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Anxious job market returnee

Does anyone have a sense of how common it was last year for search committees to end up not hiring anyone after posting a TT job search? I was on the long list for one of the UT-Scarborough postings last year and I saw they posted a few jobs on philjobs recently, so I went to look on their department website to see (out of curiosity) who had gotten the gig I'd applied for. It looks like they have a number of contractual/teaching adjuncts working there, but no one that seems to have gotten the TT philosophy of science posting they advertised last year. Or, maybe they just haven't listed the new hire on their website yet (hopefully this is the case.) If this is correct and they opted to not hire a TT person, however, would this be abnormally bad behavior to not commit to hiring a TT person as advertised or is it quite common?

Anxious returnee

hello, OP here, I just realized I'd incorrectly referred to a philosophy of science posting at UT-scarborough when it was actually the ethics/applied ethics posting from last year. As far as I can tell, however, there still does not appear to be a new hire for this posting.

humane outlook

It is not bad behaviour to not hire when you advertise for a TT position ... it is possible the funding situation changed dramatically and the administration cancelled the search. I know nothing about the details of this specific job, but this sort of thing was quite common during the financial crisis of 2008.


Is there any use applying to jobs advertised at the associate professor level from a post-doc, or will they just get annoyed and throw out your application?

almond milk

@ 'anxious': I've definitely seen universities run a search for the same position (same AOS and everything) multiple years in a row (up to 5 years!), even if the previous year's search got to the finalist stage. There are a lot of different reasons why they might do this, including as 'humane outlook' explains, changes in the funding situation, or more commonly at larger research schools, that the search committee could not agree on a candidate.

I'm not saying this is what happened in your situation, but I do believe that often, if a large department advertises a search for a TT job in a specific AOS and ends up hiring NTT in that AOS, it more likely means that they had teaching needs in that area, didn't hire any of their finalists (for the reasons above or others) and decided for the time being that the teaching need will be met by hiring a former graduate student of the department or something like that on a NTT contract until they can run a search again. In other words, it's highly unlikely that they hired one of the finalists for the TT position on a NTT contract unless the position was explicitly advertised as NTT. This kind of thing works for the universities insofar as there is someone who can teach the class, it keeps former grad students employed, and allows the department to try again to hire someone permanently.

So, it stinks for sure, but I don't know if the stink is abnormal per se :) Hopefully you (and everyone else returning) will have better luck this year!

Marcus Arvan

postdoc: My sense is that there is probably no use in applying for associate professor position from a postdoc. Associate positions are tenured, and the chances of someone being handed tenure right out of a postdoc presumably approach zero. I also don't think it is at all likely that the hiring committee could change the hire to an Assistant level position. Getting a new hire approved is a long process that has to go through the dean, provost, and university president--so if they approved an Associate hire, then they presumably need the hire to be at that level (and hence, already tenured somewhere).


Marcus and post doc
In some European countries you can apply for an associate professorship after a post doc (usually after six years of post docs). Such positions are tenured, so you have to have a file deserving of tenure. Do not apply if do not - it is waste of everyone's time.


It certainly seems that there are *dramatically* fewer jobs this year than even last year, which was already an unbelievably weak year. If I don't get anything this year, I'm unemployed, and likely to be essentially forced out of the field.

Is there any reason for optimism at this point?

Marcus Arvan

Anon: I totally empathize with your situation as a job seeker. However, I think your read of the comparison between years is a bit off, and that there may be some reason for optimism.

Here are the numbers of jobs advertised on PhilJobs between August 1st and today (September 13th) over the last several years:

This year (2021): 68 ads
Last year (2020): 38 ads
2019: 85 ads
2018: 86 ads
2017: 63 ads
2016: 80 ads
2015: 73 ads

In short, the job-market isn't quite back to what it was pre-COVID (about 80 ads by now), but it's not that far off...and it is vastly better than last year's numbers. I also know of at least one TT job that thought would have been on PhilJobs by now that isn't up yet. So, there may be some delays in advertising this year.

Anyway, the job market isn't great, but quite a few ads have appeared in just the last week, so that and the total numbers may be some reason for cautious optimism (or at least not immense pessimism).


Thanks, Marcus.

While I don't have the precise numbers from last year, I definitely recall prepping to submit over a dozen applications in my (not at all esoteric) AOS at this point last year. This year there are maybe 4 or 5. (And there are a few that I'm obviously not competitive for—e.g. Harvard TT.)

So it seems to me comparing the overall numbers does not accurately reflect the real circumstances. Maybe the overall trends are still a source for optimism, though——at least insofar as they suggest that this year is likely to be better overall. I'll just have to cross my fingers that many more job ads are posted in the coming weeks...


In keeping with Anon's concerns, I thought I'd also point out that several of the "ads" on philjobs are for PhD fellowships, which really shouldn't be posted on philjobs (in my own opinion) since they skew the profession's perception of how many actual jobs are listed from year to year for people trying to get a job once they've completed their degree. As a question for Marcus, do you filter these out when you compile your lists of year to year comparisons?

Also, thanks for the helpful info and encouragement, almond milk!

Grad student

The person who got the job deferred the start date by a year. Seems like a common-ish practice. Probably a good example of why we should remain cautious when inferring things about the job market from what we see on the surface.


@Grad student and @Anxious - I was a finalist for the UTSC ethics/bioethics job that was advertised last year. I am certain that the department did not fill that position, and it looks like they are simply re-advertising it this year. I don't have additional information to share about why the search failed, but it did.


