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03/06/2023

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:(

I have been on several fly outs where members of the search committee have either said explicitly that I will get the offer, or said things that very obviously imply as much, even though I have not ultimately received the offer

Stop!

Some departments require extremely substantive and idiosyncratic materials, like syllabi for idiosyncratic courses

X

Some departments emphasize (e.g., in Zoom interviews) that they really care about hiring someone who works on topic x, to the extent that I haven given an alternative job talk on topic x, and then gone on to hire someone who does not work on x at all

Cecil Burrow

> Some schools are atrocious with spousal hiring.

What does this even mean? Is a school under some sort of obligation to create 2 positions where they originally had only 1, and are 'atrocious' if they don't?

spam refresher

I wish the APA would require departments to notify applicants who have not made it past the primary/secondary interview stage ASAP. It is very simple to send an email saying "We have invited a short list to campus/we have made an offer. I am sorry to share this disappointing news with you, and will let you know if anything changes." This basic courtesy is one small but significant way the discipline could improve a process that is generally obscure and too often demoralizing.

number 2 radio silence

I think one VERY bad practice that is very common is radio silence to second (or even third) ranked candidates. In most searches everyone is ranked at the same meeting in which a department decides who to offer a job to (of course they may decline to rank some candidates/say that they don't want to hire them, but there is usually at least a second choice candidate). Departments should TELL second choice candidates that they have made an offer, that they are REALLY excited about the second choice candidate as well, and that they will keep them updated. Not doing so is bad for a few reasons:

--Many candidates will find out you have made an offer either way. If you are a candidate, it is way more hurtful and offputting to have no communication, know someone else got an offer, and then have them turn it down and suddenly yourself get an offer than it is to know what is going on all along. If a department's goal is to make sure the second choice candidate thinks they are valued, a much better way to do it is to have the respect and decency to keep them informed (plus, they might accept a different job in the interim that they could negotiate a deadline with if they know they are in second place).

--It is also bad for FIRST-ranked candidates, who are often (especially these days) given very short, non-negotiable deadlines because of some vague worry of losing the second choice candidate. Well, just TALK TO the second choice candidate. See where they are at. Let them tell you if they have deadlines or not. If not, give your first choice candidate more time. This isn't rocket science. Don't instead wring your hands and guess about the odds of things.

No one in this market actually thinks that it is bad to get a job when you are a second ranked candidate! So many of us have and most of us are doing just fine.

fly out stuff

Other common bad practices include: not giving candidates a schedule for their visit far enough in advance, not explaining what is going to happen on the visit (will there be a job talk? how long? who is the audience? what about a teaching demo? in a real class or to faculty? will be there another formal interview?) far enough in advance.

Also: Not giving candidates serious breaks on fly outs, and making the mistake of thinking you need to fill up their schedule to show that the department is interested in them. If you have junior faculty in your department, ASK THEM about what is best to do on fly outs etc. Also, you should ask candidates in advance if they have accommodation needs and make clear that you will accommodate things (but ask them far in advance so you can plan!).

Also: purchase plane tickets for a candidate instead of reimbursing them, or if you really can't do that, make damn sure that reimbursing them is the #1 priority of whoever coordinates finances in your department.

TT

I once had a flyout at an institution where the following things ALL happened:

1) I was extended a verbal offer by the search chair, who then tried to verbally strongarm me into withdrawing from consideration from other searches. I did not. I did not receive an official offer, and later saw that the search terminated unsuccessfully.

2) At dinner, two members of the faculty made some extremely transphobic "jokes" in the presence of both graduate and undergraduate students.

3) The chair of the department told an anecdote about how he once called an undergraduate mentee of his to pick him up and drive him home when he had gotten too drunk at a strip club.

anon

Seconding @Stop! about the idiosyncratic materials. When you're applying to 100+ jobs the time adds up, and it's so hard to know if it's worth putting time into these things.

I did have a request for non-standard substantive materials once when I was a finalist for a job, and I wasn't bothered by that. I already knew it was worth putting time into it because I was one of three or four candidates at that point rather than one application in a stack of potentially hundreds. Maybe search committees can consider waiting until the long-list or short-list stage if they want a non-standard statement, specific syllabus, etc.?

Daniel Kaufman

The APA is not a governing body. It cannot “require” anything.

Agreeing

I won't even consider jobs that require special materials. Get over yourselves.

Agree with @number 2 radio silence.

Agree with @flyout stuff's first point.

I actually prefer to have no breaks *if* it allows the department to schedule everything for one day. I much prefer all formal stuff (job talk, teaching demo, sit down chats, main dinner, etc.) to be over the course of a single interview day. But that's just a matter of taste.

