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08/01/2014

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RT

I also recently served on a search (although it was also not TT - it was a 1 year VAP), and wanted to emphasize two of the points above.

First, I also am not pleased with the pedigree system, but also found it playing a bigger role than I would have expected in my judgment of candidates. I tried to correct for this, but I'm sure that I wasn't entirely successful, and I'm sure that not everyone even tries. One thing that counter-balanced a poor pedigree was having a supervisor who I knew or a letter from someone who I knew and respected. You obviously can't control your supervisor at the hiring stage, but you can aim for letters from "names" - and whatever the justice of having to do it, my experience is at least anecdotal evidence that you have very very good prudential reasons to do it if you have lower pedigree. (These letters were also most helpful when they did not just rehash the applicant's work, but instead gave me specific strengths of the candidate that I couldn't pick up from the other materials - collegiality, initiative, etc - or made specific comparisons between the applicant and others who had recently been on the market [or were now successful philosophers, although the comparisons were then usually to the person when they had been on the market for the first time).

Second, not only did we not have time to look carefully over extra materials, I found myself actively resenting those who sent them in. We had a huge number of applications even for our one-year job, and I found myself feeling very frustrated with those candidates who (I found myself thinking) thought that they were entitled to eat up more of my time than the other candidates who had stuck to what we asked for. Again, I generally tried to correct for this resentment, but am not sure I succeeded. This might be less helpful, though, because I'm sure that some people do get a boost from having that extra writing sample or whatever it might be. I'm not sure which side to err on here. Maybe posting extra materials to your own webpage and making it very clear in the application that they are there if the search committee members want to look at them?

Another point not listed above - if there is any way that you can serve as a student rep on a search committee in grad school, DO IT. What the letter-writer above mentions about empty space and meaningless phrases in cover letters is amplified a million times in teaching statements. The ones that did away with all of that were few and far between and stood out clearly - and the rest of them really made me cringe at the teaching statement that I had sent out the year before when I was on the market. I'm now convinced that the best prep that you can possibly get for being on the market is serving on a committee yourself in whatever capacity. If I ever go back on the market for some reason, I will be doing things very, very differently.

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