Wednesday, December 19, 2007

And I'm Here to Remind You, Of the Mess You Left When You Went Away

People have a discussion going in comments about something I've noticed too--we're already getting rejection letters and e-mails from some schools. This seems weird to me. Or at least, it didn't happen last year. Was that just schools I applied to last year as opposed to this year? Or are some schools really doing things differently this year and sending people PFOs as soon as they're out of the running? Who knows?

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.


Anonymous said...

I like anon. 12.15's take on this! But at least getting a PFO is better than none, as PGS notes.

And things could be worse--much, much worse. I know of one person whose APA interview freaked out the SC so badly they sent him/her a PFO that day by OVERNIGHT MAIL, so desperate were they to get distance.

It's pretty bad when your APA PFOs get to your home before you do...

Anonymous said...

I don't care right now how many interviews I get, but it would just be nice right now if I could get one at the APA. That way, I know what I'm doing next week. I think PJMB is right: going w/o an interview is a waste of time and money. All things being equal, preparing for other things or even just having down time before plotting the next step is time better spent. Buy yourself something with the money--beer or whatever.

James Rocha said...

But certainly it wouldn't matter if they sent the PFO's now or after the APA. There's a lot of questions going around about whether this or that has ever happened (this has, but that hasn't). Has any SC ever called someone they didn't interview and said, "Hey, we brought out 10 people to the APA, but it turns out all 10 realized how crappy it would be to work here, so we are now flying out people that we didn't interview at the APA. Congrats, you are our Top Complete Act of Desperation Choice!"

Anonymous said...

I hear you can pick up interviews at the APA. Is that true? If so, how does that happen?

Anonymous said...

In response to James: I was on an idiotic search committee at an idiotic school (that I have now left) that did exactly that - i.e. brought people on campus that hadn't made the APA interview cut. One such person was offered and took the job. So yes, it does happen, though I think only a totally inept department could get into that situation.

In response to lostmarbles: this too happens - but they are almost always what-the-f*ck courtesy interviews and I have never heard of one coming to anything.

Frankly, my advice is, if you don't have any interviews, stay home from the APA. It will depress you like nobody's business and there's no benefit to going.

Anonymous said...

I have already gotten one email PFO and three mailed ones (all from places that had already shown up on the wiki, so none were surprises).

One of the mailed ones referred to the "APA meeting in Washington DC this year" -- it's lovely to know that it was just cut & pasted from last year's PFOs.

Anonymous said...

I agree. If I'm not getting an APA interview, I'd rather know it now. If I'm not in the running, I'd rather know now. Of course, if the SC fucks things up and wants to make nice in three months, I'm up for that too, if I haven't taken anything else in the interim. No shame in saying, hey, we only spent 5 minutes on your CV and now realize we missed something important.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why everybody gets so hot under the collar about rejection letters. We candidates all know how the process works. I sent out many, many, many applications with full understanding that, if I'm lucky, I'll land an interview at a very small number of the many many places I applied. Frankly, I applied to enough places that I really have no idea whether or not most schools have sent me a letter acknowledging receipt of my application--or rejecting me. For the most important applications, I use USPS to track. Beyond that, I just don't have the time to waste worrying about all this ridiculous paper wasted telling me how happy school x is that I applied.

I'm kinda glad schools don't spend much time on those rejection letters. When I am on the receiving end of such a letter, I certainly don't spend much time reading it.

I'd much rather search committees spend their limited time reading our application materials carefully.

Schools know applicants send out a tremendous number of applications. We know that schools *receive* a tremendous number of applications. For either side to expect the other to send all materials handwritten on fancy parchment is ... pretty silly.

If I don't hear from ye' by Christmas, I'll assume you're not interested. Beyond that, I'll focus my hurt feelings on the outcome of this whole process. If I don't land a job (and I may very well not), I'll be very sad. But I'm not going to waste emotional energy on who sent a rejection letter, or when. Who cares?

Anonymous said...

"One of the mailed ones referred to the "APA meeting in Washington DC this year" -- it's lovely to know that it was just cut & pasted from last year's PFOs."

