Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tales of terror, chagrin, hilarity, schadenfreude, etc... APA edition

Past or present. Dish.

My reporter at APA tells me of Kent State interview shenanigans in Atlanta this year. Perhaps someone would care to elaborate.

~zombie

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Soliciting Smoker Advice

A Smoker writes in with a question:
How should applicants approach the Smoker, particularly women? Should we be actively trying to seek out hiring committee members for positions we interviewed for? Is there a way to do this that doesn't seem pandering?
I'd offer some advice if I thought I had anything to special to say. But, I don't really. So, what say y'all?

(And don't forget to give those people who will be attending the APA in Atlanta some hot tips below on what to do in Atlanta in whatever spare time you manage to have.)

-- Jaded, Ph.D.

Things to do in Atlanta?

I've been to Atlanta a couple of times, but unfortunately I don't have much advice about what fun things there are to do there. Just the usual: CNN world headquarters, the Georgia Aquarium, and the "World of Coca-Cola" Museum are all walkable from the conference hotel. If you like baseball, which you should, you could take a tour of Turner Field (which all right-thinking people think of as Hank Aaron Stadium), but that's not at all close to the hotel. And the Falcons will be playing the Buccaneers on Sunday at the Georgia Dome. But other than that, I'm not sure what to suggest. I'm not aware of any attractions of any real historical or cultural significance. And as I understand it, the "Downtown" area shuts down pretty early and doesn't have any kind of nightlife--though I'd be happy to hear that I'm wrong about this.

What say you, Smokers? What should conference-goers not miss while in ATL?

--Mr. Zero

Friday, December 21, 2012

How to do Interviews...

I'm a little late with this post this year, but here's the annual "APA Interview Prep" post. Last year, Zombie wrote the following: 

This is advice from an historian, but it's quite useful and applicable to APA: http://edgeofthewest.wordpress.com/2008/12/02/aha-interviews-redux/ 
This from last year's week of dread Smoker [Which is a compendium of advice going back to the early years of the Old Job Market Blog]:
http://philosophysmoker.blogspot.com/2010/11/interview-rehash-3.html 
Mary Sies' extremely useful article at IHE:
http://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2009/12/02/sies 
And this thread from LR:
http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2008/04/how-to-best-pre.html 
What worked for me: create a master list of questions, and write a response. For me, knowing the answer makes it far easier to extemporise on the spot. (I do the same thing prepping for class. I write extensive notes, but only glance at them for prompts.) You can't take your notes with you to an in-person interview (one of the fringes of a phone interview is that you can have all your notes and papers in front of you), so you have to know what you're going to say. 
Mundane advice: When you get the call (or email), you will likely be asked to choose among several interview times. It's easier to handle this question by email, but if by phone, you'll need to have your calendar handy to write down the appointment (and to make sure you don't have any scheduling conflicts). This seems obvious, but the first time I got "the call," I had already concluded that I was not getting any interviews, and was completely unprepared and had to run around my house trying to get it together. This is much harder to do when your head is buzzing loudly from that massive adrenaline rush you just experienced. You may be asked if you have any questions. One question you should ask is "Who will I be meeting with?" Get their names. (Later, look them up. Read something they've written that's of interest to you. You'll have time on the plane ride to DC). Ask who you can contact on the SC if you have any questions prior to the interview. Get contact information in case something happens that prevents you from getting to the show on time. 
APA is a mob scene. It's stressful. The wi-fi can be really sucky, so don't count on it working. Take snacks (the food is expensive in the hotels). Try to have fun. Silently judge the other philosophers based on irrelevant factors like hair and shoes. Don't get drunk. Few people are as charming as they think they are when drunk. 
Take your intervew clothes in your carry-on bag.
A while back, in comments somewhere, Carolyn Dicey-Jennings posted a link to this helpful website.(So long ago, in fact, that I have no idea where this happened, and I'm only 80% that my memory that it was CD-J is accurate.)

Further suggestions are appreciated, as always. I hope things are going better for you than they are for me. So far I'm drawing a fat goose egg. I've been following the recent discussion on Leiter about "degree staleness" with a mixture of deep and familiar anxiety, horror, worry, and more anxiety. But for those of you who will be in Atlanta, knock 'em dead. (But not all of them, because then nobody will be left alive to hire you.)

--Mr. Zero

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Open Thread

There has been a request for an open thread in which to brag and bitch about the market, gossip about jobs, complain about the profession, ask questions, etc. Good idea. So let it be written; so let it be done. --Mr. Zero

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dealing With "Illegal" Interview Questions

There have been several recent discussions concerning concerning the best way for interviewees to deal with interviewers who ask so-called "illegal" questions. (Although my understanding is that Glaucon, writing here, is basically correct: though it is illegal for search committees to use the information as a basis for hiring decisions, it is not literally illegal for them to ask the questions. But whatever. I'm not a lawyer, and its not as though there's no relationship between the information the search committee attempts to collect in the interviews and the information the search committee might use as the basis for its decision.) A discussion at Feminist Philosophers is here; a discussion at NewAPPS is here.

