if we want to do that. I do. And I posted some references for anyone who wants to check my claims.

Gal said...

Off topic, but: I'd like to draw the attention of fellow Smokers to a job posting in my department. We're looking for an M&E / History of Analytic person (full job ad here: http://philjobs.org/job/show/1185), and would love to see more members of under-represented groups applying (that is, women and minorities. Trolls: calm down!).
We're a smallish department, very collegial and women-friendly (3 women out of 6 current faculty members), at a small, public liberal arts college just outside of Boston. It's a 4-4 load, but usually no more than 2 preps per semester, good students and excellent research support. I am new to the department, just started this year, and I love the place.
Oh, and we're skipping the APA; doing phone interviews.

Anonymous said...

"Anyway, I think you may be right, but why are you being a jerk about it?"

My goodness, Mr. Pot, but you do seem to be flying off the handle.

I honestly don't think I was being a jerk. (If I was, it would be pretty obvious.) Merely pointing out that you didn't seem to be giving a very charitable reading of Mr. Zero.

But, whatever. You can go fuck yourself. (See, pretty obvious, huh?)

Anonymous said...

A note to readers: the people in this thread are the kinds of people you will have to put up with during department meetings and on various committees.

Mr. Zero said...

Zero: It's not that I haven't "comprehended or even noticed" your argument. I understand it and reject it.

I don't agree. What happened was, I mentioned, approvingly, some stuff I got from Gilbert Harman a few years back about how unreliable interviews are. That they're unreliable in a particularly insidious way--although they are unreliable, they seem really reliable. That it is not generally possible to ignore the unreliable information conveyed by interviews.

You responded by pointing out that letters of recommendation are also at least potentially unreliable, and that parity of reasoning would therefore lead me to advocate against their use as well.

I replied in several ways. First, by acknowledging that it is a consequence of my view that if letters are unreliable in the way that interviews are, then letters are bad, too. I have done this repeatedly. (here, here, here, and here.) I have also repeatedly disputed the claim that letters are unreliable in the way that interviews are, in that it seems to me that it is in principle possible to ignore the unreliable info conveyed by letters. (Here, here, and here.) I have also indicated an openness to new information on this point, asking for empirical data that speaks to the reliability of letters. Again, I have done this repeatedly. (Here, and here.)

Furthermore, when people pointed out that structured interviews are more reliable than unstructured interviews, I acknowledged and accepted the point. (Here and here.)

(continued below)

Mr. Zero said...

(continued from above)

There are a number of ways to respond to my position here. You could argue that interviews are not as unreliable as I think they are. You could argue that we are more capable than I think we are of ignoring the unreliable information interviews convey. You could present evidence that we are less capable than I think we are of ignoring the unreliable information letters convey. I'm sure there are others.

You haven't done any of this. The links you posted, for example, speak to the general reliability of letters; but I have acknowledged that letters are unreliable. That's what's so weird about this. According to you, interviews are unreliable, like letters, and you advocate in favor of using both. Two unreliable sources of information are better than one, I guess.

You've ignored almost everything I've said, put your foot down, and insisted, again and again and again and again, that I'm caught in some sort of reductio caused by a double standard in which I won't treat like cases alike. You're full of shit. I'm totally willing to treat like cases alike. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

"the people in this thread are the kinds of people you will have to put up with during department meetings and on various committees."

If you are fortunate enough to land a job. But, then, every silver lining does have its cloud.

Anonymous said...

@Justin:

I'm not sure whether you've been here before, but if you have you'll know that disagreeing with Zero here will never end well. Please give it up and let us get back to our discussion.

At best, he'll permit you to keep posting in order to act like a jerk (as he did here when telling you you're full of shit). He'll do so after repeatedly changing his story about what's going on and recasting the discussion in his own light. And if you prove any point at all, it'll be lost in a thread so convoluted that nobody will notice it.

Quit while you're not as far behind as you could be, man. This is painful. You're not going to succeed against a low-rent Leiter wannabe on his home turf.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero, might you say a bit more as to precisely what sorts of things interviews unreliably inform us about?

For example, I would expect interviews to be wholesale unreliable with respect to whether the candidate would make a good colleague, productive researcher, or effective teacher. However, perhaps there is certain relevant information that interviews (insofar as they are responsibly structured) might reliably provide such as degree of expertise in or breadth of knowledge of a field, the ability to (quickly) grasp novel connections between ideas/views/positions, or simply where the candidate's comments and responses fall between studied, careful insight and wild, unsupported conjecture.

Although this of course doesn't rescue the integrity of the interview, perhaps it does suggest that insofar as interviews remain part of the process, we ought to structure them away from broad and general sorts of information about equally broad and general qualifications and instead toward providing heavily domain specific sorts of information about narrowly or uniquely domain specific sorts of qualifications.

DoggyDogWorld said...

But, whatever. You can go fuck yourself. (See, pretty obvious, huh?)

Yes, obviously I've hurt your feelings. I honestly thought you were trying to be a jerk. If you weren't, then I'm sorry. My mistake.

