Monday, August 27, 2012

This is Kinda Awesome

I got an email this evening from Amy Ferrer, the new executive director of the APA, which reads in part,

...within weeks we will launch a new Jobs for Philosophers site with new search, sort, and bookmarking capabilities. Further, along with the new JFP, we’ll be offering our job-seeking members free access to Interfolio’s dossier service for job candidates, and APA members will also be eligible for one year of free access to Interfolio’s services for hiring committees. You will receive more information on these services very soon.

This is pretty awesome. We have, of course, been clamoring for a searchable JFP for years. And I've already seen a couple of job ads that seem to require applicants to use Interfolio to submit application materials, and I wondered what the deal was. I hadn't looked into it or anything, but I was a little worried I was going to have to shell out for it. This is the sort of thing that makes me happy.

I know it's weird and unprecedented to have two posts in a row in which I say that I approve of something that the APA is doing, but I can't help it. I like what the APA is doing.

--Mr. Zero


Anonymous said...

Color me highly skeptical. My department requires that all graduate students on the job market sign up for an Interfolio account and use it exclusively for rec-letter and dossier hosting/mailing. The fees for this service can run between $500-1200 depending on the number of applications sent. Suppose, on the low side, that 500 graduate students a year get this *free* Interfolio service, that could mean a loss of profits of $250,000...that's a big bite out of Interfolio's business. On the higher side, the loss could be nearly a half million. I just don't see how it makes any sense at all for Interfolio to make it's service free to anyone with an APA Membership. More likely they simply mean that they will wave the membership fee which is quite small by comparison. That's a reasonable loss-leader. They take a calculated hit on the on the membership fee, $19/per year which, assuming 500 memberships is only a $20,000 hit, but they get tons of cash from the new people actually using the service (they come come between 230,000 and 480,000 up on the transaction).

Surely this is what the director had in mind. I'd be stunned if I was wrong.

Anonymous said...

why require people to pay interfolio $1000 or so? is it really that impossible to mail shit? -said the person on the market for the first time

-who really wants to know, because maybe I should do interfolio?

-who wants to note that maybe interfolio is uber-convenient, but maybe some people would rather be inconvenienced than pay $1000

Anonymous said...

Wait, are people already complaining that--likely--the APA will cover only the fee for the Interfolio account and not the actual mailing fees? That's something, anyway! Of course they are not going to cover the fees to send out all our applications. They are also not going to pay salaries for those of us who don't get jobs. It sucks, but not something to complain about, really. The APA is rocking here.

And I'm really curious--I'm no fan of Interfolio, but how does somebody go on the job market with out it? I mean, say one applies for 30 jobs. Does one then ask one's letter writers to mail individual rec letters to each of these jobs?

Anonymous said...

I'm inclined to think that "free access" means "free membership," not "free license to mail whatever wherever how many times you like." I'm a little resentful since I paid in advance for 5 years of Interfolio use, but who would have expected the APA to do something like this??

As for the inquiry about why it's good to use Interfolio, yes, it's a major convenience that someone about to go on the job market will find to be worth the money, particularly if they apply for several positions with several different configurations of materials desired, with other work (e.g., dissertation) keeping you occupied.

Mr. Zero said...

The way Ferrer says "access to" rather than, I don't know, "use of" or something suggests that 6:01 and 11:03 are right; probably Interfolio is waiving the membership fee, but not the per-mailing fee, for job-seeking APA members. Maybe I got a little too excited.

But seriously. That's not nothing. That's the APA trying to help us. And when was the last time the APA did something to help us? I have been asking for a searchable JFP since at least the 08/09 job-market season, and it's not like I'm the one who came up with the idea. For years and years, the old leadership did jack shit; the new ED has been on the job since the beginning of August or something, and she's saying she can get us a searchable JFP for this October.

I mean, maybe the APA will be the APA and it won't work. But these are extremely good signs. They got the website to actually work; they're getting us free Interfolio memberships; they're working to make the JFP better. The old APA never even attempted to do any of this. At the very least, the APA is listening to us and trying to help. I know that the mission of this blog is to bitch about stuff, but whatever. If the APA is moving in the right direction, it's important to acknowledge and encourage it.


Most Ph.D.-granting departments have a placement service that mails the letters. Some departments also cover the cost--as far as I can tell, departments are generally willing to do this if they can afford it. In addition to making things easier on the letter-writers (as you point out), this also helps to preserve confidentiality. Even if your writers put their letters on Interfolio without you seeing them, you could probably get Interfolio to mail a copy of your dossier to yourself; a department placement service would never do that.

Anonymous said...

Maybe in the short term the APA is doing some folks a favor by partnering with Interfolio to cover membership fees. But in the long run, I think that implicitly supporting the offloading Job Application costs from university department/job placement services to individual students only serves to standardize the financial exploitation of the APA's student members, who are, after all, hostage to the job application process.

We'd be better served by focused effort to establish a fully online (paperless)dossier database, for graduate students that could provide cost-free access to distribution services for APA student members.

As it is, they are just promoting a system where the wealthy/pedigreed students play at an advantage (because they can afford more applications and thus further their job prospects) while the center mass of Philosophy PhDs plays the game from behind.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:17:

I know people who didn't have the energy to apply to all of the jobs where they fit the search criteria, and so passed on some of the searches they were least interested in, but I don't know anyone who limited their number of searches for cost reasons. This might just be a biased sample on my part, but is it really the case that people are neglecting to apply for jobs because of the fees for mailing in applications?

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:17

Yes it is really the case. For example, I will only be able to apply for a very limited selection of jobs, because I just won't have the money to apply everywhere I would like to (or even most of the places I'd like to).