I can confirm what Anon@11:07 is saying -- the search failed; it was not a deferred but successful hire.

Mike Titelbaum

Responding to Anon about the number of jobs this year: Many universities had hiring freezes last year that only got lifted at some point in the summer. This delayed the normal process of getting jobs approved and preparing job ads, which often have to go through many administrative layers. So jobs may be posted later than usual this year. For instance, my department has already advertised two tenure-track positions, but is probably going to be advertising at least one non-TT position in the coming weeks—once we get them through HR. So keep hanging in there?


I'm just curious if anyone knows anything about this...philjobs lists Purdue as holding FOUR TT searches this year (plus one postdoc, so five!). Is this really the case?? Or is it just one search where they're looking for one of several AOS categories and somehow it listed as multiple searches?


Yes, there are four distinct tt lines.


Quick question: I have someone who has agreed to write me a letter of rec. I believe that their recommendation will be very helpful, because they are located at a prestigious institution and wouldn't agree to write the letter unless they planned to include a positive evaluation. But in their response, they indicated that they're writing a letter of rec for another applicant, too. How should I proceed here? I should mention that this person is an "outside" letter for me.

another anon

@Anon (10/06/2021). Your situation is extremely common. Suppose I supervise four graduate students, all of whom are going on the market. I am going to write a letter for each of them. They are likely to all be applying to the same jobs given their similar AOSs. Then notice that my situation is the same as a ton of other advisors at a ton of other universities.

Am I missing something?

Anon Anon

I know the overall job numbers are decent compared to past years, but anyone else sense that "core" is doing exceptionally poorly this year? Especially within the United States. Maybe phil mind is doing a bit better than the rest, but... metaphysics seems absolutely clobbered for example. Phil lang and epistemology also hurting.

Just me?


What should you do if your letter writers simply aren't uploading their letters by the time they said they would, not even after a reminder? Pester them more? Use old letters? Scrape together last-minute writers?


I think the year is pretty bad, it only looks “decent” when compared with last year. It is the second worst year of the 6 I’ve been on the market. And it definitely is worse for epistemology than other years.

another anon

@frustrated If you in a department where there is a placement director, I would get them involved. In some cases a nudge from a colleague, rather than from an advisee, can be efficacious.

If you are not at a department with a placement director, I would recommend asking them to upload their letter to Interfolio (or whatever you're using) in person. Letters are a big deal. If they've already told you that they would do it, they should understand.

anon 3

If the same department has job ads for more than one tt job and two of the postings are for things that I can reasonably fit my AOS into, is it bad to submit an application for more than one job at the same department? In general I've been told to apply for anything that I possibly can, but in this case I'm wondering whether this will work against me and look weird to the hiring committee. In terms of the two postings, one of them fits more naturally with my AOS, but the second one is close enough that I would certainly still apply if it were at a separate institution.

Marcus Arvan

anon 3: My sense is that you should definitely apply. The different jobs are likely to have different search committees, and the different committees may or may not communicate with each other. I suspect there's very little potential downside to applying to them, whereas there's an obvious and enormous downside to only applying to one (namely, you being not even considered for the others!).

William Vanderburgh

anon3: Email the chair of the search to ask if two apps are needed. If you need submit only one, make it clear in the first lines of the cover letter that you want to be considered for both.

on the market

I wish jobs could ask letters to be sent to an email rather than have emails of references keyed into the system separately. It makes a difference on Interfolio, like 1 dossier vs 3-5, which at some point may have monetary implications.


35 applications in and counting. I really wish search committees would make a big first cut before requesting anything beyond a pro forma cover letter and cv. Having never gotten a first round interview, specializing endless documents seems like a huge waste of time and not very respectful to people with lives to live.

on the market


Totally agree. I would imagine that most of the initial screening was done without accessing most of the application material anyway.

over here

A note about the market ...
people are raising the complaint - and the suspicion - that many searches probably could be done effectively by only looking at c.v.s and cover letters. Indeed, I suspect a first cut in the pile can be made that way. But applicants should realise that if their application does not make it past that stage, they probably should not have applied for that job. Indeed, when I reviewed files, I was surprised at how many were not a fit at all. We were still required to look at the file, and then register an assessment. It is a really wasteful process. Just apply for the jobs for which you are truly qualified.


Sorry, over here. Having not made any long lists with a pretty long CV, filled with good publications and a PhD from a program with a decent pedigree (degree awarded just a short time ago), I just reject that claim. And I think others should too. Eventually I’ll respond to market signals In the way you suggest. But the process is too random and there are too many considerations that are not merit in play for what you say to be true.


Over here: I found your comment extremely helpful as a window into the mind of selection committee members. It's a helpful reminder of just how little empathy and understanding selection committees have for the predicament of applicants. I genuinely think that this is an important thing for job seekers to keep in mind when receiving rejections. It really doesn't reflect much on us getting rejected in circumstances like these.

outside and still looking in for some reason

I do not see how over here's comment involves a lack of empathy or understanding.

This is because their comment mentions a lack of 'fit' on the part of many applications. The charitable interpretation of this comment is that such applications failed to have the relevant AOSs/AOCs, were submitted by people who received their PhD too long ago (some postdocs and other early career positions bar people from applying who are more than, say, 4 years out from their PhD), etc.

