Thursday, January 3, 2013

How Was the Tenure-Track Market This Year?

My considered view is that the online JFP was largely a success. And I was particularly impressed with the APA's responsiveness to complaints and suggestions made here and elsewhere in the first few days after launch.

However, one thing I really don't like about it is the way that job ads disappear when they expire or are canceled. I thought for sure I'd seen an ad for a position at Northern Illinois, but when I started putting my application together I couldn't find the ad anywhere. I spent more time than I should have wondering if I'd hallucinated it before I thought to check the wiki and found that it had been called off. I liked the old way, where a canceled ad would be struck through, and wouldn't just evaporate into the air. So you'd know that there had been an ad, and that it had been canceled.

The other problem with the disappearing ads is that it makes it very difficult to compare this year's job-market situation with that of previous years. I take it that PhilJobs might be better for this sort of thing, but I'm not sure that you could do a straight, apples-to-apples comparison of this year's PhilJobs numbers with previous year's JFP numbers, because PhilJobs seems to have more ads for non-tenure-track positions and positions at a wider variety of institution-types. And the JFP's new numbering system isn't particularly transparent (though it seems to be better than the previous system in a variety of ways).

I suppose I could have kept track of the number of ads myself as the season progressed. But I didn't. And so I wonder if anybody out there did. Does anybody have a sense of how this year's tenure-track job market compared to previous years?

--Mr. Zero

P.S. I applied for a few more jobs this year than I have at any point since the economy turned to shit at the end of 2008, but I'm not at all convinced that it means anything.

114 comments:

Anonymous said...

One problem with disappearing job ads (after the deadline) is that it was hard to look up what the department was looking for when the interview time came.

Anonymous said...

This year's market struck me as worse than last year's. Opinions?

Carolyn Dicey Jennings said...

I had the sense that there were fewer jobs, but when I made a list of jobs for reporting purposes (http://prophilosophy.wordpress.com/tenure-track-hires/2012-2013/) I thought that the numbers were similar to those of last year. I will make a complete list at some point and try to build on the data gathering I did last year. Hopefully, reporting forms like this can one day be incorporated into the JFP system.

Anonymous said...

For the love of God, I hope this year is worse than average (if the concept of average applies here). I hope this isn't the new normal.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that it depends on the field. I've found epistemology *much* better this year. There seem to be roughly 3x as many epistemology-specific jobs (in many cases "metaphysics and/or epistemology").

So for an epistemologist, this year is much better.

Anonymous said...

I was lucky and managed to get a couple of first-rounds. But I was flabbergasted by the number of high-quality people that I know with good publications (in journals like JHP) under their belt who did not get an interview at the APA. I mean, I understand a high-quality candidate like that not getting the job after the interview, but not getting an interview at all? That was a shocker for me.

This is only my first year out, but I find it hard to believe that it could have been much worse last year. On the other hand, I've noticed that it seems as though an increasing number of schools are skipping the APA and either doing phone, skype, or going straight to fly-outs instead. And many of these interviews are only happening after the APA. So maybe it looks worse than it is. Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Off topic but does anyone know anything about the cognitive science/mind position at UC Merced? Thanx much...

Anonymous said...

My impression is that this year was worse than last year but not by far. My field is philosophy of science. I fear it's going to get worse...

Anonymous said...

I have to second what 12:26 said in the first post. I landed an interview, and then when I went back to look at the job ad to remind myself of what they wanted, the ad was gone. Very inconvenient.

Anonymous said...

Re: disappearing ads.

Three years back, when I was on my first year on the market, I was advised to make a doc file on my computer where I copy/pasted all the job ads I was applying for (in order of deadline). I suggest doing this to avoid the ads themselves disappearing from the JFP.

Anonymous said...

I was advised to do the same thing, 12:20 PM, and then to send the file to my primary reference letter writers at various points in the job season 1) so that they knew who might be calling them with questions and 2) so that they knew whom they should call on my behalf, if they happened to know people at the hiring institution.

Anonymous said...

'...2) so that they knew whom they should call on my behalf, if they happened to know people at the hiring institution.'

A question about the practice of letter writers calling/contacting hiring departments to put in a good word for their students: How common is this? Is it looked upon kindly by hiring departments? How much difference does it make? No doubt some people are more reticent about this aggressive approach. I wonder whether students whose advisors don't reach out in this way are at a disadvantage...

Anonymous said...

USC made an offer before most (all?) of their scheduled flyouts? I'm finding this a bit too surprising to be true...

Anonymous said...

"I have to second what 12:26 said in the first post. I landed an interview, and then when I went back to look at the job ad to remind myself of what they wanted, the ad was gone. Very inconvenient."

Seriously? This one's on you. If you are going to apply for a job and then keep no record of what that job is looking for, then you deserve to be unprepared for the interview.

Simple tip for the simple-minded. Keep a copy of all the job ads you apply to. It takes almost no time to put together such a file, and down the line, you can avoid the embarrassment of blaming someone else for your oversight.

Anonymous said...

A question about the practice of letter writers calling/contacting hiring departments to put in a good word for their students: How common is this? Is it looked upon kindly by hiring departments? How much difference does it make? ... I wonder whether students whose advisors don't reach out in this way are at a disadvantage...

I'm at a solid SLAC. In general, letter writers calling to put in "a good word" for their students is pointless and awkward. Even when the letter writers are friends, friendly acquaintances, or former professors, this just isn't helpful.

Offhand, I can think of two exceptions. (1) There's something odd in the candidate's application that needs to be explained. For example, suppose the candidate has been teaching at an institution for the last 4 years and has no letters from anyone there. That raises a red flag. Letter writers can help immensely (either in their letters, or through personal correspondence) to take down red flags, since even vague and unexplained concerns are often deal killers.

(2) In the case of some smaller, teaching-oriented schools, SC members are still not grasping just how awful the market is and worry that strong candidates are going to flee the first chance they get. (I find this attitude silly for several reasons, but since some of us out there do still think this way, I'll shelve my complaints here.) In such cases, a call from a letter writer can help if the letter writer is able to work into the conversation, smoothly and naturally, how excited the candidate is about this particular institution, how much the candidate loves teaching, how the candidate attended an SLAC herself as an undergraduate and wants to return to that environment, or something similar. I've heard of cases where this sort of information was extremely helpful in easing a SC's worry that a candidate they had already decided they would love to hire was a serious flight risk.

Otherwise, I don't think candidates are at a disadvantage if their mentors aren't calling every grad school buddy and to talk them up. That's often just awkward and changes nothing. And prior to the first round of interviews, such calls seem to me near worthless.

(Insert the requisite caveats about how tiny my pool of evidence is and how my own anecdotal experience probably counts for shit.)

Anonymous said...

Re 8:37

Sorry, this isn't all on the job seeker. Disappearing ads are a problem because the new JFP system of listing ads for a certain number of days means that some ads disappeared *before* the due date (and yes, as I understand, this is because hiring depts only paid for a certain amount of time). I kept track of the essentials for everything I applied to, but it's also nice to look back at the ads in case there was something beyond the basics. Or, in some cases the application procedure had something unexpected about it (e.g. uploading reference letters from my computer(!), not interfolio etc.) and I wanted to check back. There are lots of perfectly reasonable reasons to look at job ads later that do not involve applicant incompetence.

On a note related to the post question, has anyone kept track of not just brute numbers of jobs, but what sorts of jobs they were? Just an impression, but my list was a little better than my low expectations for PhD granting institutions, but much thinner than expected on teaching oriented jobs (broadly construed).

Anonymous said...

"There are lots of perfectly reasonable reasons to look at job ads later that do not involve applicant incompetence."

I agree. But "remind[ing] myself of what they wanted" (which was what I complained about) isn't one of them. That's incompetence. That's laziness.

Of course, you could always call the hiring department and say something like, "thanks for inviting me to an interview. If you could please remind me what the job is for, that would be great!" I'm sure they will marvel at your professionalism and all agree that this reflects poorly on the JFP and not at all on you.

-8:37

Anonymous said...

@8:01 -- USC was advertising for two positions.

Anonymous said...

is the disappearing ads thing such a problem? i printed off every ad to which i expected to apply (from both JFP and Philjobs) and kept a file of these ads handy. these ads are usually one page. if you elected to click through to the department or university HR version of the ad, then you might find one that was two pages in length. but, everything considered, putting together a file of job ads took virtually no effort.

Anonymous said...

Now that I know that ads are apt to disappear, I will make sure to copy-paste the ones I apply to in future. But I think it's unfair to call me lazy because I did not do this out of ignorance (it is my first year on the market). It would have taken me next to no effort to copy-paste the ad. Not doing so doesn't reflect laziness - it's just that I've become accustomed, as I'm sure many of us have, to things posted on the internet not suddenly disappearing for no apparent reason (as some of these ads did even before their stated deadline). Because I'm accustomed to this I did not even think to copy-paste the add in its entirety, but instead just noted the AOS/AOC being advertised for and anything else of particular note, including a link to the ad, in my spreadsheet.

