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Douglas W. Portmore

Congrats! It's terrible that it took you eight years to get a tenure-track job, but I'm glad that you hung in there. You are an asset to the profession.

Marcus Arvan

Andrew: First of all, I want to extend my most heartfelt congratulations to you. Second, thank you for writing this guest post - I think your advice is excellent. Having spent 7 years on the market myself, having talked with other job-candidates, and having served on two hiring committees, my experience is that some candidates dramatically underestimate the importance (and difficulty) of putting together really good dossier materials. I've spoken to a number of grad students who told me they received little to no guidance on how to put together materials, and some of whom tried to put together everything (cover letters, research statement, teaching statement, etc.) in only a few weeks prior to going on the market. In these cases, the candidates and their grad programs seemed to treat dossier materials as something of an afterthought--as though, at the end of the day, the candidates's talents and accomplishments will mostly speak for themselves. In my experience, nothing could be more off-base. My last two years on the market, I worked my materials to death--in my final year with the help of a consultant--and my number of interviews skyrocketed. Do not underestimate the importance of job-market materials. Hiring committees look at hundreds of dossiers, many of which are from candidates of similar levels of accomplishment. When one dossier rises above all of the others in terms of its professionalism, content, etc., you had better believe it stands out. Hiring committees are looking to hire an accomplished professional, and you need to do everything you can to rise above the rest.

Pendaran Roberts

Anecdotal evidence is weak. I for one doubt that after a certain level how polished your materials are matters much.

1. We should all be aware of how much referees disagree over what is good and what isn't. I have referees who say I am a very good writer, for example, and others who think it isn't good enough to even publish.

I think Marcus notices this phenomenon too.

2. There are other factors that are much easier for hiring committee to pick up on: whether they find your work interesting, whether you have a degree from a fancy place, whether you fit their demographic biases, and so on.

4. I have seen various successful applications and in my opinion they are not very polished. They seem written over a day or two and not proofread.

5. I have improved my materials and cv every year with no noticeable differences in number of interviews. So my anecdotal evidence is that it doesn't make a difference.

Marcus Arvan

Pendaran: I agree and disagree. Let me explain, and then modify my advice a bit.

All four of your points are very well-taken. Search committee members do disagree over things, there are other factors taken into account in hiring, people do get hired with poor materials, etc.

I especially suspect that materials may not matter as much for (high-ranked) research jobs as they do for teaching jobs. R1 jobs are (as far as I can tell) looking for one thing: prestigious researchers. This means they may be likely to care primarily about three things: (1) grad program prestige, (2) publication prestige, and (3) the quality of the writing sample and research program. I suspect that when it comes to dossier materials, you could send them a lump of coal if you were the next Kripke. And indeed, when I was in grad school we were told that when applying for R1 jobs, the cover letter should be one sentence (viz. "I'm applying for your job").

I don't think the same is true of teaching schools. I think (from ample experience) they tend to care immensely about professionalism and the quality of one's application materials on the whole. My experience here is anecdotal, but is on both sides of the market--and the anecdotes seem to me fairly telling.

First anecdote: I got turned onto my job-market consultant by two friends. Both of them used the consultant to improve their materials after failed years on the job market, and *both* got a TT job the very year they used the consultant. I hired the consultant to improve my materials and also got a TT job that very year. Anecdata for sure--but intriguing ones, no?

Second anecdote: I improved my dossier every year during my seven years on the market, but for several years got either 0, 1, or 2 interviews. Then, in my last two years on the market, I put a ton of work into my materials--including working with the consultant my final year--and my interviews skyrocketed.

Third anecdote: I've served on two search committees. Although I cannot disclose how we deliberated, I can safely say that in my experience the overall quality of a person's dossier materials can matter immensely. As I noted earlier, you are competing against many people with similar dossiers. You need to stand out. Having the best materials is a way to do that.

In other words, while there is indeed a lot of "noise" in the hiring process--and R1's might not care that much about materials--my experience is that improving one's materials *can* make a difference in terms of getting interviews at some types of schools.

Anyway, here was my attitude as a job-candidate, and it seems to have been Andrew Moon's: if I am going to fail at this (i.e. not get a job), I had better do it giving it my all. I want to be able to look myself in the mirror and be able to know that I did everything I reasonably could to put myself in a good position to get hired. There are no promises in this life, but I'm glad I did--and I suspect Andrew is glad he did too.

Pendaran Roberts

I do not apply for teaching jobs. My strength is research. I cannot get much teaching experience in the UK. I basically apply for research postdocs only.

I do work hard to create the best materials. I just spent two months on an important grant application. I do it so I can tell myself when (if?) I drop out that I did all I could.

What I find most intriguing about your experience is that based on the small sample size, the unnamed job market consultant seems to be !!!!!!AMAZING!!!!!!

People with amazing skills usually charge a lot. In other words, if there were really a consultant who could get philosophers jobs by simply helping to write materials in some way that PhD philosophers can't figure out after years, this person would basically hold the keys to the profession. He could charge enormous fees!

It's just not plausible. There is no secret recipe that some job market consultant knows that is going to get people jobs. Maybe a consultant can improve your odds a little, especially if you are particularly poor at writing applications to begin with. However, a consultant isn't the end all be all, but at most a small factor. Most plausibly, your success Marcus after seeing the consultant was largely chance.

Now, no one should misunderstand me. I am not saying that getting hired is purely random. Having a strong CV and well written application materials is important. My point is that there are diminishing returns. If both you and your advisor (or another successful philosopher) have read the materials and worked on them for a few weeks, then further improvement will, in my view, have minimal effect.

Regardless, I worry that Marcus' stories will lead people to think that there is some secret recipe known for getting hired. There probably is for program x (working on the stuff the committee at x finds most important and interesting), but there isn't for programs in general.

How do I know this? Here's the argument, if it wasn't clear.

1. If there were a secret recipe known, whomever had it would hold the keys to the profession.

2. If someone held the keys to the profession, they'd be rich and famous.

3. There is NO rich person famous for holdings the keys to the profession.

C. There is no secrete recipe known.

I must admit I haven't actually checked on whether premise 3 is true. Need I?

(P.S. Sorry is my post seems a little sarcastic; that's just my style.)

Marcus Arvan

Hi Pendaran: I thought my remarks clearly implied this, but if not I want to be clear that I do not think there is a "silver bullet" for getting a job. The job market is a terribly noisy process with too many variables for any such thing. However, my experience--on both sides of the market--has been that strong application materials can make a difference at an institution like mine. Again, the claim is not that improving one's materials is necessary or sufficient for getting more interviews or a job. The claim merely is that it can help. And I have multiple lines of evidence for thinking it can. I went from receiving 0, 1, or 2 interviews for several years to receiving 7 and 13 (respectively) my final two years on the market--after working really hard to improve my materials with outside feedback, and then (in my final year) hiring said job-consultant. In truth, my CV did not change all that much my final few years on the market--so I think the work on the materials probably had to have played a significant role. One final note: the consultant I hired does charge a *lot* of money for her services. I believe the best explanation is that her services do indeed help people get academic jobs--as her high prices are plausibly explained by good word of mouth (and, I expect, continual good word of mouth based on results). As I explained on this blog before, I found the help to be tremendous--and having served on two search committees, I can safely say that a great many candidates make the kinds of errors she coaches people to avoid in their materials (and yes, in my experience on both sides of the market, they are genuine errors).

Pendaran Roberts

Your remarks make it sound like your consultant is the silver bullet, at least to me.

Why don't you share his/her name so we can all have access to their miracle cure?

I'm sorry. I just don't buy it Marcus. You have a small sample size, and I think it's much more plausible that your results are due to chance-- Incredibly claims require incredibly evidence, and all that.

And if it is true that some consultant with their secret recipe is the solution (or an integral part of it), I find that very depressing.

I like you Marcus and I appreciate all you do for the profession. Don't misunderstand me. I'm just voicing my opinion.

What do other think? Am I off my rocker?

Marcus Arvan

Pendaran: You are right, I do have a small sample size. It is also possible you are right about it being chance, etc. And I too am curious to hear what others think. But let me add a few additional thoughts.

I've been on both sides of the market, and have seen (and judged) a lot of dossiers. For better or for worse, my experience is that the advice I received from my consultant is spot-on. There are things that come off poorly in materials, and they are many of the things that *I* did before getting help from her. [Since you asked, my consultant was Karen Keslky from "The Professor Is In". I have no personal or financial conflict of interest in relating this information].

