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


imprecise said...

Spiros' advice was utterly terrible and Zero is absolutely right. Reapply. In the last two years, my university hired one person who they previously rejected, and brought to campus (but did not hire) another person that had been rejected _more than once_.

zombie said...

I concur, for all the reasons Zero mentions. And I did it, three years in a row, and got a PFO the first two years, and an APA interview the third year.

An additional point. SCs these days routinely get hundreds of applicants for a position. Unless you submitted an astoundingly, memorably bad or inept application, they are not likely to remember you (or the other also-rans) from one year to the next (and that's assuming that the SC membership is the same from one year to the next, which it probably isn't). And if they remember you for good reasons, that's to your benefit. The pool of applicants will also change from year to year, as (a few) lucky souls land jobs, or unlucky ones drop out of the market. Since your application is being evaluated in comparison to the rest of the pool, you may fare better (or worse) from one year to the next.

Should you re-apply for a position if you got an interview the first time? I'd still say you should go for it. They're more likely to remember you, but it's also possible you've improved, and that you were a close contender the first time around. You have more to lose by not applying. Like that lotto guy says, "You've gotta be in it to win it."

Not that your chances of getting a TT job are as unlikely as winning the lottery.

Anonymous said...

Is there anything more annoying than these schools using different formats/practices to receive documents? It's insane!

Ben said...

I made most of these points on Spiros' post but, for what it's worth, I still agree. Re-apply. Perhaps the only exception would be if you'd received personal feedback last time, saying why you weren't suited, and that hadn't changed. But even then, maybe re-apply.

Anonymous said...


I applied for a position at SLAC x thinking that I didn't stand a chance, but it was my area afterall, so, what they heck.


The following year: I applied for a position at the same SLAC x thinking that I didn't stand a chance, but it was my area afterall, so, what they heck.

Got the job.

Anonymous said...

I was ranked 6th for a job after the interviewing department interviewed 20 candidates at the APA one year. The search committee invited #s 1-3 to campus, then, after a while, #4, and then, after a while, #5. I'm not sure how many (if any) offers were made, but when I heard all five accepted other offers, I thought my campus visit would be next. And then the chair called: faced with the prospect of inviting me for a campus visit, the search committee decided to abandon the search and start over the next year. You're #6, but the gap between you and #5 is so big that we'd rather risk having the Dean take away a TT line than consider you. (Well, that's what it sounded like to me, anyway--I'm not really sure what was going on.)

I did go ahead and apply again the next year, got another APA interview, and wound up ranked #4 after interviews. And I eventually got the job, and the faculty made me feel as though they wanted me to join the department.

My qualifications hadn't changed, I used the same writing sample, the search committee hadn't changed, and the job ad was the same. I'd gotten better at talking about my research, but then they didn't ask about my research the second time around.

So the moral, I guess, is: don't assume they don't want you. That said, now that I've been on the other side a bit, I can say it is very weird to receive repeat applications from candidates who didn't fit the ad last year and who don't fit it this year, either. So: apply again, but only if you actually do look on paper like the job ad is written with someone like you in mind.

Anonymous said...

To 1:14: The varying formats and submission methods are exasperating, true. But please understand that departments don't always have the final say on this. It's probably dictated by the Academic Personnel office, the Equal Opportunity office, the deans, perhaps others, too.

My department has wanted to do everything electronically, but this has been nixed by the higher-ups. I hope everybody can move into the digital age as soon as possible to save time and money for all. But I've also seen complaints from departments that they have to print everything out when they go digital, so perhaps there's no perfect solution here.

Anonymous said...

One's chances of getting jobs increase dramatically when one applies. Choosing not to apply to a job is the best way of ensuring you don't get hired.

Also, Spiros is an asshole.

Anonymous said...

I'm a grad student at a top department, and I can attest that two of our current junior faculty members were rejected the first time they applied for jobs here (though they did, I think, get to late stages of the process the first time around).

Anonymous said...

i once knew a dude out of a canadian phd program who applied twice to the same department in nyc. they rejected him the first time around, but accepted him the second. i see he's now tenured. a crap school from canada, a post in nyc. how about that?

Dr. Killjoy said...

I once knew a grad student of little-to-middling talent at a grad program of low-to-middle rank who year after year applied to dozens of job ads from which no minimally reflective and rational person with an identical dossier would ever expect to get a passing glance, let alone an interview. However, against all odds, this brave soul eventually overcame such adversity by first becoming aware of, then actively battling against, the crippling better-than-average bias with which he and so many others like him are afflicted. He now uses all the money saved on postage to help others overcome their own illusory superiority. May his story inspire you all this market season.

Anonymous said...

Reiterating what everyone else has said:

A job application is not a facebook friend request, where non-acceptance sends a message that the person does not want to be your friend and please don't bother them again.

A job application is an institutional button you push to make it possible for that institution to hire you. Without pushing that button, they can't hire you. If you push the button, and they don't hire you, there's no message there that you're supposed to pick up. This isn't social etiquette -- it's the mundane bureaucracy of employment.

Anonymous said...


I applied for the position I have now and lost out to a much better candidate. When I applied the second time, my CV hadn't changed all that much. It's not as if the department is going to rehire the person who beat you for the position again.

Rex-158 said...

A school I worked at once held the same search two years in a row. They brought several people to campus Year 1, but couldn't get any of them to accept the position. Year 2, they aimed a little lower and were able to hire a good candidate.

It's not that they didn't really want the Year 2 candidate. Rather, the Year 1 search served as a wake-up call. Not all programs, schools, living areas, etc., are created equal.

So reapply. Plus, what Zero said about the laughter. You won't hear it, so if you've got money for another stamp, use it.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone even notice the label on Spiros' post?

Mr. Zero said...

Yeah, I noticed it.

Anonymous said...

I got the job the second year after not even being interviewed the first; it was a different search committee.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest applying again. As has been pointed out, the committee members will most likely differ from year to year, and even if they are the same, the reasons for selecting one candidate over some other might be very minor. While I have only served on one search committee, I found that, by the time of the on campus interviews, at least one of the selected candidates was regrettable in relation to a handful of great candidates who did not make the on campus list.

-A Sophist