Mr. Zero said...

I'm not sure I understand the things people are saying at 10:17 and 2:08. Maybe I'm missing something, but the complaint at 10:17 seems to be that instead of giving each of us a free membership to Interfolio, the APA should build its own version of Interfolio and then let us use it to send out all of our application materials. For free.

This complaint doesn't make sense to me, on a variety of levels. For one thing, even if they should do that, they shouldn't do it without discussing certain logistical factors with the membership, including a) should they do that; b) should they build their own Interfolio, or just contract through the existing Interfolio; c) where will the money for this come from; d) should it really be free?

For another thing, the APA has been in the dark ages for a long time. The webpage barely worked until a couple of weeks ago. A paperless online application distribution system is not a realistic request at present. Maybe we could get them to get one going, but it'll take time, and I'd be pretty surprised if it was free.

Another thing I don't get is, with the proliferation of online/electronic applications, the cost of being on the job market has gone down considerably in the past 3 years. Over half of my applications last year were online, and the online apps really were free. Am I wrong in thinking that the main costs associated with applying for jobs are photocopies and postage? And with all the online applications, are these costs really that substantial?

I always thought that the most financially troubling thing about being on the job market was the trip to the Eastern APA meeting. And I have a long record of pointing out what a drag that is. But the proposed dossier database wouldn't do anything to ameliorate the costs associated with that.

Anonymous said...

Mr Zero said "Maybe I'm missing something, but the complaint at 10:17 seems to be that instead of giving each of us a free membership to Interfolio, the APA should build its own version of Interfolio and then let us use it to send out all of our application materials. For free."

Yes: just like the American Mathematical Society has already done for job seekers in mathematics: Departments pay—not much—and it's free for applicants to search jobs and send out their dossier.

Given the APA's track record, I'd bet that PhilJobs will implement this sort of functionality a lot sooner and more effectively than the APA; and as soon as a decent number of departments start using it I see no reason for the JFP.

Mr. Zero said...

The math site is pretty cool. In fact, they've have already set up a "general" version of the site for non-math academic hiring, at Academic Jobs Online. Which looks pretty awesome. Maybe we should just start using that.

Also, just browsing around, it's pretty clear that the AMS has their shit together in a way that the APA does not.

zombie said...

7:21, as you are on the market for the first time, I'll just assume you somehow don't know that you cannot simply mail your own letters of recommendation yourself, unless you opt for non-confidential letters. Which you should not do.

Confidential letters of rec must be sent by someone else. Because they're confidential. Some departments (but I doubt that most ) send them out for their grad students. My dept did not. I had to pay the university placement service to do it, and it was not only expensive, but very inconvenient for me as they required that I FAX (never email) a written request. And pay in advance by check (not credit card). And they only mailed or faxed letters. I used Interfolio my second and third years on the market, and loved the convenience and control. It cost me less than using my school's placement service.

You can use Interfolio to send your entire dossier, but I only ever used it for my letters. It would get pretty spendy to use it for your entire dossier.

Anyhoo, I would guess that what APA is offering is free Interfolio accounts, not free fees for sending letters. Which is still not nothing. Give credit where it is due. They are, at least, finally trying to help.

Anonymous said...

Yes. APA should push for the use of instead.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the informative answer. While I'm here, my dept. sends my letters. When I'm gone, it seems Interfolio will be in the mix.


Anonymous said...

The 500 - 1200$ estimate seems high to me. I was on the market last year. Our department assistant would upload letters to online apps, but we had to pay Interfolio to send hard copies or to email the letters to a school. This arrangement was worked out because Interfolio's charge to upload letters was thought to be unreasonably high. Because of this I could complete most online only applications at no cost. Paper applications or email applications were completed through interfolio.

That said, I applied to every job I was interested in (around 60 schools pre-Eastern APA). My interfolio costs were 176 including the initial fee. I imagine that if I had to pay for the uploading service it might have been around 150 dollars more. Still short of 500 and well, well below 1200.

Just my situation. Maybe others had a different experience.

Anonymous said...

Even more awesome: the Eastern now lets you register online up until the day before the conference, and lets you do so at the Advance registration rate.

Note how quickly Amy Ferrer made these changes. I just want to say, first, that she rocks. Second, now that we've seen how efficient the APA can be, I am seriously puzzled by the issue of what the hell was wrong with the previous executive director, David Schrader (I believe). Was he just completely incompetent? Does anybody know him?

Anonymous said...

From a post by Amy Ferrer on Leiter:

"Through the APA's partnership with Interfolio, APA members will have their first year's membership fee for Interfolio's Dossier service for job candidates waived. In addition, when applying to positions whose hiring committees are using Interfolio's ByCommittee service, the delivery fee is also waived. There is a $6 per application fee for candidates using Interfolio's Dossier service to apply to positions whose hiring committees are not using Interfolio's ByCommittee service."

It looks like, if the hiring departments sign up for the free service, job candidates WILL have the referral fees waived. Therefore, departments have it in their power to reduce the burden of candidates, whether that burden is $300 or $500-1200. We should definitely publicize this so that departments will sign up for the service.

Anonymous said...

That is good news. I remember the days of standing in front of a copy machine for hours, printing malfunctions, special trips to the post office during blizzard conditions, etc. Interfolio is not perfect, and it is troubling not to be absolutely certain they've delivered your order until it might be too late, but the convenience is really terrific. For $6 they'll send up to 40 pages, with a dollar or two extra for more pages. If you do it yourself, first class U.S. postage and packaging costs about $2 per application already, not to mention printing cartridges, photocopying, and possibly $5 or so for a university placement service to mail your rec letters.