Carolyn Dicey Jennings said...

The very helpful Mike Morris at the APA gave me a spreadsheet with the job information from this year. I count 77 postdoctoral/VAP positions, 218 Assistant Professor positions, 56 Associate Professor/Open Rank positions, 27 Full Professor positions, and 7 administrative positions.

Anonymous said...

Topic for new thread....which is worse....the disappearing jobs problem OR the disappearing job ads problem?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have a count (or, failing that, some reliable intuitions) concerning the distribution of jobs this year by AOS/AOC?

We talked it out a bit a couple of months ago. My impression then, which is still my impression now, is that this was a (compared to previous years) good year for Ancient, Early Modern, Applied Ethics, and Feminist Philosophy (compared to previous years, when there were pretty much 0 jobs in Feminist Phil.). It was a bad year for Metaethics/Normative Ethics, M & E, and Philosophy of the special sciences.

Does that sound accurate?

zombie said...

You guys know about the Wayback Machine, right?

http://archive.org/web/web.php

Use it in good health.

Anonymous said...

"it's just that I've become accustomed, as I'm sure many of us have, to things posted on the internet not suddenly disappearing for no apparent reason"

And some of us have become accustomed to keeping information that is important to us.

Yeah, yeah, you might have some reason to believe that stuff posted on the internet should stay there forever (or, at the very least, until *you* no longer need it). Blah, blah. You also "instead just noted the AOS/AOC being advertised for and anything else of particular note." How did "what they wanted" not fall under "anything else of particular note"? What, I'd like to know, made the cut as "of particular note"? What was more important than, well, the details of the job? That is, when you decided that only some information from job ads was worth saving, what did you decide was worth saving, and why weren't the particulars worth saving?

You were either lazy (which you deny) or sloppy (which also, really, just makes you lazy). And being on the market for the first time is no excuse for not being more diligent in your notes and keeping better track of what kinds of jobs you applied to. This isn't some field-specific skill that you're supposed to be taught by your advisor; this is a life skill you're supposed to have as an adult.

Anonymous said...

3:09: yes, that sounds accurate as far as philosophy of the special sciences goes, at least in my special science. Jobs in my field were few and far between (maybe three or four max in my particular sub-area). And what makes it worse is that there is a glut of exceptional candidates in their second or third or even fourth year out who, in a normal world, would have gotten a job by now, but as it stands are competing with people who are just coming on to the market. It's hell out there.

Anonymous said...

9:39 here ... 11:11: stop being such a jerk. My point is only that I may be stupid and incompetent but I am not lazy. And I take offense to being called that.

Please note, also, that I am not one of the ones complaining about this. I am not blaming the JFP or philjobs or anyone. As I said clearly, I have learned from my mistake and I will make sure not to make the same mistake again. All I am saying is that I think it is a natural mistake to make for someone with little experience doing this sort of thing, and that I can understand (since I did it myself) how someone could have made such a mistake.

So please screw off.

Anonymous said...

Another reason for thinking that the job ads would not disappear is that past pdfs of the JFP are still accessible on the APA website (unless I am mistaken), so why think that this year's would not be accessible in some similar way? That's why I did not copy and save the ads.

The person calling 'lazy' is being ... 'uncharitable'; that's my nice word for it.

heloise said...

Whenever you visit a web site and find something useful, print it out. The entire web site, I mean -- don't be sloppy or lazy about the details. You never know, that site might disappear in a few minutes.

See if your department will buy you thirty reams of printer paper. If not, you can just print to pdf and save everything on an external hard drive. (Don't tell me you were even *considering* saving such important stuff on your computer's hard drive!)

Anonymous said...

I can't speak for anyone else, but for the 50+ jobs that I applied to I kept a spreadsheet. Instead of saving an entire ad, I copy-pasted parts of it into columns in the spreadsheet. For instance, I had a column for AOS/AOC, one for the application deadline, a column for the school name, its location, further particulars like whether they required you to submit your application by snail-mail or by email or online, various other columns with miscellaneous information relating to the job, and finally, a link to the original posting. This was enormously useful as it allowed me to look at all of the jobs I was applying to in "one glance", to sort by application deadline, AOS, etc.

For most jobs this worked fine. I was unlucky enough, though, that for one of the jobs I had an interview for, there was a (non-essential but useful) bit of information that I remember being in the original ad that I didn't actually save in my spreadsheet, and that disappeared when the job ad did. I managed to get it in some other way, luckily (through a friend). But in the future I will probably save the entire text in the folder on my hard drive that I have dedicated to the job posting. Or better yet, hopefully I will get a job and not have to bother with this stuff again for a while!

zombie said...

For online JFP job ads in the past, I copy/pasted the entire ad into a single text document. The only additional step this required was changing the font and size to conform to the entire document. This made is easier to access these ads (easier than going back to the website and scrolling through it) -- I had them all in a single document. After I completed the application, I would change the color of the text to reflect that. Obviously, this procedure would also prevent the loss of the ads should they be deleted at some later point. (It would not prevent me applying to a job that had been cancelled, however.)

This is a simple way to solve the problem of losing ads in the future. But it would be cool if APA had noted on their website that ads would disappear, newspaper want ad-style, after a certain date. I suppose the practice of removing the ads conforms to the way some other help wanted sites work w/r/t expired ads, but it is different from the way JFP ads used to work, so it is reasonable for experienced jobseekers used to the old system to expect it to be like the old system in that regard.

In any case, were the ads inaccessible via philjobs or HEJ? (In which case, use the wayback machine, as noted above, to find anything that has ever been on the web.)

Anonymous said...

Soooo tempted to run through the jobs wiki, flipping departments to "On-Campus Interviews Scheduled".

bwaaa hah hah hah hah

Anonymous said...

New thread idea, or not:

I'm interested in data on the stats of folks who do not get TT jobs or interviews. For now, just interviews. I'm interested 1] because, well, I'm obsessive about this like we all are, and the data that exist all concern people who got jobs (not very informative without info from the other side) 2] because I know some good people with good pubs who have struck out thus far, and 3] because I think publications are over-hyped as a way to get interviews/jobs. So I'll start us off, with the slight hope that others will follow suit.

Me: 6 publications; 0 TT interviews.

Of potential relevance: ABD; 0 pubs in 'top-10' generalist journals.

Anonymous said...

Is there an average wait-time between an interview and when you would be told you got a campus visit?

Anonymous said...

"I'm interested in data on the stats of folks who do not get TT jobs or interviews. For now, just interviews. I'm interested 1] because, well, I'm obsessive about this like we all are, and the data that exist all concern people who got jobs (not very informative without info from the other side) 2] because I know some good people with good pubs who have struck out thus far, and 3] because I think publications are over-hyped as a way to get interviews/jobs. So I'll start us off, with the slight hope that others will follow suit."

I like this idea, too. I think we need, though, finer-grained info on publications. Book chapters? Peer-reviewed? Specialist journals? Interdisciplinary? Leiter's top 20 journal? (http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2012/04/the-top-20-general-philosophy-journals.html)

Anonymous said...

re: "I think publications are over-hyped as a way to get interviews/jobs" (10:56 AM).

Me: 0 publications; 6 TT interviews, 1 VAP interview. ABD.

Anonymous said...

Me: 6 publications; 0 TT interviews. Of potential relevance: ABD; 0 pubs in 'top-10' generalist journals.

Do you have any teaching experience?

At the R1 where I was trained, they didn't care about teaching experience when they hired someone. But now I teach at a regional state U, and we care as much about teaching experience or competence as we do about publications.

So maybe it would help to break the data down a bit more, to track what sort of job interviews -- R1, Regional St U, SLAC, CC -- are not being gotten by whom with what experience.

Anonymous said...

6+ publications, including three in "top ten" generalist journals and another in a top specialist journal; 3 yrs teaching at a mid-tier SLAC; one campus invite and one shortlisting.

Anonymous said...

11:31

I agree (thus the admission of no 'top-10'), but as an initial proxy I thought this would do.

My pubs are in well-respected specialty peer-reviewed journals.

12:11-

What's your secret (if you aren't trolling)? I literally met no one with quite that many interviews at the APA.

Anonymous said...

So concerning internal candidates. In my experience (and the experience of everyone I know) the internal candidate has a *much less* than average shot at getting the job. The problem with internal candidates is that we know all of their flaws. They are boring. An outsider is, therefore, almost always more interesting than the internal guy/gal. Why go through all of this annoying work just to keep things the same?

Also internal candidates are often finalists for political reasons. So that later the SC can say, "Darn you were so close, but eventually the dean choose x. We are all heartbroken. Please keep adjuncting for us." If you are being considered along side an internal candidate you should have a little party inside your head. You are better off.