I'm not seeing how expressing frustration at receiving such applications indicates a lack of understanding or empathy. Indeed, the situation seems to be the reverse. It shows a lack of empathy and understanding for the work of search committees to submit an application when you do not meet the basic requirements specified by the advertisement to which you are responding.

FWIW, I was forced out of philosophy after not getting a job this AY. So I'm the first to lament the state of the market. It's just that this particular complaint strikes me as mistaken.

All that said, your last sentence is correct. Because of its outrageous macroeconomics, the job market in philosophy has turned into something of a lottery. No one should feel badly about themselves for failing to win the lottery.

much todo about nothing

While I'm sympathetic to over here (and to the plight of search committees inundated with applicants), I find myself understanding the sentiment expressed by lotteryplayer.

I feel, much like lotteryplayer, my CV is competitive (publications in BJPS, Synthese, Studies, etc.), yet I've applied to jobs where the person who eventually got hired appears to me to have been a worse fit than I was for the described position. This leaves me puzzled and feeling like the only way for me to approach the market is by carpet-bombing, applying for any job for which I could possibly justifiably fit the description - because who knows - maybe the dept. wants someone like me but failed to spell it out in the posting.

I realize this becomes an arms race, but it seems as though the ball is much more in the court of search committees to do what's possible to prevent us from having take the carpet bomb approach. For example, if a committee will only hire someone who's coming out of the top five or ten depts., regardless of other factors (like publication record) then just say something to that affect in the posting. Or if you really want someone with an AOS in X (whatever, e.g. underdetermination), be specific about X and I won't bother applying, wasting your time and mine.

search committee member

It's really not very hard to immediately rule out applicants who are genuinely not qualified for jobs. As someone with a tt job and who has been on multiple search committees, it takes about 60 seconds to scan a cover letter and cv and see if someone doesn't have the requisite AOS, for example. So I'm not sure we should be so annoyed with people who apply to jobs they aren't qualified for, especially given the randomness of the process.

I will say, though, that I think it is *extremely* weird when people without the advertised AOS apply and say absolutely nothing in a cover letter about why they think they are a fit for a job they don't have an AOS in. If you can't put the AOS on your cv, at least explain why we should consider you in the cover letter. We get these weird totally generic, non-targeted cover letters where the person is like "I do aesthetics" and the job is in philosophy of logic. I don't think that there should be a ton of pressure to target cover letters when one is squarely inside the bounds of the job ad, but if you aren't, and you want an actual chance at the job, you need to explain why we should consider you in your cover letter.


I think @much todo about nothing's point is the nail on the head as to why we've all been forced to adopt the "apply for just about everything you can sort of fit into" approach. Seeing people get the job when they were not at all within the stated AOS tells other job seekers that the AOS/AOC descriptions are not always full or honest descriptions of what the department *really* wants. So, since we don't have any way of knowing what a given department *really* wants, we are forced to apply more widely than we'd prefer. Adopting greater honesty and transparency would have to start with the people holding actual power in the job market-- i.e., departments would have to be better about hiring within the stated AOS instead of hiring someone else for other, often PGR-related, reasons.

the reasoner

But consider ... if all the jobs you know about that went to people who did not have the called for AOS are from the Leiter top-10 programmes, then everyone outside of the LT10 should not expect this to happen to them. Hence, they should not apply to jobs outside their AOS.


@ the reasoner, it is not that simple. I am coming from a PGR 10-20 school and have been long-listed etc. for jobs that were not obviously within my AOS. None of it is clear-cut, and like others have said, no one can reasonably blame applicants for having to play the lottery game they've been presented with.


not at all applying this cycle but stating the debate backwards, every applicant would like to only put their effort into the job they eventually get and every hiring committee would like to only end up putting time into the candidate they hire.

Since the situation is non-ideal, how do we adjust? Applicants rationally adjust by applying more broadly, because the signals they receive do not help them move towards the job they get.

Hiring committees do ??? (and that's the end of what I've figured out) Probably hiring committees are forced to used arbitrary cut-offs and other things that probably only amplify the degree to which applicants lack information about where to apply/not apply.


I think that part of the problem in this discussion is that there seems to be an assumption that search committees go into a search with a unified
goal and a clear idea of the kind of applicant that they want to hire. That's just not true in many cases. The last department I was in held a search, and the process seemed to go something like this.

1) Department receives approval for a new faculty line.
2) Department meets to assemble search committee.
3) Committee includes: 2 political philosophers, one normative ethicist, one metaethicist, one action theorist, one philosopher of mind.
4) Committee deliberates on how to advertise the position - the political philosophers want to hire a political philosopher, the metaethicist and philosopher of mind want to hire a moral psychologist, the action theorist and normative ethicist want to hire someone doing normative and applied ethics (broadly construed).
5) Committee members can't agree so they advertise the position with an AOS of "Value Theory"
6) Each of the members reviews applications with their own idiosyncratic preferences and finds that very few of the applicants meet their "ideal" criteria but also that they like several applicants with specialties that weren't even under consideration before the review started.
7) Each committee member selects their top 10 applicants
8) The committee members get together to negotiate a short list for first round interviews. Lots of horse-trading goes on as committee members compete to get their preferred applicants on the list
9) Eventually, after lots of negotiating and compromising, interviews get scheduled.
10) Ultimately a candidate is hired who may or may not fit any of the initial expectations for the job, but who all agree is very good nonetheless.

It's impossible to know, as an applicant, the degree of initial agreement among committee members or the interpersonal dynamics of search committees. So, I think the apply-for-anything-you're-remotely-qualified-for approach is justified.

