Monday, November 12, 2012

Is the Phylo Wiki Still the One?

In comments here, anon 1:07 asks:

phylo sort of got eclipsed as a job listing, but are people still going to be using the wiki?

My plan was to continue using the Phylo Wiki, unless it was unusable for some reason, or everybody else stopped using it, or there was some better wiki out there. And although it's a little early for the wiki to be in full swing, it seems like it's still pretty usable, people are using it, and there doesn't seem to be any better wiki. (Is there?) Let's extend our continuing gratitude to David Morrow and Chris Alen Sula for letting us use their wiki.

One question, though. I seem to remember that the Phylo wiki had a color-coded interface. Is that not happening anymore?

--Mr. Zero


Anonymous said...

It appears people are posting on it still.

Anonymous said...

I may be an idiot for not knowing this, but does anyone know how to get *just the status updates* into a google reader feed. I realize that you can subscribe to phylo's new jobs as they come out through an rss feed, but what I'm really interested in are the job status updates (first round interviews scheduled, etc.). Does anyone know how to subscribe to just these status updates? I'd rather not obsessively visit the page (job market induced OCD can get pretty out of hand), but would rather let the status updates come to me through google reader.

Anonymous said...

What is up with Tennessee interviewing already!?

They're interviewing today, tomorrow, and Wednesday. That's crazy early!

Anonymous said...

Most likely, Tennessee wants to offer the job early, so the candidate will have to decide before knowing whether he/she has other offers, fly-outs or even interviews

Mr. Zero said...

They could also be trying to outrun a looming hiring freeze or funding evaporation.

Anonymous said...

I interviewed for Tennessee last year, and indeed, they interviewed very early then as well (skype first round). On the whole, I thought that was a good thing, but I can imagine it's not so fun for the stellar candidates who will get multiple offers, fly-outs etc.

Anonymous said...

10:33 is right -- Tennessee did this last year, too. IIRC this practice is in conflict with some APA recommendations, and in any event it is clearly not in the best interests of job candidates, as it significantly weakens their flexibility and bargaining power.

gamer said...


I think it's unlikely to have much effect on anyone's bargaining power, since junior hires have almost no bargaining power in any case. Very little is negotiable. (Very little is not the same as nothing, I understand.)

As to flexibility: making a very early offer detracts from the flexibility of some, but adds to the flexibility of others. On the whole I think it's quite close to being zero-sum.

Anonymous said...

What do other smokers think of Tennessee's practices?

On one hand, I think it's rather cruel to make an early offer so as to prevent a potential future colleague from exploring their career options. I think it also sends a bad message about the desirability of working in the department.

On the other hand, maybe their goal is to find those candidates who are really passionate about working at Tennessee.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this practice will affect the retention of eventual hires. If s/he feels s/he is being strong-armed into taking the position in the first place, perhaps she will feel less compunction about jumping ship, if and when the opportunity presents itself.

Anonymous said...

Tennessee's practices shouldn't be an obstacle to job candidates.

If the Tennessee hire gets a better offer in a couple of months, he/she can take the other job without legitimate blame. It's Tennessee's fault for unethically upending the hiring cycle/timeline. I would without hesitation take a better job if it were offered and if I were the Tennessee hire.

Anonymous said...

Tennessee is conducting Skype interviews because it's not interviewing at the APA. There is no reason to infer that Tennessee will be making offers prior to the APA meeting or asking for acceptances prior to January 15. Indeed, last year it extended an early offer but allowed the candidate until January 15 to accept or reject. No department has any interest in "strong-arming" candidates into anything, certainly not employment. Every department has an interest in making the best possible hires it can make, consistent with a fair, open and transparent search process. There is no reason to think Tennessee is doing anything other than legitimately pursuing an interest that it has in common with every department.

Anonymous said...

I'm basically with gamer on this. Suppose they offer the job to someone who gets no other offers and take the Tenn. job. Then there's no real effect. Now suppose they offer it to someone who decides to take it and would have been able to get a better job. Well, sucks for her, but great for the person who actually gets the better job. Finally, suppose they offer it to someone who turns it down and then doesn't get anything better. Again, sucks for him, but then another candidate gets the Tennessee job (and early enough so he doesn't have to sweat it out).