Anyway, I have relayed much of the advice I received in two different series here at the Cocoon:



It may indeed be depressing that how one presents oneself in job-market materials may make a difference. And, as a matter of fact, I have argued at length and repeatedly that it *is* depressing, and that academics should adopt better hiring methods that focus more on accomplishments and less on appearance:





Be that as it may be, I do think--from ample experience--that in today's current job-market environment, how one presents oneself and one's dossier materials *can* make a difference, even if they are not a silver bullet.


I am a faculty member with a tenured job in the USA. I helped two people associated with the Cocoon (people who write in, like you do). I read their job materials (one was mediated through Marcus). I was surprised in both cases. Both had letters, and other materials that were clearly working against them. They were both accomplished young scholars, but they did not have a good sense of what their application package was supposed to look like. One of them got a permanent position the year I helped them. I do not take (full) credit for it. But I know I certainly helped. The pity is that someone at their home institution did not help them.

recent grad


I think you're misreading Marcus's testimony re: the consultant. Nowhere did he say, or imply, that the consultant was the silver bullet. Rather, he pointed out a few cases in which people used the consultant and then got jobs. As you yourself said, a consultant might improve a person's application a little. But in a field of virtually identical applications, a little matters a lot! I for one have some friends on the market for the first time and their application materials are often cringe-worthy. You can imagine the effect this might have on a search member reading through hundreds of these things.

Pendaran Roberts

Recent grad,

I agree there is a charitable interpretation. But the consultant has a very big part in the story of his success. But hey, if all it takes is hiring a consultant, I should be fine. I'll look him up.


One thing to keep in mind Pendaran is that Marcus was making claims mostly about teaching schools, I think. That is, the big difference the consultant made with improving application materials had to do with applying to teaching schools. If you are only applying to research schools, I think application materials are far less important. Most research schools hire almost exclusively on the basis of the following three criteria (and in this order, I think)

1.PhD prestige
2.Letter Writer prestige (and these letters focus mainly on research plans)
3. Publication recored

Pendaran Roberts

Well, I find it pretty hard to believe. But maybe I'm living in la la land.

Who knows what's expected. All beyond me. All I know how to do is to continue to publish in the best places I can.

And maybe hire this consultant! Ha!

Marcus Arvan

Pendaran: I was once very skeptical too. Obviously, I am not anymore.

Pendaran Roberts

Haha! Yea, not going to sway me! My vote is for chance.

Pendaran Roberts

Still find it depressing.

Marcus Arvan

Pendaran: I am very sympathetic. But one of the main things I have learned over time in becoming a professional and simply getting older is that the world is rarely how one believes it should be. One must adapt to reality if one wants to survive. And adapting need not involve "giving in" to the way things are. One can adapt with integrity and push for the change one wants to see--and in my experience it is possible to make one's own way in academia by doing some unconventional things (I don't think any of my mentors would have suggested blogging for instance, or trying to publish a 78-page paper--but both worked out okay!). The key, I think, is to recognize the depressing parts of reality for what they are (the reality), and then find creative ways to deal with them. There is no point in trying to swim upstream against a current that cannot be beat (at least not in the short-term)--but one can sure surf the heck out of the current in one's own way if one recognizes the current for what it is. In this case, I think the reality is that materials matter for teaching gigs, publication and grad program prestige matter for research schools, etc. Those are the (depressing) facts, I think--and they will not change overnight. One must recognize them and surf them, as frustrating as one might find it.

Pendaran Roberts

Still voting chance. I seen nothing I find more plausible.

Pendaran Roberts

Actually I don't entirely disagree.


So I just went through the hires for this year on philjobs, and I thought some folks might find this interesting. I only counted TT hires, and I divided them into 3 tiers via PHd prestige:

Tier 1: Top 17 Leiter US or Top 25 world
Tier 2: 18-44 US and top 50 world
Tier 3: 45 and below US, non-ranked world, and non-English speaking schools (of which I only saw 1 hire).

Here are the numbers I came up with (and I didn't double check, so I might be off a bit)

Tier 1 12 hires
Tier 2 7 hires
Tier 3 11 hires

One might keep in mind that while the 3rd tier has the most number of schools, lower ranked schools usually graduate significantly lower numbers of students each year. A top school often graduates as many as 6-10 a year, while many lower ranked schools might have 1-4 grads. Also, the postings on phil jobs does not seem to represent the non north-american market very well, either in PhD's or in hiring schools.

I guess the message is don't give up whatever rank your PhD might be from. I think this is also a message for those deciding between PhD programs. It might be better to go to a non-ranked school that is a good fit over a mid-ranked school. Of course, this is a small amount of evidence...


For what it's worth, the year I received my TT job offer, I hired this same consultant (Karen Kelskey). We worked together and from the materials she worked with me on, I got two first-round interviews, one of which would have led to a flyout--however, in the meantime, I had submitted an earlier set of materials (without the consultant) to another job, and they gave me an offer after a first-round and flyout. (So I didn't actually do a flyout for the other position.)

Karen asked if she could use me as a "success story" for her blog, but I said no, as there's no evidence that her intervention was in any way the relevant factor for my getting interviews (and obviously not the actual job). I didn't use her "interview boot camp."


Oh, and the TT position I got was a liberal arts college which values teaching, for what it's worth, and I came from a Leiter top-20 program.

(Relevant to: "I especially suspect that materials may not matter as much for (high-ranked) research jobs as they do for teaching jobs.")


I have limited experience on the job market. However, my anecdotal evidence supports Macolm's last point. I polished my job market dossier a lot, I am ABD and got 5 first round interviews and 2 TT job offers - but they all came from liberal art/teaching schools with at least a 3/3 teaching load. So materials may be important for teaching jobs, I believe. Prestige bias, letters and publications are key for research jobs.

Pendaran Roberts

Just to be clear, I'm not saying that quality of application materials is irrelevant to getting hired and all that matters is the CV.

I'm just doubtful that after a certain point that continued polishing will make much difference.

It seems to me given how much people disagree about what's good that there is no single way of doing things that will work.

Thus, luck plays a large role in finding employment. You by accident send the right materials to the right people.

Think of the publishing process. My experience, as a successful publisher, is that whether you get an R&R on a paper largely depends on whether you get a referee who is friendly to your project or one who isn't. I've noticed no correlation between how long I polish a paper and how fast it's accepted.

A more polished paper might make for an easier R&R but is unlikely to sway anyone's overall verdict. Even the most polished paper you could write wouldn't sway a hostile referee.

I think the job market is probably like this too. Getting a job involves by chance submitting your application to a school where the committee by chance in composed of people who find your work very interesting.

Past a certain level, more polish isn't going to change anyone's minds who don't find your work interesting already, and those who already do find it interesting don't need convincing.

What is the standard past which there are minimal returns? I'd say probably the same that exist with publishing philosophy. If referees can't differentiate based on quality past a certain point, search committees probably can't either.

So, polish your job application materials as much as you do your published papers.

If you don't have any published papers, either you aren't going to be a professional philosophy or you're from a top top school. If the former, this is all irrelevant to you. If the latter, it's also irrelevant, but for different reasons.

(Successful) Job Candidate

Here's my experience:

I went on the job market for the first time this year ABD from a non-ranked program. I landed 8 first-round interviews, 3 on-campus interviews, 2 tenure-track job offers, and 1 post doc. Some of my interviews were for jobs that were way out of my league (if you were to go by PhD prestige alone), so I wouldn't rule out the possibility of climbing one's way up from a "non-ranked" program to a research job. Prestige bias is real, but sometimes search committee members will overlook the fact that you didn't get into (or decided not to go to) a "top" PhD program straight out of undergrad.

I did not hire a job market consultant. My view on this is that unless you *really* can't learn all that you need to know about preparing job market materials, preparing for interviews, etc. from other people and the internet, it's not worth the money.

However, I did use the Cocoon job market boot camp (thanks Marcus!), the Professor Is In guide, and I looked at samples of materials from successful job market candidates. I worked *my ass off* on all of my materials, preparing for interviews, and so on. I also worked my ass off in my graduate program, far more than I perhaps should have given the costs to my wellbeing. But I think it helped.

If you really want a tenure-track job in philosophy, you won't leave anything to chance that is (somewhat) under your control. So maybe don't hire a job market consultant, but don't ignore advice from people who have landed jobs and served on search committees. Sometimes advice you receive will conflict, and you have to exercise your best judgment about what to do- whose advice to take. But I think there is enough evidence that polishing one's job market materials is not a waste of time.

