Monday, December 3, 2012

Online Applications As Always

Here it's December already and I haven't posted this year's installment of our annual "Mr. Zero Complains About On-Line Applications" series. Sorry for the delay; here it is.

The trend for the past several years has been for increasing numbers of search committees to accept applications online. Things seem to have stalled out this year, though. At least, for me they did. This year, like last year, approximately three quarters of my applications involved submitting some material online; most of these were all-online applications. Only a couple wanted me to send any hard copies of anything.

However, this year was unlike last year in that there were a lot of online delivery-systems represented. Normally there's this one software package that every college and university's HR department subscribes to, and is terrible. This year, I would say that only about half of my online apps utilized this software, and the rest was split between Interfolio and Academic Jobs Online, with Interfolio prevailing slightly. In prior years, I'd had at most one or two online applications that utilized some other software (per year, that is).

What I have always hated about that HR-BS-ware is that it's so redundant. You have to make a new account for every school, type in your name and address every time (though your browser's auto-fill makes this go a little easier), enter all the email addresses of all your letter-writers every time, and then upload all your documents again, every time. It gets extremely tedious. (Although there were a number of places where I didn't have to do most of that because I'd applied for a job there before. Which means that they could have saved us both a bunch of time and effort by just hiring me back then.)

I didn't realize it, but I had used Academic Jobs Online before--I was surprised when logging in to discover that I already had an account. I thought it was pretty ok. It doesn't have a very nice user-interface--it has the kind of UI that someone who does math for a living might design--but it did the job fine and I didn't have any trouble using it. And I liked that it saved most of the data I had entered, including my address, qualifications, degree dates, AOS & AOCs, etc, so I didn't have to keep re-entering it. It also saves the documents you uploaded for earlier applications, so you don't have to keep re-uploading them, too. That's a nice time-saver. No major complaints.

I had never used Interfolio before, for real this time. My impression was that it was the best of the three. It saved the basic data so I didn't have to keep re-entering it. It saved the documents so I didn't have to keep uploading them, either. It has a nice, user-friendly UI. But the thing that I really, really, really like about it is this: it saves your letters of recommendation, so your letter-writers don't have to keep getting emails every single time you apply for a job. They won't be bothered. They won't forget to respond. They won't miss them when they get caught by the spam filter.

This makes Interfolio the winner. It is my hope that Interfolio catches on amongst hiring departments. Of course, I will never pay for a membership to Interfolio. If search committees want me to use Academic Jobs Online or their HR-departments bullshit software, I'll use it. Whatever. And if they want a hard copy of the application, I'll mail it myself. But of the three major online systems, I prefer Interfolio because it's tied for easiest on my, and is the hands-down winner for easiest on letter writers.

--Mr. Zero

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

"But the thing that I really, really, really like about it is this: it saves your letters of recommendation, so your letter-writers don't have to keep getting emails every single time you apply for a job."

I'm pretty sure the same is true of Academic Jobs Online...

Anonymous said...

Another nice thing about Interfolio is that you can use it to send letters to the other online applications. Let's face it it's a dick move to send a dozen or so automated emails to your letter writers. Also, odds are they won't fill them all out. Even if they're well intentioned they're academics and likely don't have good organization skills, and a lot of them are old(er) so they're probably not so great with technology. Last year I was out of the running for at least 6 jobs because one or more of my letter writers didn't send their rec in. Sure interfolio charges like $8 for the service but I think it's worth it.

Anonymous said...

As 1:34 notes... academic jobs online (AJO) saves your letters of recommendation as well.

One advantage of AJO over interfolio is that when an application for a specific institution has drop down menus for attaching the required documents AJO has an options both to select a document that you've previously uploaded or to upload a new document without leaving the application (which it then saves for future use). If you start filling out an application in interfolio and realize that you forgot to upload one of the documents specific to that institution's application, you have to exit the application, upload the document, and restart the application over. Not a big deal but it would be nice if the drop down menus on interfolio applications had an option to upload a new document in addition to the option of selecting a previously uploaded document.