So, I don't think it's bad for the field.

zombie said...

There is no reason why depts conducting non-APA interviews should have to stick to the APA convention sched for first round interviews. Doing so would be silly, since many of their candidates would be at APA during APA, which would make it harder for them to do phone or skype interviews.
When I interviewed for my current position, they brought me out for a campus visit well before others were scheduled, and made me an early offer. But they gave me an extended time to accept while I finished with my other scheduled campus visits.

Anonymous said...

"I think it's rather cruel to make an early offer"

Hahahahahaha! Yeah, how *horrible* it must feel to get an *early* offer for a job. I mean, in this market, I can't think of anything more unethical, demeaning, and cruel than a...JOB OFFER!

Anonymous said...

Tennessee extended early offers last year and did not allow the candidates until January 15th to accept or reject, against APA guidelines.

I gather they think this is their best/only way to get top people.

If I was strong-armed like this, I would also leave first chance I got. No guilt at all.

Anonymous said...

Apparently there's some disagreement about whether Tennessee did allow their first candidate until Jan. 15th (4:19, 7:47).

But while it is not the best for the candidate who gets that offer if her deadline is short, I don't see how it is unethical in any way, and certainly not "strongarming". True, it does not allow the candidate to maximize her or his negotiating position, but I don't see why a university is under any obligation to oblige their candidates to that degree.
And 3:51, if you actually did that -- accepting the offer and then backing out a couple of months later -- you'd better be sure that 'better' job you take is the last offer you'll ever need, because you will never get another one.

Anonymous said...


Yeah right. What are you, a lawyer for a secret society of university administrators?

4:16 said...

My points have nothing to do with law. Just ethics and self-interest.

Anonymous said...

When I was on the market a number of years ago, a small school that hadn't hired any philosophers in many years made me an offer. The only catch was that the Dean (not a philosopher) gave me a three day deadline! I pointed out that the JFP recommends two weeks, etc. and in the end the best he'd give me was 5 days. As my supervisor at the time said, "some schools want you there voluntarily, others use more coercive methods."

The extension (!) to five days was enough for me to hear from a more preferred school, which made me an offer that I took instead.

The reason I write this now is that I seriously considered agreeing to the first job and then backing out if I heard the next week from my more preferred job. The odds of legal action against against me were probably low. I also don't think there was anything ethically wrong given the very short time the first University was giving me.

Obviously, the Tennessee situation is different. But people have been known to break contracts, and although they might make some enemies, it is a big (enough) profession, and I don't think it would necessarily harm you that much (though again, there's obviously some risk of this).

More importantly, though, it is somewhat risky for a big, research school (with its own reputation to protect) to not want to give you time to hear from your other offers. Also, if you do have other options, they risk irritating their top candidates and they'll take another offer.

The school that gave me the unreasonable deadline probably won't hire in philosophy for another 15 or 20 years. It doesn't have much to lose even if their Dean gives them a bad reputation - they're just too small. (At the same time, its a job I would've been happy with - except for the Dean! So if they hadn't given me that unreasonable deadline, I might have taken the job).

But schools that are larger and hire more often, have graduate programs, etc. can easily develop a bad reputation of trying to "coerce" people - (and I'm not saying Tennessee is doing this - I know nothing about this case). As someone upthread wondered, I can imagine that applicants that feel coerced will apply again for jobs the next year, if they felt like they were forced into deciding early (and have ethical/legal qualms about backing out).

On the other hand, I totally understand about early deadlines if Universities have financial concerns about otherwise losing the position, etc.

zombie said...

9:43 - were you being required to sign a contract within five days?
Until you have a signed contract, I would say you are free to take a better offer. No one is going to notify their other candidates before that. But I also think that anyone trying to game the system by locking in their hires early is asking for people to have second thoughts, especially if they are courting top hires who are more likely to get multiple offers. And especially especially if they are requiring an unusually short decision time.

(I'd love to see some data on how many of these mythical "multi offer" creatures there are these days. Even anecdotal evidence. Maybe Leiter could indulge this year by asking in his hire report.)