Early Career

I say polish yourself as much as your polish your materials (and your papers). If you want a job in philosophy, you probably shouldn't be the sort of person who turns up late for class, insults (e.g.) administrators, or is generally obnoxious, etc., etc.

Pendaran Roberts

"I went on the job market for the first time this year ABD from a non-ranked program. I landed 8 first-round interviews, 3 on-campus interviews, 2 tenure-track job offers, and 1 post doc."

That's absolutely amazing. May I ask what you work on and how many publications you have in top 20?

Also, to be clear I'm not advising anyone to ignore Marcus or his advice. I'm just cautioning people against over polishing. It's the advice I was giving for publishing and has worked out well in that area at least.

I admit though I don't really know what works.

Pendaran Roberts

I'm also advising against thinking that there is a secrete recipe that some consultant or whoever has.

But really I'm not qualified to be giving any advice. haha!

(Successful) Job Candidate

Pendaran Roberts,
I don't have any publications in top 20 journals, but I do have a number of (good) publications. I work in ethics.


I certainly agree with you about publication polishing Pen. I find once you are above a certain ability it is a matter of a bit of luck (finding the right reviewer). I think this is true to an extent with applications as well, but you might underestimate the number of applicants who do not meet that minimum bar at first. A consultant or other adviser can help someone who has a jumbled application package meet that minimum, which makes a big difference. For instance, Andrew Moon said his teaching statement used to be three pages. IMHO that is a big mistake (way too long) that would stop someone from meeting the minimum bar.


To be clear, I am not claiming that someone who doesn't meet the threshold of application material quality (or publication quality) can never get a job or never get published. Rather it is much harder, and if one hasn't meet the minimum that is the point at which improvements and polishing could substantially increase ones odds of getting a job or publication.

UK grad student

I've noticed a lot of people saying 3 things in particular are key for research jobs: Publications, letters, and PhD department prestige. I agree these are all important, but, at least in the UK, a fourth factor seems to me, from my limited observations of recent hires, often decisive: networking. This is probably also important for more teaching-focused jobs, but it's surely not less important for research jobs.

I imagine the US might be different, since it's so much bigger. This probably makes it more common/expected that applicants have never met the people on the search committee before applying. But in the UK, I'd wager that the majority of applicants who get the jobs do so in places where they'd already established relationships with the search committee members, long before the job was even advertised. Maybe I'm wrong about this, though, and I'd happily be told if so (I hate networking - /social awkwardness).

Pendaran Roberts

Amanda, I agree with you. And thus think Marcus provides an invaluable service. My PhD program provided very little help with application materials.

UK grad student, yes I've noticed this too. Lots of internal candidate hires and the such. I've noticed cronyism gone wild. It's disturbing. But that's reality!


Pendaran & Uk grad student: networking is not a crime per se. Can you be more specific about what concerns you?

Jared Warren

I agree with those saying that polishing and refining your application material matters very little for research jobs. It's also worth noting that the role of connections and networking, especially at top research jobs, is, I think, much larger than anyone here has noted. I'm not the most in the loop person, but several times I've been given accurate information about who would be getting a top research job before the applications for the job were even due. And it's not that uncommon for well-connected graduate students at top places to be offered jobs on the basis of their connections, even while not officially on the market.

It's also clear that demographic factors and area, even at open jobs, are incredibly important. Often decisive. So it's important to remember that publications, letters, and institution prestige are only evaluated together with these other factors, meaning that everybody is not held to the same standard. Even at top research jobs, search committees are not just attempting to hire the best philosopher available. So if you're trying to succeed without friends in high places, on the basis only of ability and accomplishments, without any demographic or area boost, you face an uphill climb.

My own case might be of interest. My PhD is from NYU (2015). I have 13 publications, including in Phil Review, J Phil, PPR (x2), and a number of other good journals. But I have no academic position. It might be relevant that I've never gone to a philosophy conference and that I don't work on hot topics or try to game the system at all. Even still, I'm at the point now where given my publication record, some top schools are at least looking at my file, even though, as mentioned, I don't network at all and have nothing, other than merit and ability, going for me. This makes me believe that, given how high the threshold is for earning consideration in this fashion, someone coming from a less prestigious institution who was using the same approach could also get looked at if they have a similar publication profile. But I can't be certain that is the case.

So there *might* be a path to a top TT research job on the basis of pubs, letters, and institution, and it is one that I suspect is also possible on the basis of pubs only, given that the publication standard for getting considered on this basis is beyond the tenure standards even at top research schools. I'm trying to provide a possibility proof by example, since I don't know of one, at present. But for those who have the means and the personality for it, making friends, circulating your work, attending conferences, etc., is, in conjunction with other factors, surely the best strategy for advancing to a top research job and probably other jobs as well. For these are flawed, socially active human beings making these decisions, not merit-evaluating robots.


Jared, I am curious why you have you never gone to a philosophy conference? And I strongly doubt someone without your PhD prestige would get a shot at top research jobs, even with your publication record. Check out Andrew Moon's publication record, for example, and keep in mind it took him 8 years to get a job at a philosophy department that teaches only undergraduates.


"...making friends, circulating your work, attending conferences, etc., is, in conjunction with other factors, surely the best strategy for advancing to a top research job..."

I think Jared is absolutely right here, and I think that continues to be the case even after you have a TT job. There are too many papers published, even in top journals, for people to read everything that's published in their area. If you want your papers to be read and cited, (which of course helps for tenure) this sort of stuff is super helpful. People read stuff that's recommended to them, or that's by people they know, or that their students are reading, etc. Publishing on a topic in the right journal guarantees that at least two people will read the paper--the referee, and the managing editor. Three, if you get two referees. But that's not enough to make it likely that the paper will get into the literature in a significant way.

Of course, most papers won't get into the literature in a significant way. But if you want a shot at that, you shouldn't count on journal venue to be enough.

Shen-yi Liao

For Pendaran and others on the consultant thing:

"If someone held the keys to the profession, they'd be rich and famous." If we're talking about TheProfIsIn, I think she is pretty rich and famous. I think in one interview she said she's now making three times her previous salary as a full professor at a R1 state school... so that'd make her income something like $300000. I think for an academic, that counts as rich. (Source: http://www.chronicle.com/article/need-advice-on-a-nonacademic/138415/ .)

I'm not sure how much her services matter either, but I will say the (tragic) existence of this market sometimes tempts me to go into it.

I don't think it's implausible that her services do matter some though. Even past the job market stage, some accomplished professional philosophers employ academic coaches to help them navigate all new challenges academia throws up. For example http://www.leaderacademic.com/rena-seltzer/


More importantly, on Andrew Moon:

I think when people say "networking" sometimes they have a very narrow conception that involves you talking to people at conferences or whatever. But another form of networking---which I'd agree that matters very much for job marketing---is words about you getting around.

I have no empirical evidence on whether things like the following played a role or not, but I strongly suspect it did. Andrew and I were VAPs at the same time at Kansas State. We each taught 3/3 load, but on top of that Andrew was very active in extracurricular departmental activities, and he was also running an independent study on top of the 3/3 load with one of the more advanced students. And that student ended up going to a really good graduate school partly due to all the efforts Andrew put in. No doubt he was an equally good "departmental citizen" during his other temporary stints too.

Now, words don't always get around immediately. So it might take a few years. But words do get around. So, one thing I'd disagree with Andrew's own account is that he focused on a lot of near-term differences. But I think some of his success now might have also been caused by things he did much earlier, but just through a much slower causal process.


Re Grateful | 04/01/2017 at 11:00 AM "my anecdotal evidence supports Malcolm's last point...So materials may be important for teaching jobs, I believe. Prestige bias, letters and publications are key for research jobs. "

Actually, I was suggesting the opposite. The "refined" materials were not the basis of the liberal arts school's selecting me. Whether the materials were refined or not, of course, is open to question, as is, of course, the hard & fast distinction between teaching/research.

Pendaran Roberts

I would rather not go into my examples of cronyism, as I suspect the behavior is in fact illegal in the UK. I'm not going to accuse people of illegal behavior on an online forum.

I took a look at Andrew Moon's CV. The two Mind articles stand out. It's sad that people who have clear accomplishments have to struggle for almost a decade to find any security, meanwhile I've seen many hired on the basis of prestige and connections, not accomplishments.

