Monday, October 31, 2011

Speaking of APA...

I recently received my membership renewal form from APA. It was forwarded, twice (through two countries), because the APA apparently did not make note of my new address after I submitted it to their website before they sent the renewal notice out.

Since I'm not on the job market anymore, I'm having a hard time figuring out why I should pay $100+ per year to be a member of APA. I generally think those association memberships people put on their CVs are a joke. Plus, I'm already a member of the Association of Successful Succeeders Promoting Achievement and Success Successfully! (ASSPASS)

Plus, what Groucho Marx said.

Why do I need to be a member of APA? Anyone?



Not all job market advice is a lie

Update: Bearistotle reminds us that the APA did have a session on best practices recently. I vaguely remember that. My bad:
Fun fact: The APA had a session at the pacific last year on best practices for hiring and placement. It was not well attended, but it is worth acknowledging when the APA is working to provide the very thing you suggest would be ideal.
I also think the name 'Bearistotle' is pretty awesome.

Among the noise at the comments here about cover letters, John Doris provides what seems to me to be good advice:
I'd suggest: write a generic letter that treats both research and teaching, and is long enough to not risk insulting those who might be insulted by perceived cursoriness (1-1.5 pp. ?). Then, tailor pretty selectively, where 1. There's reason to think the institution has retention anxiety ("While the homicide rate in St. Louis is off putting, I just love those plucky Cardinals.") or 2. You are an *especially* good fit ("I'm delighted to see you have an AOC in Philosophy of Baseball; I was a minor league utility infielder for three seasons.") I'd be pretty selective about this selection, and not stretch too much: my cover letter to an appealing SLAC arguing for fit on the grounds my sister went there did not, sad to say, take me very far.
I might add also that if you are a member of an underrepresented population in philosophy, that you mention that also.

Anyways. Many of the other, more detailed comments on the thread are good too. I wish all job market advice looked something like some of the comments on this thread. So, please everyone who writes into these threads, keep writing in; it's a great courtesy and much appreciated.

However, speaking more generally and separate from any particular comments in the thread, I do think that it is time to dispense with personal anecdotes that sound like so much ad hoc reasoning justifying past practices. I also think that job market advice should not be framed in terms of how annoyed one is by reading certain parts of dossiers: "You stupid applicant. You think your stupid cover letter is going to help you get this job. Stupid. I'm so offended by your stupidity that you think you can pull the wool over my eyes with your stupid cover letter. Gah. Stupid applicants. *SIGH*" I find such framing offensive and I'm probably not alone. (YOU HURT MY FEELINGS!!!! I'M JUST TRYING TO GET A JOB!!!!)

Finally, I think something like what Anonymous Job Seeker suggests in the same thread is right:
The simple fact of the matter is that the hiring process is so variegated that nobody has any real idea how it happens outside their own local experience.

What would be *really* useful to job seekers and search committees alike is a compendium of best practices. This would outline profession-wide norms and expectations, against which individual institutions and applicants could then note differences. Everything from what goes into a dossier to timelines and procedures. The short notices in the back of the JFP are as insufficient as they are ignored.
Ugh. Job market.

--Jaded, Ph.D.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

This Year's October JFP

I have a few observations about this year's October JFP.

1. I kind of like that they stopped organizing the ads by region. I always wondered why the Central district was one thing and the Midwest district was something else. This is not a big deal, I guess, but who says every point has to be significant?

2. I'm still not in love with the way they start the numbers over for the web-only ads, but at least the duplicates are clearly labeled.

3. As in past years, many of the web-only ads paradoxically also appear in the print version.

4. I feel like there are fewer "open" ads than usual, but I'm not sure that's really accurate. I think there were a lot more in '09, and not as many last year.

5. I'll be applying for around 40 jobs from issue 191; that's about 10 more than last October.

6. I'll be applying for around 3 jobs that weren't in the JFP; of those, none were found on the Phylo jobs or PhilJobs websites. Higher Ed Jobs.

7. My guess is that I'll add another 10 applications in November. If so, this will be the best year since before Lehman Brothers. By kind of a lot. It won't be anywhere near pre-economic-catastrophe levels, though.