Either that or it's a long fucking shuttle ride after your 1pm interview; and you'll have to hustle to make that 2:30 interview in DC!

Anonymous said...

With regard to those who think it best to stay away from the APA if you have no interviews. This advice makes some sense if you have already been to the eastern APA before, but if you are new to this process (especially if you are ABD) I think it worthwhile to try to go for a day or two. It helped me a lot in dealing with the nerves (albeit a number of years ago) to have seen for myself what the whole circus looked like. (My imagination had made it far worse than it actually was.) Of course it can get expensive to go, but if you have friends or family in Philadelphia or DC (or even Baltimore) you can try to crash there for a night and train to/from Baltimore.

Good luck to all!

Anonymous said...

I'm a few years away from the whole process...ok, I'm the process of applying to grad programs, not jobs.
I do wonder about going or not to the APA without interviews. Are there really no networking opportunities at the APA? No social activities? No opportunities to catch an SC member's attention for next year? Like I said, I'm so out of the loop, I'm not even string yet, but there's got to be some reason to go other than interviews. I guess those reasons just don't sound important when your whole life is quite reasonably wrapped up in the job search.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:02: Hear, Hear.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard from Boise or New Mexico State

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:02, I don't care about the hey we got your app letters. Nor the rejections from schools I never had high hopes for. But some jobs I really wanted, and I'd like to know where I stand. Esp. if and when I get an offer, but also for piece of mind. And 'letter', as I use it, means paper or email or really loud shout.

CMD, the APA can be fun if you aren't on the market. Sit back and chill. Networking for you will be very different than for people further along in the process. You might even enjoy the smoker, since you're there voluntarily. I'd say it's not worth it for people who want interviews and don't have any, and who have small stipends that they'd rather spend on, let's say, food.

Anonymous said...

cmd asks if it's worth going to the APA to network - anonymous suggests its worth going to calm nerves. To each his/her own, I suppose - to me there's nothing less ativan-need-inducing than the good old Eastern APA and I can't imagine it calming anyone's nerves - even now that I've had tenure for several years, just being in the same city as that concentration of anxiety, desperation, and glad-handling makes me dizzy.

As for 'networking' - honestly, truly, everyone is MUCH too wound up with trying to get a job or trying to give one to take time talk to someone who is neither an interviewer nor an interviewee. And - again honestly - those of us with jobs to give take any minutes we have free to talk to the 256,753 dear friends we've known for years and never see and will get exactly 2 minutes to devote to during the APA, and the last thing we want to do is 'network' with newbie strangers we are not considering hiring. If we talk to you, we are being polite but are inwardly annoyed, I promise. We'd rather be drinking with that old buddy from grad school.

On a more positive note ... as you've all heard before, many many many successful professional philosophers (most?) start by getting a visiting position out of the Central or Pacific APA cycle. It's NOT THE END OF THE WORLD if the Eastern APA doesn't happen for you. Lots of schools aren't interviewing at the APA these days anyhow. (We have a job listed in JFP and won't be interviewing at the APA). If you don't hear anything by the 23rd, stay home, get drunk, and focus on the spring.

Anonymous said...

I need to clarify. Precisely because the eastern APA is so dizzying, going to the APA the year before I went on the market made things distinctly better (which is not to say good) the year I did go on the market. For me, having some knowledge of what the scene looks like, and so opportunity for ironic distance -- was helpful in controlling and managing anxiety. I also knew full well what sorts of situations to avoid if at all possible the following year (oh, like being trapped in a room or elevator with other job candidates). To say knowing what lay ahead was calming is a gross exaggeration. I would not spend a large amount of money to get this knowledge; its not worth the cost of airfare and a hotel room, but it might be worth the cost of a return train ticket.

Anonymous said...

I'm with anon5:02 on the rejection letter issue. We all know how the game works, and it ain't no good paying attention to exactly how departments told you no.

As with everything else, it's probably harder for people with no interviews, though. If your only contact with searching departments was the rejection letters, I can see how you'd start paying attention to their content. To which I want to say -- that way lies madness, and there but for the grace of an ontologically extravagant entity go I.