As I read through the suggestions, I find myself thinking the same thing over and over and over: this won't work. It seems to me that all such suggestions are basically misguided, in that they are based on the premise that there is some reliable way to diffuse the situation without harming your chances of getting the job. I don't think there is any reliable strategy here.

As I see it, there are four main ways of responding to the situation:

1. Answer the question honestly. There's always the chance that they just want to let you know how great their department/school/community is for people in your situation, or how open and welcoming they are, and that they won't use the information in their deliberations, after all. Maybe. Probably, even. But I guess I wouldn't count on it.

2. Answer the question dishonestly. After all, at this point in the process, it really isn't any of their business. Of course, it'll be somewhere in the range between difficult and impossible to maintain the lie if you get the job, and it'll be awkward when the truth comes out. AWK. WARD.

3. Decline to answer the question in a way that draws attention to its inappropriateness. You can do this in a way that conveys some negative emotion, such as anger, frustration, disappointment, or sadness, but doing so is not going to be good for your chances however you do it. Letting your interviewers know you're not happy with them isn't a good interview strategy.

You could try to do it in jokey, laughy way, but any way you frame the joke, it's a joke about how the interviewer has asked you a question you find inappropriate and/or legally problematic. It won't work if joke is at the interviewer's expense; you have to bring him into the joke with you, but in a way that still makes it clear that the question was not appropriate and you're declining to answer it. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's going to be hard. This is not a beginner-level joke.

4. Decline to answer using stealth, without drawing attention to the inappropriateness of the question. Maybe by changing the subject or something, or by telling an unrelated joke. There's a lot of potential for weirdness here. They asked you a question; you didn't answer it. It's not like they're not going to notice.

If I had to pick, I'd say #1 and #4 are the best of a bad bunch. This has happened to me only a couple of times, and both times it was fairly clear that they were just trying to let me know that their area had a lot to offer. At least, that's how I read the situation at the time. I adopted strategy #1, and answered honestly while trying to thread the needle between seeming open and forthcoming while revealing as little as possible and trying to move on quickly. The alternatives seemed much riskier. But I felt really awkward, and the awkwardness was not alleviated when, on one occasion, one of the other interviewers pointed out that the question was out-of-bounds. I wasn't at all confident that I was handling it right. And it goes without saying that I didn't get the job (not that I have any reason to suspect that there's any direct connection).

And so it seems to me that once a question like this comes up, there are no good alternatives. There's no reliable way to maneuver oneself out of the situation. It's possible to pull off, of course. There are things that will work here and there. But I can't see any general piece of advice that would be widely applicable and effective in a risk-free way. Which bums me out.

--Mr. Zero

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

That's racist

Do you want to feel angry (-ier) at academia today? If yes, then read the comments section to this article  in the Chronicle: "Black Dandies Fashion New Academic Identities."

Now, it might be the case that the commenters on the article aren't all academics, but, good god, holy fuck. Why the hell would any underrepresented minority want to enter a field into which their desire to dress REALLY FUCKING SHARP is taken to indicate that they have fallen under:
the spell of "the bling" over "the books" [and that this] has captured [sic] may of our "colleagues" in the hypnotic rapture of their closets[?]
How can someone's immediate reaction to this article be to rush to the comments to remark:
"clothes horse" is not an intellectual compliment. And I suppose this is black male sexuality, assuming your role model is a pimp[,]
rather than to want to step up your sartorial game and stop shopping at the GAP outlet?

In light of these comments, is it any wonder that the number of minority faculty members are so terrible? Look:
Humanities faculty: 82.3% White, 5% Black, 5.8% Asian Pacific Islander, .8% Native American, and 5.1% Hispanic. Philosophy faculty: 88.9 % white (around 16.6% of whom are women; compared to about 35% in the Humanities at large), 4.6% Asian Pacific Islander (.6% women), 3% Native American (1% women), 2.4% Blacks (.1 % women), and 1.1% Hispanics (.1 % women) (Table 245 in Snyder, T.D., Dillow, S.A., and Hoffman, C.M. (2008). Digest of Education Statistics 2007 (NCES 2008-022)).
And, to those other commenters on the article wondering why this deserves mention in the Chronicle at all, pull your head out of your ass and think about some work Paul D. Umbach (2006) summarizes:
[F]aculty of color create a comfortable environment and provide support and mentoring for students of color (Cole and Barber, 2003; Smith, 1989). Students of color look to faculty who they believe will be able to understand them. Faculty of color are best able to understand their special problems and provide them with the encouragement they need to succeed (Cole and Barber, 2003). Academic performance and career aspirations are enhanced when students of color have minority faculty who serve as role models for them (Cole and Barber, 2003; Hurtado et al., 1999; Smith, 1989).
We don't talk much about race, ethnicity, or class on this blog. We should.

Update: I JUST WANT TO PUNCH SO MUCH STUFF RIGHT NOW.

Update 2: That purple sweater and those shoes? Yeah.

Click to embiggen.
Update 3: I included more numbers from the table I mentioned. And here's a screen grab (there might be more recent reports out there): 

 -- Jaded, Ph.D.