Anonymous said...

12:11 pm here. I'll be happy to share my speculations (whatever they're worth) if/when I have the good fortune of no longer being on the job market. Believe me, as an ABD, no publications candidate, I'm surprised. But I'm also not surprised, too, because I have a lot of other things going for me. Also, not all of my interviews were at the APA.

Anonymous said...

Probably useless anecdotal evidence re: interviews/publications. At my (Leiter top ten) institution, it seems the people who are really killing it with the interviews (both lots and at good places) all have zero publications; a couple people with one or two publications are doing pretty well, too. Most of the people not doing as well don't have publications either, though, but some of them do.

Anonymous said...

The fact that a disproportionate number of candidates from Leiterrific schools have zero publications is perfectly predictable.

If all grad students made a serious push to publish, then publication record would be the overwhelming predictor of publishing success going forward. By encouraging many of their students to hold back from publishing, Leiterrific departments block this signal.

Anonymous said...

"At my (Leiter top ten) institution, it seems the people who are really killing it with the interviews (both lots and at good places) all have zero publications; a couple people with one or two publications are doing pretty well, too. Most of the people not doing as well don't have publications either, though, but some of them do."

I've only been following this blog for a couple years, but it seems that every year, there are grad students who note that they are getting interviews without publications. Then, there are some grad students who have great publications, but no interviews. Some SC members pop in and note that publications, while important, do not solely define the merits of applicants.

And yet for some reason, many grad students single out publications as the marker by which they will define themselves.

Anonymous said...

@5:41

Likely because this is about the only distinguishing factor over which we have much control. Teaching: we all do as good as we can, and many are good teachers. Letters: we all network our asses off, and get good letters (it's unclear that the judgments of big-shots that distinguish good from purportedly superstar candidates are reliable, thought clearly search committees think so). Pedigree: some of us are screwed, and this obviously makes a huge difference.

Publications is one way to make up the gaps. Apparently it's not worth much, however.

Anonymous said...

Likely because this is about the only distinguishing factor over which we have much control. Teaching: we all do as good as we can, and many are good teachers.

I disagree. While it's true that many are good teachers, not everyone is savvy in cultivating his or her teaching portfolio. When I was recently on the market, I noticed some candidates would just teach the same course, or two, over and over. In contrast to this, I was an ABD candidate who aggressively sought out opportunities to teach new courses. Some of these fell within my AOS or AOCs, but many did not. The latter then served as evidence of, first, the breadth of my teaching experience and philosophical interests; and, second, my willingness to teach in areas outside of my AOS and AOCs. Committee members mentioned this as an asset during some of my on-campus interviews, and I think it was a contributing factor to my getting as many interviews as I did during my years on the market.

A propos the other new topic on this thread, I was ABD and without publications when I was offered not only a tenure-track job, but a fairly nice one.

I should say that teaching was not the only strength of my dossier. I also had strong research credentials for my AOS, and I was interviewed for a top 25 research position on the basis of those credentials (and despite not coming from a top 25 department).

At the end of the day, I knew that 80% of the jobs in philosophy are in departments which have as their primary institutional function undergraduate teaching. I cultivated a dossier which was sensitive to that, and eventually I got a break.

Anonymous said...

11:35, I was under the impression that you could list something under your AOC after having taught it. In fact, I was planning on doing this (I'm not on the market this year). What do others think about this practice?

One drawback is that I would no longer give the impression that I'm willing to teach something outside of my AOS/AOC.

Anonymous said...

11:35 (and others):

What are 'strong research credentials'? Your school is a good place for your AOS? You have letters from big-shots in your AOS? You attended a workshop in your AOS?

I would think that strong research credentials = publications or dissertation in your AOS.

Anonymous said...

"The latter then served as evidence of, first, the breadth of my teaching experience and philosophical interests; and, second, my willingness to teach in areas outside of my AOS and AOCs. Committee members mentioned this as an asset during some of my on-campus interviews, and I think it was a contributing factor to my getting as many interviews as I did during my years on the market."

This might be a factor, but it's not always that significant. I have done the same thing--teaching eight different courses as a graduate student with solid student/faculty/peer evaluations. I've been preparing for a job at a SLAC, which requires some breadth. Three publications, but nothing in top journals. Solid letters. One phone interview, no APA interviews.

Anonymous said...

Publications: too many. Interviews: too few. I actually did not think I would be that successful as I was putting together my portfolio, but my hopes got jacked up way high by people in my department (faculty and students) who kept singing my praises. Eventually I started to believe all the hype. So much so that I didn't think I could fail to be interviewed by any of the schools I applied to. That all made for one hell of a fucking let-down come Christmas-time.

Anonymous said...

because i like the idea suggested above:

1 forthcoming non-generalist pub; 3 yrs teaching experience; PhD from bottom of the Leiter rankings; 1 T-T skype interview and 1 T-T APA interview.

Anonymous said...

You know, there's something that almost never comes up, yet is vitally important. When y'all talk about applications, y'all focus on the content of those applications: the number of publications, the journals, how many courses one has taught, etc. There has also been some talk about the writing sample. However, I have seen almost no discussion about how to write a cover letter, and this is a huge oversight.

I've served on multiple searches, and I can tell you right now that one of the ways I thin the herd is the cover letter. You write a bad cover letter, and I'm nto even bothering to get to the rest of the application. Your cover letter is bad, I don't ever look at the CV. Polish that CV all you want, but sometimes it doesn't matter. You have to convince search committees to bother getting that far into your application.

For instance, if you spend more than a page describing your dissertation, I'm not interested. The cover letter is not the place for you to introduce the intricacies of every chapter; think broad strokes. Also, you don't get to describe your project as "ground-breaking." Nor do you get to quote your advisor calling your project ground-breaking.

I know that there's been much arguing on this blog about tailoring letters to schools. No, I don't think every school should get their own individual letter from applicants. However, this doesn't mean a copy of the same letter goes to every school. That is, a cover letter that doesn't address teaching probably won't fly with "teaching colleges" (probably in the same way that "research institutions" probably wouldn't care for a letter that didn't address research). Apply to the job being advertised, and that mean more than making sure you list the appropriate AOS/AOC.

And not for nothing, committees read lots of letters. If you use 8-point font, you're probably getting booted just for being a dick. And if you use 8-point font and still spend more than a page on your dissertation, you probably are a dick.

Taking a condescending tone can also land you in the circular file pretty quickly. Lots of grad students seem to think that faculty at E. Podunk College are under-educated dimwits who need stuff explained to them. They really don't. Some of them even went to Leiter-ranked institutions. Some of them - gasp! - may have chosen that institution for any of a number of personal reasons (spouse's job, good place to raise kids, family in the area, etc.). Don't use your cover letter as a place to "teach" the hiring committee.

Of course, given the number of qualified people looking for jobs, this is not to say that if you didn't get an interview, this is why. But certainly, it's true for some people. My advice is this: attend to the entire application. An pay very careful attention to the cover letter, because it's (often) the very first thing that gets read. The cover letter is your first impression, and it matters a great deal.

Anonymous said...

10 top 20 publications, some of those top 10

grad school at the bottom of the rankings

0 interviews

zombie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

@1:54

I do have teaching experience. I'm pursuing the breadth thing that others have talked about. And my course evals are through the roof.

-6 pubs 0 tt interviews person

I should add that I agree with those who want finer-grained info. There are in reality multiple job markets out there, and it's possible to do well in some and poorly in others. But we'd need multiple years of fine-grained info to get anything like a decent sample size.

Asstro said...

I want to agree with the point that 1:30 makes about cover letters and to revive the discussion on this topic from two years ago:

http://philosophysmoker.blogspot.com/2010/10/deep-thought-of-day.html

Don't ignore your cover letters. (Search under Asstro if you want my view on this.)

I feel like we had the same discussion last year too, but I can't find that thread.

Anonymous said...

I'm ABD, with a dissertation on a pretty obscure topic. I have to defend the fact that it is even philosophy to most people. I've got 6 pubs, all in top 10 specialty journals. I've got a little bit of teaching experience but not much. I had 2 tt APA interviews.

I'm not complaining. They're the interviews I would have predicted to get, given my AOS and dissertation topic, so all in all I consider the season a success so far. Just waiting by the phone now ...

Anonymous said...

6 pubs, 3 in top 15 journals. M+E field. Degree in hand. Teaching experience.

3 APA interviews, 1 skype, still some jobs left to update.

Non-Leiter canadian program. I spent a LOT of my time developing a solid application package.

No one's including gender information, but I'm female.

Anonymous said...