Much todo about nothing

Thanks Nate. That's one of the better accounts I've seen of what actually happens, start to finish, during the hiring process.

From such a perspective, it makes sense that a search committee could want a wide pool of applicants, barring those who are unqualified or who have a completely unconnected AOS, and it does seem like a weird sort of alchemy that leads to the final choice.

In light of your account (again, thanks), let me try to re-articulate what, at least for me, would be extremely helpful to see in job postings.

While much of what leads a committee to ultimately hire whoever is a sort of alchemy that no one could predict, it does seem there are other factors a committee could clearly state in an ad that would help candidates. For example, things to the affect of: "pedigree of program trumps all else", or "a publication record with at least one pub. from a top ten journal is required", or "experience teaching that one particular class we need taught is necessary", etc. Those are the kinds of things I'd love to know before applying. If a committee won't hire me because I'm not coming out of a top 10 program, that's fine - and knowing that saves me wasted effort (and a possible an emotional rollercoaster ride). Similarly, if I know they'll only hire someone with a publication record of X, again - great! Then I'll know whether my record qualifies me or not. Same for teaching, etc.

What I'm asking requires committees to be far more honest about the kinds of prestige biases that play a big part in the market. It seems to me many job posts are written so as to leave room for many applicants to apply who, in reality, have almost no chance of getting the job even though they easliy fit the stated qualifications. I'd appreciate greater honesty on this front because: First, I could target energy into the jobs that would give me a real chance. Second, it would help prevent misconceptions in grad students and those thinking about going into philosophy about what they're facing. And, third, I think it would be a step in the right direction of forcing the discipline to confront some the inequities that it perpetuates.

With regard to point three, I *think*, for many applicants, it feels as though postings are written in bad faith - appearing to be more inclusive than they really are. I'm not Polly-annish enough to think that they could actually be more inclusive (the market is flooded after all). Rather, it does seem reasonable to ask folks, who are in the positions to do so, to end to facade of inclusiveness because it would make a measurable difference for many applicants.

Again, thanks to Nate (and others in this post and on this site), who help make the process a bit more transparent.

Bill Vanderburgh

Incompetence is often a better explanation that conspiracy or ill intent.

Anecdotes are not evidence. (I'd love to see statistics on the fit between the AOS in the ad and the AOS of the hire.)

When I see people saying that applicants should "carpet bomb" to increase their chances of finding some job (any job!), that people who don't fit the ad get hired, etc., it makes me think of this: "So you're telling me there's a chance!"

When overhere (and I, elsewhere on this site) encourage applicants not to apply for jobs they don't fit, it is because there are SO MANY applicants who apply to jobs they have absolutely no connection to. It is a waste of their time and ours. E.g., if you only do Marxism, why are you applying to a job in ancient Greek Philosophy? If the job requires a PhD in Philosophy and yours is in English Lit, you cannot be hired--HR screens out applicants who don't meet minimum qualifications. If you can make a reasonable case for why you meet the department's stated needs, then do that in your letter and apply.

R1 faculty

HR doesn't screen our applicants, we do (R1 here--I think this is pretty normal at private R1s). You shouldn't carpet bomb, but Nate's description of things rings true to me, and for that reason I think it's in candidates' interests to apply as broadly as they can *without* carpet bombing. If you have *zero* connection to anything about the job ad, then yeah, don't apply, but if you can make a case for yourself that you have a close enough connection to one of the areas advertised in a cover letter without lying, then I would advise candidates to apply fairly widely. Compromising on something that isn't squarely within the bounds of a job ad is fairly common. Also, just to report something that has happened with my department: we might end up with 4 finalists, 3 of whom are very squarely in the advertised parameters, 1 of whom is not, but whom really is a good fit for other reasons, is pretty close, can teach the relevant courses, etc. That person will probably be slightly disfavored going into fly outs. But suppose one of the other people is *terrible* on the fly out, and then we decide: finalist who doesn't fit the job ad is ranked #3, others ranked #1 and #2, and then #1 and #2 turn us down. Now we are choosing between a failed search and hiring #3, and the only strike against #3 is that he doesn't fit perfectly into the advertised AOS. We are going to hire #3. I've seen this sort of thing (I changed the description slightly so identifying details are removed) happen in my department. I really, really doubt it is uncommon in R1 hiring.

Much todo about nothing

Hi Bill - as stated in my post, I agree with what you say (see above: "barring those who are unqualified or who have a completely unconnected AOS").

Let me be specific (though without giving so many details that anonymity is compromised): As I've stated, I *think* I'm competitive enough (hold a good postdoc, publications in good places like BJPS, Synthese, etc., solid teaching record, though I'm not coming out of thing near a top tier dept.) Many seem to be in my shoes. Yet, on several occasions I've applied to jobs with AOSs that were very squarely my AOS, was longlisted and then heard nothing. Applying to such jobs is not (I hope...) going, "so you're telling me there's a chance!" I fit the job descriptions well. In the end, on more than one occasion, the person who was hired had an AOS in some adjacent area to the advertised AOS, fewer publications than I did (in "worse" places), and no teaching record... but were coming out of a top tier dept.

