An anonymous reader writes in:
I was wondering if you had any advice about what types of positions I should be aiming at. So far, I've compiled a list of about 18 jobs from philjobs.org, higheredjobs, and other websites. Is it better to aim at positions in one's AOS as opposed to open rank or open AOS/AOC positions?...
I guess my question is: I am aware that given my degree conferring institution and the hiring customs of larger schools, I stand little chances of getting a TT position in a higher-ranked place, should I thus focus on tailoring my applications to those smaller places for which I would have a shot? Given that I applied to more than 120 positions this past session, I wonder whether I should take a more conservative and focused approach (lesser applications, but specifically tailored).
This is a really good question. When I was on the market, I was generally advised to apply as widely as possible. Basically, the thought was: the job-market is a big lottery, and you might as well buy as many tickets as possible. However, I'm not sure this really is the best strategy...
On the other hand, I recall seeing a few comments--both here at the Cocoon and elsewhere--suggesting that really narrowly targeted application strategies can work really well: cases where people have said things like, "I only applied at 20 schools, and got 6 interviews." Further, although I got some interviews at research schools by applying widely, the vast majority of my interviews were at smaller teaching schools (so, it seems, a more targeted application strategy might have worked, not to mention save a lot of time). Finally, there are some obvious drawbacks to applying too indiscriminately. I got flyouts at a few places far and abroad where I discovered I wouldn't really want to work. The jobs would have taken me far away from family and fiance at the time [now spouse], and require me to live in a place I'd consider undesirable. In retrospect, I feel lucky that I wasn't offered a job at some of those places - as I was so desperate that I probably would have accepted the offer and found myself living somewhere that I would be unhappy (or, at least, far less happy than where I ended up).
For these reasons, I'm not exactly sure what the bast answer is. The standard wisdom seems to be, "apply widely", because it gives one the best chance to get a job. However, it's not entirely clear to me that applying so widely is time well spent (one is most likely to get interviews at jobs one is very narrowly a great fit for), and again, there are real potential drawbacks (time, resources, the potential of moving somewhere one doesn't want to live, etc.). So maybe applying narrowly makes more sense. I'm just not sure.
What do you all think?