Now, nothing in my post was uncharitable to anyone here. I think I explained why in my last post. I think your post was uncharitable to me, especially the bit suggesting I should "read the posts." But it doesn't matter.

I was not uncharitable to Zero. I have no problem with him generally. But he has asserted that interviews produce only noise, and more than once. I think he is wrong about this, and I offered some references for those who want to study the matter themselves.

And, frankly, I did offer a charitable reading of Zero's position (and Dreier's and several others' too) by pointing out (a) that it is in line with the (old) conventional wisdom in HR research, and (b) that it is still true for *unstructured* interviews. Despite this, new research does support the claim that *structured* interviews can produce useful information.

As for the rest of my questions -- I am aware of no research on how philosophy departments perform interviews. I doubt you are either. I am aware of nothing that would support any claims about what philosophy departments typically do, beyond the research available on hiring practices generally in companies. I doubt you are either. If I am mistaken, though, please let us know where to find this research.

My guess is that some departments are aware of and use structured interviews (like mine), and some are not and so don't, just like the rest of the companies trying to hire people.

My point is that interviews can be useful, and that we can learn to do them better, if we want to do them better. This is consistent with what some have said here, but contradicts what others have said. In any case, here again are some useful references:

Macan, "The employment interview: A review of current studies and directions for future research." Human Resource Management Review 19 (2009) 203–218.

Judge, Cable, & Higgins, "The employment interview: A review of recent research and recommendations for future research." Human Resource Management Review 10(4) (2000) 383–406.

These references are likely more useful than those offered by Antiquiphile, since they cover more recent research.

Anonymous said...

"low-rent Leiter wannabe"

Awesome. I wish I had called somebody that.

Anonymous said...

One man's opinion:

I use the interviews as a space to weed out candidates. I see how well they can think under pressure, knowing that the interview is a very tense time. I also see how well they handle challenges to their work. But most importantly, I see how well they have done their research on my program and university. If you get an interview, you're clearly on the short list. So use this time to let me see how well you can fit yourself into my department and university. If you are a finalist and you haven't done any work - like the recent applicant who offered to direct our non-existent PhD program - then you don't advance. This is not unlike the private sector. My brother works HR for a tech firm and is shocked by the somewhat large number of people who really don't know what the company specializes in (and are thus incapable of explaining how they are a good fit); such people seem to just blindly send out resumes for anything in computers and hope something sticks. I told my brother the same thing happens in academia.

If you are a finalist for a search in my department, you can be certain that I have read your application multiple times. I have made notes. I have constructed questions. I am fully prepared to meet you and find out more about your work. The interview is the space for you to do some of that same work.

Truth be told, the conference interview really isn't about the committee; it's about the candidate. It's the candidate's opportunity to set themselves apart from the rest. The more opportunities you have to do that, the more this process works in your favor.

Note: I'm happy to do this work over the phone or via skype. I'm with those who feel that the conference is a terrible place to interview. However, the interview itself does have some value. Scrapping it puts applicants at a disadvantage, at least those who do not have letterhead from the top programs and published articles in valued journals.

Anonymous said...

@4:50

Why is the ability to think under pressure relevant to life as a philosopher?

@everyone else

Who is the most clutch philosopher of all time?

Mr. Zero said...

Anon 2:27 asks,

Mr. Zero, might you say a bit more as to precisely what sorts of things interviews unreliably inform us about?

For one thing, as I understand the research, it's important to ask all the candidates all and only the same questions. If you don't do that, then it's not possible to get apples-to-apples comparisons between the candidates's answers. That means, among other things, no specific questions about details of the writing sample or dissertation project.

For another thing, as the story 10:41 relates in the OP, there are all kinds of reasons why a person might not perform well in an interview that have nothing to do with the person's ability to do the job. Interviewing is a learnable skill, which is why your 10th interview probably went better than your 1st, and why a lot of grad programs stage mock interviews for their students who are going on the job market.

For another thing, there's all kinds of research that shows that people rate the same content more highly when it's being delivered by a white person rather than a non-white person; or by a tall person rather than a short person; or by a man rather than a woman; or by a thin person rather than a heavyset person; or by an attractive person rather than an unattractive person; or by a person with a full head of hair rather than a bald person; and so on. These effects are unconscious and invisible to us, and cannot be compensated for by the use of conscious effort.

But, as various people have pointed out, my understanding is that carefully structured interviews conducted by people who are trained to do it are somewhat better than interviews as they are typically conducted by philosophy search committees.

Mr. Zero said...

DoggyDogWorld says,

[Zero] has asserted that interviews produce only noise, and more than once. I think he is wrong about this, and I offered some references for those who want to study the matter themselves.

That's not the point I was trying to defend, exactly. What I was trying to say was that, whatever the signal-to-noise ratio, the problem is that the noise is generally indistinguishable from the signal. They generate noise, and the noise seems exactly like the signal, and you can't ignore the noise and focus on the signal.

