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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.

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