So, I'm not frustrated when I don't hear back from jobs with open AOSs or ones where I don't fit well (though I've never applied to something for which I couldn't say my research covers in some way). Being charitable, I can chalk it up to the alchemy that Nate describes. Being uncharitable, it does not irrational to wish the search committee had just said in their job posting they'd give preferred consideration to applicants from X-tier departments. Perhaps I'm wrong, but from the outside it seems there can be unspoken preferences about who gets hired that often outweigh what is stated in ads.

Very little fun

Much todo about nothing: you are absolutely right. I'm in a similar situation you are, and had similar experiences. But if you think about it, there is nothing strange: in times like these,even small schools have the opportunity of hiring people from top tier departments. And we know how important is prestige in our field. I don't know if this is unjust or not, but I don't see why we should be surprised about this. However, we should be more honest with students who want to do a phd in philosophy: if you cannot get into a decent school, just do something else (I'm talking about research - in reading this blog, I realized that for teaching jobs rules are different). Is it a bit paternalistic? Yes, and I wish someone told me this years ago rather than saying "you're smart, you'll make it"

Bill Vanderburgh

Hi Much Todo. From what you describe, you are not in the, "So you are saying there's a chance!" category. It sounds like you are applying to the right things with the right qualifications.

From your places of publication it sounds like you are in philosophy of science. That's also my field and we won't be searching in that area for the foreseeable future, so if you want me to give your materials a quick look to see if I can suggest anything helpful, send me an email.

Search Committee Member

My department is currently conducting an open AOS search, with a very specific AOC. We are a large public university without a graduate program in Philosophy; that's the reason the AOS is open: because we don't need advanced specialization in any *particular* area. We are genuinely open to all specializations and have no secret behind-the-scenes desires for one area or another (indeed, our hiring process is designed to prevent that sort of thing). However, the AOC represents an immediate teaching need; we have classes in the major that we cannot staff. For this reason, it's been frustrating to see so many applications come in (at this point perhaps 25-30% of them) that not only don't fit the AOC, but don't even *pretend* to (e.g., the courses or areas listed in our ad are not even included among the candidate's "courses I can teach" in a cover letter or teaching portfolio, the candidate has never taken a grad course in the highly specialized area(s), etc.). Those applications will not advance to a close-read stage, much less to the interview stage, no matter how excellent they are otherwise.

I'll also add here, since I've seen the requirement for "diversity statements" so often scoffed at or dismissed as meaningless, that they (whether they are separate documents or comprise part of a teaching dossier) turn out to be very important in our search. We have a unique undergraduate population, and if we don't see evidence that a candidate, e.g., has experience in similar institutions or has mentored or interacted with student-populations like ours (or thought seriously about how to do so), they are unlikely to get far in our process, regardless of the rest of their dossier. Indeed, this is a benchmark for advancing to a "close read" in our process. Some candidates clear this benchmark by showing active reflection on their own experience (e.g., as a first-generation college student), and others demonstrate it through evidence of mentoring and outreach, but we look for *some* demonstrated commitment to the success of students *like ours* in every application and only closely consider applicants that include it.

different search committee member

Search Committee Member: it's not always obvious whether AOCs are *required* or *suggested*; maybe one way to avoid this is to put strong language in the ad to ward off would-be applicants? I think often when people advertise with both an AOS and an AOC, the AOC is a bit more flexible than the AOS. (I can see reasoning that would suggest that doesn't translate to a case with an open AOS, but I don't think that reasoning is obvious and I think reasoning that it *does* translate also makes sense.) I don't think it's the fault of job applicants if they wanted to be on the safe side by applying, just in case you would take them seriously without it! In any case, as a current and past search committee member, I don't really get why people are frustrated about this. It's extremely easy to just toss someone's application in the "no" pile after a quick check of their cv and cover letter, if it is a genuine requirement of the position that they have the relevant AOS. (I think it's worth trying not to get frustrated with job applicants in general--many people still have bad mentoring; many people have no mentoring; they are desperate and we are in a secure and relatively quite powerful position, one which I think naturally lends itself to *not* empathizing with job applicants (they create more work for us! our time is precious!)--so I think we owe it to them to try to overcome that impulse when it shows up for us and not fault people for doing things even when they create more work for us and aren't qualified for our jobs. (In this case, though, I have to say I think it was probably the rational thing to do for people without the AOC to apply for your job, unless you had all the detail you put in your comment in the ad itself with strong language about only considering people with that AOC.)


Has anyone started hearing from hiring committees yet? I have submitted about twenty apps since September and am wondering if hearing nothing at this point is normal.

postdoc hopeful

@ Madeline, I've also submitted about 20 apps since Septmeber, and I've only hear from one department. Granted, for 13 of those searches either the deadline hasn't passed or only just passed. So I don't think it's unusual to not have heard anything.

In my experience from last year, If I didn't get an interview I received a PFO roughly 6 weeks after the deadline.

Mike Titelbaum

At our public institution, a job ad is a highly-regulated document with all sorts of legal implications. So there's just no way we could ever include the kinds of explanations of what we're "really looking for" that some of the folks above have suggested. If you know someone in a particular department (even just a grad student), you can usually get some backchannel info about what the department is really after. But I realize most folks don't have that kind of access. So for that reason, and the strategic considerations everybody has been discussing, I personally never get *annoyed* at someone who applies for a job they're entirely unsuited for. It does create a bit more work for everyone on my end, but the inconvenience to us pales in comparison to the stresses and difficulties of being on the job market.

