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10/30/2018

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anonymous

I just want to register that it is not at all my experience that search committees (and other faculty) don't ask about relationship status. They aren't allowed to. In my experience on every flyout but one I got asked directly. Never in a formal situation. Always at dinner, or drinks, or something.

I suspect this varies significantly both just with what the department is like and also--with gender. I suspect that women are much more likely to get asked these questions. I think it is important to be prepared for them and have an answer that you are going to give, and rehearse the answer if it is not one that feels natural to you.

Amanda

I am a woman who has been on many flyouts, and I was never asked anything about my relationship status. YMMV, I guess.

Throwaway Name

Never mention it. If someone asks, say that you are single. Bring it up after you get an offer, if necessary.

Lauren

I am also a woman who was never asked about relationship status on flyouts, though other faculty brought up their SOs at all of them and a very natural reply in many of those cases would have been to bring up mine. I resisted the temptation to say anything in all but one case, at a school where I really was concerned about what life was like in the local community for partners unaffiliated with the school. The place where I was hired knew nothing about my partner until I showed up on campus this fall.

Amanda

If you do happen to be asked, I am not sure I would lie and say that you are single. I would mention a partner and not say anything about their job, or avoid the question in a polite way. The problem with lying is it can be pretty easy for someone to find out the truth, and that might bother search committee members. This seems especially true if you are married. (And of course, asking is illegal. Perhaps if you don't get the job you can tell HR, but personally I wouldn't complain before that, and I think ver few people would. Violations are very rarely punished.)

Amanda

Also, few people I know bother to take off a wedding ring for an interview, so there's that....

Chatty Candidate

It seems plausible that some committees might consider the presence of a significant other to signal a slightly higher flight risk. It doesn't follow, however, that you have reason all-things-considered not to mention your SO. Case in point: I got an attractive offer from my current institution despite mentioning the fact that my wife was pursuing a career which was likely to cause a two-body problem in the near future. I mentioned this because it was, per Lauren, conversationally natural to do so (also: my wife is impressive, and I wanted to brag a bit about her). In retrospect, making a warm and friendly impression seems to have been more important than controlling every piece of potentially negative information.

YMMV, of course. But it illustrates a general point, about the costs of any strategy that requires restraint: it may make you come off as, well, more restrained. And that appearance may (or may not!) do more harm than the strategy does good.

Problem

Amanda,
I did not think of this issue as principally about people feeling compelled to lie about being married. Often people want to keep it to themselves that they are gay or lesbian, and have a partner. Though many do not want to work with bigots, there are many who would still like to be offered the job.

Lauren

Though I didn't talk about my SO on my flyouts as a general rule, I would not have said I was single when I wasn't. It is one thing, I think, to leave certain information out that shouldn't be relevant to the committee's decision (one's relationship status) and another to imply or state information that is false.

As a woman, I basically just didn't want search committees making assumptions about my relationship, particularly factors concerning how traditional or non-traditional my relationship is (which might matter for how they think I would react to a two-body problem, having a child, etc.), so I preferred not to include that as a factor at all. This is also why I wore my wedding band to flyouts but not my engagement ring--though I think it is more common for younger women in philosophy to have a sparkly ring in addition to a plain band, I've definitely noticed a generational gap in whether older women in philosophy do and didn't want them to start worrying about whether I was feminist enough, too traditional, etc. I'm not particularly traditional and it's a family ring and I have thought-out views about this, but I just didn't want this to even be a thing they thought about. (And I should say: I considered leaving off my wedding band altogether, but although I don't consider that being false or misleading--not everyone wears one or wears it on their left hand, after all--I was worried it might be interpreted that way so I didn't.)

Amanda

Problem : Sure, I'm just saying there is risks to lying. If you really don't want to give that information up, then I would avoid the question by saying something like, "I don't really want to talk about that". In the end- I tend to think it is a rare circumstance in which any of this makes a difference either way. Most committees do not make decisions about hiring based on the relationship status of the candidate.

Nick

I second Chatty Candidate. At the flyout that got the job, it was just natural at some point for me to bring it up. Not forced or anything. But it was natural. Since they also wanted to show me how great the area was for families, that just made sense. At a previous flyout, which didn't lead to an offer for other reasons, I had just had my first child, like a week before the flyout, so I needed some flexibility and I didn't want to make up excuses. They also found it was cute. There's no foolproof answer. I totally agree that SCs shouldn't ask, but if candidates feel like mentioning a SO or family could help, or would be neutral, I see no reason not to.

Anon

Those interested in this topic might want to take a look at this:

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0003122417739294

From the abstract:

" In this article, I highlight one mechanism of gender inequalities in academic hiring: relationship status discrimination. Through a qualitative case study of junior faculty search committees at a large R1 university, I show that committees actively considered women’s—but not men’s—relationship status when selecting hires. Drawing from gendered scripts of career and family that present men’s careers as taking precedence over women’s, committee members assumed that heterosexual women whose partners held academic or high-status jobs were not “movable,” and excluded such women from offers when there were viable male or single female alternatives."

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