I want to add my two cents to what people have been saying about cover letters. Last year I got one interview, and that at a school I'd consider lousy on every level except location. This year I got three APA interviews, and all of them were at schools I'd consider quite good. I had a bit more teaching experience in some areas schools were looking for and I'd presented another paper, but that was it. However, I spent a lot more time on my cover letters than last year. I also had much better teaching and research statements than last year. Anyway, it's always hard to draw conclusions from such small samples and a limited number of trials, but it seems to me that the things that a lot of people consider the "small stuff" or even just pro forma BS are actually quite important.
Don't know if I'll get any flyouts from those, but at least the APA interviews are something.

Anonymous said...

"There are in reality multiple job markets out there, and it's possible to do well in some and poorly in others."

So true. Last year, I went on the market and had 7 TT interviews with Leiter-ranked PhD programs, including 3 flyouts.

But there were also dozens of teaching jobs I really wanted. I put tons of work into my teaching portfolio, tailored cover letters, etc. I landed only one interview at a non-R1 school. They spent the entire interview asking why I would want to come work for them, whether I would stay, etc.

Have any of you had sustained success in both markets? How did you do it?

Anonymous said...

11:35, I was under the impression that you could list something under your AOC after having taught it.

You should be aware that some, perhaps many, have more stringent requirements for claiming an area as an AOC. I've heard the following:

1) An AOC is an area in which you're prepared to teach an upper-level course on short (e.g. 2 weeks) notice. (I think this one's pretty standard).

2) An AOC is an area in which you intend to publish. (Personally, I think this is excessive, but I've heard it expressed).

I'd also say that a lot depends on the AOC in question. I suspect there's significant divergence in expectations for what's required to claim an AOC in, say, epistemology versus, say, Asian philosophy (criteria being more restrictive for the former than the latter).

Anonymous said...

You know, there's something that almost never comes up, yet is vitally important.

Sadly, I'd say this is true of the (to my mind, unjustified) bias that "PhD's go stale."

Anyone who knows how the economy has impacted the job market since 2008 should be aware that there are perfectly good, qualified people who were/are unlucky to be on the market in the aftermath of that mess.

My (ultimately successful) job market strategy banked on the presence of that bias. I was ABD with no pubs, and year after year I got interviews. My dossier had other assets, mind you, but "freshness" was one of them. I'm inclined to think that --as much as some in our profession might deny it-- "freshness" counts for more than publications.

Anonymous said...

11:35 wrote: "The latter then served as evidence of, first, the breadth of my teaching experience and philosophical interests; and, second, my willingness to teach in areas outside of my AOS and AOCs. Committee members mentioned this as an asset during some of my on-campus interviews, and I think it was a contributing factor to my getting as many interviews as I did during my years on the market."

11:45 then responded: This might be a factor, but it's not always that significant.


A prominent factor in one's job market strategy needn't "always" be significant. If it helps one get interviews and ultimately a job, then that's sufficient.

Anonymous said...

What are 'strong research credentials'? Your school is a good place for your AOS? You have letters from big-shots in your AOS? You attended a workshop in your AOS?

I would think that strong research credentials = publications or dissertation in your AOS.


If dissertations-in-progress count as a research credential, then every job market candidate has "strong research credentials." But I don't think that's the case.

Publications in top journals are one good indicator of strong research credentials, but they're not the only one. Training with --and being strongly endorsed by-- a leading scholar in one's AOS can also be very valuable.

Anonymous said...

Regarding 1:30's remarks about cover letters (and Asstro's follow up):

I think cover letters are worth getting "right" for the simple reason that some SC members think they are important. Accordingly, I'd recommend that job candidates fine tune these documents and tailor them (roughly) to types of schools.

However, having served on SCs, I don't pay much attention to cover letters. I don't think they tell me very much. I certainly don't think I can figure out (with any reliability) whether someone is a "dick" from a cover letter. And I while I don't think I'm particularly slow witted, perhaps the fact that I prefer painfully clear explanations of research projects indicates otherwise.

I think there's a lot of disagreement about the importance of cover letters. But a carefully crafted cover letter is unlikely to offend a reader who doesn't give a crap, while the "wrong" sort of cover letter will certainly annoy a reader who takes them as seriously as 1:30. Consequently, it seems wisest to devote time to trying to pitch the letter just right.

What counts as "just right" is of course another matter entirely and I have no idea what general guidelines will please everyone. I suspect candidates are (yet again) screwed in this respect.

Anonymous said...

"And I while I don't think I'm particularly slow witted, perhaps the fact that I prefer painfully clear explanations of research projects indicates otherwise."

I also appreciate clarity. However, I do not equate clarity with length.

--1:30

Anonymous said...

"A prominent factor in one's job market strategy needn't "always" be significant. If it helps one get interviews and ultimately a job, then that's sufficient."

Considering the fact that teaching a wide breadth of courses is *extremely* time-consuming, I think it does matter whether it's always or almost always significant. Some people think that at teaching-oriented schools, all that matters is teaching experience/excellence, so they spend almost all of their time designing and teaching new courses. Then when they hit the market, people with less teaching experience and more publications get the interviews at the teaching-oriented schools.

CC Prof said...

Out of curiosity: how many of you would take a permanent position at a community college (full salary with good benefits) with a 5/5/2 load at which you were the only philosopher teaching mostly Intro over and over again? I'm just curious, because I recently took such a job with great pleasure, and I'm starting to feel alienated from other members of the profession who believe (I think) that I am rather strange for taking pleasure in taking such a job.

Anonymous said...

@CC Prof: Is the 2 part of the 5/5/2 mandatory? In my experience community colleges generally work on a nine month academic calendar, with summer work paying extra. Does your school require you to teach two courses in the summer?

Also, I am finding myself drawn more and more to CC work. The more I read about rampant biases in the publishing world, the more I fear basing my entire case for tenure on pubs. Teaching well--which I take it is a primary criterion for tenure at CC's--is within my own sphere of influence.

CC Prof said...

@10:24:

Yes, the 2 part of the 5/5/2 is mandatory. The summer is split into two sessions, and I am required to teach in one of them. Mine is a 10-month contract. FWIW, I make 60k in a relatively low-cost-of-living area.

Tenure at my CC is based entirely on teaching, service, and professional development (teaching is 75% of this, service 15, pro dev 10). Keep in mind: many CCs do not have tenure, and permanent faculty are on basically infinitely renewable 3 or 4 or 5 year contracts, or something of that nature.

I happen to think that there is a lot to recommend taking a CC job. As long as you can still find a way to stay philosophically active, it can really afford you a great lifestyle. For me anyway, it is very nice to know that whether I will be able to feed my family in the future will not depend on how many articles I can get published in journals that only accept 5 to 10% of the papers they receive.

Anonymous said...

Dear CC prof,

I would love a job at a community college. How do you get one? How do I make myself attractive to cc search committees?

I've noticed that they often say in the ad that they prefer people with CC teaching experience. How strong is that preference?

I have a lot of good publications. Will that hurt my chances (worries about flight risk or whatever)?

Anonymous said...

@ CC Prof:

I did something similiar to you.

I took a TT job at a very small liberal arts school in a decent place to live with a low cost of living. Our tenure requirements are not hard. They involve professional development and university and community service. What counts as professional development is very broad. It can include just going to conferences without even presenting a paper, along with just presenting at a conference, or even just doing a book review.

Because tenure is not that hard to get where I teach, I also teach adjunct at another school to make extra money.

With all my income, I make around what the CC prof makes. I don't, however, anymore have a lot of time to publish. I still do try to publish, but it is not a big worry of mine. And, I ask myself, "Why should I try that hard to publish anyway?" Given the bad job market, even if I were to publish a lot, the chances of me moving up in academia are not good anwyay. And I don't have to publish a ton to get tenure where I am at. So why not just spend more of my extra time teaching adjunct to make extra money. If I spend my extra time working on articles, there is no guarantee they will get published, and, even if they do, I don't make any money.

I do like the security of my position too and I value that a lot. I am not sure if I will stay in academia forever anymore, but my view is that while life could be better, it could be a lot worse too.

Anonymous said...

"So why not just spend more of my extra time teaching adjunct to make extra money. If I spend my extra time working on articles, there is no guarantee they will get published, and, even if they do, I don't make any money."

Just a few threads ago, someone (a few someones?) complained about those faculty who stop publishing, suggesting that they were dead weight that needed to be removed from the profession to make room for the next generation. I disagree, and find the idea that publishing is the only metric of value to be short-sighted.

Remember, this is your job; it's how you pay the bills. It's not supposed to be the anything more than that. If you want to make more money by doing extra teaching, then do it. If it means you don't do as much research - and that's fine with you - then who cares what anyone else thinks? Being satisfied with your job is far more valuable than making sure other people approve of your career. And if you get tenure doing your thing, then you are valued by the only people in the field whose opinion matters.

CC Prof said...

