Monday, November 30, 2015

Eastern APA -- Should you go?

Interview season begins soon. (Or is already underway -- I had a first-round in October, others seem to be scheduling, according to the wiki.) Eastern APA is now in early January, having moved from the much-reviled end-of-year holiday squeeze. It no longer functions as a major job market stop, with fewer and fewer search committees, it appears, opting to do first-round interviews in person. All to the good. The cost and hassle of traveling to E-APA for job interviews, particularly in an ever-tightening market, was a substantial burden to many job-seekers.

In grad school, an advisor told me to never go to E-APA unless I had interviews, and I never have. My first trip there, in 2009, I had one. It was a pretty miserable interview, with a fairly obnoxious search committee. No fly-out. My last trip to E-APA was in 2010 -- the year of the Boston snowpocalypse. As I recall, that year I had three interviews. None of them resulted in a fly-out either, but I did get a TT job at a university that skipped first rounds entirely and went straight to fly-outs. I was fortunate that the E-APA locations during my years were drivable for me, and I didn't have to fork over a ton of money to go.

In the years since, there's been a big shift towards phone or Skype interviews. I've applied for jobs here and there, and in every case where I was offered APA or Skype, I opted for Skype. In every case, I also got a fly-out. As I discussed here last year, I haven't personally encountered any drawbacks to interviewing via Skype instead of in person.

I see some job ads, though, in which the committee announces that they will be doing interviews at E-APA. Some also note that they'll offer a Skype option in special cases. If there's a Skype option, I say take it, unless you're planning to go to E-APA anyway. The dilemma occurs when the department insists on E-APA interviews, or nothing, and you are not otherwise going. Is it worth going? Going into debt? When you're one of maybe 12 first-round candidates, and a typical 3 will get a fly-out, you have 1:3 odds of being a finalist, which isn't terribly bad (unless you're one of the 9 who didn't succeed). You have 1:2 odds of success at the fly-out (assuming 3 finalists), with a significant difference being that the department (usually) pays your way to the campus visit (and if they don't, screw 'em). Are you feeling lucky?

Good luck with those interviews!

This is an open discussion thread.

~zombie

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey everyone, let's keep the wiki updated:
http://phylo.info/jobs/wiki

Janet D. Stemwedel said...

I'm curious to know how searches who do first-round interviews at E-APA *or* via Skype are achieving something like consistency across the interviews. (When my department searched last year, we did all Skype/no E-APA, and even then it took a concerted effort among the members of the committee to maintain the level of consistency that's supposed to help minimize the "noise" in the interviews.)

Anonymous said...

Are departments behind the usual timeframe for scheduling first round interviews? Not even 10% of the jobs I've applied to have scheduled them.

Anonymous said...

"Are departments behind the usual timeframe for scheduling first round interviews?"

If so (assuming that we aren't seeing a result of people not posting updates on the wiki), I wonder if it's due to a combination of (a) later APA Eastern and (b) end of the term responsibilities. And if this is the case, I also wonder if this might be the new normal.

zombie said...

Janet, I'm not sure what "noise" you're talking about. But in terms of consistency, I had an interview a few years ago where the SC called me from a hotel room at APA. So, they were doing FTF interviews at APA, and at the same time, doing Skype interviews. There were a few glitches due to a poor connection, but overall, the interview experience for me was pretty good. Presumably it was OK on the other end -- I was invited to campus.

My experience has been that Skype connections are improving -- I do them fairly often and haven't had many issues of late. It's also important that both the interviewers and the interviewee do them where they can get a good connection, preferably with ethernet rather than wifi.

Janet D. Stemwedel said...

I actually meant "noise" in the information sense ("signal vs. noise") rather than in any sense that depends primarily on one's Skype settings. So, trying to achieve enough consistency across interviews (same exact questions, asked in the same order, etc.) that the information the candidate provides is primarily a matter of their answers to the questions, rather than some feature of the environment that is stealthily making the search committee feel positively or negatively toward the candidate.

I don't have compelling evidence that having some interviews by Skype and others face-to-face is enough of a break with consistency that it would bias the results one way or another. On the other hand, I'm not confident that it's reasonable to assume that no bias would creep in that ended up favoring folks you'd interviewed via one mode over those you'd interviewed via the other.

zombie said...