My favorite was someone hired with the title Research Professor who had no publications. haha! IRONY AT ITS FINEST!

Jared Warren's publication record is amazing and he has prestige on top of it. He looks like one of the best young philosophers of our time, as far as I can tell. It's absurd he doesn't have a job.

I don't have a pretty story either. I graduated with 3 publications, 2 top 20. My PhD program offered little help to young graduates with the job market. To make matters worse my advisor got ill after 2 years and had disappeared. So, I had basically been on my own for a year, writing and publishing.

My first interview was for a 1 year teaching/research job at Bristol. I didn't get hired but the committee said I was a very impressive candidate based on my research and assured me I'd find a job very quickly. They also said I had aced the interview and teaching demonstration.

I got no other interviews that year. I was unemployed until I got a small research grant. It is very little money as a salary, but gave me the motivation to continue writing.

I got 1 more interview for another research/teaching job in the UK two years out from my PhD. I had a horrible stomach virus when I had to interview. Went down to the interview in pain and nauseous. A week later I got an email that said they wanted someone more core philosophy of mind. Thanks for wasting my time!

I now have 10 publications, 6 top 20, having graduated with my PhD July 2014. Everyone I meet is impressed with my CV, saying it's 'stellar', 'very strong', and the like. I've never met someone who can believe I don't have a very cushy postdoc at minimum.

What am I lacking? Well obviously teaching experience, but most young graduates lack that in the UK. I definitely lack connections. I'm shy in public and do not find socializing with strangers enjoyable. I lack prestige. None of my degrees are from fancy places. What I do not lack is accomplishments.

Anyway, this is my last summer on the market. I'm psychologically drained. I have become a bitter and unhappy person over my years in philosophy (if you can't tell haha!). Hopefully my luck turns around this summer.

I have a few research grants I've applied for (and will apply for) which I worked for months on with the help of people who know what they're doing. I'm told I have a 50/50 chance.

If they don't work out, I have a back up, which is to open a business with a friend.

UK grad student

Hi Grateful,

I didn't say it was a crime. The only negative emotion I conveyed was in relation to the fact that I personally dislike doing it. So I think you're reading something into my post that wasn't there.

Since you asked, though, though networking itself isn't a crime, it is something that can easily lead people into bad behaviour. And it seems to be a problem if otherwise excellent candidates who happen to be bad at networking are excluded from the profession. Networking is an important life skill, but surely there are other skills that we should value much, much more highly in philosophers.

Jared, your publication record is frankly intimidatingly good. If you can't get to conferences, for whatever reason, you owe it to yourself to do what you can to network in other ways. Do you ever just cold email people working in your areas, to see if they'll give you comments on your work, etc? It might be worth trying: obviously, some people just don't reply, but some do, and one can build useful correspondences in this way, without ever leaving one's house. Given that you publish in unfashionable areas, the people who DO work in those areas will probably be all the more receptive to you, since people working in less fashionable areas tend to stick together and help one another out more.

Since we're on the subject, I don't think we should be snobbish about networking. It can help one produce better philosophy: the mind is stimulated by conversation and bouncing ideas off other people, and morale is boosted by seeing others get excited by the same things you get excited about.

Pendaran Roberts

"'If someone held the keys to the profession, they'd be rich and famous." If we're talking about TheProfIsIn, I think she is pretty rich and famous. I think in one interview she said she's now making three times her previous salary as a full professor at a R1 state school... so that'd make her income something like $300000. I think for an academic, that counts as rich."

I am constantly amazed.

People say I'm a cynical person, but apparently not cynical enough!

UK grad student

Pendaran, I looked at her website. She charges $150/hour! That'll do it! I'm pretty depressed to find out that people are using this service (though I don't judge them for doing so).

UK grad student

Actually, no it won't get you to anything like $300,000. Unless she works a LOT of hours!

Marcus Arvan

I think she has a lot of clients simultaneously, and she has a number of different services with different price-points. I suspects she makes well upwards of $300,000.


$150/hour x 40 hours/week x 52 weeks/ year = $ 312,000/year
The math is simple.

Pendaran Roberts

Yea, I'm happy I'm going on holiday tomorrow.

These forums are too depressing for me to handle well.

Marcus Arvan

smartypants: I don't think it is that simple. She has some other employees involved in some of her services, enabling her to take on more clients (she is forthright about this when contracting). I also suspects that she works well upwards of 40 hours per week.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Pendaran: I empathize with you finding these issues depressing. I also empathize with your experience of professional philosophy making you bitter and unhappy. Although you and I are two different people, and I cannot fully appreciate what it is like to be you, I can say that I struggled with similar feelings in my career, both in grad school and on the job market.

At the same time, one of the more important things I think I learned--at least in my own case--was that my bitterness and unhappiness only worked against me, coming through in my behavior in ways that pushed people away from me when what I really needed was friends and mentors. Things began to change substantially for the better when I adopted a more positive attitude myself, choosing to put aside my bitterness. I also think that insofar as tenure-track hiring committees are looking for someone who may be a colleague for life, they are likely to favor candidates who seem happy and optimistic.

In short, while I empathize with your bitterness very much, think you may have very good reasons to have it, and realize it can be hard to overcome, my experience is that one of the best favors one can do oneself is to overcome it to whatever extent one can.


The struggle with bitterness is hard, for I can't help but think that people with amazing accomplishments and no job are JUSTIFIABLY bitter. It easy to look at people with few accomplishments in either teaching or research, who get hired, and come away with righteous indignation about what at least appears to be an injustice of sorts. However, I think Marcus is absolutely right that it works against you in every way possible. Not only is your own life less pleasant, but you are also less likely to get a job. One hiring factor that I think is influential for both teaching and research jobs is whether you are a pleasant and likable person. I have been at departments where a few bitter faculty members manage to make the whole department miserable. It is natural to want to avoid that as a hiring committee. Hence what might be justified bitterness comes across as a red flag for those who might otherwise hire you. (Of course, I have no idea if anyone whose responded here expresses their bitterness in a way search committees might notice, but it seems that once that attitude is internalized it is more likely to come across, even unintentionally.)

Jared if you come back to this forum, I am also curious how widely you apply, and if you apply overseas? From what I have heard, publications alone are much more valuable in the UK and Europe than the US. (I do understand that some people just cannot work overseas for personal reasons, so I in no way judge you if you haven't. Your record clearly is good enough to beat out almost any other candidate at a research school in the US or anywhere else.)

Pendaran Roberts

Every interview I've attended, I've been told I aced. I didn't get the jobs for CV reasons that I couldn't do anything about (or so I'm told).

I express my bitterness here sometimes (although not the first few years out), but never at an interview. Never on my cover letter, etc. Who would?

Although my personality (if you knew me) would seem to predict I wouldn't be good at interviews, that's not what I'm told from the people who interview me.

And in fact, I strangely enjoy interviews. I enjoy teaching too. And interviews always involve a teaching component and then formal conversations.

What I can't do is small chat. Thankfully UK interviews are fast and don't have any time allotted for small chat or dinner or whatever.

I might suck as US interviews...

Pendaran Roberts

"Things began to change substantially for the better when I adopted a more positive attitude myself, choosing to put aside my bitterness."

I'd be very curious how you did this. From what I understand of psychology this isn't a possibility.

Once a personality has developed due to years of having a certain kind of experience or another, it takes changing the environment and years to reverse it.

It's not a decision you can simply make.

Maybe this is bad faith, as Sartre would say.

But I just don't find I have much control over how I feel.

Marcus Arvan

Pendaran: Although I do not know your particular case, in general I think it is dangerous to assume that what people tell one about one's performance is in fact true. As my spouse has impressed upon me, people often "impression manage", saying things to be kind or not offend. I am not saying or implying this is true in your own case. I am just saying one should not assume that people are being forthright in personal or professional contexts.

It is also important to realize that formal interviews are a pretty small part of the process, and that people on the hiring side can judge a candidate on the basis of behavior during chit-chat, interactions with students and administrative staff, and finally, online behavior. Even if unhappiness or bitterness does not manifest in one of these contexts (a formal interview), it may manifest in other contexts in ways that affect their judgments or hiring decisions.


While I understand the idea of justified bitterness about the state of the philosophy job market, and the fact that undeserving people are not getting jobs in general, I guess I don't get the idea of thinking that there are any individual cases of injustices. I don't think search committees or departments have any obligation to let publications or other accomplishments trump anything else in hiring. I would encourage people to resist the bitterness being directed at particular cases that they are thinking of as being unjust. I don't know anyone who has gotten a job in the past couple years who is not incredibly deserving. The problem is a surplus of incredibly deserving people--no one is hiring someone who is not really good (where what counts as really good varies a lot according to the parameters of the job, of course).