8. Almost all my applications will be online this year. Three fourths, anyway. That's up from just under half in '09 and '10.

9. But, and I know I'm not the only person to have pointed this out recently, it would be nice if you could save portions of your profile in the system and not have to retype all the info for every online application.

10. I feel pretty good going in. My file is better this year than it was last year. I feel like I'm making the right kind of progress. I've been in the wilderness for a while, but I think it's clear that I have been using this time well. While I would not describe myself as "confident," or anything, I think I have a respectable chance this year. Relatively speaking. I'm proud of what I've accomplished, anyways.

11. Good luck, everyone.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

There has to be a better way...

... and it seems there is. Via Leiter, there's a pointer to this post at Philosophy, et cetera asking why philosophy departments don't use, an academic jobs portal that lists jobs and streamlines the online application process while still allowing applicants to customize their dossier package. It is an extension of a service create by the American Mathematical Society.

Why, indeed. The current system is all over the place. Some departments want you to email your dossier package. The downside, often, is that you have to make your files tiny, or they get rejected by the recipient's mail server. Or the recipient's mailbox is full, and then you can't submit at all. You also get no confirmation of receipt, unless you BCC yourself everything (and then you at least know that your email got delivered somewhere), or the recipient is decent enough to confirm. Some departments (or HR offices) require you to upload all your files to their website. They pretty much all use the same (not very good) software, yet applicants are required to create an account and login for each one, and fill in the forms for each one. So, do the same work (20 minutes, on average) times 30. There's 10 hours of your life. is free for applicants. Reference letters can be uploaded to the service, and submitted to jobs for FREE. What the hell?

So, when the question has come up in discussions here as to why the philosophy departments can't get their shit together and standardize the application process, the typical reply is that it is not their fault. It's Human Resources, and university administrations that dictate (with an iron fist, no doubt) how applications are submitted. Let's be charitable and assume that's true. Do they have a separate policy for Math departments? Because last time I checked, a lot of those math departments were operating in the same universities that have philosophy grad programs.

So, to sum up, a system already exists to centralize the job listing and application process, it is completely independent of APA (that paragon of online ineptitude), and it is free for job applicants. In other words, everything we've been clamoring for. The JFP lists three programs (Yale, Duke, and Tufts) who are already using it this year. Someone explain to me why all the others (really, truly) are not using it, too.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Applying to the Same Job Ad More than Once.

There was a discussion last week at Philosophers Anonymous about whether an applicant who applied for a job last year and didn't get an interview should respond to an identical ad in this year's JFP. Spiros says, "obviously no," but the ensuing discussion was more positive. Some people pointed out that search committees can change pretty dramatically from year to year. A few people pointed out that they had done this with success.

It seems to me that re-applying is the right thing. The point about search-committee makeup seems right to me. Not only will different people be on the search committee, but the files will be distributed to committee members differently, so there's every chance that the decision regarding the initial cut will be made by a different person than last year, even assuming some overlap.

For another thing, if your file has improved at all over the past year, you should definitely re-apply.

For another thing, you should re-apply even if it's all the same committee members and your file hasn't improved. The process is capricious. Many of the decisions about which files to consider further are made arbitrarily. The fact that you didn't get an interview doesn't mean you were undeserving. It might just mean that by the time they got to your file they had 20 names for the long list already, so there wasn't room for you.

And even if you weren't good enough then and you aren't any better now, it still makes as much sense to reapply as it did to apply in the first place. It costs you barely anything. And even if they thought you were completely inadequate when they saw your file the first time, and even if they literally laugh at you when they see it again, I still don't think it represents a reason not to apply. It's not like you'd know they were laughing. Nobody is going to tell you that they laughed. They'll just send you the same PFO they send you the year before (if they send them--not everybody does).