That's why I'm not convinced by the literature Justin linked to. One of the links, for example, goes to a poster presentation about letters of recommendation for residency programs for pediatric medicine, and find that letters are often "inconsistent, unreliable, excessively flattering and not particularly useful". That seems highly likely to be true, and I attempted to acknowledge this in a comment at November 24, 2012 12:41 PM.

But the poster also finds that "The quality and usefulness of LORs vary significantly depending on the experience, style, and writing ability of the author." I could be wrong, but it seems to me that a good letter is going to contain detailed information about the candidate's research project, how it is conducted, and how the arguments work. And it seems to me that a person could focus on that stuff and disregard the parts that contain the hyperbolic praise. That is, I suspect that it would be possible to separate the signal from the noise. however, as I've said several times, I could be wrong, and if I'm wrong I hope someone will provide the evidence that shows why.

Mr. Zero said...

Anon 2:07 says,

You're not going to succeed against a low-rent Leiter wannabe on his home turf.

I suppose this is basically right, as far as it goes. If "success" is defined as getting me to agree that interviews are a useful tool for discovering whether a candidate is collegial, or pleasant, as Justin suggests in this comment, then I would have to say that Justin is probably not going to succeed. If "success" is defined as getting me to agree that there is some cogent "reductio" from the premise that letters of recommendation are just as unreliable as interviews to the conclusion that letters and interviews should both play a prominent role in candidate evaluation, as Justin has suggested several times, then Justin is also probably not going to find success.

Now, maybe that's just more proof that I'm a big dumb meanie who sucks. But I don't think so (although I obviously wouldn't anyway). I think it's because these arguments Justin is making are empirically false and patently absurd.

I'm not trained as an epistemologist, but I'm not aware of any credible research that suggests that unreliable belief-forming processes generally confer justification, let alone two unreliable belief-forming processes used in tandem. As I understand things, the fact that two procedures are unreliable stands as a reason against using either of them, not in favor of using them both.

BunnyHugger said...

There has been quite a lot of emphasis on thinking quickly under pressure. That may be what the culture of academic philosophy has come to value, but why is that? Someone who thinks carefully, insightfully, methodically, and exhaustively about a problem, but needs time to ruminate over it, can surely do philosophy just as well as someone always quick with the cleverest counterexample in the room. The latter may put on a flashier show at a conference, but the former can, I suspect, more than make up for it in other avenues.

I am aware these are not mutually exclusive talents, but those inclined to think they almost always overlap may be over- or undervaluing certain types of thinking.

Anonymous said...

"Why is the ability to think under pressure relevant to life as a philosopher?"

It's not. But it's very relevant to life as a professional. Thinking under pressure is a useful skill for anyone who finds himself in the classroom, in a meeting with administration, etc. Something most grad students don't understand is that, unless you land an endowed chair your first year out, most of your professional life will not be spent doing philosophy.

-4:50

Anonymous said...

As far as I can tell, all Zero is claiming is that interviews aren't particularly good at producing information useful for hiring purposes.

So, if we have to have interviews, then we should do them in such a way that it doesn't cost the candidate much money -- i.e., skype.

Any objection by interviewers is considered unjustified epistemically and perpetuates the unfair $$ burden on the candidate.

All of this makes me laugh. Only would academic philosophers in training think that the rejoinders are great. When you don't get a job in philosophy, I want you to tell the people who want you to come on down for an interview, that you would prefer to do it via skype.

Professional dress, professional manners, and professional attitudes are necessary at most universities where the vast majority of you can get hired. So don't be surprised if they want you to come to the APA an interview.

Let me ask Zero a question. Imagine you get a paper accepted at the APA for an Eastern meeting. How great would it be for an interview team to see you in action. You have a paper and an interview.

Now imagine that the interview team is going to do in person and skype interviews -- candidates choice. What would you really rather do? In person, or skype?

You would be a moron to choose skype. The APA interview is for multiple days. Smokers, and papers, and all sorts of ways to interact with people. The fact that you people don't get this is remarkable.

Go to the APA. It's in your best interest. Meet people. Talk to people. That's how professions work. Life's not fair and you aren't going to make it so by stamping your foot and demanding skype interviews for everyone.

Anonymous said...

"Life's not fair and you aren't going to make it so by stamping your foot..."

Well, there it is. I guess we should all give up fighting against injustice, unfairness, an inequality. I mean..life's not fair y'all.

Justin said...

Zero, I am not making "empirically false and patently absurd" claims. And fuck you for saying so.

Anyone who bothers to read our exchange and your characterization of it will be able to see this.

2:07 seems to be quite correct (and not in the juvenile way you think, Zero). I have looked over many of the extensive comment threads in the Smoker archives. In a few of them, Zero, you were at least partly right. In many, you were clearly in the wrong. There are a couple in which it is absolutely undeniable that you were completely off base.

The remarkable thing is that even in cases where you had been utterly refuted with knock-'em-down, drag-'em-out arguments, you kept on going. Most of us pause and reconsider when faced with a contradiction in our own thoughts. For you, it seems to be like amphetamines for your fingers.