I think there is a real danger in thinking that this stuff can be quantified. How do we quantify who counts as a good teacher? Of course we can have evidence that someone has experience, that they attended workshops, that they went out of their way to get training, etc., but we all know course evaluations are not a good way of figuring this out. And I think that departments that care about teaching should be able to take what might look, from the outside, like risks with respect to hiring inexperienced teachers--if the department cares about teaching, then they are probably pretty good at judging who is a good teacher and who is not, etc.

How do we quantify who counts as a good researcher? It just seems like a fact to me that this does not necessarily correspond with number of publications, which journals publications are in (though that can tell us something about the judgment of the candidate sometimes maybe), etc. All this stuff is evidence, of course--just like in the teaching case. But it's evidence that it seems to me totally reasonable for a search committee/dept. to override in specific cases.

I guess I just don't see what is unjust or bad about this. Isn't the problem with funding and commitment to higher ed, the adjunctification of academia, the decline of commitment to the humanities especially, etc., etc., and not with any individual hire? I can only think of one case of someone in recent years that I know of who got a job that I don't think they deserved; and that is a very complicated case.

Finally, I just want to gently second the idea that the ability to interact with others in a kind and cooperative way, and demonstrating that, is, in my experience with hiring, a necessary condition for getting a job. There are just too many good candidates to take a risk with someone who seems like they might be unpleasant, or might not put in their share of service, or who might be hard to be on a committee with. This is, I think, as it should be.

Marcus Arvan

"I'd be very curious how you did this. From what I understand of psychology this isn't a possibility. Once a personality has developed due to years of having a certain kind of experience or another, it takes changing the environment and years to reverse it".

Good query, and I think I am going to write a post on it in the coming week. For now, I will say a few quick things:

(1) I may be a bit of an outlier in terms of the capacity to change long-standing patterns of behavior. My spouse tells me I am. I had long periods of my life (during grad school) when I behaved irresponsibly, got into great debt, didn't work hard, was angry and bitter, etc. Then I decided these were all bad things and changed my behavior on a dime. I was "one person" one day, and became "another person" more or less overnight. It's not the first time either, so I'm not entirely sure what to say about. *However*...

(2) My spouse is getting her PhD in psychology at the #2 program in North America. Or so she tells me, one of the most important personality traits--in terms of personal and professional success--is the disposition to have an "internal locus of control." There are two types of people: (A) people who do not blame external circumstances but instead believe that they have control over their lives (interank locus of control), and (B) those who blame external circumstances and think there is little they can do (external locus of control). In brief, people with an internal locus of control are "irrationally optimistic" about their ability to change. But here's the thing: the science shows that people with this bias actually *are* more capable of change. Anyway, I have an extreme internal locus of control. I think I am responsible for what happens to me, and that I have the power to change and adapt to overcome large odds. I have no idea whether one can *decide* to have an internal locus of control, but I will say this: it has made all of the difference in my case. This is a hard world. All you can control is what *you* do, but I have found that having this attitude can make an important difference not only to one's own psychological well-being, but also internal and external attitudes and behaviors. It is not easy to do. Like most, I struggle when bad things happen to me or when I endure failure. But after a bit I get up again and try something different than I was doing before. For some reason, I've found it usually works. Maybe I've been lucky (probably). But I've also been through a hell of a lot (I know, cry me a river;),and I don't know how I would have endured it if I hadn't believed that I could somehow overcome it. Fwiw

Marcus Arvan

anonymous: You are right about the importance of personality, but wrong about quantifying things. My spouse is a PhD student at a top program in the field of Industrial Organizational Psychology. As I explain in the post linked below, one of the most systematically confirmed hypotheses in her field--consistently confirmed in studies dating back to the 1970s across a wide variety of fields and wide variety of predictants--is that quantified methods *systematically* outperform human judges. Human beings have a tendency that they can judge performance better than algorithms. The science here is clear: they are wrong. You can quantify research: publication numbers, journal ranking, citations, etc. You *can* quantify teaching: with documented learning outcomes, etc. And you *can* quantify personality (personality tests). You might think these are bad measures, but again, the science shows they are *good* measures. There was just a study that came out--the first in academic--showing that hires made using algorithmic methods received tenure something like 38% more often than those hired using "human judgment". There is a reason why IO psychology is the #1 growing field in North America right now, and why everyone from Google to the NSS spend a ton of money hiring IO psychologists. It is because their data-driven methods actually work, and work far better than human budgets. It is time that academics become aware of the science and put into practice.


I will post the study on academic hiring as soon as I get home.

Marcus Arvan

Here's the 2016 MIT study: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/12/20/mit-professors-push-data-based-model-they-say-more-predictive-academics-future

The correct figure in the study was 30%: the data-driven model for hiring predicted tenure 30% better than hiring decisions without the model (and note: tenure decisions are made by human beings. So, the model was 30% better at predicting what *human judgers* thought of performance at the tenure and promotion stage--including how they judged a faculty member's "fit" with their institution--substantially better than a non-data-driven hiring committee did). 30% better might not sound like a lot, but in the social sciences that is an enormous effect.

And again, this is not just one study. This is one of the most consistently verified findings in the field: data-driven methods *systematically* outperform human judgers.

Here is the tag-line of one of the most famous meta-analyses in the field (one that occurred over 20 years ago, and which subsequent findings have continued to verify: "The mechanical method involves a formal, algorithmic, objective procedure (e.g., equation) to reach the decision. Empirical comparisons of the accuracy of the two methods (136 studies over a wide range of predictands) show that the mechanical method is almost *invariably* equal to or superior to the clinical method."


Long story short: intuition doesn't work any better in hiring than it does in philosophy.

Marcus Arvan

Pendaran: http://scottbarrykaufman.com/study-alert-systematic-review-personality-trait-change-intervention/


Thanks Marcus--but I don't understand how we could know that these things were good measures unless we agreed on what the desirable outcome that we wanted was... and I am skeptical that there is a way that we could agree on that. More generally, I'm sympathetic to most of the worries that got raised in the comments of the post that you refer to--I won't rehash them. I disagree (and it seems to me that this is something that reasonable people could disagree about, so it's a little weird that you insist that I'm wrong--I think I'm right, and that given the way I am thinking about things, it might actually be impossible to construct a quantitative "predictor" of the thing that my colleagues and I care about--because we can't give a quantitative outcome that we are looking for--your tone/language suggests that you think you have facts on your side, or something, but this is not a merely empirical dispute where you have access to reality and I do not). Do we worry about someone getting tenure? Yes, of course. But that is just one of a large number of things we worry about when hiring someone. One thing that is especially important is just how interesting we happen to find the candidate's work. I think this is a very good thing to select for in the hiring process. My department is very wide-ranging in terms of area, approach, etc.--but we put in a lot of time and energy into cultivating an environment in which we read one another's work, talk about it, support one another, etc. Frankly, I can't see how it is problematic to care not just about quality of work--where let me grant, for a minute, thought I strongly disagree with this premise, that this is something that could be quantified--but also how much we happen to be gripped by it.

(We just hired this year. There were lots of applicants we didn't interview who had great publications, but whose work we didn't find interesting or exciting. We interviewed some people who had fewer publications, or had publicatons in less good journals, whose work was really interesting to us.)

In general, I don't see much more in your post than what I already believed, and thought was mostly irrelevant to what I look for in a potential colleague. And I disagree with quite a bit of what you say. I think this is not a disagreement that can be settled by shoving empirical evidence in someone's face. So I really didn't like the tone of your comment above.

Marcus Arvan

anonymous: I sincerely apologize for my tone. This issue raises my emotions, in large part because I am married to someone who does this for a living. People in her field are continually greeted with skepticism despite the fact that, whenever people say something cannot be captured in data, people in her field tend to find a way to capture it and predict demonstrably better than human judgers.

A big reason why I get frustrated as well is that I think there are justice and fairness issues here. As I have detailed many times, the science shows that hiring people discriminate on the basis of looks, gender, race, tone of voice, stature, and all kinds of other things--despite not thinking that they do any of these things.


The science also shows that humans are bad at judging personality and its relation to workplace outcomes--for instance, extroverts almost always come off better in interviews, while introverts (of whom I am one) are often better employees.