So I say, apply widely and often. Even if it's for the same job over and over.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

No one would talk much in society if they knew how often they misunderstood others (Goethe)

Anonymous asks here about potential interview bias/hiring against non-native English speakers:

What are the biases against those candidates for whom English is a second language? How much does one's accent influence her/his epistemic reliability as a scholar, as well as a potential teacher, in the context of the job interviews? Do some accents (e.g., of French speakers) make one sound more sophisticated and knowledgeable than others (e.g., east asian)? What kind of measures, if any, are taken to prevent this sort of bias?
I've known a number of philosophers on the market for whom English was a second language. Some were extremely and comfortably fluent, and it did not seem to affect their prospects (although they faced immigration/visa hurdles instead). So, I would imagine that fluency and how easily you are understood (or perceived to be understood) matter here. Just having a non-American accent (British or Australian, say) does not seem to be an impediment.

(As an aside, I spoke to an insurance agent on the phone the other day, and she had a very, very pronounced Southern accent, and I really struggled to understand her. I wonder if there may be biases against certain regional American accents?)

As American universities admit growing numbers of international students, this becomes a relevant issue for those students if they hope to pursue an academic job in the US. Is the deck stacked against them if they have an accent?


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Liberty "University" is Hiring

Unfortunately, it's not tenure track. And it's too bad the ad doesn't say anything about which classes the candidate will be responsible for teaching, or what these classes are like. But when you apply, don't forget: you'll need a letter from your pastor. Somehow I get the feeling that this ad is not in compliance with the APA's nondiscrimination policy.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

JFP is up

194 ads, which is substantially better than last year's 157. There are another 48 web-onlies.

In October of '09, there were 140 in the print version; in October '08, there were 267; in '07, we had 347.

--Mr. Zero

P.S. hat tip to anon 9:21

Situational influences during job interviews

Doing some reading for the class I'm teaching, specifically John Doris' piece on criminal law and the psychology of excuses. This stood out for me:

"...situational influences often appear to do their work with little regard to the character or personality of the person in the situation... social psychologists have repeatedly found that both disappointing omissions and appalling actions are readily induced through seemingly minor situational manipulations."

This strikes me as relevant to the inevitable discussions about interview dress codes that pop up here during the job season. (For the record, I really enjoy those discussions, and how het up some Smokers get about it.) I think it's interesting how often it is stated (or implied) that there must be a character flaw (lack of virtue?) in interviewers who could be negatively influenced by the clothing (or makeup, or lack thereof) worn by the job candidate. This often appears in something resembling a defense of individual liberty in dress, with the implication being that anyone who is influenced by clothing must be petty, stupid, superficial, sexist, classist (choose your pejorative) if they let something like your suit (or lack thereof) influence their opinion of you as a job candidate.

It strikes me, though, that societal dress codes do their work in the background, like situational influences. The fact that I'm a feminist doesn't stop me from seeing some women's clothing as kinda trashy, for instance, even if the wearer is not, in fact, trashy. I can acknowledge your right to express yourself through your clothing without having to concede that, by the fashion norms of the moment, your clothing is kinda trashy. (And if I can see butt crack, I'm offended -- that goes for guys and gals.) There's a female scientist at the university where I teach. She has made some significant research contributions to her field. But before I knew that about her, I only knew what she looked like, and what she looked like to me is someone who, although young, has had a significant amount of plastic surgery, wears a huge amount of makeup, and wears hooker boots, all of which made it hard for me to take her seriously. I'm pretty liberal about clothing (except the aforementioned coin slots, as well as camel toes, and toe cleavage, which, I'll admit, is my personal bugaboo). I really, really like the fact that, as academics, we typically have more sartorial freedom than people in many other professions have, but were I on an SC interviewing such a candidate, I would probably have the same first impression, based only on her appearance. Her CV, of course, might tell a very different story, but given ten job candidates, all well-qualified (which is to say, all else being equal), her appearance might be a liability for me. And given that she's going to get half an hour of my time, there's a relatively small window of opportunity there to alter my impression.

