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I suspect search committee members often do ask people they know for more information if they see an application they like - but I'd also assume that they would avoid doing this if asked to for a good reason. I was on a search committee last year and saw a few cover letters that said, basically, "My current department does not know that I am applying for other positions, and I would appreciate your discretion about my application." That seemed like a sufficient way of dealing with it.


I would think that being nearby is only relevant insofar as it makes it more likely the SC members happen to be friends with someone in your department. Someone from across the country can, of course, easily chat to a friend on the phone and share the info that you don't want to be shared.

My take: people who want to talk sometimes talk. Regardless of formal confidentiality requirements, people talk about these things, especially among more niche areas of philosophy, and also the elite circles. If you are going to apply to a job when you already have a TT job, there is a risk that your colleagues will find out. How high that risk is, I don't know. But my sense is that it is a real risk, not simply a "it could happen in some possible world" risk. There is a possible fallback, however, and that is the person applying out can tell their colleagues they did it as a way to get a raise, and that they were not actually planning on leaving. This could save your reputation in some circumstances. But one must be a good judge of these circumstances, as they are hard to spell out.

As for asking for confidentiality. Yeah, I think it might be worth it to say something like, "I am happy with my current position, but am applying to this position because it seems like an especially ideal fit. I would appreciate confidentiality about these matters." My sense is that statements like this do put a bit of extra pressure on people to keep quiet, and sometimes that extra pressure is effective.


I think it's not common for people to break confidentiality requests in applications--but I have witnessed it happen once (as in, I was asked about a job candidate that I did not know was a job candidate)! So it does happen at least occasionally.

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