Data, in my view, is the great equalizer. It helps correct substantially for the worst, most hidden biases we human beings have. Which is why I think we should follow the science. Again, there is a good reason why so many industries and government agencies are hiring IO psychologists who use these methods. They result--demonstrably--in more successful employees, happier employers, and better workplaces.

Sorry again for my perturbed tone in the previous comment. I do apologize!

Marcus Arvan

anonymous: I want to reiterate my apology for my tone. I try to be kind and level-headed in conversation, and am disappointed in myself when I'm not.

Pendaran Roberts

For some reason it's not too hard for me to imagine quantifying good teaching and good research. I mean it would take some work to do, but I can't see what the philosophical problem is supposed to be. I mean unless we don't think there is such a thing or maybe we think only the test of time matters.

It seems for research something like this could work: Number of publications not top 20 + number of top 20 pubs times 2 (to factor in that these are better) and divide the whole thing by number of years out from the PhD.

We could make this more complicated to address all sorts of worries but in principle I don't see the problem. It would never be perfect, but perfection isn't attainable anyway.

It would certainly be better than biased human judgment. Blind referees have already determined that a published paper is good. They are probably more qualified to do this than the search committee, which can't read all the publications and can't be experts in all the areas. They also aren't blind.

For teaching there probably isn't much we can use right now other than number of courses taught. Student avals aren't very good as they stand I don't think. References probably aren't very valuable either.

However, we could implement some kind of scientifically created teaching evaluation system that includes how well students do in future courses.

In sum, although it would take work, I can't see the philosophical problem.

Marcus Arvan

Pendaran: Part of what also motivates my concern here is to help make the job-market better--and far less miserable (and seemingly arbitrary)--for job-candidates.

As I recall all too well, the job-market can seem like an absurd series of hoops to jump through. From the dossier itself (i.e. having to hone a cover letter, research statement, teaching statement, diversity statement, etc., all of which are mere "appearances"), to having to spend $1000 to hire a consultant to hone one's materials, to first-round interviews (which are known scientifically to be mostly useless at predicting anything), to being one of (say) 12 first-round interviewees (when only 2 or 3 may have a real chance at the job), to seeing people hired with no publications and next to no teaching experience when you have demonstrable successes in both areas--the entire process is pretty miserable. This isn't just my view, I think; I've heard so many job-candidates talk about how punishing the process is that I'm pretty sure I'm not alone.

Part of my hope is that once we understand the science of hiring better, we can see that much of our current processes are indeed problematic, and could be reformed to be more fair and more kind to everyone involves, as well as more efficient--with better outcomes for hiring institutions and job-candidates alike.


I think a good mix would be to use algorithms to pick a list of 10 finalists, and then use a committee for the eventual hire. I do think we can quantify a lot of things, but unique fit seems pretty hard. Consider, for instance, that each department wants something a bit different, and hence an algorithm would need to be different for every department. Suppose, for instance, a department wanted someone who is pleasant, has bioethics as an AOC, and Medieval philosophy for an AOS. That said, they are very willing to sacrifice the AOC for an extra pleasant person, or a person with community ties to decrease flight risk, etc. At that level (and only that level) I think humans would do better.

I would also think there would need to be something to control for prestige and publications, because many people I know at top departments (as I think Jared would confirm) email papers around to friends before sending them to journals, in the hope that those same friends will be the referee. I know lots of people who have done this with successful results. (and they are usually from top departments).

Pendaran Roberts

Marcus, you're not alone. It's brutal, the job market that is.

I'm on your side 100% when it comes to the view that we should be using quantitative methods to hire.


" email papers around to friends before sending them to journals, in the hope that those same friends will be the referee."

If you're not emailing papers to friends before sending them to journals, how are you getting feedback? If you're a grad student, presuambly your advisors are helping you, but if you already have a job, maybe there's one other person in your AOS at your institution, maybe 0. Emailing papers to your friends (and presenting them at conferences, which also risks contaminating the referee pool) is the only way to get feedback. True if you're at a top department, your friends are more likely to end up refereeing for top journals, but it still strikes me as overly cynical to think that you need any nefarious explanation of people motives to explain why they circulate papers among friends before sending them to journals. Derek Parfit was famous for circulating extensive drafts before publishing. Was he trying to contaminate the referee pool? Obviously not (Oxford was gonna publish whatever he gave them)--he was trying to make his work as good as possible by getting a lot of critical feedback before publishing.

Marcus Arvan

D: Human beings are not very good at knowing their own motives -- but one need not impute nefarious motives to have concerns about contaminating the referee pool. Some people are very well-connected, well-liked, and share their work widely, including at invite-only conferences. It is not unreasonable to think that this can seriously compromise anonymized review, however innocent a person's motives may be. Not that I'm a fan of anonymized review anyway--but that's a big reason why: it's not really anonymized.


Also, a quick answer to your question: "If you're not emailing papers to friends before sending them to journals, how are you getting feedback?" The answer, at least in my case, is I'm not. I mostly just write work, circulate it to no one, and send it out to journals. It would be nice to get feedback, but like many people who work in tiny departments I don't have an easy time getting people to read my unpublished work, so I don't bother.


LOL I don't think Parfit really had to worry about these sorts of things. And no offense to him, by all accounts he seems an absolute model of both a philosopher and a human being.

Any way, whatever one's motivates, there is still a problem with blind review when someone who has read your paper, and is your friend, then reviews that paper. I know this happens because I have talked to the reviewers. And I am sadly on Marcus's side with getting feedback most of time. Few people are very interested in doing this, from my experience. I just joined a paper exchange group where a large group of young philosophers swaps papers and gives each other feedback. Well I got a paper and sent one out. I reviewed my paper. It is now a month past the supposed date I was supposed to get my feedback, and my inbox is empty. I find philosophers terribly unreliable.


Marcus: it seems to me a thread on the subject of getting feedback on drafts (how to, worries, different approaches, etc.) might be good.

Marcus Arvan

Tim: great idea - I'll get on it!

Pendaran Roberts

I have very few people I can trust to read my work carefully and there are only so many times I can ask them. So, I mainly rely on referees to give comments. This tragedy works but is slow, which makes my publication record even more impressive really.

Pendaran Roberts

Also my advisor got ill after 2 years and left. So mainly didn't even have him!


Having no feedback from advisers is sadly not uncommon. I had five committee members when I proposed my dissertation, 1 had read the proposal. I have known a couple of my friends who have graduated with only 1 committee reading the dissertation, and a couple of times that one person wasn't even the adviser. I wish there was a desire to change this culture.

Stuck, PhD

anonymous 2:08 p.m.:

When you say things like "I don't know anyone who has gotten a job in the past couple years who is not incredibly deserving," you make people feel irrational and small about their bitterness. My suspicion is that others on this thread feel that your statement is untrue, but don't want to be viewed negatively for saying so.

The fact is, as graduate students, we are told that publication and, to a lesser extent, teaching are the valuable goods philosophers produce. Yet there are many examples of people with no peer-reviewed publications and little teaching who getting TT jobs and prestigous postdocs, whereas people like Pendaran and Jared don't get anything. While I agree with you that no particular instance of joblessness can be identified as unjust, the fact is that many who work hard at what they're told to work hard at often do worse on the job market than those who know the right people.


anonymous, I guess I can understand wanting someone whose work you are interested in and excited about. On the other hand, whoever you hire will presumably be your colleague for a long time, presumably several decades, and so I'm not sure it really is such a good idea to put very much emphasis on how "exciting" whatever topic applicants happen to be working on at the moment, since that is a rather contingent matter and easily subject to change -- many people change both their topic and their approach in graduate school, and many people continue to do so after graduate school. Lord knows I don't plan on working on my dissertation topic forever.


Stuck PhD, as someone who would probably not be competing for the same jobs you are referring to, I am wondering whether you have evidence for the claims you make. As before with those accusing others of cronyism without any evidence, I feel that making statements without proving any sort of support disqualifies your accusations. You claim "there are *many* examples of people with no peer-reviewed publications ..." who get jobs: how do you know there are so many? It would be important to look at the actual numbers. In addition, I imagine there could be many different factors for why people with good credentials (i.e. lots of pubs, prestigious PhD) don't get jobs: poor performance at interviews, research focus on small/boring/dead debates, disagreeable personality traits ...