If you're going to do some by Skype, I don't know why you wouldn't just do all of them that way. Saves everyone the money, travel, and hassle.

Janet D. Stemwedel said...

Absolutely (and that's how our search did it). I'm just trying to understand the reasoning of the departments that do some of each.

Anonymous said...

"Absolutely (and that's how our search did it). I'm just trying to understand the reasoning of the departments that do some of each."

Some departments hold onto the belief that there is something special about an in-person interview, as if being close enough to smell the applicants grants some sort of special insight. Some of these department are trying mixed interview formats because they are unconvinced that talking to someone on screen is fundamentally not much different than talking to someone in the same room.

Anonymous said...

Here's a question I've been wondering about: Do departments still usually go for roughly 12 first round interviewees with Skype? Most jobs outside of academia will only interview 5 or 6 people for the first round, and then do more if those turn out to be disasters. I wondered if departments had went to doing that since you can always add another set of interviews if the first set are clunkers with Skype, but you can't with APA interviews. One of the reasons that people interviewed such a huge number back in the APA days was you only get one shot. Anyway, I'd like to hear from anyone who has experience with this.

(And honestly the possibility of doing this seems another reason to go to Skype interviews. For one thing, when you have a huge number of options it's a recipe for bad or arbitrary choices. And two, I know that a lot of times there was a second tier of interviewees among the first round so people ended up putting out the cost of going to the APA to interview for a job that they only had a chance at if people higher up on the list screwed up royally. So rather than having a 1/12 chance it was realistically more like 1/100).

Anonymous said...

7:01,

My department, the last time we hired (a couple years ago) did 15 Skype interviews for the first round. And we decided never to go that high again. It took us around an hour for each interview (prepping to remind ourselves of the candidate's file, the actual interview, and a quick debriefing/note-taking session after the interview). That's quite a bit of time. And when you consider that we could not schedule all of the interviews into convenient back-to-back sessions (because we wanted to be somewhat flexible for the applicants), it took us a week to get them all done.*

We thought that, if we had duds, we could always just have more interviews. But really, that would have just added to the already rather long process. Plus, as everyone here well knows, there was no need. Of the 15, we had nearly 10 we wanted to bring to campus. It was tough getting it down to 3.

Also, before Skype, if we had to conduct another round of interviews after APA, we just resorted to phone interviews. No big deal. Departments never had just one shot because of APA. More likely, they only needed one shot, because for years it's been the case that there are far too many excellent applicants for every job out there. The number of jobs could double or triple, and still not make a dent in hiring all the excellent applicants out there.


*One of the benefits to conference interviews is that you can schedule them all back-to-back; everyone is basically on the same schedule. But when we use Skype, we have to arrange them around the teaching schedules of both the SC members and the applicants; my university runs a full winter semester, and many of our applicants were teaching extra courses during their own winter semesters. We did nearly half of the interviews over the weekend, which didn't seem to please anybody, but it had to be done.

Anonymous said...

I was on a search committee last year. We did phone interviews, and interviewed about 6 or 7, as I recall. But, we had a really specific AOS/AOC and didn't get a lot of eligible applicants, and we had an inside candidate.

Anonymous said...

I am on a search committee and this week and part of next we are Skype interviewing 15 candidates, 40 minutes each.

Anonymous said...

Is everything happening really late this year? According to the wiki, very few calls have been made. Not how I remember things from last year.

Anonymous said...


It has just dawned on me that Brian Leiter and Donald Trump basically use the same strategy in order to stay in the limelight. Every so often they just blurt out some sort of mean spirited claim in order to get people to refocus their attention back onto them. Leiter just bloviated on his blog about how Emory should not have a degree program because they suck and they are doing their graduates a disservice. But when I look at their placement record it hardly looks worse than most of the schools he passes over. Rather, he is just being a bully in order to get attention and to settle debts. Why do people put up with his shit? Why won't he go away? For the record: I have no vested interest in Emory one way or the other. I just don't understand why one of the most vocal members of our profession is always such dick. For the record, I also don't understand why Donald Trump is such a dick either.

Anonymous said...

