Today's edition of our Boot Camp will be relatively brief. Now that we have finished discussing job-market materials (cover letters, CVs, etc), we come to the application process itself: specifically, how to find jobs to apply to, and importantly, when to apply. Although Helen De Cruz discussed some of these issues previously (specifically, whether one should apply ABD, how broadly one should cast one's net, timing the European job market, etc.), there are some additional issues I would like to briefly discuss here.
Let us begin with how to find jobs. Everyone, I take it, knows about philjobs. It is probably the single best resource for finding jobs. Jobs appear on a rolling basis, one can search jobs by AOS, location, etc. But although it is a great resource, not all jobs appear there. In particular, not a lot of community college jobs do. If you want to find those jobs, the best place to look that I know of is HigherEd Jobs. Third, there is Vitae, which I found very difficult to use, but which advertised a few jobs that appeared nowhere else. Finally, there is the philos-l listserv, which you can sign up for.
Let us turn, next, to which jobs to apply for. A lot of this is, of course, up to your preferences. Are you looking for a research job, teaching job, community-college job, jobs in particular locales, etc.? How you answer this question is up to you. Other things are not so up to you: namely, whether your AOS and AOC fit with the job advertisement. While I've heard rumors of people getting interviews for "stretch jobs"--jobs that are not really in their main AOS--I suspect this is mainly for "superstar" applicants. I spend (gulp) seven years on the market, and never once received an interview for any job that was not directly in my AOS, not even "close by" AOS. For instance, although I am a moral theorist, I applied to a lot of applied ethics jobs (which are not really my specialty)--and I never received an interview for them. I also never, in my seven years on the market, received an interview for an "AOS: Open" job, presumably because they get a ton of applicants, and also, perhaps, because (or so I've heard) they are basically "core AOS" jobs (metaphysics, epistemology, etc.). Finally, although you are of course free to apply for those tantalizing jobs that a few top research departments advertise every year (yes, some of them appear to advertise for the same job year after year, rarely making a hire)...well, you read the writing on the wall. Unless you are an absolute superstar, good luck!
Finally, let us turn to when to apply. This is, I believe, one of the most underappreciated issues in the entire application process. Job advertisements state deadlines, some of which are absolute and some of which merely state, "For full consideration, apply by date X." Although I am having a hard time tracking down the relevant posts, I seem to recall some past posts at The Smoker where people were complaining about seeing interviews posted to the job wiki before the application deadline. Some people seemed to think this was unfair, as (in their view) the deadlines "state when one should apply by." I think this is a mistake. A deadline is a deadline. One is free to apply far before the deadline, and if you do, committees are free to consider your materials. Not only that, there are many reasons to think that it may be beneficial to do so.
First, I have had ample personal experience. In my first few years on the market, I sent in my applications near the deadlines, and received few interviews. My last couple of years on the market, I sent in applications way before deadlines and got many more interviews...many of which occurred (via Skype) before the application deadlines. Second, if you think about it for a moment, there are obvious explanations for why applying earlier is likely advantageous. Try to put yourself in the shoes of a search committee member. If you are like most faculty I know, you like to partition your time, getting things out of the way a little bit by the day so that you do not face mountains of work all at once. Suppose, then, that you are on a search committee. The deadline for the job you have advertised is November 1st. Are you going to wait until then to start looking at applications? No way. If applications begin to trickle in, you will likely look at them and decide on some candidates you like. Not only that, if you are a human being (most search committee members are!), you are likely to be subject to anchoring-effects--the well-known phenomenon of being biased in favor of early pieces of information, using them to discount later pieces of information. There's another way to put this: just like when house shopping, if your sights get set early on one home, you may pay less attention to other homes, if you like one job candidate early on, you may be biased in favor of them! Finally, when is your application likely to get a more thorough read: when it is one of a few dozen that came in early, way before the deadline, or when it comes in at the same time as hundreds of other applications close to the deadline? I leave it to you to decide. All I know is that my number of interviews was noticably higher in years that I applied early (though there may, admittedly, be other explanations for that too). In short, there's no harm in applying early, and significant plausible benefits.
That's all for today's post. The next entry in this series will be a co-authored post by Helen De Cruz and myself on in-person conference (i.e. APA) interviews. Stay tuned!