Search Committee Member

I'm the Search Committee Member from above, and I should clarify that "frustrated" was entirely the wrong word choice. I'm not annoyed by it, and don't at all hold it against candidates when they apply from outside the advertised area. It does create work for us; we can't just throw an application in the trash without documenting why it was rejected, which means we do have to go hunting around the file to see if there's evidence of the advertised area in there somewhere. But what I did mean to convey was some bewilderment that candidates in those cases don't even try to make a case for themselves and a bit of surprise at how many of such candidates there are!

Let me put it this way. I hear a lot of reasonable frustration from candidates about tailoring materials, but in our case, the truth is that if a candidate can make even a minimal case for competence in the area we need, we will consider them, and if they don't, we (legally) can't! My frustration is, in that sense, directed at the whole process, which seems quite ill-suited for getting a good sense of what each candidate is or is not capable of in the classroom, and--at least at an institution like ours--does not leave any room for us to interpret files beyond whatever specific evidence of fit candidates include and can point us toward.


@Madeline: it's really pretty early to hear back from places. And some of them take much longer than others. Source: me, having been on the market for roughly 6 (million) years.

Different Search Committee Member

I am on a search committee for the first time and would like to ask how others evaluate, or think we should evaluate, candidates' contributions to diversity. We all know (or at least should know) that it's illegal to treat an applicant's race, gender, or other protected status as a reason for or against hiring them. But our university is telling us that, along with research and teaching ability, we are supposed to give very strong weight to diversity. How are we supposed to assess this, legally? Do people just look at candidates' record of organizing activities like MAP what they say about inclusive teaching in their teaching statements, or what? I'd be very curious to know what others do or think we should do.

Overly Anxious First-Timer

@seqrch committee member: you mention applicants explicitly listing "courses I can teach" in cover letters or teaching statements. Is this something that is commonly done? I'm in my first go-round of the job market, and my home department (which puts a decent amount of work into prepping us for the job market) has never mentioned such a thing. If an ad lists specific courses they want taught, I've been including a sentence in my cover letter saying which of them I can teach. But otherwise I just sort of assumed people would infer it from a combination of the listed AoS's/AoC's on my CV and the syllabi I include in my teaching portfolio. Is this something that could hurt my application?


@overly anxious first-timer

I've never hired anyone in philosophy so take this with a grain of salt:

If you claim and AOS in an area, it will be assumed that you can teach courses in that area from intro to grad seminar. If you claim an AOC in an area, one popular norm is that you will be expected to be able to teach intro to advanced undergrad courses in that area.

So if you are applying for a job that wants you to teach outside of your AOS, or expects you to offer occasional grad seminars in one of your claimed AOCs, it would be good to address that in a cover letter. If you have sample syllabi in a teaching portfolio, your discussion of these courses in the cover letter can be fairly brief (you might use this space to do something that adds to what is described on the syllabi). But if you don't have sample syllabi for the courses in your teaching portfolio, then you'll want to be more substantial in your description of the course(s) in the cover letter.


Sorry to be incredibly dumb, but what does PFO mean in the reporting thread?


PFO =df please fuck off (dear applicant,)


@Conrad Haha makes sense, thank you!


Thank you, @salt, that makes sense!

anxious PhD

how long after job applications are due do candidates typically hear back about first round interviews? about a month?


Anxious: typically? Never.

But for the lucky few who win an interview, I'd say that December and January are when most hear back (for jobs usually closing in mid-October or early November).

If you can, it's easier to just forget you ever applied, rather than obsess over it. Just keep applying to new jobs, and focus your mental energy on those applications instead.


Fully agreed with Michel. A month or two of waiting is very normal, longer certainly possible.

To add on to this, I will also say: be patient and take with a grain of salt anything they tell you about timelines, if they do distribute information like this.

Last year a place that eventually flew me out was very open about when they expected to make decisions for first-round and final-round interviews, but with both sets of decisions they were way behind schedule.


Does anyone have a sense as to how much having the PhD in hand versus applying to jobs as ABD matters to search committees? All else equal, is having the degree in hand preferred?


ABD: definitely.

ABDs get jobs all the time, but I think there's a clear preference nevertheless.

East Coast R2


When my department hired, we did not (as far as I can tell) distinguish between ABD and non-ABD.

We did, however, distinguish between lots of courses as instructor of record and one or none. And between publication record and not.

So, as it turned out, ABDs did not have as much primary teaching or publication, and that mattered.


Does anyone know how search committees typically sift through applications? Does the search committee look at applications before the deadline? Does every member of the search committee look at every application, or do they divide up applications before making a first cut?

Marcus Arvan

JobSeeker2021: excellent question. I’ll run a thread on that tomorrow where search committee members can weigh in to disclose how they read apps!

new to this

Should we count job talks on our CV under invited presentations?

see there

@new to this, see https://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2021/11/listing-job-talks-on-a-cv.html for discussion of that issue.

anonymous yak

This is different from the tone of the current discussion, but does anyone know if the CSU Bakersfield Epistemology position from 2019-2020 hired anyone? They appear to be running the same search again this year. (I was interviewed for the last one in the first round but never heard from the committee again; weighing whether to apply to this one.)


Anonymous yak: they did (I also unsuccessfully interviewed with them the same year, though that’s not why I know). The person who took the job in 2020 is moving to a different job.

East Coaster

I know this is pointless complaining, but I miss the structure the APA Eastern put on the schedule for these things. I don't want to go back to first-round in-person, but the calendar now is frustrating!