Hi 1:05,

The sad truth is that I don't really know the answers to your questions. I just took the job last September, and I have been meaning to ask some of my colleagues who were on my search committee why exactly they chose me, but I've felt awkward about it and haven't yet. I intend to though. It was mentioned to me in passing though that they were impressed with the mere fact that I had a Ph.D., and one from a school that they all respected a lot (two of the SC members got their MA degrees at the same place). It was also mentioned to me in passing that my teaching experience at other CCs was in my favor as well.

I can tell you some things about me that might be helpful: defended in March 2010, had one pub in a good mid-tier journal at the time that I was offered the CC job, bottom of Leiter Report Ph.D program. I emphasized several times throughout the interview process that I wanted to work there because I wanted to be a teacher. I have to think they believed me, or at least didn't think I was lying, and that this helped me. Also, cover letters. This is important for community colleges. See here:

http://chronicle.com/article/The-Importance-of-Cover-Let/46090/

My impression (and again only my impression) is that pubs won't hurt you. What matters is that you are able to successfully communicate to them that you genuinely want the job and will stay in it for a while. The guy who had the job before me had several pubs when he got the job.

I stress the fact that I am the only full time philosopher at my college (there are adjuncts too, but they don't have offices and so are rarely seen). The people I see every day and share my professional life with are professors of things like developmental math and english, speech, etc., in addition to professors of the typical and traditional academic disciplines like psychology, political science, etc. CC profs are regular folks, not like typical academics in personality, most of whom don't have Ph.D.s, most of whom do not maintain research agendas, and the impression I get is that the last thing they want is a colleague next door with a chip on his shoulder because he is trying to "write his way out."

Hope that sheds some light on things. I should also mention - no publications are necessary for tenure at my CC. Professional development mostly includes things like going to pedagogical workshops. Publications and conference presentations count towards it, but are not necessary for it.

@1:12: Cheers.

Anonymous said...

1:42: Hear, Hear!

zombie said...

2:29: I did not. I always imagined myself teaching at a SLAC, I really wanted to teach at a SLAC, yet every interview I ever had was with medium-large universities, and that's where I ended up getting a job. I don't really know why. I tried just as hard when I applied to SLACs, but SCs seemed to view me as research-oriented. (Maybe it was my research postdoc.)

Anonymous said...

For those of you at community colleges: does geographical proximity play a big role? Does living in the area give on an advantage, or are searches as wide open geographically as they are at four year schools (assuming the latter are wide open, which they seem to be)?

DF said...

5:41 writes: “And yet for some reason, many grad students single out publications as the marker by which they will define themselves.”

To which 8:10 replies: “Likely because this is about the only distinguishing factor over which we have much control.”

I’ve been on many search committees over the years, and I find 8:10’s position—which seems common around here—a bit mind-boggling. It’s as if you don’t realize that search committees get to read work of yours. We don’t have to decide whether to interview you, or to hire you, on the basis of whether some anonymous referees thought your work was worth publishing in this or that journal. We get to read the work ourselves and make judgments about whether it’s merely publishable or really great. The key distinguishing factor over which you have control is: what are sending us to read?

Almost every academic I’ve ever known thinks that what gets published in professional journals is, by and large, pretty uninspiring. SCs are, in my experience, looking for someone whose work is not just publishable, but terrific. If I’m choosing between Candidate A, who has (what I judge to be) one or two fantastic writing samples and no publications, and Candidate B, who has one or two dull writing samples and many publications, I’ll choose A every time. (Indeed, I’ll vote not to hire at all this year over hiring Candidate B.) Wouldn’t you?

Anonymous said...

Wow, the bar is set pretty high eh? Our work not only has to be published, but it has to be "terrific" too.

Anonymous said...

6:24,

Did you not read the previous comment? No, your work does not have to be published. I agree with DF, and I'll try to explain why using baseball.

When you're drafting a pitcher, you're looking for promise, not accomplishment. You're looking for a good young arm that you can develop through the minor league system into a major league talent. If you spend all your time looking at that pitcher's win/loss record in college, you might get burned. The 10-3 pitcher might look better on paper than the 3-10 pitcher. But if the 3-10 pitcher never gave up more than one run per game and has a high strikeout-to-walk ratio, he's the one I want. Especially if the 10-3 pitcher had a high ERA but lots of run support.

We all know that there are "publishable" papers that don't get published. I bet everyone reading this blog has a story about an article that is clearly good enough, but has been rejected. One bad reviewer, internal politics at the journal, an editor pushing an agenda, etc., can all keep good material out of print. If publishing is your only benchmark, you might not actually find the best thinker. (I bet we can all also point to published work that we all find sub-par.)

Here's another one. I'm a professional scout looking at two different pitchers. Both throw 95 mph, but while one has perfect form, the other one has terrible form. Which one do I draft? I always draft the one with terrible form. Why? Because I trust my coaching staff to improve his game. The one with perfect form may have topped out; there's likely little room to improve. But the one with terrible form could really develop into something special.

Similarly, I have read papers that were perfectly polished but really didn't advance anything knew. But I've also read graduate student writing samples that, although unpolished and needing serious work, demonstrated truly original thinking. That's the person I want on my faculty. Through work with colleagues and quality mentorship, that young scholar could do wonderful thing in the field.

There's a common misconception that SCs are looking for the most professionally-developed young philosopher. And no doubt, some are. But from what I can tell, they are few and far between. Think about how many times someone here has complained about losing a job to someone "less qualified," which almost always means "has fewer publications." That unpublished writing sample that won him the job may have been brilliant, far more brilliant than any of a host of published papers in the same field.

Anonymous said...

@DF et al

There are two things. One is to get hired. The other is to not get cut in any of the initial stages. The second, as you can see, is necessary but not sufficient for the first.

I agree that publishedness is not what gets you hired, but from our collective anecdata, it seems to be one thing that helps with not get cut in some initial stage -- before committees can read the papers more carefully.

---

On the baseball analogy: What gets people (i.e. me) worried is precisely this. In the past, people have been very high on HS pitchers with "high potential". But as Billy Beane taught us, it's not clear that this is actually rational. Scouts confuses nice physique and throwing power with the ability to *pitch*. Drafting college pitchers actually turn out to be a better strategy because they have a better record for making longer term predictions--albeit still rather imperfectly.

I don't understand the pitching form analogy because I can't think of any real life example where it's actually been a good idea to take a pitcher with a "terrible form" and then try to change it.

Anyway, to repeat something that's been said on various forums: it's well known that people have an irrational preference for potential over achievement (especially baseball scouts!). Focusing more on publication records seems to be a way to guard against that.

See http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/10/lena_dunham_book_deal_people_value_potential_over_achievement_in_books_sports.html

Anonymous said...

6:24 said, "Wow, the bar is set pretty high eh? Our work not only has to be published, but it has to be "terrific" too."


7:51 responded, "Did you not read the previous comment? No, your work does not have to be published."

I am not 6:24, but one way to interpret this comment is to note that SOME search committees do want publications, and SOME apparently want "terrific" work. So in order to maximize one's chances, one must publish, but not just publish, but publish "terrific" papers. In other words, in order to be an attractive candidate for the largest number of search committees, one must (1) publish papers that are (2) "terrific." While some search committees are looking for (1), some are looking for (2), so now we have to make sure we achieve BOTH (1) and (2).

Anonymous said...

Thank god there are at least some departments out there that just want good teachers.

Anonymous said...

@DF:

I find your perspective a bit mind-boggling. I'm not only trying to publish, I'm trying to write the most interesting stuff possible. I send in writing samples that I hope are not only polished and substantive, but interesting. Unfortunately, almost every academic I’ve ever known has a view of what counts as interesting that is, by and large, pretty uninspiring.

Also unfortunately, as mentioned already, almost no SCs read writing samples until they are deep into the process. Anecdotes suggest that the samples sometimes don't get read until the on-campus stage, if at all.

Finally, I often see people recycle the 'I don't need a journal to tell me what's good' line. Maybe, but I doubt you aren't biased by journal names (or school names or letter writer names, for that matter. Plenty of reason to think otherwise.

DF said...

12:51 writes in reply to my post above: “I find your perspective a bit mind-boggling. I'm not only trying to publish, I'm trying to write the most interesting stuff possible. I send in writing samples that I hope are not only polished and substantive, but interesting. Unfortunately, almost every academic I’ve ever known has a view of what counts as interesting that is, by and large, pretty uninspiring.”

I guess I don’t see how this speaks to anything that I wrote above. I was responding to the suggestion that “about the only distinguishing factor over which we have much control” is publication. My point was that a much more important distinguishing factor over which you have a good deal of control is the writing sample(s) that you send out with your application. I see how it might be difficult for you to get a job if your sense of what’s philosophically interesting diverges dramatically from that of the SCs that are looking over your application. Nonetheless, if your aim is for members of a SC to want to, first, interview and, then, hire you, you need to convince them that your work is—not only very interesting, but—better than that of the other applicants they are considering. You don’t need to convince them that you’ve published more than the other applicants.