Ok. I will try to respond. First thought: I think there's some misunderstanding of the goals and processes of hiring in (at least the few departments--all R1--that I'm familiar with). The goal in my department is not to hire the "objectively best" person. Indeed, I very much doubt that any of my colleagues think there is a fact of the matter about who the objectively best person is. The goal is to hire the person that we, collectively, subjectively judge to be some combination of the best philosopher/a good fit for the dept/friendly/a good colleague/willing to do significant service/knows how to teach. We know that there's not a strong reason to think that our judgments about who is the best philosopher line up with the "objective" facts (if there are any). But we don't care! (I tend to think that a lot of preferences about philosophy are actually aesthetic preferences, because I think philosophy is fundamentally a creative enterprise. There might be objective aesthetic properties. But if there are, I'm not sure how much they affect what I actually enjoy, aesthetically.)

-Maybe (I actually doubt this--given how often I got asked to referee in grad school with zero publications and in areas I was inexperienced in) anonymous referees are more likely to get things right re: what papers are objectively best than my dept as a whole is (if indeed this notion of objective bestness makes sense). Suppose I grant that. Nothing follows! We just want the person whose work we think is best/most interesting/contributes the most to our dept/how we see things progressing in the future.

-Re: interestingness of work. Of course. But the same argument could be made about any factor used in hiring (you want someone who publishes in Mind. They publish one paper in Mind in grad school. They never publish another paper in a top ten journal). Further, it's not usually just topic that is deemed interesting. It's approach, philosophical stance, ideas about other stuff that the candidate is not directly working on. I disagree that us being interested in all this is a bad predictor of future interest in the person's work (on our part).

I think the above things are a pretty good description of how hiring works both in the department I work in, and in the department I got my PhD in (where I served on a hiring committee).

Here are a few observations about my own department that may or may not generalize:

-The last time we hired someone with no publications (and the only time in at least recent institutional memory), none of us knew any of the people who recommended the candidate (though they were "big names"). There were no nefarious backdoor connections.

-Last time I was on a hiring committee, we were contacted by many faculty at departments all over the map in terms of prestige. Many of us found this irritating, even when we knew the faculty well. We made a collective effort to not let this irritation negatively affect our judgments. I feel confident that these efforts at contact did not positively affect our judgments.

-We have not, in at least the last three hires (the ones I have been present for) hired anyone who any of the members of the committee knew personally (and we have had a large number of people apply who were known personally to the committees).

By the way, I certainly don't think hiring practices are perfect, or that people are always "getting things right" even by their own lights. I also think prestige bias is a real thing when it comes to research oriented jobs (I'm not totally convinced that there is not reverse prestige bias for teaching oriented jobs, but I also think that if there is such bias, it is easier to overcome). But the allegations of cronyism, it being "all about" who you know, "networking", etc. Seem pretty far-fetched to me. My colleagues and I are very concerned about hiring the very best person we can--where "very best" refers to our unique set of preferences--and it is just very unlikely that we would ever let someone else dictate who we hire (we have a hard enough time fighting over our own favorite candidates).

I want to be clear that none of this is to try to say that the job market isn't a crapshoot (it is, largely because what departments are doing is trying to satisfy their own idea of the best colleague, not some objective measure (which I don't believe in). And none of it is to say that I don't think that the situation tremendously sucks. But it still strikes me as odd to be bitter about particular cases of hiring.

FWIW, I also think that there's a lot of sort of intangible additional benefits that candidates from elite depts have on the market. For example, we tend to be more interested in people with big, exciting, systematic projects. But it is much harder to take the risk to work on such a dissertation (I assume) if one is stressed about publishing multiple papers in grad school, etc. So I think people from "top" depts have an advantage here, just in freedom of topics and fewer constraints from the stress of the market (though I think this is changing; even people from "top" depts can't (usually) get jobs without publications anymore). I really want to make clear that I think the whole situation sucks.

But I also think it's odd to think that a dept is doing something unjust if they hire in the way my dept does. (I mean, there might be related injustices; perhaps we are less likely to hire someone "outside the box"--though I think that's false in our case, I can see that thinking like this might lead to that sort of thing; and perhaps it allows for more pernicious unconscious discrimination in cases where what depts want is someone who thinks/writes/acts just like them. But I can't see a direct, immediate injustice.) Again, I think of philosophy as largely a creative enterprise, and preferences about what counts as good, interesting philosophy as largely aesthetic. It's hard to see what's wrong with preferring someone's art who might be less prolific, or less accepted by the rest of the art world (say, hasn't sold a lot of paintings) than others are. I guess I see the way publishing papers affects hiring decisions sort of like that.


It is pretty easy to see that people with no publications get jobs by looking at philjobs. And there has also been lots of empirical work done on this that has shown it to be the case. (Carolyn Jennings, for instance)

No one would want to give specific examples, for that would be extremely unkind to the person who got hired (who is being labeled undeserving). Even undeserving people should be treated with kindness. And I could hardly blame an undeserving person for taking a job.

Marcus Arvan

anonymous: I think you make a really strong case for your position--and in principle I am sympathetic with most of your points (viz. philosophy being an artistic/aesthetic enterprise, with different people having their own standards for what is desirable in a teacher, philosopher, etc.). Indeed, I have rather idiosyncratic views and preferences about these things myself! I also think you are probably right that there may be no "direct, immediate injustice" in any given case.

All that being said, here are my concerns. You note that the job-market "situation tremendously sucks." I think that is putting it mildly. We are talking about people who have spent 5-10 years in graduate school and (in some cases) spending the better half of a decade on the job-market, often working in adjunct positions for next to nothing--sometimes with better publication or teaching records than people interviewing (or, all too often, not interviewing) them. I speak from experience when I say it does not merely tremendously suck to be in this position: it can jeopardize a person's well-being, their family and close relationships, etc.

Anyway, whenever something tremendously sucks or worse (as I think is the case here), I tend to think that we should try to do something to improve the situation. In this case, what I think candidates want above all else (and reasonably so) is a sense of some *justice* in the market as a whole: that if you work hard enough, publish in good places, demonstrate excellence and teaching, etc., you will have a real fighting change of not having the last 10+ years of your life be a total waste--and that you won't be excluded from jobs due to hidden, unconscious biases (which are established scientifically to play a large role at many different points in the hiring process--see e.g. the empirical literature on interviews I cited earlier).

This, among other things, is what quantitative approaches to employee selection do. They help to ensure that people are hired on the basis of merit--but, more than that, they demonstrably lead those who do *hiring* to be more satisfied with people hired. When people hired using quantitative methods are tenured 30% more often than people hired on "aesthetic" grounds, that says something. It indicates that the quantitative methods actually track what the people who do the hiring (and tenuring) care about better than the clinical method (i.e. personal judgment).

Anyway, I expect we probably have a fundamentally different outlook here--and again, I appreciate the force of your arguments. But, I guess I would just add that when something tremendously sucks, the response "But we don't care!" leaves me very cold. Given that there are too many good candidates out there--many of whom would probably be a good hire for your department--my feeling is that if hiring committees have to choose between (A) what they "care" about aesthetically (in a position of relative privilege on the hiring side of things), and (B) what is good for candidates (viz. rewarding those who have demonstrated success in publishing, teaching, etc.in a tremendously terrible situation), hiring committees should favor the cause of candidates, being sensitive to just how awful their situation is. Again, a critical point here (I think) is that the hiring department will probably get a good hire either way--but if you hire the person who has distinguished themselves (with demonstrably better accomplishments than others), you will have also done something *good*: show candidates in situation that tremendously sucks that there is some justice in the world, making someone's dreams come true who has worked their tail off to distinguish themselves. And that, I think, is something worth caring about.


Amanda: first, nobody is gonna say that people without pubs get no jobs, what I don't know is if they count as *many* . Second "It is pretty easy to see that people with no publications get jobs by looking at philjobs" Really? I have been checking it in the next month or so and I see only extremely qualified and well published people getting those jobs. Also, what jobs are you referring to ? Because here we are not referring to teaching jobs. Third,"there has also been lots of empirical work done on this that has shown it to be the case. (Carolyn Jennings)" Great, please share it if it is evidence of the claims made. And, of course, I am sure nobody is asking to name names. But we should also avoid making pretty strong claims about other people without providing support because that is just bad.


Quick clarification--I agree that circulating papers at conferences and among friends (sometimes) compromises blind refereeing. I was just saying that people have good reasons to do it, which may very well be their motivating reasons, independently of that. For what it's worth, I referee a solid amount--18 papers last year, on track for a similar number this year--and while it's true that I occasionally get a paper where I know the author, I then tell the journal, and they tell me not to referee the paper. I hope that most people would do things similarly.



