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Always - or almost always - a bridesmaid

I was teaching in contingent positions at three places that did t-t hires while I was there. The first time, the frustration was watching them bring people to campus who had no publications or who had not finished their PhDs. These people were going to teach the courses I was currently teaching. Granted, this was not my specialization, but after the first search failed after 5 candidates, I was miffed. But I really liked the place and the people. The second time was worse. They were real game players because the department was a complete train wreck, with various parties sniping at each other. They even interviewed a t-t faculty's wife and turned her down. The third time was also very bad, as I was associated with one party - unbeknownst to me - and the other party wanted someone else. The associate dean, who I knew professionally from another context, asked why I was not shortlisted. She was a decent person who knew how troubled the department was. I am not sure you can generalize from my experiences. I was treated well at all of these jobs, but also treated poorly by some at the last two.


Just do your best. And don't be awkward. My guess is others won't be if you won't be. You seem to be overthinking this. And keep in mind, inside hires are often at a disadvantage: there is something compelling about mystery because you have never seen their flaws. My assumption with every job is that I will not get it - this has worked out well for me. I was seriously shocked when I got offers, which I think is a healthy place to be.


When I was in this sort of situation the chair approached me and explained what to expect, the likelihood of my getting hired, that I was welcome to the events associated with hiring, etc. The conversation was useful, in terms of making me less worried about what I should be doing with myself over the course of the year. If you're close enough to someone on the committee you might want to gently start a conversation along those lines (less, "Will I get the job?", more "Hey, do you think it makes sense for me to apply to that?").


I was an "internal" but not targeted hire, i.e., the hiring process was not a formality. But like you, the job description fit me very well, and I was good friends/colleagues with several of the search committee members. First, yes, until you get a job you are on the market, people are watching, be professional and continue to develop your career. As for the search committee members, don't schmooze them, but don't ignore or be awkward around them either. They should understand what's going on. If you normally go out for drinks or lunch or exchange papers or whatever, just keep doing what you do. I moved from essentially a VAP to a TT line, so it sounds like you are in a similar position (I also didn't fit the description perfectly, but reasonably well). Assuming that you have been teaching, getting good evals, and have an active research agenda, the best advice I can give is to make it very clear in your letter and the first interview (if you get one) that there should be no doubt that you can successfully do this job, because you are already doing it (or at least essential aspects of it). Also, do NOT undersell your collegiality. So many departments hire people and it turns out badly for reasons other than teaching and research. Be clear that you bring everything the department needs and that you have hard evidence to prove it. Good luck!

Derek Bowman

Marcus: "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."

This sounds like a special kind of hell to me, though that may (in part) explain my relative lack of success on the market.

Marcus Arvan

Derek: it was indeed a special kind of hell. But the job market is hell anyway, so why not make it special?


I agree with Derek, that sounds like a special kind of hell. While trying to appear even more professional than you otherwise would, I don't recommend putting yourself in interview mode consistently. It is bound to be counterproductive and erode your confidence. It sounds analogous to utilitarians advising people to think like utilitarians all the time. No, you're more likely to do good by not calculating how to do good all the time. Likewise, you're more likely to appear as the colleague they want if you don't think about it all the time. Honestly, who would really want to work with the person they talked to on Skype? No, you want to work with the person you can reasonably assume the person on Skype really is.

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