Anon. 12:15 has a fair take on what a PFO means if you get it this early:
Even if all of our preferred candidates turn out to be mouthbreathing cretins and we have to go back to our applicant pool, we still wouldn't consider your application. That's how sure we are!
The Search Committee.
No doubt. A PFO a this stage in the game says, "Even if you were the last philosopher on earth, we still wouldn't hire your sad-sack ass."
That said, there's something about getting a PFO now that I actually sort of like. Okay, maybe not like. But there is something about it that's better than getting the inevitable rejection in June. Or never.
Here's the thing. Not hearing a fucking thing from search committees for months--for the better part of a year--after my application had ended up in a recycling bin really hammered home just how much I counted for nothing. I spent hundreds of hours putting together an application package and hundred of dollars sending it all over the fucking place. Those applications were the distillations of years of work and hope. But fuck it. After a five minute skim, my application was done and so was I. That quickly, I became so unimportant, I didn't even deserve a form e-mail telling me to Please Fuck Off. It's like I just stopped existing.
So I sort of appreciate getting those PFOs now. It almost makes it seem like some search committees remember I'm an actual human being, even after my they've dumped my application.