I have the data below. (Philosophy Smoker does a great summary). It does seem a bit high of a standard to demand people link to specific data sets on blog conversations. I did it anyway, though. Second, it's unfortunate you can't see the same data as I can on philjobs, because like I said, I can't give you the examples, because that would be unkind.

And what do you mean by "here we are not referring to teaching jobs" says who? Why wouldn't I? Research is important to teaching jobs too, and from what I have seen it is even more likely for people at research jobs to get hired with no publications. (Usually ABD's at top 5 schools). And, yes, the data confirms this. We see in my data linked below that higher Leiter rank is correlated with less publications. Since the Median number of publications is 2, the median number at higher ranked institutions is lower. Given Jared's publication record and NYU degree, it is easy to see how some MIGHT see this as an injustice and be angry. Note I NEVER said it is an injustice, I just said that it is a reasonable perception. I myself am agnostic about the injustice part.

Okay here is the data from a few years back. The market was not substantially different, nor do I think that the (possible) injustices would have been different. Andrew Moon, for instance was two years into his search at this point. He already had 6 publications, and two in Mind. Yet, the median number of publications for a hire was 2. That means many people had less than 2, in all likelihood, quite a few had 0. (Although I did not go look at the raw data - too much time)

Again, the median number of publications was 2. So roughly half of people had more, half had less. In all likelihood many had O. Once again, all I am claiming is given these results, I could understand why some MIGHT see it as an injustice, when they have something like 8+ high quality publications. In other words, I don't blame them for feeling bitter at times. I agree with you that it is hard to pinpoint individual cases of injustice.

I believe that there are also cases of persons with little teaching experience who get hired over persons with a lot of experience. Again, I can see why some might see this as an injustice. No, I don't have data that this is true, but neither do you have data that every person hired for teaching jobs is deserving.

Lastly, it seems to me that noone has anymore claim on the idea that most persons hired are deserving than the claim that many are not. Why, after all, did you NOT provide data that most (all?) hires are deserving? Your claim, after all, implies that those who are bitter are bitter with little cause (Please correct me if you don't mean this. But some have taken it that way). In truth, I think neither claim is in need of data in this type of forum.


So sorry forgot the link:



Thank you, Amanda, but let me clarify a few things.
First, "the median number of publications for a hire was 2. That means many people had less than 2, in all likelihood, quite a few had 0." But, following your reasoning, then also many people who jot hired had more than 2 pubs... So people with pubs (2 or more) are getting jobs.
And regardless, so what some people had 0? If you are competing for a 4/4 or community college post, should you have publications? I am not sure. Remember: There is not just 1 philosophy academic job market, but several. We should get rid of the idea that all jobs require the same skills!
Two, 2012 is 5 years ago where the publication pressure *may* not have been as strong as it is now, but that's of course an empirical claim.
Three, "It does seem a bit high of a standard to demand people link to specific data sets on blog conversations". Why? People are influenced by what others say in blogs; I think it is actually a moral requirement to make sure one does not spread unsupported claims, especially if they can be damaging to others!
Finally, "it seems to me that noone has anymore claim on the idea that most persons hired are deserving than the claim that many are not. Why, after all, did you NOT provide data that most (all?) hires are deserving" - Where did I say or imply that they are all deserving? I am sorry, but I simply asked to provide support for claims about other people that - for all I know - are absolutely correct. So, no, I don't have to provide evidence for claims I did not make.
For what is worth, I myself *suspect* that the job market is very unfair and in many different ways (so bitterness is definitively understandable). I simply don't want to point fingers in a public setting unless I am really sure of what I am saying. Is that so much to ask?


This blog is getting more depressing everyday. Individual cases are not indicative of any significant trends. A couple people may have gotten jobs in top departments with few publications, but they probably had outstanding writing samples and stellar letters. With that in mind, there's no point in commenting on Jared's predicament if we don't take all factors into account. Unless he can guarantee that his letters did not contain any red flag, pedigree and pubs are a moot point. He's clearly deserving in those two respects but as we should know the hiring process is often, rightly, holistic. So, my point is, anecdotes won't tell us much. The whole process is, at any given time, random and unfair, but over time it tends to correct for mistakes. The long range outcome is, overall, pretty fair, but for the fact that there are too many (over)qualified applicants. Our problem is not having undeserving people getting jobs; it's having deserving people not getting jobs, simply because there aren't enough spots.

Pendaran Roberts

I would like to reassert what many have said in this forum: undeserving people do get jobs and deserving people do sometimes fail to get them, and this happens too much. To try to explain Jared's case away is absurd. His record is stunning but he doesn't have a job, meanwhile people get jobs with zero publications. What's wrong with our field? Why can't our hiring practices be just and reward hard labor for the field? Remember that we don't get paid directly to publish and contribute to the field.

Marcus Arvan

Pendaran (and others): Let's please refrain from talking about "undeserving" people getting jobs. I don't think this kind of talk is consistent with this blog's mission. People without publications who get jobs *have* done much to deserve a position: they have gotten a PhD, done work that their advisors consider good, etc. What I think is fair to say (and consistent with this blog's mission) is that there are many incredibly deserving people (Andrew, Jared, etc.) who for some reason or other don't get jobs. I think it is also reasonable to argue that quantitative hiring methods are scientifically demonstrated to be better--and more fair--than qualitative methods. But I will not allow any more talk of "undeserving" hires here. It is unbefitting of this blog.

Stuck, PhD

It seems to me that Amanda, Pendaran, and I may be slightly overstating an unfortunate state of affairs that we have gleaned from a large (but perhaps not large enough for genuine social science, though cf. Dicey Jennings's data) sample size of colleagues and PhilJobs reports. The three of us are surely biased to see things in a negative light, but we've actually looked at some data. And as Amanda and Marcus say, none of us knows enough about the workings of any given hiring to fairly assert that it, specifically, was "unjustified" or that the person hired was "undeserving." It just seems that, on the whole, the pattern of hiring and the practices necessary to underwrite such a pattern may not be justified.

That said, it strikes me that Grateful is drawing conclusions from a single data point: his/her own experience. "my anecdotal evidence supports Macolm's last point. I polished my job market dossier a lot, I am ABD and got 5 first round interviews and 2 TT job offers - but they all came from liberal art/teaching schools with at least a 3/3 teaching load. So materials may be important for teaching jobs, I believe."

I think that it is going to be almost impossible to unseat Grateful (or the rest of us) for that matter from our views, so I'd like to redirect the conversation, which I'll do in a new post.

Stuck, PhD

Andrew (and Marcus, and anyone else, who's come out the other side of this journey): Congratulations! Did you have to deal with any internal bitterness after your great publications didn't seem to advance your career? If so, what did you do to deal with that bitterness? And what would your advice be to someone who just doesn't think he's committed enough to a career in philosophy to chance an 8-year journey?

My attitude toward philosophy has always been more lukewarm than that of some of my colleagues, and I'm not sure that, what for you seems to have been a worthwhile 8-year journey, would make me happy. From observing your friends, and experiencing the repeated tribulations of the market, what kind of advice could you provide?

Marcus Arvan

Stuck: I will write a new post on that topic in the next few days. Thanks for suggesting it--it's a good one, and one quite close to my heart.


I guess I inadvertently got myself into the position of arguing for something I really am not too passionate (or certain) about. I am agnostic.

Anyway, I was simply trying to express my understanding and sympathy with the frustration and occasional bitterness of philosophers who may have many accomplishments and still find themselves jobless. I believe the data supports this as a reasonable attitude, at least at times. And please note I did not provide anecdotes but data. If you disagree with me about what the data supports and about what attitudes are appropriate, I guess we will have to agree to disagree. That's all for me on this.

Pendaran Roberts

"And what would your advice be to someone who just doesn't think he's committed enough to a career in philosophy to chance an 8-year journey?"

Yes good question. I love philosophy and I'm good at it. But I can't psychologically handle 5 more years of uncertainty. I can't motivate myself to continue writing not knowing whether it will matter. So I'd be interested in any advice.


Amanda: Agreed. Your experience is very common. I'm in a Leiterific MA program. However, it is frustratingly difficult to get any feedback. Sometimes, it takes nearly two months for my advisor to reply to my feedback request. What's worse, when he replies, it is only a "one-sentence-comment".

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