So, yeah, I have to admit that I was wrong to try this. Sorry, folks.

P.S. 'Low-rent Leiter wannabe' = gold.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, why should any professional philosopher need to be fast on her feet? It's not like she'll ever have to, y'know, figure out what to say to a sophistical and harmful proposal at a department meeting, or a meeting with the dean, or something like that.

And, heh, she'll never have students who will ask her unexpected questions in class or anything: she'll just memorize 1.5 hour-long lectures and never take questions, like at most schools.

And she surely won't have to hold office hours or anything.

And deans and visiting scholars will probably be more impressed than otherwise to see that the department contains several people who can't engage in conversation because it takes them half an hour of thought prior to each sentence.

So, yeah, no reason at all to do that. Fuck interviews. Totally worthless, totally counterproductive. So let's do them on Skype, because they're less expensive and Skype makes it all go in super-slow motion, which is way better.

Anonymous said...

"For another thing, as the story 10:41 relates in the OP, there are all kinds of reasons why a person might not perform well in an interview that have nothing to do with the person's ability to do the job. Interviewing is a learnable skill, which is why your 10th interview probably went better than your 1st, and why a lot of grad programs stage mock interviews for their students who are going on the job market."

This is definitely true. I completely bombed my first two interviews (and didn't get fly-outs for them) because I was so nervous and unaccustomed to the whole setting (and because I hadn't slept for more than 3 hours). I did remarkably better around my fifth or sixth interview. But 'becoming better' here has not much do to with improving skills as a teacher, philosopher or colleague. It's just matter of learning to play a particular game that (if you are lucky enough to get a job) you will never have to play again.

Anonymous said...

There is, in my view, only one reason to do interviews: you have a number of candidates (too many to fly all of them out) whose writing and research description contains a number of claims that seem intriguing and suggestive, but also a bit puzzling. So you want to an interview to find out how well thought-out their views are and what's behind them.
That can be done over skype however. No reason to burden the candidates with a horribly stressful and expensive convention experience.

Anonymous said...

Regarding 8:43's rant, have we seen a more off-target screed in the Smoker's history? Probably, but this has to be close. The fact that it would be rational for an individual to opt for an in-person interview over a Skype interview is obviously irrelevant to the issues under discussion.

Anonymous said...

a some-what (but not really) off topic question:

This is my first year on the market. Most of the jobs I've applied for had early to mid-November deadlines. When should I expect to hear from them, if they were interested? I've been checking the Phylo wiki, and many of them are now 1 or 2 weeks past their application deadlines there. I am little worried about the timing because--for reasons illuminated on this thread--I refuse to by a plane or train ticket to Atlanta until I am certain I will get an interview at the APA. Do SCs really think it is kosher to let people twist in the wind w.r.t. interviews until a week or two before the APA? I find it utterly incredible, regardless of whether you think going to the APA is generally a good thing for someone with the the means to do, that departments would expect you to fork over $1200-1500 in advance, on faith, not knowing whether you'll even have an interview to go to (which is why i refuse to do it). It amounts to making candidates pay for their own fly-outs.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, obviously I've hurt your feelings."

Damn, pass the blunt Snoop, 'cuzz that must be some killer chronic you are smoking.

But, yes, my feelings are ever so hurt by an anonymous blog poster saying that I have been a jerk in an anonymous blog post. You are very mean and should feel ashamed.

The pompous obliviousness you've displayed suggests you aren't worth interacting with further. Nonetheless: Are you seriously saying that you won't believe that most philosophy departments do not conduct structured interviews without an empirical study indicating that that is the case? Really?! Ok, claim withdrawn. You win oh master sophist! Enjoy your domination of teh internets. And please do let me know where you buy your weed.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero, could you please clarify what your argument actually is? Like others, I understand it to be as follows:

1. There is some evidence that interviews can be misleading.

2. While other ways of selecting candidates can also be misleading, they aren't likely to be as misleading as interviews are.

3. Moreover, while there are steps one can take to make interviews less misleading, it is unlikely that philosophers will take those steps when they're on search committees.

4. Also, even if all the best steps were taken, interviews would probably still be so misleading as to be counterproductive.

5. You won't be able to know who's a jerk on the basis of interviews, so interviews are worthless as jerk detectors.

6. Therefore, we should keep on doing interviews, but do them on Skype instead.


The problem with the argument is that the conclusion comes out of left field. The conclusion doesn't follow from the premises at all. Have a look and you'll see this.

Some of your interlocutors seem to have tried to charitably reconstruct this argumen in such a way that the conclusion actually does follow from the premises. The most reasonable conclusion to your argument would be 'Therefore, we shouldn't do interviews.' Hence, that is what your interlocutors took you to be saying.

If that wasn't your conclusion and you really were offering the argument I just summarized, then could you please confirm this and explain the apparent leap in logic between 5 and 6? Or if your argument is something completely different, could you perhaps summarize it so we can see what you're trying to do?

