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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.

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