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This seems surprising. Are you sure you're comparing like for like? For example, is it possible that candidates with publications have been on the market longer, so that the apparent effect of publication is actually an effect of perceived "staleness"? Or could it be that, among candidates of similar seniority, having many publications raises the salience of seniority, which is seen as unattractive? Do people who expect to have weaker prospects somehow compensate by investing more in publishing? Or conversely is there a norm for very strong candidates not to publish for some reason? (Do people who expect they are very strong candidates more often "save themselves" by not publishing outside of very exclusive venues, resulting in fewer publications?)


In response to Dave's last (parenthetical) question, I think the answer is at least a qualified "yes/sometimes." I know that some of the departments towards the top of the leiter rankings, graduate students are moderately to strongly discouraged from submitting to journals that are not perceived as "top tier." And that's a significantly narrower category than top 20. At the department I did my graduate work, the norm was (as far as I could tell) not to submit to generalist journals other than Phil Review, Journal of Philosophy, Nous, and Mind. There were some specialist journals that were clearly ok too (Ethics and PPR, mainly). The norm against submitting to other journals was definitely defeasible (e.g., if there's a conference that publishes proceedings in some journal other than those, that's probably OK), but it was still the norm.

If this sort of norm is common at top departments (and my anecdotal sense is that it is), then there should be an inverse correlation between quantity of publications and prestige of graduate programs. And to the extent that we already know that prestige plays a large (perhaps too large) role in the job market, that might go some of the way towards explaining the trend you're noticing.


Sorry, "PPR" was a typo. I meant "PPA."


My impression was that for every person with no publications and some interviews at the APA, there was a person with great publications and some interviews. I really think, as many SC members have noted, that this emphasis on publications by job seekers is a mistake. I'm ABD, no publications, and had a few interviews. But importantly, those interviews were all at very different types of institution, so I don't think this elusive notion of "promise" can explain it. Moreover, i have friends without publications who got a number of interviews at places unlikely to care about suppose "star power." People keep trying to make inferences from publication quantity to interview success, but the range of publication quantity among people getting interviews seems to suggest that there's something else entirely that is making the difference (if anything). More likely it's luck of the draw.


One thing we're told over and over (and rightly so) is that hiring committees are looking for a colleague first and foremost. Although there are lots of debates about whether interviews (and especially APA or Skype interviews) are the best way to test collegiality, we might want to read this evidence as another example of SCs choosing to interview based on their own individual history. And since the norm in the recent past was for all hiring to occur ABD with no publications, many SC members may just be choosing to interview individuals who are 'like me'. That's not necessarily great for the profession, but it's perfectly understandable.

Moti Mizrahi

Like Anon, I have no idea how to explain the fact that some candidates without publications get interviews, whereas other candidates with publications don't. But I also find the "promise" explanation rather implausible. I find it hard to believe that search committees are such risk-takers. Taking a chance on a candidate from a top program with no publications strikes me as a huge gamble. Such a candidate is also unlikely to have much teaching experience. In that case, a search committee would be hiring a candidate with no publication record and very little teaching experience on the hunch that s/he is the next big star in philosophy.

Marcus Arvan

Dave: In many cases, no, the data don't match like for like. Offhand, as a (very broad-brush generalization) the data being reported over at the Smoker seem to present two types of candidates/interview rates.

Candidate type 1: ABD, no pubs, multiple TT interviews.

Candidate type 2: out of grad school 2-3 years, multiple pubs (some in very good journals), few to no interviews.

This certainly *isn't* comparing like to like -- but it does seem rather startling. I would've thought someone who's been out a few years and struggled to prove themselves as a scholar and teacher would be more attractive to search committees than grad students with no publications and little teaching experience. However, this seems to be (again, very anecdotally) the very opposite of what reports over there suggest.

Moti: It might seem implausible. However, as Daniel points out above (and I can attest to this as well), many "top" programs advise their grad students not to publish for more or less precisely this reason. The thought is: if you're coming from Awesome Program X and all of your other stuff (letters, writing sample, etc.) look in order, then -- even if you don't have publications -- you're not really a *risk*; there are real reasons to think you will succeed when hired (as many people from X have). In other words, I think the "promise" hypothesis I was floating might be consistent with your thought that SCs should intuitively be risk-averse (viz. they simply don't consider candidates from top programs risky, given the professional successes of people from those programs).