Applications stretching out forever is draining. But worse than that (if you are allowed to complain about such things) is having to play the terrible poker game of progressing through stages at one school while another school is still accepting applications. Some TT jobs are just now getting posted, while other schools are scheduling fly-outs!

Not much to be done about it, I suppose. There are costs to each way of doing things. And getting rid of in-person first-round interviews is worth it. Still—a pain!


I realize this is just screaming incoherently into the void, but if I don't hear something from SOMEONE soon, I am going to light myself on fire. This profession is a mess.


re phdead: I don't know if this will be helpful or just more frustrating re: timelines, but I've been on the market for a few years in temporary positions, and I've have often had first round interviews and contracts signed later than May.

Lots of people still think of these few months at the start of the academic year as like, "job season", but it's just not. Even for TT jobs, those can have deadlines after December. Anyways, back when I got started at this, I emphasized this span of time too much in my own thinking, and was worse off for it.


Thanks, anon -- that really does make me feel better. This is my first time on the market and I am not handling it gracefully, so the reality check about the timeline is much appreciated!

Waiting, probably in vain

Do search committees always send out all of their first round interview requests at the same time? I imagine this is usually the case, but are there ever exceptions? I am currently in limbo with a couple of searches that have expressed early interest in me by asking for letters and not sending me the PFO that they sent others, but now I see on the reporting thread that others have gotten interview requests. I realize it's 99% certain this means I'm out, but I'm wondering in general if there are ever factors that may lead a committee to send out requests over the span of a couple of days (as opposed to all at once).

Michel-Antoine Alexandre Xhignesse

Waiting: no, staggering across a couple of weeks is not unusual, in my experience.

Anxiety Guy

@Waiting: I am in the same position with respect to at least one search. My advisor said that in some cases, people keep a back-up shortlist that they might turn to in certain situations (e.g. in case a sufficient number of the initial zoom interviews go poorly, or people withdraw, or flyouts go poorly and there aren't enough candidates from the first round of zoom interviews who they want to fly out for a second round, etc.). I interpret this as understanding it's not terribly likely I'll get that position (or even an interview), but that I'm not out of the running yet: they already sent PFO's to people whose applications they *knew* weren't going to move forward.

rejected again, naturally

I'm almost positive that this has been talked about elsewhere on the blog before, but I can't seem to find it, so I'll just ask again:

Do interviewees usually ask for feedback on their performance from search committee members after they've been ultimately rejected? And if so, what is the best way to do this?


I'm not sure about "usually", you're allowed to though.

I did it once after I didn't get a TT after the flyout. It didn't feel too useful. The chair of the search just said their top choice had more papers. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


It can be helpful to ask for feedback. What you get can vary a lot. I have had one line of just "it was a strong field" all the way to the chair of the search committee organising a 30 minute zoom meeting with me to give feedback. I know others who have had similar experiences. I think it is usually worth asking (unless you just got a really bad vibe at the interview).



I've had a few interviews at nominally-Catholic schools where the final question was something like "how does your work intersect with the Catholic intellectual tradition?" This is an awkward question, because the answer is: not really at all! And the job ads have been for totally unrelated areas of research. So I'm wondering: how much weight do questions like these carry in the decisions? And why ask this if it has nothing to do with the position description, especially if faculty do not need to be Catholic?

not a catholic

@shortontradition: my guess is that the purpose of that question is to see whether you have some understanding of Catholic thought, and whether you are able to make what you do sound relevant to someone who works in that tradition. In other word, they might just want to make sure you are able to talk to the Aquinas nerd that they almost certainly have on their faculty. At least that is my suspicion for "nominally-Catholic" places... at some of the more Catholic places, they might prefer it if you were at least partly working within that tradition (or, if you were a Catholic yourself?).

On a related note, I've been using this list for figuring out whether to apply to Catholic places: https://www.newwaysministry.org/resources/lgbt-friendly-colleges/ Even for straight people, this might be a useful proxy for figuring out what type of Catholic the university is.

lapsed Catholic

@not a catholic thank you so much for sharing this resource!! I will be sending this along to my other job seeking friends as well. It can be really hard to suss out what "type" of Catholic school a place is from the website or the job ad.

curious anott

Regarding the University of California system: Anyone knows what fraction of apps do not get past the diversity statement cut? (Do we even know for sure which UCs vet apps at this stage before even sending them to SCs?)


What is the average number of applicants that search committees typically select for first-round interviews, or at least a general range? I wish more committees would be forthcoming about how many applicants they are interviewing at a given stage so that we as applicants can adjust our level of hope accordingly.

Reply to Postdoc

Postdoc, my placement advisor explained that our department has three people each pick their ten favorites, leading to a list of 10-30 people, depending on overlap, and then the three committee members look at all 30 of those and narrow the list down to 10 together. Those 10 then get Zoom interviews and 3-5 get flown out.

SLAC Associate

postdoc: It's fairly typical to interview about a dozen candidates in the first-round, and then to invite two or three candidates for on-campus interviews.


Thanks, SLAC Associate and "Reply" for your answers! I had previously heard estimates from different people that ranged from 10-30 applicants being interviewed, so it's helpful to know that the average is likely toward the lower end of the various guesses I'd been hearing.

SLAC assistant

We interview six on skype, bring in two or three. I'd like to do 10-12 on skype, but the older members of the department don't seem to have the energy/will for that.


We have interviewed anywhere between 6 or 10 people, depending on the search. We are only allowed to fly two people out to campus.

