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SLAC Associate

For this kind of case, I think that candidates who have been invited to campus should be frank with the search committee, point out how difficult international travel is right now, and ask whether a virtual visit is at all possible. If you've been invited to campus, that means you've already made it to the top 2-3 candidates. They're already interested in you and invested in your success; if you point out the complexities of having to endure multiple weeks of quarantine or the danger of being unable to reenter your country or whatever, they should see reason and recognize that's an enormous amount to ask of you for a 2-day interview.

I know that the departments at my college who are doing searches right now have already started making plans for how to hold virtual visits in the spring if necessary. Given the rise of omicron and everything else going on right now, it'd shock me if other schools weren't already doing the same.

SLAC Associate

Also, knowing the way provosts tend to think, I suspect upper administration would be delighted to approve a virtual visit in order to save the $1000+ on international airfare and candidate dinners.

William Vanderburgh

We have been told by the Provost that whether we choose on-campus or on Zoom, we are supposed to use the same modality for all finalists for equal comparison. Our plan is to arrange for on-campus (not meeting someone in person and then hiring them for life, more or less, doesn't feel right to us). And then, if needed, we'll argue for an exception after the fact if/when things get worse/travel restrictions become a live issue.

Bill Harrison

Thank you for this important discussion point! I recently interviewed for a senior position in the U.S., and I am living outside the U.S. in a country with very strict border controls.

Before the interview, I raised the issue that I would not be able to attend an "in person" on-campus interview. The search committee chair indicated in correspondence that it would be "legally problematic" to systematically remove my application from consideration because I reside in a country that doesn't permit easy access to international travel. I should add that there is no way for me to fly internationally, not only because it is difficult but also because my current university has said that they will fire anyone who leaves the country for professional or personal reasons.

Still, in the interview with the rest of the search committee, it was insisted by everyone involved that on-campus interviews were going to take place. When I raised the issue again, many of the committee members seemed deeply puzzled. The search committee chair, in this context, did not offer up the reassurance she had said in previous correspondence.

I was not short-listed for an on-campus interview, probably for other reasons than closed borders and virtual on-campus interviews. Still, I wonder how weighty my volunteering that information to the full committee may have influenced the decision not to seek me out any further.


We were also told by the administration that we can choose whether to have "on-campus" interviews in-person or on Zoom, but we need to do the same for all finalists.


I would be shocked if candidates taking the in-person option didn't have an advantage over candidates doing the remote option in the same search, so requiring the same modality for everyone seems right. I hope that if at all possible, though, schools that do all-zoom "fly-outs" at least give the candidate offered the job the option of flying out before accepting the offer on the university's dime. It's a lot to make a choice about potentially life-long employment without actually meeting your potential colleagues, seeing the town, etc.

Anxious expat

As someone currently residing in Europe but applying to schools in the U.S., I would also worry that I would be at a huge disadvantage at the finalist stage if the other candidates were able to meet with the search committee members in person and I only did a zoom-out. The obvious solution here is to do zoom-only flyouts for all finalists, but I worry that a lot of committees won't want to do that. One school I recently interviewed for has already indicated that they will do zoom fly-outs at the finalist stage and will then give the chosen candidate the opportunity to visit the school at a later time before officially accepting. This seems like the right way to go and I wish other committees would follow suit.

moved during COVID

Above all else, it seems important that all finalists are interviewed using the same modality. Obviously, physical flyouts are better, both for departments and candidates. That said, there are huge bureaucratic hassles for overseas candidates getting in and out of the US at the moment, not to mention the risky nature of flying for immunocompromised people.

Maybe a compromise is for committees to somehow determine if there are significant barriers for certain candidates physically coming to campus. How to determine this may be a bit of work, and might require the involvement of HR and legal.

I suspect that most US-based searches will not come across candidates with barriers, and can proceed, as usual, with physical flyouts. If barriers are determined before scheduling the visits, then perhaps there will be time to flip everyone to a virtual interview (with the blessing of HR, legal, and relevant deans.)

I offer this opinion primarily from my perspective as a candidate that interviewed on-campus a week before the US shut down due to COVID. My worry was that the potential for different interview modalities might give me an unfair advantage - or disadvantage - relative to candidates that may have been rescheduled using Zoom.

East Coaster

I don't have a final view on this, but I have to admit finding it interesting that most of the arguments (or, to be fair, inchoate or tacit arguments) that I am seeing here have to do with the advantage or disadvantage for particular candidates.

As someone who has been on both sides of the hiring process, I don't think I have prioritized concerns about fairness to the candidates either way, and certainly not significantly more than the law requires. The point of the hiring process is not to decide who deserves the job, in a way in which fairness would matter, nor are philosophy jobs goods I think whose distribution should as a first matter be the subject of distributive justice.

Rather, the question is, or has been for me, both in preparing my materials and myself and in sorting out hiring, what can the hiring committee do to best improve the department's research, teaching, and service functioning. And so I often have thought that I want to get as much information relevant to that question to the committee or from the candidates. The more information the better.

Of course, I can imagine an argument for equal modalities grounded in those concerns. You don't want to distort your impressions, after all. But that argument is a different argument, and it is not straightforward. It has to be balanced against the argument that you should get all of the information that you can. And, of course, if you fly one person out and you do another by zoom only, and you love the person you fly out, great! You have hired someone you love. Not every hire has to be perfect, and if your department faces a choice between several potentially great hires, what luck!

It stinks that the procedures and results dictated by this perspective diverge from questions of fairness to the candidates. But them's the breaks, unfortunately.


According to this tweet,


it looks like at least one department (this person is NOT in philosophy from what I can tell) are pushing for in person campus flyouts. The consensus in the replies seems to be that coercing candidates into travelling for a flyout during an ongoing pandemic raises serious red flags about the department/university.

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