By Wesley Buckwalter
Applying to academic jobs can be prohibitively costly. The reality is that academics apply to hundreds of jobs throughout the long road to hiring and different stages of their career. It sounds small at first, but is incredibly wasteful, really adds up, and may prevent very good applicants from otherwise applying due to finances.
There have been several discussions about some very simple things that could improve the situation. Of course, many departments may not have the flexibility or freedom to alter their application procedures set in place at their university. But just in case there is some freedom, I thought I would summarize things searches can do to ease the financial burden for economically disadvantaged applicants:
Collect secure reference letters in one email. Applicants use dossier services to send secured letters of reference. Dossier services often charge per mailing. Applicants send three, four, five, six, or more reference letters per application. That cost is quickly and needlessly multiplied when departments collect reference letters individually through multiple email requests (for instance, through University websites or Human Resources portals) rather than as one mailing. Establishing one email address in which all reference letters can be sent, even if the rest of the application is submitted online elsewhere, is one of the simplest ways to minimize applicant costs.
For example, using this method, the cost of sending 6 letters through Interfolio would go from $24 an application with individual mailings to $6 for one bulk mailing (and replicating across, say 50 applications, would reduce $1200 to $300 in applications). This would also allow applicants to use the CHE Vitae service if they wish (currently incompatible with HR portals) which would make sending letters entirely free.
Use a Search Service. Departments can also make applications free for job seekers when they use an application service to accept applications. For example, applications submitted to employers through Interfolio directly are free to applicants who also take advantage of the APA's interfolio member benefit.
For some services, the cost for departments is minimal. Academic Jobs Online (AJO), for example, charges between $150-$450 to advertise and accept applications online. For other services the cost is free. For example, check this out, AJO now also has a free eDelivery service. This costs nothing to send or receive secure application items like reference letters under their service. Not only do these services limit or completely eliminate costs, but also promote administrative ease in accepting and organizing documents all in one place.
Application costs are a part of life. Maybe it's not the job of philosophy searches to make applications cheaper or free or easier for people. Then again, a lot of searches seem to have these kinds of considerations in mind when trying initiatives to increase fairness and get best applicants. The financial thing is also starting to get out of control and there are a few things conscientious committees can do to limit wasteful spending for junior members of the profession in a very bleak market climate.
I wanted to open the floor to applicants and search committee members to share experiences and suggestions. How much do you spend on average for an application/in one application year? Have you noticed aspects that can be streamlined to reduce costs? Have you used services to receive applications that have worked well for your department?