Either of those things would be more helpful than swearing at your interlocutors and showing off by identifying how many times in the past people said similar things in attempts to understand your reasoning and how many times you have already uttered the premises and conclusion of an argument that just doesn't seem to hang together.

Thank you. I really, really do want to understand what coherent argument could be extracted from your posts.

Anonymous said...

Here's an idea for a new thread (and *ahem* I think it is fair to say that this one has long lost its way).

Report where people have been getting 'intriguing' Google searches to their website. Or how often we have been checking to see whether that has been occurring (*sigh*).

Or anything else. Please dear God, anything other than what this thread has deteriorated into.

Anonymous said...

In an attempt to change the topic... anyone else get their Virginia Commonwealth application materials back in the mail, marked "Return to Sender"? A check of the address in the ad shows that I sent it to the correct place...

Mr. Zero said...

Hi anon 7:16,

The original topic of this post is about Skype as a better alternative to APA interviews. I endorse the claim that Skype is a better alternative to holding interviews at the APA. A side discussion about the general reliability of interviews emerged. In this side discussion, I have argued that interviews are generally unreliable, though structured interviews are somewhat more reliable than the unstructured style that is typical of philosophy job interviews. Since interviews are unreliable, and since it is my understanding that they are unreliable in a particularly insidious way--they generate noise that seems to be highly reliable information and is generally not possible to ignore or recognize as noise--I have argued, in this side-discussion, that the practice of interviewing at all should be abandoned.

However, that's not going to happen. The hope that philosophy search committees will abandon the practice of interviewing candidates is unrealistic in the extreme. So, in the interest of acknowledging this reality, I am also willing to backpedal to a series of weaker, conditional claims: if you're going to hold interviews (even though they're unreliable), they should be carefully structured, because they're more reliable that way. And if you're going to hold interviews (even though they're unreliable), they should be held over Skype, because they're less expensive that way.

Does that help?

SLAC-er said...

I am amazed at these discussions which simply present Skype as an alternative to APA interviews with no drawbacks. I am very sympathetic to the problem of forcing candidates to incur high costs. But, Skype is still crap and any argument which concludes that it can just replace an in-person discussion is not worthy of serious attention. Phones are better (for one-one conversations) as long as they aren't cell phones; again, the technology (as miraculous as it is) is still pretty much crap. Again, if you don't understand how in-person interviews are vastly superior to conversations on Skype or using cell phones, well, either you've not done enough interviews or you're looking for something different than me.

Not all schools are Princeton or Princeton-like in the relevant ways. The factors on which Princeton-like schools adjudge candidates aren't everywhere relevant.

Publication record? I don't really care that much. Our tenure requirements are just that one publish somewhere reasonable a little. We don't care much whether you're a hotshot, except insofar as being a hotshot is likely to correlate with your wanting to leave us and force us to do another hire. We want competent teachers, but competence as a teacher (of our students) doesn't correlate with philosophical hotshotedness.

Writing sample? We're not really competent to judge among different decent writing samples. I mean, we can discern some good and bad writing, but we're hiring in an area we don't really know too well (generally). And see above about whether we're getting the next Gil Harman.

Letters? In my experience, they are nearly useless. Nearly all advisers think that their advisees are the next Gil Harman. I'd bet that letters would be useful at Princeton-like places. But not so much for us.

I've done in-person interviews, phone interviews, and Skype (and Skype-like) interviews, from both sides of the table. The Skype-like ones using more-expensive technology were much better than Skype, but still maddeningly frustrating. The one-one phone interviews were great, but I had to do multiple first-round interviews to talk with each member of the committee. My best interviews from the hiring side have been the APA in-person ones. I have gotten a lot of new information from them. Yes, some candidates were nervous. I felt terrible about putting them through the ringer, both about asking them to incur the financial costs and having to force them into the anxious meeting. (There's nothing to do about the latter, of course.) But most candidates calm down after a little while.

My department is, as I am, sympathetic to the costs. We struggle with the question of how to proceed each time we hire. We're listening to the conversation. But you won't win us over by saying that Skype is a perfect replacement and by telling us that we can't conduct proper in-person interviews. We get lots of information from in-person interviews. It does, as Zero says, seem like excellent data. Maybe we're just delusional. But that information has led us to good hires. Our department is collegial and diverse and amazingly functional and happy. We've made great hires each time: great teachers and good people. And, since I know some philosophers, I know that we couldn't have done so by, say, lottery. A lot of you are jerks and we're committed to keeping the jerks away. (Except me, of course; I snuck in.)

Seriously, we're trying. But Skype's not the answer. And giving up on interviews is not the answer. For us, anyway.

zombie said...

6:50 asks: "Do SCs really think it is kosher to let people twist in the wind w.r.t. interviews until a week or two before the APA?"

Yes. Yes they do.