However, I agree that interfolio's user interface is much more intuitive overall.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Interfolio is pretty easy to use and works generally well. My one complaint is that once everything is submitted, they schedule your "delivery" for the next morning. This is not a major inconvenience, but I wonder why the delivery cannot occur automatically. This would help for those times I go to fill out a last-minute application on the day it is due.

Anonymous said...

I like the Interfolio letter delivery system, as well, but the one thing that really increased the costs was that when you use the online application software and enter the Interfolio email address info for the individual letters, Interfolio charges you an initial $6 for the first letter and an additional $1 for every other letter. I had five letters of rec, so each online application cost me $10.

Anonymous said...

The delivery cannot be automatic because Interfolio manually checks e-mail addresses to ensure that letters are going to hiring committees in an effort to maintain confidentiality.

Anonymous said...

I find the user interface and use of AJO to be far easier and less frustrating than Interfolio, not least of all because of the document uploading problem mentioned by 2:05.

Much of Interfolio's functionality is difficult to figure out - so much so that one of my letter writers could not upload his letter. He had to physically mail it, and I had to wait about 10 days before the letter arrived & was processed by Interfolio. Yes, some older philosophers are not as good with technology, but this letter writer has had no problem uploading his letter anywhere else (including AJO).

Mr. Zero said...

I'm pretty sure the same is true of Academic Jobs Online...

Maybe I wasn't doing it right. But it was asking me to email all my letter writers every time.

My one complaint is that once everything is submitted, they schedule your "delivery" for the next morning.

I noticed that, and thought it was kind of bogus. However, I found that if I did the applications early in the day, I could get a same-day delivery appointment. And 4:56's explanation of this phenomenon seems sort of satisfactory. Although I don't see why this should be the case if the job I'm applying for is using Interfolio for search committees.

If you start filling out an application in interfolio and realize that you forgot to upload one of the documents specific to that institution's application, you have to exit the application, upload the document, and restart the application over.

This happened to me a couple of times. I just opened the "upload documents" page in a new tab, uploaded the document(s), and then went back to the application tab. I had to refresh the page and then re-select all the documents from all the drop-down menus, but the whole process never took more than a few minutes.

Anonymous said...

I just opened the "upload documents" page in a new tab, uploaded the document(s), and then went back to the application tab. I had to refresh the page and then re-select all the documents from all the drop-down menus, but the whole process never took more than a few minutes.

I've tried this, but Interfolio gave me a warning about using it in two pages and took me back to the start of the application. Maybe it's a browser thing. I'll have to try again.

Anonymous said...

This is only tangentially related (the relation being that this is an online application I just found) but I wanted to ask if the following was legal. The following is directly pasted from a job ad I just ran into on 'Inside Higher Ed'

"All faculty need a Masters in the subject area OR an unrelated Masters and 18 credit hours in the area of specialization

These are all on-campus positions.
Local candidates only please."

Can a department restrict applications geographically like this?

Anonymous said...

Ah, I see the ad here:

http://careers.insidehighered.com/city-college-florida/instructor/job/456661

And I suppose it's legal, yes. I've never heard of a college doing this, but then, all those I've worked for were state schools bound to state regs including conducting international searches.

Anonymous said...

"Can a department restrict applications geographically like this? "

My guess is that they're making the point that it's not an online position--that you have to live close enough to campus to teach face to face. But that's after you get the job--not as you're applying

zombie said...

"Local candidates only please."

They may also be indicating that they do not have a budget to pay travel expenses for interviews, relocation expenses for hires, etc.

Anonymous said...

You may want to inquire as to if the job is full-time -- often "Local candidates only" is an indication the advert is for adjuncts.

Anonymous said...

I wondered about AJO and letters. They seem to say that you only need to upload letters to them once. But if that's the case, they're basically ripping off Interfolio. E.g., I send my Interfolio letters once to AJO, then AJO sends them out for free to any employers that use AJO. Not that I'm crying for Interfolio, but it doesn't seem like something AJO could legally get away with.

Anonymous said...

If letters are added to your standard coversheet in AJO, they should be available for all future applications without being uploaded again. And the process needn't involve Interfolio at all, since the letters can be uploaded by staff from your department (in which case you want to make sure to tick the box saying that the designated staff person will upload letters on behalf of your letter writers).

Oh, and my vote would be for AJO over Interfolio, though I think both services work quite well, as in using either service is pure joy and bliss compared to the crap software used by HR departments.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to put in a word for AJO over Interfolio. When you upload a file into AJO, you do so while completing an application. You can also select a file you've already uploaded and sent elsewhere. When you select such a file, the drop-down list tells you the date of upload, and the application you uploaded it for. That's useful! When I corrected a typo and uploaded a new writing sample, I knew which to use in future applications, because AJO gave me the date of upload. Not so on Interfolio; I had to remove documents so that there was only one option because I was getting confused. Having this upload date and app information was even more useful for minor variations of my CV (modified to include the most relevant of my AOCs for the job).

Also, AJO sends apps out immediately while still allowing you to remove or edit them. One of my applications on Interfolio was delivered 70 hours after I submitted it.

Anonymous said...

I was really pleased to see that some departments had the good sense to take advantage of Interfolio and in a way that meant I could apply for free. My only complaint is that those departments also had required (and sometimes idiosyncratic) fields that had to be filled rather than an open acceptance policy. For example, I usually include my dissertation abstract in my CV but school A wants it separated, so now I need to go and do that... school B wants it in one document, so that needs to be uploaded too. School C has a field for a syllabus. I have a number of them in my teaching dossier... now those need to be separated and the dossier altered. School D wants at most 3 letters... I want to give you 4 letters and, school D.

This is mostly venting... AJO and Interfolio have both been pretty painless.

Elizabeth Harman said...

Does anyone know how many jobs this year are requiring applications to be submitted using AJO and how many are requiring applications to be submitted using Interfolio? And how many total jobs were advertised? I'm hoping the first two numbers are high, to encourage more departments to move in that direction rather than using their own systems.

Anonymous said...

Re: 10:59

I often just upload the same teaching portfolio multiple times if they request the components separately. Would any committee look down upon that? I think the rational answer is obviously no, but people have been known to be rather irrational.

Anonymous said...

Question: if a university changes its status to "first round interviews scheduled" in wiki jobs, and I have not been contacted, does that mean that I do not have chances any more?

Anonymous said...

@8:04: not necessarily. I received an interview request today (12/5), but the wiki had indicated interviews scheduled at the end of November.

Anonymous said...

8:04:

1st, it is unlikely that a university changed its status. Some hiring committees might take the time to do that, but the wiki is mostly updated by other job seekers.

2nd, If a job has been changed to "first-round interviews scheduled" that likely means that at least one other candidate has been contacted about scheduling an interview. It does not necessarily mean that you won't be contacted, but if a couple days go by I would assume you didn't get shortlisted.

But, 3rd, the last time I Was on the job market I remember there was some (intentional?) misuse/misdirection going on with the wiki. That was two years ago, and the format has since changed. I'm not sure if that kind of juvenile thing still goes on, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Anonymous said...

@2:44
Me too! Sometimes when an application calls for something, I just ignore it. I submit the material that I think they should want in the way I think they should want it. Some people might be annoyed by that but then lots of folks are just dicks.

Anonymous said...

FWIW: by my lights, some of what has already been updated on the wiki just doesn't pass the 'smell test'.

For instance, the Virginia Tech job had a 'we start considering applications on 16 November' deadline. Yet it was listed as having first-round interviews scheduled on 3 December. Perhaps they're extremely efficient or have gobs of time, but it seems to me that two weeks is unbelievably quick to whittle the hundreds of metaphysics/phil. mind applications they received down to a shortlist.

Anonymous said...

This is off topic, but whatever.

What's with Ferrer's posts on you-know-who's blog? Most of them don't allow comments, and they read like they're aimed at someone who has no familiarity with the APA at all. After a few of these posts am I supposed to think that the APA has finally got its act together? I realize they are taking steps in the right direction, and I appreciate it. But these blog posts have a strange patronizing vibe to them.

Anonymous said...

11:16, there is also a question of whether it is even appropriate for the executive director of the APA to be making guest posts on the personal blog of an individual philosopher.

Anonymous said...