Noelle McAfee is at Emory. Justin Weinberg is at University of South Carolina. BL is actually pretty transparent when you think about who he dislikes. (I am not Noelle, Justin, or anyone else at the places mentioned in BL's post.)

Anonymous said...

Many bullies act out as a result of insecurity or as a way to compensate for neglected attention in other parts of their lives. But in BL's case I can only guess.

Anonymous said...

In the DN thread, someone wrote that they were tired of hearing people say "some" programs should close without ever naming programs and giving reasons for the desirability of their closure. I took BL to be responding to that kind of criticism, and actually owning up to some of the programs he thinks should close, and giving some reasons why.

Yeah, that's hurtful. But it's better to have that discussion in the open, where we can scrutinize reasons and say "Hang on, that's not right" or "Actually, good point". Otherwise, we're just perpetually fobbing it off as someone else's problem while pretending we're actually doing something. If we're going to have this conversation, let's actually have it.

FWIW, I say this as someone whose program might or might not merit closure (despite appearances). I certainly feel ornamental.

Anonymous said...

I think what BL is doing is absolutely necessary. Programs should close and faculty shamed (or at least those who never cared that they were wasting many young people's lives). I just think one of his motivations is to get back at his enemies. But I'll take it, since limiting the # of PhDs is so much more important than some rivalry between well-off professors.

Anonymous said...

If the only goal for pursuing a PhD in philosophy is a tenure track job, then any program that cannot place the majority of its graduates should close. Those programs are failing to meet their obligations.

If there are other goals - such as the study of philosophy for its own sake - then we need more programs, as many as people are willing to populate.

Either way, programs should be honest about their place in the system. Schools that do a terrible job placing people into jobs should be honest about that, and stop recruiting students based on the hopes of a career they won't help people get.

Derek Bowman said...

If your goal is the study of philosophy for its own sake, why do you need the institutional structure of a university and why do you need the institutional validation of a PhD? Why does it have to have the timetable of a full-time pursuit for 5-10 years of school? If people are meant to do something else to make a living, why not structure advanced education in philosophy so that it fits into the life of someone already working that other job?

In any case, Leiter isn't the issue, and it would be great to see the profession have a serious discussion about the purpose and form of graduate education in philosophy without making it about him.

Anonymous said...

"If your goal is the study of philosophy for its own sake, why do you need the institutional structure of a university"

It's not necessarily a matter of "need," but rather a recognition that this is a proven means of getting such an education. The most experienced educators in philosophy are those current teaching in philosophy programs, as are the most advanced researchers. Universities run classes that, among other benefits, allow one to study with other students interested in and engaged with the material.

"and why do you need the institutional validation of a PhD?"

Maybe some people don't. I know plenty of people who left their PhD programs while ABD, and cherish the time they spent in the advanced study of something they love. Enrolling in a PhD program does not mean one has to see it through, or that one "needs" the validation of the PhD.

"Why does it have to have the timetable of a full-time pursuit for 5-10 years of school?"

Again, it doesn't. If one enters a program without any goal of a TT job in the field as the goal, one need not bother with such a timetable. One could, for instance, spend 2 years in coursework and then leave. If those 2 years are funded, then one has not lost much in terms of time or potential earnings.

It sounds like you have (or are adopting for the sake of argument) a pretty narrow definition of what a PhD program is or should be.

"If people are meant to do something else to make a living, why not structure advanced education in philosophy so that it fits into the life of someone already working that other job?"

I agree with you here, and I'd like to see more programs do that. Many already do with their MAs, and perhaps what we need to see are more MA programs (especially flexible ones) and fewer PhD programs.

-5:54

Anonymous said...

If a department doesn't immediately give you the option of a skype interview instead of an APA interview, is it worth inquiring if they are open to skype? Or will this potentially hurt your chances....?

If you are not already planning to pay to go to the E-APA and are not on the east coast it is just a tough gamble to know if one should put up the cash for one interview.

Derek Bowman said...

5:54 -

It sounds like we're mostly in agreement. Given the current state of philosophy education, it might make sense for individuals to apply for the PhD just to study philosophy for its own sake. But at the collective level, that aim is not best served by proliferating or maintaining PhD programs, though it may be well served by widely available and funded (or affordable) MA programs.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for re-posting: but what to do when there is NO OPTION for a skype interview and it appears that interviews will only be held at APA (and it is going to be very hard to make it to the APA).