PreferAnonymousForThisOne

One problematic practice is the preference given to women, and to racial minorities. This preference may be given by the department or by administrators.

I am sure many of us are aware of searches (in my case, multiple) that were wired, in the sense that unless one was a woman or a racial minority, one had no chance of getting the job. This causes hundreds of applicants to waste hours applying for a job they had no chance of getting in the first place. In the USA, this practice is also 'problematic' because it is illegal.

more fly out stuff

I'm not sure this has happened to others, but I once had a fly out during which it was 100% clear that the department had already decided on another candidate. They were minimally welcoming and at times seemed mostly indifferent to my job talk and interview.

If they were required to fly out a certain number of candidates, I understand why I had to go. It also feels weird if my request was that they all do a better job of acting like I had a chance! All I can really say is that it felt pretty bad, especially as it was my first every fly out.

Bill Vanderburgh

I offer this in the spirit of trying to relieve some of the frustration expressed here and elsewhere about academic hiring, by explaining some of what is behind practices which, I fully admit, are less than ideal and cause candidates distress.

BTW I agree that trying to compile the OP's requested info would be a mistake. Not only are there the problems Marcus mention, but things change so much from search-to-search and year-to-year that any data gathered would be immediately out of date.

A lot of these comments are complaints against universities, deans, or HR, not the hiring department. The groundswell of outcry would need to be large indeed to change those bureaucracies.

For example, departments have no input on, no control over, and usually no knowledge about salaries. If salaries aren't defined by a union contract, they are the dean's or provost's purview, and when they make offers those folks are balancing a lot of considerations including other recent hires, budgets, salary compression and inversion for existing employees, equity, etc.

Ditto for spousal hires. Some universities have policies in favor, some against (anti-nepotism). Some do it ad hoc if the dean is willing, has a spare faculty line available (rare!), thinks the candidate is worth recruiting over others without a spousal hire request, internal politics don't make it too difficult, the trailing spouse is a viable candidate for tenure, they can convince the provost, etc.

As a search chair, I was really irked by being forced to ask candidates to purchase their own flights and hotels. This is normally a Purchasing rule and not something departments can change, however. At my university, it is a state regulation, so there is really nothing we can do about it. We always tried to do what we could on our end to make reimbursements happen quickly, but the budget office does not always work as fast as we would wish. (Having to wait six weeks after the campus visit for reimbursement is not uncommon, unfortunately.)

Likewise for radio silence. At our university, and I suspect at many others, HR forbids the department from any communication with the pool of candidates until the dean has a signed contract from the candidate who accepts the offer. From the time the department makes a hiring recommendation until the contract is signed, the department is mostly in the dark too. (Sometimes the chair negotiates or shares info with the prospective hire as a go-between, but usually with no power.) BTW, the department makes a *recommendation*: The dean or provost decides who to hire from the ranked list. It is rare, but sometimes the person offered the job first isn't isn't the department's first choice. This also complicates communication with candidates. And it is another reason why committee members should never imply that a candidate will receive an offer--it just isn't in their control.

In a couple of our searches, we tried to delay asking candidates for significant materials (reference letters, teaching dossiers) until Zoom finalists were selected, but HR overruled us and put all the requirements in the ad. They interpret it as an equity issue: All candidates must be evaluated based on the same information and the same criteria--they don't want us looking at reference letters for some but not all, etc.

I'm of two minds about requesting idiosyncratic materials. I see the burden on candidates, but: If the department will genuinely use that info as an important desideratum in hiring, including it is a way for the department to ensure they get someone who meets their needs. It is also, frankly, a way to try to reduce the size and increase the quality of the applicant pool. In my experience, about half of the applications we received in recent searches were from people who had no realistic chance of being hired. (Someone in this thread mentioned applying to 100+ jobs--that doesn't seem wise to me. Generally speaking, if you don't meet all the required qualifications, you CANNOT be hired; if you aren't at least competitive on the preferred qualifications, you WON'T be hired, since there are so many people in the applicant pool that someone will have those things. Save yourself some effort by only applying to jobs for which you are a good fit.)