It might be useful, here, to distinguish two senses in which we might criticize a subdisciplinary category. PJK has been defending a view about how sudisciplines should be individuated; namely, that they should not be individuated by way of substantive positions held by those who participate in them. Criticizing 'Feminist Philosophy' in this mode not need not entail any criticism of much of the work that people call 'Feminist Philosophy'; the objection is to calling it that, not to doing it.

Compare the following: consider the proposed subdiscipline: 'Philosophers whose names start with R'. This seems pretty uninteresting as a philosophical kind; if people started describing their and other's work this way, we would rightly criticize that description. But of course the work itself (any work on philosophers whose names start with R) might still be philosophy par excellence.

(To be clear: I disagree with PKL's claims about feminist philosophy as a category; I want to point out, only, (a) that nothing much follows from them as to the quality of work in feminist philosophy or the importance of the topics feminist philosophers consider; and hence (b) that, at least in their letter, they don't seem particularly offensive.)

Anonymous said...

Apologies for the thread hi-jack, but is there any chance we could get a separate post on the absolutely terrifying stories about search committees and schools recorded here:

http://academicjobs.wikia.com/wiki/Universities_to_fear

I was relieved not to find any recent ones about philosophy. Nevertheless, philosophy job seekers may still be very interested to know about these incidents if they have applied to any of the schools mentioned.

I am especially speechless at this:

'The charge by the President was that professors were “to spend up to 3/4ths of their time recruiting new students to the university.” Excel spreadsheets containing hundreds of phone numbers of prospective students were sent to professors, who were required to make unsolicited “cold calls.” Groups of 5-6 professors could be seen piling into a van and traveling several hours to various towns to find new students, instead of spending time advising existing students.'




Anonymous said...

Public service announcement:

People who brag on Facebook about the interviews they've secured are fucking assholes.

Don't be a fucking asshole.

That is all.

Anonymous said...

"People who brag on Facebook about the interviews they've secured are fucking assholes."

That includes the cloaked brag, like "What do you guys think I should wear for my APA interviews in Atlanta?"

Anonymous said...

It is too early to be freaking out about a lack of interviews.

I am freaking out.

-First time on the market

Morrissey, PhD said...

We hate it when our "friends" become successful.

Anonymous said...

In fact I love it for my friends to be successful. It makes me happy for them and I hope for their success (almost) as much as I hope for mine.

That does not in any way negate their obligation to show a little tact in their interactions. There is a big difference between a friend who confides in you their nervousness or asks for advice or support and someone who pretty clearly just wants you to know that they have them.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the Phylo wiki's suggestion that I block myself from checking it. Thanks guys!

Anonymous said...

Alternate PSA:

Get over it, success haters. I never tell any fellow grads any good things that happen to me, because of how crestfallen they always look. So I am not an asshole (as per 7:38), but it's because the success haters are assholes, as per me.

Anonymous said...

OMG I fucking hate online application systems. HR departments worldwide: get a clue. For the love of god.

Anonymous said...

are search committee's more likely to schedule interviews via e-mail or phone?

Anonymous said...

"are search committee's more likely to schedule interviews via e-mail or phone?"

In my experience, first round interviews have been about evenly split, with email perhaps being slightly more common.

All campus interviews I've gotten were by phone.

zombie said...

My last year on the market, two years ago, all of my APA interviews contacted me via email. My non-APA interviews contacted first via phone. I think I only ever had one school call me for an APA interview.

So, make sure your email is working.

Anonymous said...

I've been contacted for several interviews, including a Skype interview and APA interviews. For one of the APA interviews, I was contacted by phone. I agree with Zombie that most contact occurs via email these days (not so just a few years ago). But make sure your phone is working too.

Anonymous said...

"I appreciate the Phylo wiki's suggestion that I block myself from checking it. Thanks guys!"

Me, too, but instead of their suggested alternate activities, I usually just smoke some weed.

Anonymous said...

If you don't own a (functioning) telephone, then the search committee chair will simply email you. It has happened to me, and I imagine any other reasonable, decent search committee chair will do the same for you.

You should be checking your spam filter, though: I have a few friends who have lost interviews that way.

Anonymous said...

Dear 11:36 AM,

Let me begin by saying that I hope that everyone who applied to the same jobs I did reasons as badly as you do.