You can expect to hear anywhere from two weeks to one week before APA re: interviews. My last year on the market (2010), my first APA interview request arrived via email on 12/14, and I got a couple more two days later. That's been typical in my experience, but I also had one school call me on 12/23. Schools that forgo APA can call anytime before or after APA for phone interviews or campus interviews.

Yes, it really stinks in terms of planning ahead. Bottom line, you can't. Your options are to fork over the airfare and hope you get interviews, or buy a refundable ticket at a higher price, or wait until you have an interview, and pay a higher price.
However, you can book hotel rooms in advance and cancel without penalty (except for some discount price deals that don't allow that).

BunnyHugger said...

11:23, I don't think there was anything in my own remarks (assuming you were speaking to me) that warranted quite that level of sarcasm. I can certainly see and would perhaps be interested in responding to some of your points, but your tone (and the fact that at least part of what you're saying is a straw man -- I never advocated Skype interviews; you are presumably lumping me in with others) doesn't really incline me to do so.

But with how toxic this discussion has become in general, I think it's time for me to leave it be anyway. See you all next post.

Anonymous said...

6:50 (and others),

It's not that SC's don't care about the timing. rather, there's little that can be done. Notifying applicants earlier would require making the application deadlines earlier. Which would require posting job ads earlier. Which would require doing all the work...earlier. It sucks, but it's part of the rhythm of the university.

Personally, I'd like to see applications due by the start of the fall semester, so that all of the planning, scheduling, and interviewing could be done early. But I'm pretty sure most people - faculty and applicants - don't want to have students sending out job applications over the summer.

Anonymous said...

It's good to hear you confirm, Mr. Zero, that you hold and have argued here that "the practice of interviewing at all should be abandoned."

That deals with Zombie's claim that "Some here seem to think that the proposal in question is getting rid of all interviews, but I don't think that's actually what is being argued for." You have argued for it, as you now clearly state. So it isn't a mischaracterization of your position to say that you hold that.

By the way, Mr. Zero, you seem to be the sole common denominator in every single one of the threads here that have turned into long and acrimonious fights. Every single one has featured you as an antagonist, often playing a highly provocative role and speaking in a very insulting manner to your interlocutors. Any thoughts on why that might be?

zombie said...

As a student (and/or adjunct) I would have welcomed using the summer to send out my applications. But (speaking now as faculty) I don't think faculty want to write letters over the summer, and SCs don't want to have to meet over the summer.

Mr. Zero said...

That deals with Zombie's claim that "Some here seem to think that the proposal in question is getting rid of all interviews, but I don't think that's actually what is being argued for." You have argued for it, as you now clearly state.

Sorry, Zombie. I do kind of think that.

By the way, Mr. Zero, you seem to be the sole common denominator in every single one of the threads here that have turned into long and acrimonious fights.

That's not true. Just the other day we had a super-acrimonious fight between Mountain Feminist and some other people that I had nothing whatsoever to do with. In fact, I was later criticized for not getting involved.

Nor do we really know that I'm the single common denominator in the acrimony that I do get involved in. I'm one of our most frequent commenters, and I'm one of the only ones who uses a consistent nickname every time I post a comment. So you can always tell when I'm involved. Most of the other commenters post as "anonymous," and so we can't really say whether or not it's the same person or persons all the time.

But anyways, sometimes people come on here who are full of shit. And when they're really, really full of shit, sometimes I say so. And I guess people don't really like being told that they're full of shit. Sorry if I hurt your feelings.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi anon 7:16,

I thought about not posting this, but I've been thinking more about your question. I was thinking that maybe an analogy would help.

Suppose my 15-year-old nephew has been having sex and comes to me for advice. Suppose I think he's too young to be emotionally ready to have sex, and I tell him so. But suppose that I'm not naive, and that I realize that the reality of the situation is that it is extremely unlikely that a teenage boy who has already been having sex is going to voluntarily stop doing it just because I said so. Suppose I think that in order for my advice to be genuinely helpful, it has to reflect this reality. So suppose I also tell him that he should use condoms.

I don't think that there's anything particularly weird or out of the ordinary about that advice. There are ways of expressing it that would sound funny: "Uncle Zero says that I shouldn't have sex, and that I should use condoms when I have sex!" But I think the underlying advice makes a lot of sense: "I don't think you should have sex, but I realize that going to have sex regardless of what I say, and I think that if you have sex you should use condoms."

Similarly, I think interviews are unreliable and should not play a prominent role in hiring decisions. But I'm not naive, and I realize that the reality of the situation is that philosophy search committees are not going to stop interviewing candidates just because I said so, or for any other reason. I want my views to reflect this reality, and so I think that search committees should use structured interviews rather than unstructured ones, and interview via Skype rather than at the APA.

Again, I don't think there's anything weird or out of the ordinary about a position like this. Especially in comments to a blog post promoting Skype interviews as an alternative to the APA. There is a way of reading my position according to which it sounds silly: "Mr. Zero says that we shouldn't use interviews, and that we should conduct structured interviews over Skype!" But again, I think the underlying position makes a lot of sense: "I don't think you should use interviews, but I know you're going to use interviews no matter what I say, and I think that if you interview, you should conduct structured interviews over Skype."