Is it wrong (i.e. would it hurt your chances) to ask if skype would be a possible method of interview?

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm sure this is the wrong place for this question, but since I do not know the right one, I'll ask here. I thought there used to be a thread on this blog for job market inquiries and updates, but it appears to have been removed. Does anyone know if there is still a similar forum for these kinds of questions here or where I can find one elsewhere? Any help with this matter would be appreciated, and I apologize for going off topic in this thread.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hey, 1:59pm-- look here:
http://philosophysmoker.blogspot.com/2015/06/a-new-permanent-thread-to-talk-about.html

zombie said...

12:52: It's not wrong to ask. I would ask. It is unlikely to hurt your chances, although they could say no. (They might assume you have one APA interview, but they might also assume your other interviews are via Skype and not at APA.)

It IS going to hurt your chances if they say no AND you don't go to APA (i.e. if you don't do the interview at all).

Anonymous said...

Is there a reason why we think that the focus should be on producing fewer job seekers rather than on trying to increase the number of available jobs (i.e. through trying to halt adjunctification)? The latter seems to get little attention.

Anonymous said...

10:19,

The latter gets a great deal of attention. But only in certain circles. At many colleges and universities - especially "teaching" institutions - there's a great deal of effort in this regard. And one reason you don't see much of this discussion is because, honestly, the philosophers who teach in these programs are of little to no regard in the field.

One thing to keep in mind is that those who tend to lead the discussion - those like Leiter and other Big Name Philosophers - are also those who benefit from the current system. In fact, the system was designed to benefit them. And they tend to teach at programs that have little to no trouble keeping, filling, and at times even creating tenure lines.

One reason you don't see much in this regard is that it's difficult to get people to care about problems that don't touch them. Why should Leiter and those at his level care that jobs at "lesser" schools are disappearing? It doesn't in any way change their work in the field. It doesn't change what they teach (or how much they teach), it doesn't change their ability to enroll students into their graduate programs, and it doesn't change anything about the publishing end of the field.

Make no mistake: programs really don't care if they place their graduates into jobs. If they do, they can call it a win for their program. If they don't, they can blame the bad market. And they just keep on rolling...

Derek Bowman said...

10:19 - They're not really separate problems - if you don't have a glut of qualified PhDs you can't staff your won't be able to staff your classes with poorly paid part-timers without a serious loss in instructional quality. But I agree that both deserve more attention, and I don't think it's just faculty at prestigious schools who ignore them. Tenured faculty at these "teaching intensive" institutions are often the ones doing the hiring and scheduling for all these part-timers, and they have their own material and professional interests in maintaining their position in that system. Often these aren't bad people - often they believe convenient falsehoods about how their positions offer opportunities for experience that will help their adjuncts aspire to permanent jobs elsewhere.

zombie said...

If your department is like mine, you have an administration that is actively trying to undermine the entire department. Cutting tenure lines and funding only lecturer/instructor lines is one way to do that -- it happened in my department this year (my uni is also trying to cut our GA funding, and force our TT and tenured faculty to teach more). Departments do not have the kind of power or autonomy some of you think they do, and the faculty within departments have even less.

Anonymous said...

Zombie,

That's exactly how it is at my department, and in my departments where my friends teach.

I've been in this department for 6 years. In that time, the number of tenure track faculty in my department has been cut in half. We have lost four tenure lines when the faculty in those positions left (one for another job, two retired, one who moved into an administrative position). We were allowed to replace one of them with a tenure track hire, two others with adjuncts, and the last one was deemed a "luxury" position we didn't need in the first place.

We were told this year that if we want to keep the adjuncts we hired, we need to demonstrate our commitment to the "core values" of the university. Translation: STEM education. We have been asked to consider changing our curriculum to better serve the "changing needs of the students." Translation: STEM education. We've also been told that, should we lose any more faculty, the university will have to "reconsider" our place in the university. (The provost has already suggested that we be folded into a "Humanities" department along with English and Modern Languages.)

