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Michel X.

The rule I've absorbed is that one should apply to at least as many jobs as there are applicants. Since that's obviously not possible, that means applying to as many jobs as one can.

I think that's still compatible with spending much more time carefully tailoring applications to those places where you think you have a solid chance. Applying doesn't take all that much time once you've been through a cycle or two and have all your ducks in a row. I definitely prioritize some applications over others, and I occasionally rule out applying somewhere in particular (because of location, load, etc.), but I would never rule myself out of contention for a desirable job. That's the committee's job. I just send them the best package I can put together given my time constraints, and then forget about it.


I think I learned the hard way to apply a bit more narrowly. I think that tailored applications make a big difference. The reply I get when I say this is to do both: apply widely and tailor. However, I think people fool themselves with this. I know that when I had a deadline of 10 applications a day, I ended up rushing through some, and I think this is bound to happen when you apply to 100 plus jobs. Also, in my experience people who applied very narrowly have done just as well, if not better, than the widely applied.

The other thing I learned was to spend a bit of time thinking if you would take the job if offered. And do not apply if not. My previous thinking was if I am offered the job I can then really think if I want it. There are a few problems with this. One is that once offered a job, there is TREMENDOUS pressure to take it. If you decline a TT job many people lose respect for you and do not want to help you any longer. The other thing is fly outs and interviews are VERY time consuming. I feel really lucky I was not offered a job I had a flyout to last year. I probably would have taken it and been miserable, and I was offered another much better job later anyway. (better for me). So don't apply to jobs in locations you would not want to live.

Trevor Hedberg

One factor that should be noted is AOS. If you have an AOS like Ethics or Social / Political, then you probably have more leeway to narrow your search because there are generally more jobs in those areas than others. But if you've got an AOS in metaphysics or formal epistemology, you might not really have the option to narrow your search a whole lot. If there are only 20 jobs in your AOS advertised all year, then I'd recommend applying to all of them.

Martin Shuster

I think you need to send out as many applications as possible. With that said, though, you need to be strategic about using your time and about your general wellbeing (applying is difficult psychologically).

I think you should make a list of any job you're qualified for and then begin to sort/rank it. Spend the most time on those jobs for which you see yourself as fitting best, and spend a little less time as you move down the list.

I note this because a couple of the jobs I've had over the years, I didn't think I was going to get and I sent the applications off very quickly (and I have friends with similar experiences). Some of this has to do with the fact that what an ad is claiming to want sometimes turns out to be a little different from what the committee actually decides it wants. You just don't know.

And the only truism here is that you can never get a job that you don't apply for (although you can, apparently, be rejected from a job for which you didn't apply ... as I was once).


One relevant question seems to be how much time can be fruitfully spent tailoring applications. For some people, tailoring means adding a few sentences to a cover letter. But, I wonder what the returns would be from spending, say, 8 hours tailoring one application.

What would this kind of "deep tailoring" involve? Maybe customizing the entire cover letter, as well as related teaching or research documents.

And, would it help? I'm really not sure, but I imagine that it might at some smaller schools with niche missions or programs.

In any case, I think the pros and cons of "deep tailoring" are relevant to the question of how much to narrow a search. If it's possible to make 30 applications *much better* by forgoing another 30 beyond them, that seems like a fair trade-off. On the other hand, if the extra time won't really help, then maybe buying an additional 30 lottery tickets is the way to go...

Recent Grad

There’s an issue related to “applying selectively” that I find myself mulling over this job-market cycle. Amanda advises not applying for positions in places you don’t want to on live since it becomes much harder to make the decision not to take a job later in the application process. I’d love to hear more peoples’ thoughts about what strategy one should adopt toward positions they *suspect* they won’t be happy at--because of location or whatever reason.

Should one just not apply?

Should one apply and then potentially decline an offer or withdraw from the search at an earlier point?

Should one just apply and then accept the position if offered--even if one’s concerns persist?

Here are some considerations in favor of “just not applying”:

~The potential downsides of declining a TT offer are just too great; advisers and mentors may become less inclined to help you (because they view you as unreasonably picky); the search committee may spread word around that you rejected their offer, giving you a reputation as a risky candidate.

Here are some considerations in favor of “deciding down the road”:

Going through the interview process gives you the opportunity to gather more information. You can then make a more informed judgment about whether you’ll be happy at the school. And if you’re worried about the consequences of declining a TT offer, you can withdraw from the search *before* you actually get an offer (assuming your concerns persist), i.e., either after a skype interview or just after an on-campus visit.

Here are some considerations in favor of “applying and accepting anyway”:

The job market is so bad for most people that they just can’t afford to be choosy. As long as you’re not completely confident you’ll be unhappy at a job, you should give it a try--it very well may be your only opportunity. Moreover, having a TT position makes you more competitive for (another) TT position at a place you’ll actually be happy. So as long as you’re willing to apply out, you’re maximizing your chances of finding a place you’ll actually be happy.

not recent

Recent Grad,
When I went on the market over a decade ago I was prepared to go most/many places, and I applied broadly. But you are wasting everyone's time if you know you won't take a job even if it were offered to you - even your own time. If you have such thoughts then DO NOT apply. The only thing worse than young philosophers being deprived of jobs, is young philosophers who managed to get a job and hate it and complain all the time.

Recent Grad

Not Recent,

I agree of course if you *know* you won't take a job, then you shouldn't waste everyone's time applying. But I find I'm rarely that confident. It's more common that I find a couple of jobs that I have some concerns about in terms of fit, but I'm really not in a position to know one way or another. And I've heard different sorts of advice about how one should approach jobs like these, i.e., just don't apply; apply, use the interview process to gather more information and withdraw/decline if your concerns persist; apply and accept the job even if your concerns persist (as long as you aren't completely certain you'll be unhappy with the job).

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