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03/12/2020

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elisa freschi

When something comparable happens to me (e.g., an article I have to peer-review with some key formal mistakes), I write a general post on my blog and try to advertise it via social media, in the hope to help not only the single person it was prompted by, but also many more.

First Time Committee Member

This something I thought about this year, because I noticed something I viewed as a weakness in a number of applications I evaluated this year. The situation was something like this: A graduate student had published a good paper in a good journal (great!), and submitted this as their writing sample. But several times, this published paper was completed before much of anything was done on the dissertation. The file therefore included nothing substantive from the dissertation itself. If we wanted to get a sense of the dissertation (and we often did), we had to rely to an outsize degree on the letters. In an ideal world, we could reach out to candidates to get an additional writing sample from the dissertation, but that just doesn't happen for many candidates given the number of applications we receive.

I thought about reaching out to candidates, but it's not so obvious a case as a confusion about a cover letter, and also something that might be a bit of an idiosyncratic preference. So I decided not to say anything in the end.

anonymous placement director

Hi First Time Committee Member,

As a placement director let me suggest two things that might help with this:

--If your committee and/or department would prefer to have a writing sample that is an excerpt from a dissertation, you could put that in your advertisement. This is non-standard and so should really be flagged by you rather than be something that job market candidates can intuit. (Though: you would need to think about what to say to people who are one plus year out of graduate school.)

--All of my students have both one-to-two-page dissertation summaries and research statements at the ready. If you're not already asking for this, you could ask specifically for a dissertation summary (either in addition to or instead of (for current graduate students only) a research statement. Then, you could rely on a candidate's own description of their research instead of letters.

more empathy

This year we had an applicant who must have submitted an old CV, because they were missing 1/2 of their publications. We only realized this because one of the search committee members had happened to evaluate the applicant a year earlier for a post-doc. This was definitely a situation where I felt moral pressure to let the candidate know. It seems almost tragic that a promising candidate's chances are shattered because they accidentally upload the wrong CV, especially because it is plausible they did this for *all* their applications. I can see how it might happen, too. I know that I have saved CVs with not the most descriptive names, and I could see myself accidentally uploading the wrong one.

Missing something

Maybe I am missing something, but doesn't a search committee have every right to give reasons to the applicants they reject? Do they really have to give the same form letter to each applicant? I would think clearly not, since the people who make it to further stages get personal rejection notes, or even personal rejection phone calls. Why is it a privacy violation to say to the applicant something like "your application was strong but your AOS was not in the area adverstised, and we felt your cover letter did not show enthausasim for the job...etc"

You aren't showing the cover letter to people outside of the search committee. You aren't discussing the application with anyone outisde the committee. You are only discussing the job application directly with the job applicant. I don't see how that is a privacy violation.

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