I've been thinking about this a lot--I have grading to do--and I really think that makes perfect sense. Am I wrong?

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Zero,

7:16 here.

Yes, I think that your analogy makes some sense, provided that the parent's opposition to the teenager's having sex has nothing to do with the parent's wish that the child use condoms (just as your opposition to interviews in general has nothing to do with your wish that interviews be done via Skype).

Your objection to interviews per se, as I understand it, has to do only with their being misleading. Your objection to holding them at the APA rather than on Skype, as I understand it, has to do with a completely different line of reasoning concerning the costs to the candidate.

So you're not like a parent who says "Teenage sex can lead to unwanted pregnancy and STIs; so you're best off being abstinent but condom use will be more effective at pregnancy-and-STI prevention than unprotected sex." You're like a parent who says "Teenage sex is wrong because you're too young to handle a sexual relationship and doing so would be very harmful to you psychologically; but if you are going to have sex you should at least use a condom so that you can prevent pregnancy and STI transmission while you damage your psyche." The urge for abstinence and the bandaid you advocate are motivated by two entirely different things.

That seems entirely consistent to me, now that you explain it. However, I can see why some people got confused by your presenting them at the same time and concluded that the reasoning in both cases might have been related. I don't really see a basis for your blowing up at people and saying they're "full of shit" repeatedly just because they couldn't disambiguate two very different things you were saying simultaneously. Is there really need for that kind of talk?

Anonymous said...

By the way, Mr. Zero, you seem to be the sole common denominator in every single one of the threads here that have turned into long and acrimonious fights.

I have to call bullshit on this. From what I can tell, the most acrimonious discussions on this blog, of late, have all involved some fucker named 'Justin'. (No idea if it's the same Justin, but the thought did cross my mind.)

I've been reading this blog consistently for several years and think Zero has been, for the most part at least, a very fine moderator. I don't agree with everything he writes, but even on some of those occasions, I thought he was a reasonable interlocutor. I suspect many others would agree with me that Zero is not the source of nastiness that sometimes emerges in these threads.

zombie said...

Fair enough. I stand corrected. Mr. Zero argues against doing any interviews, but, if interviews will be done, advocates doing them in a way that is most likely to generate somewhat reliable (or less unreliable) comparative data, with the least amount of pain (might I say injustice?) to job candidates.

I don't think that's a bad or inconsistent position. It's a compromise, but not an unreasonable one.

In the diversity training I recently completed, it was stressed that interviews in which all applicants are asked the same questions, with particular attention to avoiding legally verboten topics, are most likely to reduce unconscious bias on the part of interviewers. This approach will probably strike a lot of philosophers as incompatible with the job of being a philosopher, where questions lead to further questions, answers lead to objections, etc. So, I reckon philosophy SCs in particular will be resistant to such an interview format. (But I think some schools do already practice it.) There has been plenty of discussion on this blog about the various biases that influence SC choices, and a great deal has emerged in this thread that reveals some of those biases. Freeform interviews are a poor way to weed out those biases, and a good way to reinforce preconceptions and stereotypes.

DDW said...

But condoms are effective. They actually do some good for your nephew. Do interviews also do some good for interviewing departments?

Or do you mean that condoms protect *others* from your nephew's immaturity, and that this is why it is good for you to recommend them? And so Skype interviews protect job candidates from the (sorry) ignorance or indifference of interviewing departments? (This reading suggests that his emotional readiness is beside the point, I think, except insofar as it threatens others.)

Anonymous said...

@6:56

That's sure not my reading... not to mention the Mountain Feminist fiasco, in which neither Justin had any role.

But it's certainly noteworthy that you use coarse language in an acrimonious way as readily as Mr. Zero does. Maybe that's just what you look for in a blog.

Anonymous said...

@11:37am

What on your view is wrong with skype? My department has been doing skype interviews for years. Occasionally, in like 1 out of 12 cases, there is a connection problem which we can usually fix (by restarting, turning off the camera for a while, etc.). In the other cases it works just great provided you have the right set-up.

Anonymous said...

I wish the identity of every commenter were known and made available to all hiring departments. A large number of jerks would be eliminated from the applicant pool.

Anonymous said...

Yes: every commenter including the hosts!

Then again, I suspect that the parties involved would have engaged in these discussions very differently if they had known that information would be publicized.

Anonymous said...

Anon November 26, 2012 8:23 AM

VCU send me an EEO card to complete and I sent my application using the address they provided. Any chance your materials needed a signature on the other end? It was a box address.

zombie said...

If you want the identity of all commenters known, you could get the ball rolling by not posting anonymously yourself.

I don't expect it will roll very far.

SLAC-er said...