I find this rather troubling. I would think one would be rewarded for showing that they are able to publish. It was also recommended by a professor in my department, giving a seminar on teaching and publishing, that 2 articles published by the end of PhD was a good number. If you have more than that, it may look like a lack of quality (--that you are aiming for quantity over quality). This post and comments seem to reinforce this fact. If so, what are future job seekers to do? Should I intentionally withhold submitting articles? This seems counter-intuitive.


At my institution, I've heard the following regarding the importance of publications from SC members.

Prof. 1: "Any file without a publication immediately gets tossed."
Prof. 2: "I don't need letter writers or journal referees to tell me how good an applicant's writing is. I'm smart enough to figure that out for myself by reading samples."

My thinking is that if you have a paper which you are proud of and it has received the blessing of at least one person that you take to be a competent judge, then why not try to publish it (in a journal that is largely recognized by members of the profession to be of "good" quality). If it gets published, then you don't have to worry about people like Prof 1, and people like Prof 2 can still do what they do.

That said, those who have not published can certainly get interviews with SCs composed mostly of Prof. 2 types, so I don't find that surprising. The bottom line is this: search committee members don't often agree on the process by which applicants should be evaluated. As a result, applicants are left trying to get a feel for how to satisfy the broadest set of SC members. I, for example, have decided it's just not worth trying to publish only in the very top journals (as opposed to, say, top 10 or top 20 journals). If a SC member holds that against me, then so be it.


This is all pretty baffling. No one ever gives consistent advice about how to prepare for the market, and indeed, what SCs want is not consistent. Carolyn Dicey-Jennings data set bears this out - the only real predictor of job success seems to be pedigree, but OF COURSE that's partially because the data is incomplete. Pedigree really seems to help, but a hundred other particular things do too. In some cases, publications are essential. For other jobs, they might hurt you.

My strategy has been to publish my ass off, teach a wide variety of courses, network where I can -- in short, do everything well insofar as that is in my power -- in part because of my low pedigree (no 'star' option for me). This seems to be working this year for post-doc consideration, but not TT consideration. The only strategy I know is to continue to try to do everything well, and hope that with more pubs and more teaching experience will come TT consideration.

Marcus Arvan

Anonomish: Trust me, I empathize. The only thing that has kept me optimistic is the assurance I received from a position of experience that there *are* SCs out there looking for people like us (see my post: http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2013/01/three-job-market-anecdotes-with-commentary.html). You and I can only hope he's right.


I am an ABD at a non-Leiter ranked state school and this trend terrifies me. I've been told for years by faculty at my program that publishing would be absolutely crucial to my chances of success on the job market. Luckily, I have a solid publication in a top 6 general journal. I sent out about 35-40 applications this round, to schools ranging from community colleges to R1 institutions. I got zero interviews. I feel like the goal posts are being rolled away from me. Like a cruel jest.


What might the mechanism be, that would tend to leave people with publications worse off? Maybe without publications there is much more left to the imagination in terms of one's scope of interests, and less opportunity for the people on the hiring committee to see something they do not like or makes for a best fit, so they do not make the short list.

It would be interesting to give a sample of philosophers a couple CVs, each of which has 3 versions, one has no publications, one states the journals or count of publications, the other the names of such publications. Maybe the latter category will be the worst off, the middle one the best, and first dependent on the institution (obviously).


I've been on the market three years, and just recently received my Ph.D from a Leiter top 25.

First year: 1 pub in a top 6 general journal, several refereed professional conference presentations, lots of teaching experience, solid evals. 1 for 70 in first-round interviews, including a number of positions posted in the spring. No flyout.

Second year: 2 pubs (added one in a decent specialty journal), 10 presentations (all professional conferences, 2 APAs). 0 for 45 in interviews.

This year: 3 pubs (added another in a middling specialty journal), 13 presentations (all professional conferences, 3 APAs), Ph.D newly in hand. 0 for 14 in interviews (selective search, but I applied to all of the jobs for which I appeared to be an excellent fit).

Several faculty members from my university and from other universities have looked over my entire dossier and assured me that it is quite strong, and that they have no idea why I am not getting interviews.

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