On X's point about being told something was important but then that thing not being present in the person hired--yeah, that happens. It is not easy to evaluate a large number of people on a huge number of often-ill-defined factors with only partial information and significant incommensurability between candidates. Sometimes a factor will be seen as important in the committee's initial discussions about what they want, but then other things will come up during the search that swamp that factor. (Was it Mike Tyson who said "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face"? Well, every search committee has a plan until they read the files/do initial interviews.) Or, the finalists don't perform to the expected standard on the important factor so other considerations come to the fore. It would be hard to make the case that the *objectively best* candidate gets hired in any case. That might not even exist. But I'd say that, almost always, someone deserving gets hired.

external candidate

Seconding @more fly out stuff because I had a nearly identical experience. I don't know what the solution is -- it seems strange to suggest that search committees should lie simply to make candidates feel better -- but I wish there were a better way to handle this situation.

placement director

@Bill Vanderburgh--I posted the comments "fly out stuff" and "number 2 radio silence". I am a placement director, and these are common things I have seen. I do agree that sometimes this stuff happens because of HR rules, administrations, etc. However: I happen to know for a fact that sometimes this stuff happens to candidates because of choices *departments* are making, or chairs of departments. Also, a lot of this stuff is in a murky grey area For example, it is extremely common for chairs (or even deans! if someone else is doing the approval--this happened with one of my students recently) to call candidates to tell them that they will almost certainly be offered a job, but that it is pending administrative approval and something could go wrong, even if strictly speaking they aren't allowed to do so--I personally think there are reasons not to do that, especially since these things are usually approved pretty quickly, but I don't think those same reasons apply to notifying the second place candidate, especially since, at a lot of places, the dean or some other person in the administration approves a ranking (so they "preapprove" a second offer if the first offer gets turned down). (And even if this isn't so, you could still call and tell someone you made an offer, but are very excited about their candidacy and it is still live, without violating any rules except for one which is frankly silly and which departments violate constantly.)

whatever

It is simply inexcusable that fly-out candidates have to pay for their flights and await reimbursement. Get it fixed, no matter how much you have to complain to your admins. Or don't hire. How much money do you think we have? Imagine you get a couple fly-outs in the middle of the month while you're living paycheck-to-paycheck as a VAP or something, with no trust fund parents to chip in. How are you paying for the flights? Here, as everywhere, the academy laughs at the poor.

On another note, I know of a case from this year where a department had settled on their choice (for reasons), yet had more campus visits to go. And they went ahead with them! What a colossal waste of time, not to mention the affront to human dignity.

Keep it simple if you have a good internal candidate please

I recently had an interview where there was a very strong internal candidate. The interview was two days and required a customized teaching demo. I was grateful for the practice but I wish the committee had decided to do a more pared-down interview process. Two days (plus all the prep) was annoying when i knew going in I had very slim chances.

it's all about communication

I want to highlight some positive practices and courtesies I have experienced on the market. Certain small kindnesses (mostly in the form of proactively sharing information) stand out:

-Telling prospective zoom interviewees who will be interviewing them.
-Asking zoom interviewees if it is OK to record their interview.
-Providing a phone number in case of tech issues.
-SO HELPFUL: Telling interviewees when to expect next steps after each stage. (If not specific dates, at least approximate windows: "The committee is meeting on [date] to make the decision, and we will be in touch one way or another within the following week.")

- For on-campus visits: sharing expectations of what the interviewee should prepare *with the interview invitation.*
-Providing a schedule of meetings, locations, and (crucially!) the name and phone number of the person who is supposed to get you to/from the airport, or take you to the next item on the schedule. One search committee gave me the name of every single person (including in lunch groups) that I was meeting with. This was so helpful.
-One school could not book flight for me, but they had a reimbursement check ready for me when I arrived on campus.
-Providing a campus map.
-Asking about accommodations!

Most (if not all) of these are within the committee's control.

Trevor Hedberg

I've largely avoided unethical behavior by hiring committees, but in one case, I was completely misled by the search committee chair about the interview questions I was going to receive. I was told via email that the interview was going to focus on my teaching and that I would be asked specifically about how I'd teach the courses listed in the job ad. I spent several hours in the few days prior to the interview outlining topic / reading lists and rehearsing how I'd pitch my approach for those courses and the accompanying assessments. When the interview took place, I was barely asked about my teaching at all. Instead, I was asked mostly about my research and a series of vague questions about social justice. Most of my interview prep for that position was a total waste of time. It was even more puzzling because it was a job with a 4/4 teaching load: I'd have expected they would genuinely care about teaching. But whatever the reason for this bait and switch, I was not at all disappointed to not advance to the next set of interviews.

Luck Inegalitarian

PreferAnonymousForThisOne,

My own experience of that was weird: I once got a job where I was told that they were desperate to hire a woman and would have hired a half-qualified one, if only any women had applied. Hence, they said they decided to hire despite my "weak diversity," because I was the best qualified and most pleasant candidate.

One of those cases where hearing about luck is unpleasant.

