Notorious advice: apply yourself.

My PhotoMy long-lost friend in the blogosphere Notorious Ph.D., Girl Scholar has reappeared recently to offer a series of posts on the academic job market this year. (You can call me George to her Nancy Drew–I can help out this season, but I probably won’t be the lead investigator, because, you know, the book.)

Notorious writes that there are a number of issues she’d like to discuss, such as the fact that the hiring process has changed a great deal since she was first hired.  “[T]he past ten years has completely changed things in some ways. I’m envisioning a bit of a generational culture clash as a new orthodoxy (online materials submissions, Skype interviews, googling candidates) runs headlong into search committee members who don’t see the reason for all this techy stuff (or vice-versa).”

But first, she’d like to take your temperature.  Are you looking for an academic job?  Why not check in with the gang over at her place and see how it’s going?

How are you doing? Are you optimistic? What do the offerings in your field look like this year compared to previous years? Do you feel prepared? Are you crafting a plan B? Paralyzed by fraud complex? Worried that your writing sample sucks? Feel like you could be a contender for the big time but the jobs this year are disappointing? Pick a pseudonym and get it all out here. My department is running no searches this year and I promise not to out you.

Head on over to her place to contribute to & follow the conversation.



8 thoughts on “Notorious advice: apply yourself.

  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Historiann! Interesting coincidence in the title for your post, since today’s installment is “Should I apply?”

    Oh, I’ve missed blogging… I attribute my decline to the rise of Facebook. ::shakes fist::


  2. Skype has definitely changed the game. It’s not the candidate’s fault if there is static or if the audio or video goes out. But that leaves an impression on the committee as “oh yeah that was the guy who couldn’t get any audio” or “she had the video fail.” Skype is awesome for admin (lower travel costs) and for the convenience of the committee members. But it is maybe not so great for the candidates. There is nothing like being there IN PERSON.


  3. I disagree, smalltownprof. I think it’s a benefit to everyone. Why should interviewing involve shelling out for plane/train fare and a hotel, esp. for the poorest and most junior members of our profession? I think it’s an even bigger win for candidates, but you are right that the cost savings to departments is significant and should be a part of any conversation about the cost/benefit analysis.

    I did 15 interviews over Skype on a search cmmee. two years ago, and we didn’t have any technical problems at all–none on anybody’s end. We certainly would never have blamed it on the candidate if we had had problems–most people seemed comfortable (or even relieved) with doing the interview either at home, or, at a university telecomm. center where they could plug into an ethernet cable (rather than rely on sometimes chancy wifi.)

    In the end, I saw no down sides, only significant advantages for everyone involved.


  4. As someone on the job market (in history), I confess a desire for some degree of (the usually-loathed-in-this-discipline) standardization. I know schools emphasize and care about different things, but why not ask for just a CV/cover letter/list of references upfront and ask for writing samples/letters of reference/teaching statements/whatever hoops you want, later? Ask for a more targeted cover letter (or focus on the candidates smart enough to write a teaching-focused one or what have you).

    I realize this creates more work in the sense of outreach/collection of documents later, but:

    1) Every faculty member I’ve spoken to has said they can cut out the vast majority of candidates based on CV + cover letter and use the additional materials for culling at later short-list-y stages.

    2) if someone can’t get you those docs within a week of a request, you’re not going to hire them. And then you only have to look at the materials of the shortlist.

    3) it saves work in not collecting and storing reams of documents that won’t get looked at — don’t admin assistants (not to mention faculty) have better things to do than scan, copy, or bind hundreds of applications that they required to be *mailed* in? Even if they’re smart and using online systems, less stuff to manage is good.

    4) it also spares a candidate from needing to craft, say, writing samples ranging from 10-100 pages for places that won’t read them and instead enables candidates to spend more time on a well-crafted letter.

    5) it saves candidates a lot of money (if they use interfolio) and faculty a lot of time (if they don’t), if letters are requested later in the process. A list should ably indicate the fields in which a candidate situates him/herself and then letters can be used (and thus, ideally crafted/written) for more specific info.

    6) And finally, for the love of all deities, why are there still schools that want hard copies of stuff mailed instead of emailed (use a special search email account to keep it all separate) or uploaded? And if schools use some sort of ‘system’ please, for the love of all other deities, indicate whether letter of rec requests go out upon saving a reference’s email address or only after submitting the application? It’s confusing and annoying and one more headache otherwise.


  5. rbg, thanks for your comment. I agree with you in the main–the letters of recommendation and the writing samples & teaching statements can wait until the committee has made an initial cut.

    However, speaking as someone who has had experience on both sides of the job search, I can also say that these decisions are not necessarily made at the departmental level. At my university, the AA/EEO officer has to be present at any discussion of narrowing the pool of applicants, and I’m not sure that we could do that without the letters of recommendation at least. (That is, it might not be our call as to what we can solicit in an application, etc.)

    Finally: why do some departments still ask for hard copies of the files? Because we have neither the staff nor the budget to print up all of this information, and traditionally job applicants have borne the cost of printing and mailing their applications. Hard copies are the way job searches have been done for a lot longer than electronic copies.

    I think it’s fair to ask if you may submit your materials to any search chair electronically, but if they say no, then you either need to print & mail it, or decline to apply. It’s up to you, but if hard copies is what they want, hard copies is what it will take.


  6. n.b I will say that most search chairs will be sympathetic if you are working in a location where printing services & mail are either unavailable or unreliable. That is, scholars working outside the U.S., Europe, and Australia/New Zeland who will find it difficult or impossible to submit hard copies should absolutely ask if they can submit electronically. Esp. if the search is in African or Asian history, for example, and you’re doing research or on a fellowship where office services are hard to come by, just write the search chair and ask.

    Most of us are reasonable people and we don’t want to unfairly exclude folks who are after all only doing the research they need to complete their dissertations or books and function as an area expert in a department.


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