Anonymous said...

7:47. My Tenn. sources tell me that last year they conducted two searches, did dozens of screening interviews and many on campus visits in December and then made an offer in each search before the holidays. One was accepted straightway. The other candidate asked for the offer to remain open through much of January. Apparently the Department had decided that if the candidate didn't accept it would move to a second round of on-campus visits and this it could not secure authorization to do while an offer was outstanding. So the candidate was told that the offer would have to lapse officially after two weeks but that the Department would make no other offer prior to 1/15 and would immediately renew its offer to the candidate at any point up to and including 1/15 if the candidate indicated a willingness to accept. Obviously it couldn't guarantee a renewed offer once a second round of on campus visits began. But I'm told that it indicated that it remained completely open to renewing the offer once the second round was completed, if in fact the candidate didn't indicate a willingness to accept the offer by 1/15. The candidate remained free throughout to accept any other offer or simply to reject the offer from Tenn. Kinda hard to see the problem here: There's an early offer which can be accepted at any point up to 1/15 after which Tenn. begins to explore additional options, with the distinct possibility that the initial offer is renewed. And of course the candidate is free to explore options all along, up to accepting any offer.

Anonymous said...

Getting back to something slightly less tangential to the original post: is it time to start obsessively refreshing the wiki yet? So far I've managed to limit my checking to a max of once a day, but from what I remember of last I was on the market, we're about to hit that four or five week sweet spot when the updates start pouring in.

Anonymous said...

Suppose I got an offer with a timeline that struck me as unreasonably short. Rather than agreeing and backing out, couldn't I just respond with my own (unilateral) timeline? Say: I'll respond by such and such a date; make an offer to someone else if you dare, but know that you might lose out on me though you could have gotten to me.

Not guaranteed to work, but more ethical, I think, than breaking a contract, written or verbal.

Anonymous said...

Suppose I was lucky enough to get an offer; but unlucky enough to get one with an unreasonably early/quick deadline. Would it be at all advisable to, as it were, call the offering departments bluff? That is, to let them know that I will get back to them by a certain, more reasonable, date; and then see if they withdraw the offer? Is it in general very likely that they would (would they have to, for legal reasons?)? This approach strikes me as more ethically acceptable then backing out of an offer already accepted - but I'd be willing to countenance that if this sort of thing had little to no chance of success.

FriendofJustin said...


That is useful inside information. However, the course of action you describe still seems suboptimal.

If I had been made an extremely early offer of the nature you describe, I would have wanted to wait and see what else there was out there. Normally, one doesn't have to make a big production out of doing that; but in this case, I would have needed to give a clear indication to Tennessee that it was not my first choice. Then I would need to hope that the SC would not count that against me in making its next round of selections after I had inconvenienced them by making them wait before contacting the next slew of candidates, etc.

Also, what if I got offered the job again and accepted it? I'd probably begin work on the wrong footing with many of my new colleagues who might have been annoyed at my having thought that I could do better, etc. You know the drill.

So if I were made an extremely early job offer with the conditions you describe, I would be leery of making the SC wait too long if I thought there was a good chance I would ultimately accept. Hence, the problem (in muted form) remains.

Anonymous said...

"Say: I'll respond by such and such a date; make an offer to someone else if you dare, but know that you might lose out on me though you could have gotten to me."

You risk being told, "ok then, best of luck with your other interviews." If they dare? No matter how good you are, there are plenty more just like you on the market.

Mr. Zero said...

If they dare? No matter how good you are, there are plenty more just like you on the market.

I basically agree with this, though not exactly. If they've offered you the job, then they think, on the whole, as a group, on balance, that you're the best candidate. And so you have a (very) small amount of leverage, and they're probably going to be willing to be at least a little flexible with you, as long as your requests are polite and reasonable and you're polite and reasonable about the whole thing. But calling their bluff, unilaterally letting them know that you won't be getting back to them until after the deadline, and daring them to make an offer to someone else will, to say the least, set the wrong tone, probably won't work, and is likely to alienate your potential future colleagues if it does.