Luck Inegalitarian

Bill Vanderburgh,

"Generally speaking, if you don't meet all the required qualifications, you CANNOT be hired; if you aren't at least competitive on the preferred qualifications, you WON'T be hired, since there are so many people in the applicant pool that someone will have those things. Save yourself some effort by only applying to jobs for which you are a good fit."

The problem is one of numbers. It's not true that you won't be hired: you very, very probably won't be hired. However, if you spam apply to lots and lots of places, then you have a good chance that there won't be someone who meets all the criteria, or that the criteria will change mid-hiring. "We started wanting X, but we decided that we wanted Y" is a quite common tale for search committees. We all know stories like when a department sets out to hire an ethicist for a TT position and hires a metaphysician with a great publication record and a hot topic, who has never published anything ethics-related. This is particularly brutal when it's something like an aesthetics job, given that there are so few jobs in these areas anyway and a reluctance to hire pure aestheticians for anything else.

Is spamming jobs regardless of your fit frustrating for search committees? Absolutely. Just like it's frustrating for candidates to be asked for idiosyncratic application materials. Both are symptomatic of a dysfunctional job market. Ironically, both can encourage each other: the idiosyncratic application materials can be a response in the manner you suggest, but they can put off all the candidates who fit the description, opening up opportunities to those who don't. It's not really fair to blame either "side" in this dynamic, though my sympathies tend to be more with hiring committees.

To be honest (easy when I'm anonymous...) in a fairly extreme case, this happened to me: I once applied for a job where I didn't fit the criteria at all, but the application process was so relentlessly awful and inane that almost nobody else bothered to undertake such punishment, except other non-fits with less impressive CV's.

Emanuele

I once interviewed for a job, and a member of the search committee played with his phone the entire time. In cases like this, I think it's ok to walk away from the interview.

nothanks

Emanuele,

I once interviewed for a job where many (most?) members of the committee played with phones or laptops and made no eye contact with me the entire time. Being a newbie, I thought it was my fault not being engaging, and even sent thank-you notes to everyone afterwards following recommended courtesy (and no replies from anyone). Never again did I send thank you notes to any committee after this experience.

bird

From a few years on the job market, I've collected a few examples of bad practices. Some of them departments have control over but others they may not.

(1) I was informally offered a position that a dean later denied to offer formally. The department was very apologetic and did mean well, but probably informal offers should not come before the formal offer.

(2) Like :(, I have been given signs by the search committee that I am likely to get an offer and then not received an offer. I think folks mean well and probably do think the candidate will get an offer, but many things in the process can change (e.g., the dean favors another candidate, the candidate is disliked by colleagues, they give a bad job talk). Better to be kind but avoid giving hints/predictions of whether an offer will be given.

(3) During the last few years, many fly-outs have been online. Most departments have been very considerate about timezone differences, but I've run into some less than ideal practices. I think the worst is when a department seems unwilling or is unable to compromise. I am not an evening person, but I gave a job talk that began after 9 pm. There was a reception after the talk, which the committee ended before midnight in my timezone out of pity. As a candidate, it's hard to feel like I've put my best foot forward, especially when I know other candidates are on the same timezone as the university. I'm not sure whether there's generalizable advice from this experience, but perhaps recognizing that similar issues with online conferences arise in higher-stakes contexts for online fly-outs is a start.

(4) Like "It's all about communication," it would be helpful to provide candidates with a timeline for fly-outs in advance. For one fly-out, I wasn't informed about who I would be meeting with until right before the meetings. Having a schedule in advance would have made the day less stressful.

not super enjoyable for me

In one interview experience, I was scheduled to meet with professors from all over the university, one after another, all day long, for two straight days (plus the provost, president, and people in the department). It was a nice concept--that the university had a united mission in bringing on faculty members, but it was also exhausting. And I had very little to say to, for example, a math professor...certainly not an hour's worth to say.

sisyphus

While there are plenty of bad practices in the job market, I tend to think that the vast majority of issues arise, primarily, from the large pool of candidates all fighting for a shrinking number of jobs. I say this as someone currently on the market.

I sincerely wish that if a search committee really only intends to hire, e.g. someone with PGR departmental pedigree, someone from a minority group, their internal candidate, etc. they could just say as much in the ad. Sadly, committees can't. And that means many people who are already in difficult positions, without enough time/resources, end up collectively pouring thousands of hours into applications that are doomed to fail.

Anecdotally, I've was in a dept. as non-TT faculty. The department had a TT line open up while I was there. The head of the dept. strongly encouraged me to apply for the position, even though my area of research wasn't a perfect fit. The dept. head gave the impression that I'd be a shoe in and I have no reason to think he wasn't being very genuine. Still, I knew he'd been hired in the 80s, and was very out of touch with the current state of the market. Turned out I was right.