12:51 continues: “Also unfortunately, as mentioned already, almost no SCs read writing samples until they are deep into the process. Anecdotes suggest that the samples sometimes don't get read until the on-campus stage, if at all.”

Something that often seems to be misunderstood in posts here is how deeply invested the members of philosophy departments tend to be in finding excellent colleagues—people about whom they’re really excited. In my department, we don’t admit an undergraduate to our Ph.D. program before her writing sample has been read and commented on by several faculty members. The idea that we would waste one of our few precious interview slots on someone whose work we hadn’t bothered to read—that we would decide whether someone’s work was among the best we’d received just by looking to see if/where it had been published—is, it seems to me, self-defeatingly cynical.

12:51 concludes: “Finally, I often see people recycle the 'I don't need a journal to tell me what's good' line. Maybe, but I doubt you aren't biased by journal names (or school names or letter writer names, for that matter). Plenty of reason to think otherwise.”

I never suggested that publishing does you no good. I certainly didn’t suggest that letters from well-known philosophers make no difference. By all means, do everything you can to “bias” us in your favor. My point was just that the main thing we’re looking for is someone who does (what we judge to be) terrific work, not someone who is well-published. Moreover, in my experience, whether/where a paper has been published is not at all a good indicator of whether or not SC members will judge it to be terrific.

Anonymous said...

7:51 here again.

"I don't understand the pitching form analogy because I can't think of any real life example where it's actually been a good idea to take a pitcher with a "terrible form" and then try to change it."

You want an actual pitcher who had bad form when he was drafted? Joba Chamberlain. According to many scouts, the reason why he suffered damage to his arm in college was that his form was bad. (This is not, I will note, a universal assessment.) A number of teams were interested in drafting him, but passed (he was a top prospect who was drafted 41st overall) in large part because they didn't know if they could change his pitching motion sufficiently to both keep him effective and refrain from damaging his arm. And while he had a brief flash of absolute brilliance, many baseball writers blame the Yankees for his later troubles because he couldn't handle starting and pitching from the bullpen off and on.

(In the event you want a batter, Wily Mo Pena is an example of a hitter with absolutely terrible plate recognition and bad form, often over-swinging. When he hits the ball, he crushes it. But multiple teams tried working with him, thinking that if they change his approach to then plate and change his swing, he could become a top talent.)

Of course, you may note that both players have had brief and relatively unsuccessful careers in the majors. And that's true. Drafting for potential over proven success can be risky. Of course, drafting proven success over performance can also be risky. For every Bryce Harper there is a Tim Beckham; for every David Price there is Luke Hochevar. (Anyone here know what Bryan Bullington is doing right now?)

Here's my point: too many people here mistakenly assume that publications are and should be the most significant factor in hiring. And for some schools, certainly, they are. For me, publications are important because they demonstrate the ability to finish a project. However, finishing a project is only one kind of skill, and while important, is not the most important attribute I want in a colleague. And the fact that every year numerous people on this blog note that they lost interviews and jobs to people with worse publication records, suggests that I am far from alone in this.

Anonymous said...

"drafting proven success over performance"

Of course, I meant to type "drafting proven success over potential." Apologies.

Mr. Zero said...

if your aim is for members of a SC to want to, first, interview and, then, hire you, you need to convince them that your work is—not only very interesting, but—better than that of the other applicants they are considering. You don’t need to convince them that you’ve published more than the other applicants.

I think it's pretty clear that these two aims are logically, conceptually, metaphysically, and in a variety of other ways, distinct. Being able to get lots of publications, or even lots of publications in good places, is neither necessary nor sufficient for being able to produce good, interesting, and original work.

However, it's not as though they're unrelated. If your paper's in PPR or Phil Review or Mind or whatever, that means something, even if lots of shitty papers find their way into those and other journals and lots of terrific papers don't. And it's not as though you'd work hard to write good, interesting, and original papers without also working hard to get them published in good places. Writing good papers and getting one's work published go hand in hand.

The idea that we would waste one of our few precious interview slots on someone whose work we hadn’t bothered to read... is, it seems to me, self-defeatingly cynical.

I kind of agree with you, here, but I also kind of don't. I see things your way, and I'd like to think that's how I'd behave given the chance. And I've been interviewed by people who saw things your way--who read my writing sample carefully, and also read a bunch of my other published work and had a lot of interesting and penetrating questions and comments. It's a great experience when that happens.

But I know that not everyone sees things our way. I know this because I have been interviewed by some of them. I have been interviewed by people who clearly had not read my writing sample. I have been interviewed by people who did not know the area of my writing sample. On a flyout, one of the main interviewers: "I really liked your paper on free will, and I'm looking forward to asking you about it." I don't have a paper on free will. I described the paper I did send, but it didn't ring a bell.

And none of this touches the larger point that, in general, writing samples aren't read until the list becomes manageable; you need other things, like publications, to keep yourself from getting cut on the way to a manageable list.

In conclusion, I suspect that you are less typical than you seem to think you are.

Anonymous said...

@DF
I should have noted that I wish others took your approach. But I agree with Zero that it is atypical. Many of us speak of publications as a proxy for the kind of candidate we hope we are not because we think publications are all there is, but because these are significant achievements, they often reflect a *number* of other good features of a candidate (more so, I'd wager, than other well-known proxies such as pedigree and fame of letter writers) (oh, and in addition to just the 'ability to finish a project' - that seems far too dismissive of all that goes into getting a good publication), and because it is difficult to measure yourself with others in terms of teaching, interestingness, and so on.

Is it wise to measure yourself against others? I think not. I try to avoid it. But if one is trying to assess the responses of not one, but (say) 65 departments in one hiring cycle, publications should be a reliable predictor of success. That the available data suggests they are not is dismaying (to me).

Anonymous said...

@7:51/2:28

It's true that for any anecdote you can find another anecdote, but I think general patterns are more meaningful. And the general pattern is that college pitchers, who have more proven success, tend to produce more value in their career than high school pitchers, who have more potential. (There is some debate about whether high school pitchers are more likely to turn into superstars.) See:

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=neyer_rob&id=1811682
http://www.basement-dwellers.com/2006/04/drafting-strategies-high-school-vs.html
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704002104575290951870151626.html

If baseball is a good analogy, then the smart money really should be on scholars who have more of a proven record, because their future success is more projectable. Alas, many philosophy search committees seem to continue to function like Kansas City Royals' front office.

In fact, baseball front offices seem to be learning faster (to draft high school pitchers lower) than philosopher search committees, as shown in this most recent article:

http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/23379/once-turkeys-high-school-pitchers-now-stars

Jill Bames said...

If baseball is a good analogy, we should hire philosophers right out of high school, but only if they seem exceptionally promising.

Anonymous said...

3:55,

The baseball analogy was mine, and I would say that hiring out of the PhD is the equivalent to drafting out of high school.

Can you do the job right out of a PhD program? Absolutely. However, I can't think of a single reason why any department would pass on those who have adjuncted a few years, who possess more teaching experience. I don't believe that PhDs go stale after a few years, and more big league experience is certainly better. However, some schools not only prefer to draft out of high school, they have now started writing ads telling the college athletes to stay away.

Anonymous said...

Suppose 11:53 is right when she claims that one problem with the baseball parallel is that baseball scouts have been shown to have preferences for potential over performance which are demonstrably irrational. That is, suppose past performance is indeed a better predictor of future performance than a scout's judgement of potential. The relevant question when we switch back to philosophy is: What performance are we talking about? Suppose what DF is assessing when on a search committee is: How likely is the candidate to produce more published papers in the future? If this is what DF is assessing, then I agree that 11:53s observation about irrational bias towards potential shows that DF is going about his duties irrationally. But I took it to be implicit in what DF said that the search for a future colleague involves more than looking for somebody who can publish a lot. I take it that DF would prefer a colleague who is an excellent philosopher (in DFs opinion), whose publications are few but of high quality, over a colleague who is an OK philosopher and publishes a lot of OK stuff.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the initial baseball analogy is that W/L records are poor indicators of a pitcher's success, FOR EVERYONE. W/L records depend on a team's offense and a bunch of other factors that pitchers have no control over. W/L records in college are not projectable for future pro success because of that.

But other stats, such as BB/K rate and WHIP are better indicators of success (with appropriate translations) because those are indicators of skill. The competition level changes so skills may manifest differently, but that we can take into account.

Question: are publications more like W/L or BB/K? I suspect this is where we disagree. Even with all the noise in the referee process, I think publications are still fairly good indicators of skill, which are projectable into the future. This stat is not very meaningful when it comes to comparing people straight outta grad school because the sample size is too small, but it can be quite meaningful for comparing people who have been on fixed term positions.

