In the comments section of our most recent "how can we help you?" thread, 'Inside Hire' writes:
The department in which I am currently a postdoc is conducting a job search in one of my areas of specialization. While I have heard of all sorts of “inside hires” for which the job search was merely a formality, nothing about this job search is in any way tailored to me. I simply more or less fit the bill reasonably well. I am not a perfect fit for the job ad, and so am far certain I can expect to get the job.
Since learning about this job, I have a few questions for the readers of this blog:
First, I wonder how I should conduct myself in the coming months. Should I consider myself from now until then as being in interview mode? This could go on for several months.
Second, since the odds are that I will not get a job offer, I should expect either not to get an interview, not to get a “flyout”, or not to get the offer. But what should I expect from people around the department? I know I would appreciate a genuine face to face ‘sorry, you just aren’t what we are looking for’ from my experience on the job market that might never come. Would me applying end up sour my relationship with my colleagues for the remainder of the postdoc?
Lastly, despite not being a case of an intentional inside higher [sic], I do enjoy familiarity with everyone on the search committee. What can and should I do to best take advantage of this fact, if at all?
Great questions! I'll be curious to hear what readers think. Because I was an inside candidate for TT jobs on two different occasions--once at the University of British Columbia (where I did not get the job) and once at my current university (where I did)--allow me to share a few thoughts before opening things up for discussion.
On the reader's first question, "Should I consider myself from now until then as being in interview mode?", I have two thoughts. First, before the departments I was in even announced that they were doing hires, I found it helpful to treat every day as though I were auditioning for the job. I found this attitude helpful for several related reasons: (1) it helped motivate me to "bring my best" to work each day (as a teacher, researcher, etc), which in turn (2) helped me do things to improve my stock on the job market in general (viz. publishing, teaching, etc.), including (3) any job for the school I was already at. Second, having this attitude on a day-to-day basis in effect made the question otiose as far as changing my behavior as a potential inside-hire. Once my departments advertised their jobs, I changed nothing I did. I just kept giving my best every day. Finally, for what it is worth, I think this can help one avoid a common pitfall on the job-market: seeming like a grad student. As I mentioned in that previous post, my sense is that search committees are looking for people who belong--not people who are trying to belong. The difference, in my experience, is subtle. Search committees aren't looking for people who "say the right things" or "speak a good game." They are looking for people who show on a day-to-day basis that they belong in the job. So, I say to 'Inside Hire': all you should do is show, day by day, why they should hire you. Be the best damn teacher, researcher, and colleague you can be--no more, no less!
On the reader's second set of questions, "what should I expect from people around the department?...Would me applying end up sour my relationship with my colleagues for the remainder of the postdoc?", my sense is that you should not expect one's colleagues treat you any differently than they would any other candidate. On a day-to-day basis, one should expect one's colleagues to treat you as an equal professional. But, beyond that, they have a job to do: make the best hire they can. While kindness (and friendship) may suggest a more personal approach (viz. telling you that you didn't get the job), my sense is that search committee members can feel constrained here by their institutional obligations (indeed, human resources guidelines can instruct committee members to show no favoritism of any kind). Will this sour your relationship with them? In my view, that's really up to you. The year I was an inside-candidate at UBC, neither I nor either of the other two people in one-year positions like mine got interviewed for the job. We went to the job-talks of other candidates, and yes, it was a bit weird. However, I don't recall anyone ever explaining to me personally why I didn't get the job, and I don't recall minding that. I just got back to work, trying to publish, teach, and so on--so I could do better on the market for other jobs. I know we're all different, but it seemed to work well: I kept a good relationship with people there, minimizing whatever weirdness there might have been by just going on with life and work as normal!
On the reader's final question, "despite not being a case of an intentional inside hire, I do enjoy familiarity with everyone on the search committee. What can and should I do to best take advantage of this fact, if at all?" Honestly, not sure. Human beings do tend to make decisions on emotional bases, so I guess getting to know people couldn't hurt. However, I am inclined to think that going out of one's way to do this--in a way that isn't typical for you--could well backfire, as it could make it patently obvious that you're trying to angle your way into the job through being personable (which, in my view at least, isn't what people are looking for). Instead, I'm inclined to say: just do the best job you can on a day-to-day basis, and be your best self around people: a kind, honest, hard-working professional who "belongs."
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours?