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03/27/2023

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East Coaster

I spent a huge amount of time on those documents, and I got lots of eyes on them. In my first time on the market, I was working on those documents probably 10 hours a week total for something like six months all told. That's a lot of hours.

And I got lots of feedback. My chairs (dissertation and placement) looked them over. But I also reached out to recent alums from my program, to people I knew who had hired in recent years, and to friends, and I got lots of eyes on those documents—which meant lots of revisions.

My sense is that the documents were much, MUCH improved by this process. The narratives popped out better, the jargon was ditched, and the examples were lively.

nobody

I would say I averaged 40 minutes on each cover letter, more or less depending on the amount of information in the job ad. The letters were 1-1.5 pages. If the job ad had a lot of details about the position--courses expected to teach, interdisciplinary needs, etc.--then I spent more time personalizing the letter. Some I only spent a few minutes on and sent a fairly generic letter, or copy-pasted language from other letters. I don't know what kind of difference the time I spent on a given cover letter made. Some short & generic letters yielded interviews, and some lengthier & detailed letters yielded interviews.

For first round interviews, I spent about 2-3 hours each researching the department/university and practicing answers. I'm not including in this estimate what amounts to many hours over a few years that I've spent talking to friends who went through this process before me about their experiences (as well as reading this blog).

I applied to about 40 jobs and was invited to 7 first round interviews. I had 2 flyouts. I turned down some first round interviews because I'd already accepted an offer.

tttt

I will respond to OP's original request rather than Marcus's--I will describe what I did without claiming any insight or tips. I think my exp only suggests what is *compatible* with success rather than what accounts for it. Also, I suspect what people did is *very* diverse. But just knowing the diversity could be helpful--at least I would have found it helpful.

It is not my first time on the market. I was looking for lateral move. I spent about ten minutes on the covering letter with two short paragraphs explaining my research and teaching profile briefly, tailored for the school. I didn't spend special time on CV because I regularly keep it updated. I used a published paper as the writing sample. These constituted the entire package, along with reference letters.

The other significant part of the app is job talk. I started to prepare one after being scheduled for fly-out. The initial drafting is not long; then I practiced it with different people for four times and revised it significantly after the first three times. I made sure that it couldn't be improved substantially anymore.

This was my experience:) Hope it helps.

SLACer

I am sure there is survivor bias in this account, but I share my experience in the hopes of being helpful. My first year on the market (ABD) I received two offers: one TT and one permanent NTT, both at teaching-focused, mission-oriented SLACs. If you are not interested in this kind of job then what follows will be of limited (or possibly no) use.

I knew that I wanted this kind of job from the beginning of my PhD program, and built my CV with this in mind: doing lots of teaching, creating innovative course materials/assignments, presenting at pedagogy conferences/workshops, and completing extra certifications and trainings for diverse/mission-based/online pedagogy. I made sure not to publish too much, and did not aim for top-shelf journals.

There is *always* a great deal of luck involved in getting a TT job, but if I can attribute any success to my own efforts I would point to the mindfulness I had about the sort of market-within-the-market I was targeting. (I received at least 15 zoom interview requests and 7 on-campus interview requests. This sort of absurd result requires a great deal of luck, so again, caveat emptor.)

The teaching/mission/SLAC search committee is highly concerned with "fit" so I spent about 500 hours on application materials (2 months full-time and 2 months part-time). I worked especially hard on my teaching statement and my teaching portfolio. I was explicit with letter writers about the kind of job I was aiming at and specific things it would be helpful for them to include in their letters.

I spent a lot of time tailoring my cover letters to specific job ads (30ish minutes per application), including reading the "mission" pages on university websites, checking out philosophy department webpages, scanning student club social media, and looking at course catalogs. I tried to make clear what I perceived as unique about their institution/the job, and why this was compelling and attractive to me.
I applied to about 60-70 jobs, but in retrospect a lot of those applications were wasted efforts. Going in, I *knew* which 15-25 jobs I had a decent shot at. I should have just focused on those, and not bothered with the applications for jobs at larger schools.

For zoom interviews I spent about 1 hour beforehand preparing. I re-read the job ad and my cover letter. I made flash cards with notes about the mission and what I liked about it, the kinds of courses I might teach (both core and special topics), people I might work with in the department + areas where I might help expand the department's offerings, and a notecard of questions for the end of the interview.

Again, this advice is not helpful for everyone looking for a TT position, and I am sure there is a great deal of survivor bias in it. However, I had trouble finding this kind of advice online when I was on the market. I share my experience in the hopes of helping someone who *wants* a teaching-first job and (rightly) suspects that most general job market advice will only get them so far. Good luck!

Luck

I was from a program ranked 30-40 by Leiter, and I did not publish in top journals. So, I did not apply to any jobs in PhD programs. As SLACer says above, the teach-oriented jobs are highly concerned with fit. So, I did not apply to any job that did not match my AOS. I just thought it did not worth my time.

Consequently, I only applied to around 20 jobs. But I spent a lot of time researching their programs, and tried hard to make an argument that I was the right fit. For each school, I generated some general sense of their curriculum in philosophy, their gen ed requirements, how philosophy courses serve the gen ed, potential interdisciplinary opportunities, new courses I could contribute based on their existing curriculum, etc. And I tried to show in my cover letter that I did my "homework." I would say that I did not spent too much time on writing materials but a lot of time on finding relevant information and thinking about it.

I also prepared for interviews accordingly. For my current job, I learned online that they really emphasized the discussion-based courses. For my teaching demo, I talked for like 5-7 minutes, and the rest of the time was entirely interactions/discussions.

KZ

I went on the market 3 years and landed my current TT job last year. I substantially revised my materials each year. Oddly, year three was when I decided to “let it go” and didn’t spend nearly as much time revising documents. I also stopped tailoring my cover letters (unless explicitly instructed by the ad). However, I do think that I have changed how I describe my research and teaching substantively, for the better, and in response to the interviews I’ve gotten.

I’ve written a post about my job market experience in a lot more detail for anyone interested: https://asymptoticphilosophy.com/another-job-market-data-point/

Sold on the market

I got into several interviews last year, and received a piece of feedback that turned out to be very useful: the feasibility of the research proposal. I pitched a research proposal that connected to hot topics like AI that were slightly beyond what my existing publications would indicate feasible. So I decided to re-write a research proposal that was more like extending my existing research in interesting directions. That got me two interviews, an offer, an opportunity to decline another interview, and the withdrawal of several applications. One thing I would like to highlight is that I am infinitely more excited about my current research proposal than the previous one. I think my previous one could have worked if I worked very very hard, but it's very difficult to prove that during interviews.

uk got lucky

I have previously studied and worked in the UK, and this year got a permanent lectureship (TT-equivalent) in the UK.

This season I submitted 85 applications (with basically no geographical restrictions), got 3 interviews (of which 2 for UK lectureships) and 1 offer.

I spent a few days over a couple of weeks updating my application materials from last year, and workshopped them with friends. (This was my fifth year on the market).

Once I was invited to interviews I spent between 1-2 weeks preparing for each of them, including arranging mock interviews with colleagues and friends ahead of each interview.

A person

I was on the market this year, applying only to TT research positions.

I did not spent much time on the written materials. This was probably in part because it was not my first time on the market, but I do not recall spending significantly more time on it in previous years either. Perhaps half an hour updating my CV (which I already had ready) and an hour or two formulating a base cover letter. The longest amount of time was spent on putting together teaching materials, primarily because gathering and formulating the data from course evaluations was a pain.

I mostly just used the base letter so the average application probably took about ten minutes once I had those materials. I did change the covering letter whenever a job had a clearly specialized focus (and I only applied to such jobs when they were in an area directly connected to my work which probably cut down on the effort required to make the changes.) Changing it for such jobs probably took about half an hour to 45 minutes each time.

I also did not spend much time preparing for first round interviews. I probably spent about half an hour looking over the relevant institutions website and the CVs of the committee if the names were given to me. I don't know that this is good general advice, but I happen to find that first round interviews are in my skill set so I did not feel like practice would be helpful for me and worried it would decrease my ability to be flexible if I had canned responses ready. My first time on the market I think I spent a little more time coming up with imaginary syllabi and suchlike for those interviews.

Most of my time was spent on the job talk once I had interviews. This is because I had felt in the past like this was a stage that hurt me, and I wanted to feel confident that I had given it my best shot. I wrote the talk, gave it to a few friends, refined it over and over and probably ran through it 50 times, at least once a day and often more. It consumed most of a month.

For what it is worth I had several TT flyouts and an offer. I suspect the general structure of my research mattered more than the particular phrasing of my covering letters. I was able to tell a relatively coherent story about my research because, at this particular moment, there really is a coherent story. That is in many ways pure luck and I recognize it as such.

Hired

I got my own TT job recently enough in part because I had philosophical interests in common with a couple of dept faculty that were outside the scope of my official AOS or job talk, setting me apart from the others with the same AOS. More generally, I came eager to bond with everyone on everything that most excited them, and I think it showed in a way that benefitted me. If you can pull off this kind of intellectual exuberance and open-heartedness (it has nothing to do with intellect, btw), I think it'll pay off. If the very idea of this kind of trait being valuable turns you off, maybe find another gig.

goodluck

I am not from a fancy place or anything and didn't get a ton of interviews, but so far all my job talks in my three years on the job market materialized into TT offers. So I think I can give tips on good talks from my experience:

1. A good talk should be unique, exciting, and have highly engaging parts.

2. Practice with different crowds a few times and take the feedback seriously. In my opinion, no need to rehearse by yourself.

3. Having a coherent research narrative helps.

maytheforcebewithyou

Like another poster, this is my first year on the market, and I got two teaching focused offers- 1 tt and 1 ntt renewable position. So the same caveats apply:

First, I asked for samples from other successful candidates from my PhD-granting department. I wrote materials that were very much my own, but I had seen the kind of tone and self-presentation that met with success for others before crafting my own. I got feedback on it from my advisor, our placement officer, and trusted friends.

Next, each week, I spent one full day per week on job applications, personalizing the cover letter and my teaching dossier to the requirements of the position and the department's character. I didn't change the details of my teaching statement. The cover letter was the most personalized (two or three paragraphs altered to address the department directly each time). Moreover, over the summer, I had made a catalogue of 6 or so "sample syllabi" based on my AOS and AOCs that I could swap in to my teaching dossier depending on the kinds of courses the posting mentioned.

I had a decent amount of success getting first round interviews, so my anecdotal experience is that this personalized approach was worth it.

Apply broadly. Don't apply for things that you definitely wouldn't take or that you're completely not right for. But if you fit some of the department's needs but not all, even if you don't fit what they put as their primary need, it might be worth an application. On at least two occasions, I applied for generalist positions that indicated needs squarely outside my AOS only to find during the interview that my AOS or AOC that they HADN'T mentioned was also a gap that they were looking to fill.

I found first round interviews really really difficult and unpredictable. This was something I only got better at with time. My best advice on this is to practice. Do mock interviews with people in your department as often as you can. The only thing that made it better was that I was fortunate enough to have the invitations to keep trying. I got second rounds at my last three interviews and nothing from my first three. Maybe this was an accident, and I didn't SAY anything substantially different, but I think my bearing had much improved from the first to the last, just being more comfortable and more authentically myself during the process.

Same thing with the fly outs. I had three second round interviews and the first was a disaster on my end. I was nervous and felt very much like an imposter. I knew by the time I left that they were no longer interested in me as a candidate in part because I hadn't really shown them who I was as a candidate. I adjusted for my second and third and got offers with both. So much of it is comfort, luck, and that inarticulable "fit."

I was focusing on teaching positions: for a teaching position, your teaching demo is it. Be bold. Don't do something out of control, but try to engage the students. Don't be discouraged if they're sleepy or refuse to engage. Stay upbeat and keep asking them lowball questions, with your own supplements ready to go. Wait for them to answer, but continue on happily if they don't engage. Activities are good, but make sure they contribute meaningfully to your content.

And honestly, just be kind to yourself. I was eating well, and working out, and going out with my partner regularly throughout this whole process, and that kept everything in perspective. The more you have going on in your life that ISN'T the market, the better off you'll be no matter how it goes. I wasn't dwelling on the interviews that didn't go well (okay, except the first flyout because that kind of experience is brutal). Just turn to the next opportunity, or work on another article that you want to submit, or prepare lessons for the classes you're teaching now. Having dedicated time where you're working on the materials and dedicated time when you're not is key.

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