At the end of the day, I was given an interview, but I was completely eclipsed by other applicants. So, even though I had more publications than any of the TT faculty currently in the dept. (so the dept. head had not outlandish reasons to think I'd easily get the job) it ended up going to a outside associate professor making a lateral move. The dept. head felt bad about the whole thing. And, of course, there were a number of things that happened that weren't good job search practices. But I think the main explanation is they were completely blindsided by the market.

It's a sad state of affairs. The state of the market offers no incentives for search committees to act considerately.

My "advantage" as a minority

I think a very bad practice on the job market is to assume that minorities have an advantage on the job market. There’s some research on how minorities are disadvantaged during interviews. Maybe it applies to the philosophical job market. Maybe it doesn’t. But among my cohort, I, as a person from a linguistically diverse background who also happens to not have white as my skin colour, have been the person who has gone through the most interviews before landing a permanent/TT position. People who enrolled with me in the same year tend to get their permanent/TT position within 10 interviews. I almost went through 20. And people are perplexed about why minorities don’t do philosophy (as much) when minorities *so obviously* have a huge advantage on the philosophical job market.

sisyphus

@My "advantage as a minority" - I'm truly sorry if in my post I gave the impression that being a member of a minority translates into any kind of advantage. That wasn't my intention at all.

My intention was just to echo some of what I've heard some people purport on this site and elsewhere. In particular, I was thinking of cases when search committees are explicitly aiming to hire a woman (I don't think I'm wrong in thinking that there have been search committee members who have reported such things on this site - but, please correct me if I'm wrong about this! Also see: https://dailynous.com/2022/10/04/gender-in-philosophy-hiring/ ) - but they can't be more transparent about their intentions. The lack of transparency to job seekers in such cases seems to be a bad practice, NOT the wanting to hire based on X reasons, such as to increase representation and diversity in the discipline.

So, please let me underscore: there is a desperate need for much better representation and diversity in philosophy all around, and it's good for us all!

Luck Inegalitarian

I think we need to disaggregate several groups when we talk about minorities in philosophy:

1. People who come from countries that don't speak English.

2. Non-white people from countries that speak English.

3. Non-white people from countries that don't speak English.

Anecdotally, I found it hardest to assess Group 3 fairly when I was on a search committee. This was partly because we had so many agency/irrelevant applications from such candidates. Most of them either didn't write a cover letter or sent a generic cover letter with absolutely no specific relation to the job. The temptation, which I needed to work hard to resist, is to use membership of Group 3 as a filter for applications to read in a serious manner. But that's racism.

Group 1 membership doesn't matter as such, as far as I know. I seriously doubt that a white European candidate who isn't from Ireland or Britain faces any particular prejudice on the job market. The significance of Group 2 membership (being Asian American, African American, and so on) is hard to evaluate because we don't have great data and such candidates are not common. Anecdotally, I know of the case of Andrew Moon, who is a fantastic philosopher and yet had a long, long journey on the job market. You can find his story on the Philosophers' Cocoon. So, at the very least, being in Group 2 is not an overwhelming advantage.

Done with the market

Here are the worst things that happened to me in three years on the market:

1. A dean informally offered me a job, telling me that the formal offer would come later from the President, and only after they got permission from the government to hire me (a non-citizen). I negotiated a higher salary, and he made his final offer and asked "Does that sound better?" and I said yes. He then said, "Great, see you in the Fall!" and ended the call. He then announced to the department, including students, that I had accepted the job, even though I had yet to receive the actual offer and there was a nontrivial obstacle to clear. The whole department started sending me congratulatory messages. This put me in a very awkward position as a finalist for other jobs.
2. When I was ABD and on the market, a department required a syllabus for a very specific course taught only at their university in order to apply. Their ad said something like "PhD required," which usually means PhD required by start of job. But when I was in their online system and had uploaded the syllabus I had spent hours making just for them, the final question was "Do you currently have a PhD?" and when I said no, my application was disqualified. More broadly, I think search committees should be a lot more explicit in their ads about whether they will consider ABD candidates for TT jobs.
3. I was doing a video interview, and two of the interviewers introduced themselves using each other's name instead of their own. I had met them both in person before (though I wouldn't have been surprised if they didn't remember), so this was very jarring. Why they did this is still a mystery to me.
4. I had a VAP and a tenured member of the department told me that if I got really good student evaluations, the department would find a way to keep me as TT. I got excellent student evaluations (working too hard on my classes, at the expense of my research) but there was never even a whisper of interest in keeping me. Luckily I had still gone fully on the market, because it was just a one-year position.

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