Postdoc hopeful

What happens if everyone on your long list takes a "better" offer elsewhere? Do you make a new list of the "second tier" candidates and start the interview process again with them?

I see @Anxiety Guy asked a similar question about how short list/flyouts get managed. I would expect that a decent number of long lists have a lot of overlap, which would seem to imply that at least some of the time schools won't get any of their "top" choices. What happens then?

Perhaps my question is actually about what a long list represents. Is it "everyone we think could do this job", or is it "everyone we think we would be willing to hire", or is it "the best set of candidates we have time to interview right now"? If it's the latter in particular, is that part of why it can take a long time to get a "no"?

anonymous R1 faculty

Hi Postdoc Hopeful--my experience is that that doesn't ever come close to happening (in part because, at least on the R1 market, there are a few "hotshots" on the market each year, but other than that there isn't always that much overlap between people's lists; if the jobs aren't open AOS, there might not even be that much overlap in hotshot selection). At least for us, it has happened that we have dipped back into our first round interview list after things have gone wrong with the three candidates brought to campus (e.g.: one or two take a different offer, and we don't like the third), but I've never heard of anyone exhausting their interview list. (When searches fail my understanding is that it is typically not because a department has gone back and brought zoom interviewed candidates to campus--one issue is that no administration would fund more than 1-2 "back up" candidates from the first round interview list, and many wouldn't even do that, so the option you describe about exhausting the long list doesn't even arise.)

and so it goes

@rejected again, naturally: echoing @Andy, you should ask for feedback if you want feedback.

A brief story.... The last time I was on the job market, I was a finalist for two positions that I didn't get. I asked both for feedback. In one case (a job I had strong reservations about), the search chair forwarded my email to HR and I got a weird response about privacy.

In the other case (a job I really wanted, especially after meeting the committee), the search chair sent me a really warming response letting me know that my interview was great and that she made a strong push to admin to make two hires because the committee really wanted to hire both the person that got the job and me. She even got approval from HR to hire from that year's pool if a new position came up in the next two years, so that she'd have the option to bring me in if a position materialized.

(She didn't tell me this, but I think that maybe what differentiated the person who got the job was that he had experience--that I didn't have--in an area that the job ad didn't require but preferred.)

I was so, so disappointed when I didn't get the job and reading her reply stopped me from wasting time over-analyzing how things had gone to look for mistakes or possible explanations.

I'm sharing all this to say that sometimes asking for feedback won't go anywhere. In other cases you may get a response that will help you improve for the next time. Or you may, just as importantly, get confirmation that your great feeling about an interview wasn't off-base, that you weren't imagining the connection you thought you forged with the committee, and that you did the good work you thought you did.

Maybe it's little consolation when you don't get the job, but sometimes there was nothing you could or should have done better or different, and it can be a small relief to know that.

Being on the job market often feels like stumbling around in the dark. Anything that lets in more cracks of light is worth seeking out, not just to help you get a job but also as a form of self-care.

Sending you good vibes....

postdoc less hopeful

I've seen on other forums (not limited to philosophy) that search committee members have noticed a trend this year that there are fewer overall applicants but this smaller pool is much more competitive. In particular, they have noticed more advanced assistant professors applying, willing to restart their tenure clock. I'm wondering if search committee members in philosophy are noticing a similar trend.

Non-TT applicant

In response to postdoc less hopeful's question, I have a related question: How do committees approach comparing people who have yet to have an assistant professorship against people who are already assistant profs and are looking to move laterally? As someone who lost out on certain jobs last year as an ABD to people who already had TT jobs elsewhere, it's hard not to feel discouraged and like there's no hope in terms of competing against those applicants. All things considered, do committees typically opt to hire those who are already assistant profs, or are there sometimes reasons to hire the new PhDs over assistant profs? When I think about it from the perspective of a search committee member it seems like a good deal to just hire the person who is already seasoned and can hit the ground running, but this obviously really sucks for brand new people just trying to find *a* job in this awful job market.

SC member

Though there are no doubt advantages to hiring someone who's already on the TT somewhere else, there are also some ways in which the applications of TT people are at a disadvantage. These include:

1. The aura of 'potential' is mostly gone. You basically know what you're getting, especially if they're advanced assistant professors.
2. Some admin might want them to start over completely on the tenure clock, making any offer less attractive.
3. Some SC members might be suspicious of them if they don't give a good reason for why they want to move (are they just a constant jumper? are they combative? are they just looking for a counteroffer?)
4. There's some worry about a potential bait-and-switch: they say they're willing to start over or lose a couple years on the tenure clock, but then at negotiation time they take it back.

All these are basically non-issues for people not yet on the TT.


This is an issue, but it really depends on the search committee, what they value, what they don't. And at some places, search committee members differ drastically from year to year, and so you don't know fore sure that there's a pattern they will follow.

You can take a look at this in job postings on PhilJobs - e.g. you can see some places hired ABDs/new graduates last year where surely there were also very experienced candidates in the pool, as well as some places that did the opposite.

I'm not sure about the overall numbers, whether there's a profession-wide preference in either direction. My vague, non-statistically backed up hunch is that fancier places are more excited to hire people without substantial track records.

drop off

@postdoc less hopeful, that's an interesting obvervation, if true. If it is true, one potential contributing factor could be people leaving the academic job market in philosophy after the abysmal 20-21AY job season.

I would love to see data about how many former job seekers move on from academic philosophy each year and whether the drop off after 20-21AY was larger than normal.

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