And let me say again that it's not at all obvious that this is some sort of strong-arm tactic to coerce candidates into accepting a sub-optimal offer. There are lots of reasons why they might be on an early schedule, and 11:26's story, if true, strongly suggests that it's not designed to be coercive. (Of course, if it is a strong-arm tactic, it's total bullshit.)

Normally, one doesn't have to make a big production out of doing that; but in this case, I would have needed to give a clear indication to Tennessee that it was not my first choice.

I'm not sure this is exactly right. There are lots of reasons why you'd want to see what else is out there, even if Tennessee is your first choice. Maybe it's your first choice but not your partner's. Maybe you just want to strengthen your bargaining position when it comes to negotiating your salary and expenses. Maybe you just don't want to make a decision without hearing the other offer. This would require some delicacy, but it certainly doesn't rise to the level of daring them to withdraw the offer.

I mean, there's every chance that the people you're dealing with are assholes. But I think reasonable people will understand that it's a negotiation, and that the candidate is in a much weaker bargaining position than the department/college is, and that--with some clear limits, of course--you can't take personally what happens in a negotiation.

Of course, I've never had a tenure-track job offer, and I'm not at all sure I'll ever get one, and I certainly don't expect to ever have two at the same time. So what do I know.

zombie said...

One of the few bits of leverage a job candidate has in negotiating things like salary, startup package and spousal accommodation is a competing job offer. So, it is in the best interests of the candidate to have all possible offers on the table at the same time. This is one good reason for asking all hiring depts to stick to more or less the same schedule for final interviews and offers, or for allowing candidates more time if further offers are possible.

If you've had one offer, I suppose your chances of having additional offers is better, in theory.

Re: calling their bluff -- unless they've got a really shallow bench of candidates to draw from (everyone else bombed the fly-out, and if you turn them down they'll have to fly out someone else), they'll likely call your bluff if they had a compelling reason to make an early offer. Enough SC members have posted to this board indicating that there is often very little difference between the top 2 or 3 candidates, such that the dept would be almost equally happy to have any of them. Don't forget that people do sometimes turn down job offers (!), do withdraw from searches, and the departments manage to survive it. This is a game of chicken that the job candidate is more likely to lose.

Anonymous said...

Zombie: agreed with what you say. As someone who has served on SCs, I can tell you that I'm willing to negotiate a timeline with applicants, if they want (for whatever reason) a cushion. I know what they are facing, and I always assume that any candidate getting an offer from my department could be getting offers from other departments. That said, as with any negotiation, this needs to be handled professionally. Making demands of me will only send me to the next name on the list. Similarly, once our agreed upon deadline has passed, we reserve the right to make the offer to someone else *without contacting you first.* This is key; if an applicant asks for a deadline after what we propose, then the applicant must get back to us by that date. If you don't, we're not chasing you. (In the past, we've had applicants avoid phone calls and emails, later to tell us they were negotiating with another department.) If the applicant chooses the deadline, and does not get back to us, we will assume the applicant has turned down our offer. And rather than try to chase the applicant down in order to reject them before offering the job to someone else, we'll just make the offer to someone else.

As with much else in life, *how* you handle things matters a great deal. Making demands of the SC, avoiding the SC, etc., is a pretty good sign that we probably don't want to work with you anyway, as you clearly aren't interested in working with us.

Anonymous said...

Second position with interviews posted; so yes the time of obsessive checking of the wiki is upon us. I like how it warns you when you have been checking it often!

Anonymous said...

Two relevant anecdotes. Generalize at your peril.

A friend's college did a search a few years ago and made an offer to one candidate. The candidate was given two weeks to decide. When the two weeks were up, the candidate asked for two more weeks. He explained that he was waiting to hear from another school. Everyone at my friend's college knew that the other school was better (though of course the candidate never said as much) so none of them were surprised by the request for more time. Since they really wanted this candidate, they gladly gave him another two weeks. The candidate ended up getting a month to decide.

As a grad student, I was part of an SC at a school that was doing two searches. Each SC interviewed 16 candidates. In our search, we met about 10 great candidates. There was little difference between the top and bottom. The other SC had a completely different experience. They found one they really liked, two they would take if they had to take someone, and thirteen they didn't like at all.