The cherry on top? We were also told that we will not be able to hire for the foreseeable future. Not tenure track. Not adjunct. No new hires of any kind. Even if we lose any of our current faculty.

Derek Bowman said...

Zombie and 12:32,

Just to be clear I fully understand the difficult position that many (most?) departments are in, and nothing I've said here is inconsistent with that.

It remains true that is primarily faculty at nonelite schools who actually do the scheduling, recruiting, and hiring of adjuncts. I understand that they do so within the often severe constraints imposed by their university administration. Many do so in full knowledge of the indecency the terms of employment they're offering are. But others deceive themselves in the manner I described, just as many faculty at elite schools have comforted themselves with the myth that only those who aren't good philosophers end up stuck in adjunct jobs.

But honestly, if tenured philosophers really are so powerless to improve the terms of academic employment, why should we care whether philosophy programs get eliminated? If universities can't provide us with a stable living, what do we need them for?

Anonymous said...

"If universities can't provide us with a stable living, what do we need them for?"

Thank you for buying into the education-as-commodity model.

Derek Bowman said...

7:22: I mean if universities can't provide *those philosophers they employ* with a stable living, why should philosophers care to make our homes in the universities?

I'm actually suggesting something even further from the "education-as-commodity" model than those who claim to value learning for its own sake, yet seem content to allow the economic needs of universities to determine who gets to learn, what they learn, and in what manner. I can see making that trade off if university employment offers some prospect for us - and our students - to better balance our material needs with the provision of educational opportunities. But those who tell me how powerless faculty are to resist the adjunctification of our profession are thereby saying that universities are no longer able to do that.

Anonymous said...

Derek,

OK, I understand you. But we also need philosophers to stop taking poverty-wage jobs. If the faculty really are (and yes, I believe that many of them really are*) powerless to make changes, then it's on us to stop taking jobs that cannot support us. Maybe it's time more grad students seriously take the idea of a Plan B career.

We should make this as explicit as possible: the academic path will most likely not be financially feasible. Everyone applying to grad programs** should know that they will not get a tenure track job when they are done. So they either need to find another way to pay their bills, or they need to accept poverty wages. It's really that simple. "The field" will not be changing anything. It will not get better. This is the new normal.


*Faculty are not in charge of allocating funds to hire tenure track lines.
**I actually think anyone who started a PhD program after 2009 should already know this, but it's astonishing how willingly people will put their heads in the sand and not pay attention to the material conditions of the field.

-7:22

Anonymous said...

why should philosophers care to make our homes in the universities?

There has to be some structure that facilitates productive, educational dialogue within a discipline, some way to filter the articles and books you can pay attention to, and some collective institutional memory. I am all for allowing scholarship to continue outside the university, but turning everyone into an autodidact who communicates with other philosophers on the Internet, on demand, is a system that is going to strongly privilege certain intellectual styles and modes of engagement over others. If you want to brainstorm how this would actually work and look, go for it. Why not? But enjoining people to blithely opt out of academia is not going to lead seamlessly to distributed freedom of thought, or wisdom, or abundant structured free time. It will eliminate some distortions and lead to others. I'm a pessimist and immediately move into thinking about the distortions to come.

Anonymous said...

why should philosophers care to make our homes in the universities?

They pay us.

Anonymous said...

8:01,

You missed the point of his question. He wants to know why we feel the need to pursue philosophy within a system where we have the apparent choice of getting paid for doing philosophy or not doing philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Two questions: 1. Are interviews really being scheduled later in this year than in the past as a lot of people seem to think? 2. And at about what point should one decide that there's not much realistic chance of getting an interview this year?

zombie said...

6:13 -- (1) possibly with E-APA moved to after the New Year, SCs are scheduling interviews a little later this year. Right now was historically when interview requests would really start to pick up, and in the last couple of years, I found they all came in mid-December, right around when the semester ends in most places. If E-APA is a factor in the timing (which, why would it be?), that might change this year.

(2) See (1). But if you haven't heard anything by Xmas, maybe you're toast.

Anonymous said...

"2. And at about what point should one decide that there's not much realistic chance of getting an interview this year?"

As soon as the market season begins.

Anonymous said...

@11:12am

I had to laugh. Gallows humour I suppose!