The point is, when you show up for an interview, your appearance will make an impression (conscious or subconscious, good or bad) on the interviewers, and this impression may have nothing to do with their own character flaws, and everything to do with social norms and situational influences. One way to neutralize factors that are beyond your control, at least as far as clothing is concerned, is to (at least minimally) meet the expectations. This doesn't strike me as evil or onerous, nor as a violation of the individual liberty of someone who is on the job market, any more than expecting you not to behave like a complete asshat (even if you are a complete asshat) is too much to ask. By not drawing attention to your appearance (or asshattedness), you leave more attention for you and your work, no? (Actors -- male and female -- who have had too much plastic surgery distract me no end. I can't watch the performance when I'm continually distracted by the weird topography of their faces.)

There are cases, I would argue, where appearance-based biases would be far more troubling and pernicious: assumptions about skin color, sex, nationality, or disability, for example. But clothing is voluntary, and you have choices. My assumptions about your clothing may be wrong, but it is not unreasonable for me to make some assumptions. Is it?

This is, it's worth noting, a discussion other professions have too.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Another consideration for female job-seekers

TSS asked (on another thread):

Since we're talking about female-specific job application worries, this seems like a good place for my slightly thread-jacking question about overseas jobs: When one doesn't have vast experience with foreign travel,how does one find out whether the country in which one is about to apply for a job is a decent place to live as a Western woman? A couple of recent job postings are in Turkey, Singapore, and Bangledesh. Are any of these awful places to be female? If you don't have friends who have lived there, how do you find out? What say you, fellow Smokers?
Good question. One of my criteria when looking for a job has been "Would I want to raise my daughter in this place?" If the answer was no (true of many places in the US), I didn't apply. Secondary question: "Can I take my cats with me?" (This ruled out some overseas positions.) I find it useful to look at department websites -- are there a lot of women on the faculty? I recall looking at the website for a university in Egypt last year and being surprised at the really good representation of female faculty. Doing the same for many US schools, you are more likely than not to see women seriously underrepresented, so I don't know how instructive this strategy would actually be (and it may say nothing about day to day life for Western women in Egypt).

Jump in, Smokers.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Still Waiting...

As I prepare my application materials in advance of Wednesday's JFP-release, it occurs to me that I still haven't heard one way or the other about whether I got the job I on-campus interviewed for this past winter. I hope they let me know soon, because if I'm going to pack up and move across the country in time to start teaching classes for fall term, I need to get on it, like, yesterday.

--Mr. Zero

Friday, October 7, 2011

The APA's JFP Web Page Is Organized Wrong

This is a small point, but worth making. The JFP section of the APA's website contains a list of various editions of web-only ads. These ads are listed in a senseless and arbitrary order, beginning with issue #190, last updated June 16 of this year; followed for some reason by #187, last updated October 20 of last year; then #188, last updated February 4 of this year; then the current "summer" web-onlies, last updated a couple of weeks ago; lastly, issue #189, last updated April 14.

I mean, what is the deal? Why not just put them in goddam chronological order? And if you're not going to do that, why not try numerical order? What's the point of giving them numbers if you're going to turn around and display them in some random bullshit order? Why would the most recent ads be listed second to last?

I mean, I'm not saying I think they should do something right. I'm not crazy. Why can't they do anything in a way that makes any sense at all?

--Mr. Zero

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Another New Philosophy Jobs Website

Via Anon 2:53 and Ethics, Etc, we learn that the group responsible for Phil Papers brings us Phil Jobs. Like Phylo Jobs, it's pretty cool.

--Mr. Zero

Request for Advice for Women In Particular About What to Wear for Interviews

An anonymous Smoker writes:

I'll be hitting the American and the European job market this fall. To avoid making a bad impression, I would like to know what conventions there are in academic interviews in the philosophy market. This varies a lot between disciplines (I've been told that in physics or computer sciences, people show up in t-shirt and jeans and successfully land jobs). I don't want to overdress, but I don't want to underdress either. I am especially interested in women's clothes, and also in the accessories (jewelry or not, makeup or not, length of heels, etc). Whenever I inquire about this to my mentors like my advisor, they remain very vague (e.g., just dress nicely), so it would be helpful to get specific information.

I don't really know anything about this, but one thing I have observed from following Mrs. Zero into such stores as Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Macy*s is that women have a lot more options than men when it comes to "dressing up," and not everything that would count as "dressing up" for a woman is the least bit professional, and that all this makes things tougher on women. So what do you say, Smokers?