The hard part, of course, is comparing straight outta-grad-schoolers with fixed-termers. And here, reasonable disagreements can be had about the weight to put on publications. What's clearly wrong, though, is to apply the same metric the same exact way to these candidates of different types. The fact that fixed-termers have some past records of success should be taken more seriously than some comments here have suggested.

P.S. Luv ya Jill Bames!

Anonymous said...

"W/L records depend on a team's offense and a bunch of other factors that pitchers have no control over. W/L records in college are not projectable for future pro success because of that."

Exactly! Of course, this doesn't stop otherwise very smart scouts from fetishizing W/L records. Nor does it stop sports reporters from citing W/L records when writing about prospects. Nor does it stop when we hit the majors. Just look at how many people were (wrongly) outraged at first when Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young, because they couldn't get past the fact that his W/L record was a better reflection of his team's offense than his pitching performance. (Some people still think that C.C. Sabathia was robbed that year.)

This is what so many people here seem to misunderstand about the job market. I'm equating W/L record to publications. Yes, publications are good; so too are wins. However, an unpublished paper should not be seen as a loss. That is, should an applicant send a dynamite writing sample, the quality of the paper should outweigh whether or not it was published. W/L records, for casual fans, are a quick and fairly inaccurate means of determining the pitcher's talent. A list of publications on the CV is, in my opinion, similarly misleading. Applicant A may have 2 good published papers, while Applicant B may have none. But if Applicant's B's writing sample is stronger, for me, that's the ballgame. I care more about quality work than I do about whether or not it's published.

Consider this: the fact that I have published 3 books should not be taken to mean that I am 3X the philosopher as anyone who has only published one, even if my CV seems to suggest that to anyone taking only a casual look at my credentials. We all know this. And yet when people complain about the market, it's quite common to hear things like, "So-and-so got the job instead of me, but I have published twice as many articles!"

And yes, I'm also suggesting that everyone not on a SC who comments on the result of that search is the equivalent of the casual sports fan. Because most people only have access to the CV - should it be posted online, or should someone take the time to dig up one's publication record - they cannot be as well-informed as the SC members, who have a full application to look at as well as the interview experiences. My larger point with the baseball analogy is that a good SC, like a good scout, looks at the entire picture, as opposed to fetishizing one (potentially misleading) stat. It would appear that when it comes to the market, too many philosophers fetishize one (potentially misleading) stat, and then complain when that stat isn't the determining factor in hires.

Mr. Zero said...

I'm really enjoying this baseball discussion. One thing I wonder about, though. While I understand why a pitcher's W/L record is not predictive of future performance--it's affected by all kinds of distortions, including run support, defense, bloops at the wrong time, etc--I don't see why you'd think the same thing about a publication record. Particularly a strong publication record.

Of course there's no real reason to think that the person with no pubs would have to be a less talented philosopher than the person with 10, I don't see why having 10 pubs wouldn't be at least somewhat predictive of an ability to get more in the future. Is there some distorting factor, similar to the so-so pitcher whose excellent run-support allows him to accumulate a bunch of wins, that should make us suspicious of the power of past pubs to predict future pubs? Or are there numbers that suggest that past pubs fail to predict future pubs?

Anonymous said...

"And yes, I'm also suggesting that everyone not on a SC who comments on the result of that search is the equivalent of the casual sports fan. Because most people only have access to the CV - should it be posted online, or should someone take the time to dig up one's publication record - they cannot be as well-informed as the SC members, who have a full application to look at as well as the interview experiences. My larger point with the baseball analogy is that a good SC, like a good scout, looks at the entire picture, as opposed to fetishizing one (potentially misleading) stat. It would appear that when it comes to the market, too many philosophers fetishize one (potentially misleading) stat, and then complain when that stat isn't the determining factor in hires."

I don't see how this follows. More data don't necessarily make one more informed. If the numerous studies that people continually cite are right, interviews are especially apt to misdirect search committees in the same way that players' physiques misdirect scouts. Indeed, Bill James and other sabermetricians did better than many old-school professional scouts despite lacking the up-close-and-personal experiences that scouts have.

It could be that those of us not on search committees are like casual sports fans. But it could also be that those of us not on search committees are like sabermatricians, who can focus on metrics predictive of future success (and it seem like publication records, in the long run, is imperfectly predictive of career success) while ignoring irrelevant ones like interviews and "collegiality" etc.

If anything, I think what we miss are the letters, which are at least valuable for network effects that may aid one's career in the future. However, I suspect the often-scorned "pedigree" acts as a fairly good proxy for that.

P.S. Don't strawman the publication-advocates. No one is doing a simple counting. Even a simplistic look would involve weighing by journal prestige, ala what Charles Pidgen said on Leiter's blog.

Anonymous said...

"Or are there numbers that suggest that past pubs fail to predict future pubs?"

I guess what could be predicted is rate of publication. If someone has ten publications in five years, this is two a year. So maybe we can predict the same rate in the future. But with someone right out of a pedigreed PhD program with no publications, but an "aura" of promise, a SC might (irrationally) predict four or five pubs a year. Or more! Why the sky's the limit!

Anonymous said...

Zero,

Thanks. I like baseball. I try to talk about it as much as possible.

"While I understand why a pitcher's W/L record is not predictive of future performance--it's affected by all kinds of distortions, including run support, defense, bloops at the wrong time, etc--I don't see why you'd think the same thing about a publication record. Particularly a strong publication record. "

Now you have hit on it. Because not all publication records are equal. An excellent W/L record in a weak division, against poor offenses, isn't terribly impressive. I'm not saying that a strong publication record is irrelevant. I'm saying that a publication record is only one factor, and one that has to be weighed against other factors in ways that some people seem to refuse to do. Also, where papers are published matters a great deal. If you're going to weigh W/L records, you need to consider the division. If publications matter, then the merit of the journals matters. In short, I see lots of people (on this blog and in person) try to boil down hiring decisions to publications, which I think is shortsighted.

11:48,

"But it could also be that those of us not on search committees are like sabermatricians, who can focus on metrics predictive of future success (and it seem like publication records, in the long run, is imperfectly predictive of career success) while ignoring irrelevant ones like interviews and "collegiality" etc."

Except that sabermetricians have data, lots of data, which despite your claim does make one more informed. (Yes, there can be irrelevant and even counter-productive data, which means that more of the right kind of data is needed. But that's not the same thing as saying that "More data don't necessarily make one more informed.") So is there data? Or rather, will anyone bother gathering it? Show me the stats. If publication records are imperfectly predictive and interviews are irrelevant, what stats should SCs be focused on, and where is the data supporting that?

There have been more than a few SC members coing by and explaining how and why they decide the way they do. Sometimes they are praised; sometimes not. Often, there's disagreement. And that's fine. But if some people out there are going to say that the way many SCs operate is faulty, I want the stats. I wasn't a fan of sabermetrics at first, but I was convinced. I'm willing to reconsider my thoughts on SCs, but only after I see some stats.

Anonymous said...

"An excellent W/L record in a weak division, against poor offenses, isn't terribly impressive. I'm not saying that a strong publication record is irrelevant. I'm saying that a publication record is only one factor, and one that has to be weighed against other factors in ways that some people seem to refuse to do. Also, where papers are published matters a great deal."

Again, I don't think anyone just does raw counts -- certainly not when we can, you know, look at the CV! The weak division / poor offense analogy literally makes zero sense in the publication context. Grad students, lecturers, TT professors, named chair professors all play in the same league when it comes to publications, so to speak. The fact that I can get into some place like Nous as a graduate student is a good indicator that I can get into some place like Nous as a TT professor.

There are plenty of data from social psychology on why most interviews that philosophers conduct make for poor evidence. No need to rehash this one again. That is, the things you cite as privileged to SC members are things that make for bad data in talent evaluation. Would more data be better? Sure. But not looking at counterproductive data is good too.

Mr. Zero said...

I'm saying that a publication record is only one factor, and one that has to be weighed against other factors in ways that some people seem to refuse to do.

I'm not sure who you mean. Did somebody say that the publication record is the only meaningful factor? If it happened, I didn't catch it.

Also, where papers are published matters a great deal. If you're going to weigh W/L records, you need to consider the division.

I'm not sure who denied this, either. I thought that people were saying that the reason candidates focus on publications rather than other things is that one's publication record is more directly under one's control than some of the other factors. (Not that it's perfectly under one's control, or anything.) Sort of like a pitching prospect focusing on getting more Ks and allowing fewer BBs instead of her W/L record.

But I can't recall anyone suggesting that candidates should attempt to compile as many publications as much as possible, irrespective of venue. Or that we should compile as many publications as possible without worrying about whether the papers were any good. Or that we should worry about publications but not about having a high-quality, interesting, and original writing sample. I just can't think of anything that I'd feel comfortable interpreting this way.