As 10:56 AM patiently explained to people like you, the issue isn't about 'hating success'. (Whatever the fuck that means. Let me guess: you voted for Romney, watch Fox News, and waited with bated breath for the release of Atlas Shrugged 2: Shrug Harder. There's a high correlation between such people, and those who actually make nonsense accusations about 'hating success'.)

The issue is about hating the disgusting behavior of people who want everyone to know oh how successful they are. For example: it is perfectly consistent to not hate the success of Bill Gates, yet also hate his behavior if he were to shake gold chains and a big wad of cash in the face of the closest homeless veteran he could find.

It boggles my mind that you're incapable of understanding such a basic distinction about how to behave. But I do have a hypothesis about why your fellow graduate students want nothing to do with you.

Anonymous said...

12:37-

Get over it. Do more.

Anonymous said...

9:51: Lame. Seriously, lame reply. Everything 12:37 wrote was perfectly sensible.

Putting that aside, to those of you worried about being contacted by search committees, try to keep in mind that search committees want to get a hold of you and they know that you want to hear from them. It's unlikely that a missed call or an email getting caught in a spam filter is going to result in a lost opportunity. (Anything's possible and some SC members are weird, but in general, this is really unlikely.)

When I've chaired SCs and was responsible for contacting candidates, I began by sending out emails. I let candidates know that I would be attempting to call them to let them know we were interested in interviewing them, and the email was a heads up. I always heard back from candidates very quickly, but if I hadn't, I would have assumed that the candidate had not received the message. And then I would have emailed again, and then called, and then called again. In other words, I would need to have been told directly by a candidate that she wasn't interested in the position before ceasing to make a concerted effort to contact her. Hell, if I had continually been met with dead air, I'd have gone on to contact the department where the candidate was located, or contacted the letter writers, before giving up.

In short, if a department wants to interview you, you are going to hear from them. And it seems to me that email is now a perfectly acceptable and sensible way to initiate that contact.

However, as obscene as it may be, it's still on the early side for hearing from departments.

zombie said...

If the typical pattern holds, late next week and early the week after is when many of the interviews will be scheduled. Although a few early birds have already made those calls.

It's still too early to freak out.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on this, 4:23: "In short, if a department wants to interview you, you are going to hear from them. And it seems to me that email is now a perfectly acceptable and sensible way to initiate that contact."

But I disagree with you about waiting until I hear from the candidate directly before throwing in the towel. When I served on searches, we sent emails to those we wanted to interview. If we did not hear back in a couple days, we called. The one time we never heard back from anybody, we gave that interview slot to someone else. Why? because we used the email and phone number *provided by the applicant*. That email and phone number were the ones the candidate asked us to use. I am not going to call their home departments or their letter writers. If the home department or letter writers are a more reliable method of contacting an applicant than the applicant's email and phone number, then the candidate should note that on the application.

Seriously, if you make me have to chance you down in order to schedule an interview for a position that you applied for, you're already making it easy for me to hire someone else.

Anonymous said...

In light of Leiter's recent post about the many senior visiting appointments at Birmingham, I'd be curious to hear peoples' thoughts on this (increasingly?) common arrangement. Leiter says these visitors will be doing postgraduate advising. Is it really going to help graduate students to have "advisors" who are only around for 4 weeks a year? Does anyone who has worked with a visiting scholar care to comment? Was it a productive situation?

Anonymous said...

Seriously, if you make me have to chance you down in order to schedule an interview for a position that you applied for, you're already making it easy for me to hire someone else.

Exactly. And between any two candidates, we should always hire whichever is the easier to hire.

It's like dating.

Anonymous said...

"And between any two candidates, we should always hire whichever is the easier to hire."

Not at all. But given the large number of qualified candidates in pretty much ever search, the lesson here is: don't give SCs a reason to prefer someone else.

As an applicant, your goal is to make me want to hire you. Appearing unprofessional doesn't make me want to hire you.

Anonymous said...

December 8, 2012 4:23 PM wrote:

"Lame. Seriously, lame reply. Everything 12:37 wrote was perfectly sensible."

Even that sophomoric Mitt Romney, Fox News rant?