--Mr. Zero

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Phylo Jobs Announces...

In comments here, Chris Alen Sula of the Phylo Jobs project links to this announcement, which reads:

google map, social media, and new features at phylo jobs

Over the next few days, we’ll be updating you on the latest developments to our job advertisement services, including:

  • live Google map of open positions (
  • additional delivery options (RSS, text-only, mobile, Twitter, Facebook)
  • screencasts on using Phylo Jobs services
  • launch of our registered e-newspaper, Job Openings in Philosophy, to aid institutions with federal compliance
  • streamlined Jobs Wiki design for unofficial status updates (which still includes customized RSS feeds) (

As of October 1, 2011, we also require that each job poster certifies that his/her institution complies with American Philosophical Association’s Non-Discrimination Statement.

I cannot say enough how awesome this is. As of this writing, the Phylo Jobs site has 80 job listings, almost all of which were unsolicited by the editors. This has been really successful so far. Many thanks to Chris Alen Sula and David Morrow for putting this together. Truly wonderful.

--Mr. Zero

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The JPF Paywall Blues

Edit: Oops. I forgot to fill in the title before I hit publish.

Fritz McDonald writes with the following observation, which has been receiving some deserved attention lately:

As far as I can tell, the only relevant service provided by the APA is to organize conferences, and given that these conferences are just general philosophy conferences with no central focus and some curious choices of topical focus, the only raison d'ĂȘtre of the Eastern APA meeting is the job market. Nobody would willingly choose to spend the time between Christmas and New Years working without the job market at the Eastern and the related conference. In light of this, the most important resource on the APA website is Jobs for Philosophers. Given the desperate state of most graduate students in philosophy, who are generally underpaid and tend to have to live in expensive areas, the JFP information should be freely available right on the front of the website. After all, as far as I can tell, the only real reason we need a print listing of job ads such as JFP is so all searches are publicly available, for affirmative action purposes. I have not heard any other justification for JFP. Yet the APA almost goes out of its way to hide the JFP. You cannot even see the link to the JFP if you are not logged in as a member. You have to first click on the option of "Resources" and then select "Member Resources," an option that can only be seen if you are logged in as a member. Needless to say, this has the effect of making the job search process significantly more difficult for people who cannot afford the APA dues and quite a bit more difficult for people who are not tech savvy. To some degree, making the JFP a hidden resource like this itself leads to some kind of discrimination against the poor and/or the tech un-savvy. So why not put the JFP right on the front of the page and make it available to everyone everywhere, just like the listings on the Chronicle of Higher Education website? Better yet, why don't we all agree that if we are hiring, we will also post our ads to

It seems to me that the APA uses the JFP to force vulnerable members of the profession to become members. Until recently, I was taking advantage of the fact that although the JFP was in the members-only section of the website, you could easily access it if you knew the URL. And I think it is no coincidence that the one part of the new website that works really quite well is the paywall in front of the JFP. (And I will tell you that when at various times in the past I have been a member of the APA it has been solely to gain access to their various bits of job-market infrastructure.)

And the more I think of it, the more perverse I think this is. The JFP is a list of ads that you have to pay for if you want to see. This abrogates the entire point of advertising. The point of e.g. newspaper and magazine advertising is to defray the production costs of the newspaper or magazine--that is, the costs associated with equipment, rent, paying people to write the articles, etc.--so that it is affordable to the consumer. The JFP cannot possibly involve much in the way of such expenses, so it's hard to imagine that the paywall is driven by a financial necessity. The JFP is more like a third-rate craigslist with a print edition, or those books of car- or real estate ads they have next to the door at the supermarket, than a newspaper. Those things charge the advertisers, not the advertisees. And it's not in the interests of the advertisers to have the JFP behind a paywall, for it is in their interests that their advertisements be disseminated as widely as possible.

So what of it? Why doesn't the APA make the JFP freely available to everyone? (By which I mean to encourage the APA to do this. I guess I think I know why they won't.)

And search committees: please, please, please post your ads to the Phylo Jobs site. Pretty please.

--Mr. Zero