And so I'm just not sure what, exactly, is supposed to be the analogue of the pre-sabermetric approach, why it's supposed to be the pre-sabermetric analogue, and what is literally supposed to be wrong with it.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I missed where the claims you're disputing were made. (If so, could somebody help me out?) Maybe I'm mixing up different comments from different people--it's hard to tell who's who. If so, sorry.

Anonymous said...

"Don't strawman the publication-advocates"

Plenty of strawmanning to go around, seems to me.

Nobody in the beyond-pubs crowd has suggested that past publications don't predict future publications (could anyone deny this?). Or that publications don't indicate at least some level of potential to produce quality work.

It's just that decent research departments aren't trying to separate the publishers from the non-publishers; they want the people who will produce high quality work (of the "Wow" or "How did she think of that?" variety), over those who will produce merely publishable work (good though that is).

A writing sample is a better indicator of the ability to produce beyond-publishable-quality (PBQ) work than either number or placement of publications.

Anonymous said...

"It's just that decent research departments aren't trying to separate the publishers from the non-publishers; they want the people who will produce high quality work (of the "Wow" or "How did she think of that?" variety), over those who will produce merely publishable work (good though that is)."

I suspect that it's more than research departments. But what I want to know is when did the baseline requirements move from "publishable work (good though that is)" to "quality work (of the "Wow" or "How did she think of that?" variety)"? In the past this latter kind of work got you interviews and jobs in R1 universities, but no one needed this kind of work in order to get interviews at medium universities and SLACs, but now, with a buyer's market, it seems that every department only wants candidates featuring the "Wow" work. But now candidates with good publishable and/or published work will languish or leave the profession altogether.

Anonymous said...

"A writing sample is a better indicator of the ability to produce beyond-publishable-quality (PBQ) work than either number or placement of publications."

I just don't get that. Go back to the baseball analogy. Placing so much weight on the writing sample--the best work that a person has---is like evaluating pitchers by their best one-game performances. On this metric, Philip Humber and Dallas Braden and Armando Galarraga come out as better pitchers than Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux. That's insane. (Yeah, I'm dramatizing.) Presumably even decent research departments should care about projectability.

Perhaps we differ in background theory about how good works get made. I think good works come from working a lot at it, and through incremental improvements. That's why I think consistently being able to put out good works should count for not just future ability to put out good works, but also a bit for future ability to put out BPQ works.

Can you say a little more why you think one writing sample is a good indicator of future BPQ works? What about the writing sample serves as a good indicator of projectability?

Anonymous said...

@626.

My comparison was not between one great performance (eg. a great writing sampe) and, say, 5 or 10. It was, rather, between one excellent writing sample and the FACT that one is well-published.

Some departments are more afraid of hiring a merely publishable candidate (as opposed to BPQ) than one who will fail to publish at all.

For such departments, assume that a candidate's sample is her best work. In that case, if Candidate A's sample is BPQ and B's is merely publishable, the department has a pretty good indicator who to hire, regardless of overall publication record.

Anonymous said...

@7:30

I feel like we were talking past. I chose those pitchers intentionally. Humber, Braden, and Galarraga had perfect games. Can't get more excellent than that. Maddux and Clemens never had perfect games, but were consistently awesome. In fact, Humber, Braden, and Galarraga are all average or below for their whole career. So any player who consistently pitches quite well -- i.e. above average -- would have them beat, career-wise.

So, between one perfect game tape and the FACT that one is well published (in this case, having a good percentage of quality starts?), I'd still take the FACT.

If you don't like perfect games, we can use no-hitters, or one-hitters, or whatever. The point is that one instance of above some threshold seems to be very poor indicator of future instances of being above some threshold. Whereas a history of being above some lower threshold seems to be a good indicator of being above that threshold.

If you're in the business of dreaming about potential, then dream on based on the one writing sample. But if you're in the business of trying to predict future success, that method seems not so good. In an ideal world, we'd all read everything everyone ever wrote. But for now, we need to think about what's an efficient shortcut that is relatively predictive.

Anonymous said...

"Placing so much weight on the writing sample--the best work that a person has---is like evaluating pitchers by their best one-game performances. On this metric, Philip Humber and Dallas Braden and Armando Galarraga come out as better pitchers than Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux."

That's only true based on how you judge a pitcher's best game. Roger Clemens struck out 20 batters in two different games. None of the other pitchers you named did that even once. And he didn't walk a single batter in either game.

No matter what metric you use, someone will find fault with it.

Anonymous said...

@904

Me again. I'm betting that one great performance, above a threshold, is a better indicator of being able to perform above that threshold than many good performances that are not quite there.

Some departments are just not that worried about whether their hires will regularly put out publishable articles. But they strongly do NOT want to invest in someone who can't wow. If a candidate's best work is not wow, beyond publishable quality (BPQ), then it's hard to justify hiring him, even if he consistently almost wows.

In fact, if anything the consistent record of not-quite-wow papers tends to reinforce the suspicion that he doesn't quite have what it takes to wow.

Anonymous said...

One issue that hasn't been broached in the discussion of the relative weight to put on writing samples vs. publication record is that of epistemic peers (or even perhaps epistemic superiors) and one's own fallibility. I've been on a lot of search committees, and I think (maybe wrongly) that I'm pretty good at philosophy. But in most searches, we're looking for somebody who works far outside of my AOS. While I read writing samples carefully, I take my own judgment of them with a large grain of salt, especially whether I have a "wow!" reaction. While peer review obvious has its own serious limitations, if a candidate has been piling up a good record a publications in prestigious and competitive journals, it means that lots of specialists in his area have judged (and hopefully blindly) that her work is good enough to get into journal X, where X is pretty damn good. That says something.

Anonymous said...

Hiring committees at different schools implement a range of different criteria. This discussion, following DF's comment, is really only applicable to searches at (what I believe to be) a very small set of elite schools. It's not completely absurd to try to figure out the most rational selection process for such schools, I suppose (with all the analysis of various baseball analogies). I like baseball too. But, the discussion is certainly irrelevant to hiring at many schools. Of course, the tight market has moved some weaker places into the big-time, given search committees hopes of hiring someone who in former years might have gone to the Yankees, I mean Princeton. But all the hires at all the Leiter ranked schools are still just a fraction of the total hires made.

For many search committees, the point of using publication as a criterion for the hire is not that the department really wants a terrific creative mind which showers them all with a trickle-down glow or something. It's that they are all busy and hiring is a pain in the neck. If they hire someone who turns out not to publish (or publish enough) then they are going to have to release that person (deny them reappointment or tenure) and do another f-ing search. And what most people in most departments want from their colleagues is someone who will carry her/his fair share of the service load, teach without having students crying about his/her incompetence, and have a successful enough career that the admin is kept happy. If a candidate already demonstrates that s/he knows how to get a paper into a journal, that's one serious worry off the table.

Most of you: try not to get discouraged by the elitist crap. You're not getting the job at NYU and won't be subject to their hiring criteria and their tenure process. (And thank goodness for that!)

Anonymous said...

On this WOW shit:

200 people get hired in a bad year. How many of those are doing WOW work? What is this work (any examples from, say, 2012?)?

Also, can we possibly get any less clear about what makes for a good hire? I like to see SC members try.

Anonymous said...

Grad student here:

Could we maybe get an alternative plan/Plan B SUCCESS/ADVICE thread going? I'm not as interested in what current philosophers think people could do for work, but rather what people who left grad programs are ACTUALLY doing for work and how they found it, why they left, etc. I do realize that those people likely would not frequent the Smoker blog, but maybe people who still keep in touch with friends who left their program could chime in.

Anonymous said...

Another good thing about giving significant weight to publications is that one's perception of which writing samples deserve a "Wow" response is likely to be influenced by various biases, including those involving one's knowledge of where and with whom the person studied. By contrast, since published work is blind-reviewed, publication in a top journal presumably shows that a person's work has been viewed as excellent even by those who don't have any idea who he or she is. Of course this doesn't mean that writing samples shouldn't be considered AT ALL, but it certainly speaks in favor of giving significant weight to publications.

Anonymous said...

"In fact, if anything the consistent record of not-quite-wow papers tends to reinforce the suspicion that he doesn't quite have what it takes to wow."

How would you have this evidence? You're actually gonna read a bunch of candidates' 7 papers over the last 3 years? No. At most, you get that the one writing sample doesn't WOW you (which, as others pointed out, has worries that involve all sorts of biases.) The publication record only shows that the person has a consistent record of publishable papers. If you infer from that to a consistent record of not-WOW papers... well, that's a huge reasoning mistake.

Again: look at the many one-hit wonders of perfect gamers, one-hitters, etc. Depending on what counts as WOW, your prior should be fairly low anyway. If you move too much from your priors from the evidence of one writing sample, then I'm pretty sure you're not updating correctly.