On the problems with Skype: You can't really have a conversation using it. You can only have a series of monologues. We've tried it with personal computers, with everyone in the department crowded around one small screen. We've tried it in a fancy, high-tech room on a large screen. Either way, the picture is choppy, the sound and video aren't really synchronized. And if anyone accidentally speaks on top of someone else, you have to go back to the beginning of the sentence. Of course, one has to be wary of speaking on top of each other in an interview. But, still, there's a difference between having a respectful, open conversation and having a series of monologues.

Moreover, internet connections can be pretty fussy. We're not in a heavily populated area, and perhaps our technology isn't quite as good as other places. But, we've had to re-schedule interviews because the connections weren't working. It's hard enough getting our department to agree on a date to meet without adding uncertainty as an extra factor.

But this should all be obvious to anyone who has used the technology. I don't really know how to respond to people who don't even see that it is.

I don't like being portrayed as someone who is on some power trip, who exercises authority arbitrarily, who is delusional about evidence, etc. I mean, I take the points as far as I can. I certainly hated asking candidates to interview at the APA in our most recent hire because of it. But our department hasn't yet found a system that works for us. And again, insofar as anyone portrays Skype as the answer, uncritically, I won't listen to their counsel (no matter how much they yell and scream about injustice.)

Anonymous said...

@1:20

I guess then we have access to vastly different technological resources. To repeat, the many skype interviews we have done through the years were all, with a few exceptions, undisturbed by technical problems and we were able to engage in normal philosophical dialogues. The few problems that exist are unimportant when measured against the costs imposed (on both job seekers and givers) by traveling to the apa.

Anonymous said...

I, too, have had extensive problems with Skype. They weren't technical glitches, just the other sorts of problems mentioned by 1:20 that made the interviews very awkward and unnatural.

CTS said...

Anonymous said...
@CTS

What evidence regarding probability of tenure do you expect to get from a 30 minute interview? Or, why do you think a 30 minute interview can reliably indicate the probability of tenure 6 years down the line?
November 23, 2012 7:48 AM


Anonymous said...
CTS said: “Giving up on interviews is a nonstarter for any department that cares about teaching, collegiality, and/or probability of tenure.”

CTS, this comment implies that you don’t understand the argument against interviews. Again, the idea is that (despite what it *seems* like to many people) interviews do not provide reliable evidence of things like teaching, collegiality, and probability of tenure. So that’s where your claim should have been focused, i.e. you should have presented convincing reasons to believe that they *do* provide such evidence, if you’re to defend interviews. It seems, of course, that such reasons are nonexistent; and that’s the point.
November 23, 2012 10:46 AM


I’m going to respond to these (belatedly, to be sure) without reading all the ones below.

1) Studies on interviewing reveal divergent results.

2) I have interviewed and been involved in hiring at 3 places over … 29 years. Ouch. I have found that, while interviewing effectively is a learned art, it is not impossible.

3) I/we have had the frequent experience of thinking someone was our top – or among the top – on-paper candidates, only to find out the those folks were disasters in interviews. As Bunny Hugger observes, this does not mean that there are no alternatives to in-person interviews. My point was about having some interviews prior to on-sites.

4) Whoever wrote that SCs like to interview because it is some kind of power trip is being foolish, at the least. For one thing, many of us *TOO* would rather stay at home during the Eastern APA. And, interviewing – prepping for it, doing it – can be exhausting and is real work.

Anonymous said...

CTS,

I have found that, while interviewing effectively is a learned art, it is not impossible.

But the point is, you don't know whether what you have learned is *effectiveness*. What you know is that some of the interviews *seem to you* more effective. But you have no independent information, so you have no way to tell whether your impressions are correct.


I/we have had the frequent experience of thinking someone was our top – or among the top – on-paper candidates, only to find out the those folks were disasters in interviews.

But again, you don't know whether the folks who were "disasters" would have made better philosophers and colleagues than the ones you ended up choosing.

This is a fine example of what Zero has been saying. It is *so* easy to over-value the impressions of one's own experience. That's why interviewing is such a bad idea. It will swamp the useful information you have.

Anonymous said...

I've followed this thread fairly closely and I'm just not clear about one of the central claims that's been repeatedly advanced. The claim is that there is good evidence for believing that interviews, and particularly unstructured interviews, don't really tell us much about how a candidate will perform on the job. I skimmed some of the HR literature reviews that were posted, and I can't seem to find much support for this claim. The central conclusion of at least one of those HR literature reviews is that more research needs to be done to understand the the relation between interview structure and future job performance. As it stands, different studies use 'structured' to mean different things, there is no consensus on how to run these studies, the conclusions of the studies are inconsistent, etc. Moreover, do we have good reason to believe that what counts as good job performance for the purposes of the HR studies correlates with the good job performance of philosophers? Can we infer bad predictive power in philosophy interviews from the bad predictive power of business/corporate interviews (assuming, of course, that we have good evidence that these lack power, which is what I'm not clear about)?

Have I missed something? Where is the good evidence that (unstructured) interviews don't provide good evidence? Do people really believe that someone who behaves like an arrogant asshole at an APA interview might turn out to be just the nicest person in the world once s/he moves into the office next to yours?