Tenured professor girl, the four or five people I would've unnecessarily bothered without your advice thank you for keeping me out of their hair.

Anonymous said...

I guess we Search Committee members can't win -- unless we make you an offer that is.

If we send you a PFO early, you're upset. And if we wait until the late Spring conclusion of the search, you're upset.

Maybe it's not us... it's you.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe it's not us... it's you."

Right on, anon 5:51AM!

Moreover, not everything the SC does is about you personally, PGS. Most departments simply don't have the resources to send individual responses to 500 applicants. Maybe if you get a job, you'll recover the ability to see things from a perspective distinct from your own.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:51 and 6:09, this is a place for folks on the job market to vent. If you're not up for that, go to Crooked Timber or the NYT or someplace else. I'm sure you've needed to vent at some point in your lives, so you should understand.

So, ranting alert coming! If you don't care for my shit, change the channel now.

Also, most schools manage to find a way to get us the letters asking us our race and gender -- it's a federal law, so they figure out how. If you set up a system for that, use it for subsequent correspondence. Mail merge from a spreadsheet, email listserve, simple shit like that. Have a secretary do it, if mail merge is too high tech for you. It's not rocket science. It's called professionalism.

Here's something I don't get. Hiring colleagues should be one of the most fun parts of academia. Talking to strangers about their research, learning about new teaching strategies. I'll tell you this, as a candidate that's the best part of the job search for me: finding out about departments very different from the ones I went to, meeting cool people. I've enjoyed all the interviews I've done. And it's not as high-stakes for you as it is for candidates, so you should actually enjoy it more. So my advice, don't patronize us with you "oh, it's so tough in my ivory tower looking down on the starving masses" crap. Figure out how to enjoy the APA (I always do) and enjoy interviewing (I always have, whichever side of the table I've been on). And try to face up to your responsibilities rather than bitching and moaning about how bad it is for grad students and VAPs to expect to be treated like fucking human beings.

Anonymous said...

"If we send you a PFO early, you're upset. And if we wait until the late Spring conclusion of the search, you're upset."

Wow, what a dickhead...I believe the point was that the PFO came after the job started. So, it's your position that the department did not know until August who would be hired in August? Sounds implausable to me...

"Most departments simply don't have the resources to send individual responses to 500 applicants."

No shit? Most departments don't have the resources to notice that they are sending out an unchanged form letter from the previous year? Or is it that they just don't give a fuck?

"Maybe it's not us... it's you."

No, it's you. Fucktard

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 5:51

Thank you for making me feel bad. I really enjoyed reading this blog. It was nice to see that other people were experiencing the same feelings and frustrations regardless of whether those feelings and frustrations are rational. Why did you have to piss on our bonfire? Do you also go to comedy clubs and point out the holes in the logic of the jokes?

Anonymous said...

"Anon 5:51 and 6:09, this is a place for folks on the job market to vent. If you're not up for that, go to Crooked Timber or the NYT or someplace else."

From reading this blog, I was under the impression that many job-seekers valued input from people on the hiring side. I was just trying to point out that it is important (even comforting) to realize that when a dept fails to send out a PFO, it is not a personal slap in your face (as PGS had implied in his original post).

I won't bother you anymore.

signing off to read the NYT, anon 6:09

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

"Moreover, not everything the SC does is about you personally, PGS. Most departments simply don't have the resources to send individual responses to 500 applicants. Maybe if you get a job, you'll recover the ability to see things from a perspective distinct from your own."

Oh, snap! Anon. 6:09, you burned me!

Because of yeah, "most departments simply don't have the resources" to (a) get their secretaries to do a mail merge, (b) stuff some envelopes, and (c) drop them in campus mail. That could take all of, what, an hour? Maybe a couple of hours? Whole hours when faculty might have to do their own photocopying! Wow, you really showed me. I do/ have to learn to think about other people besides myself!

Anonymous said...

Regarding the "it's not us, it's you" line - it's worth remembering Leiter's thread a while ago on the irresponsibility of journals taking inordinate amounts of time reviewing submissions. I seem to recall a lot of professors bitching and moaning about not getting timely feedback on their work.

Sure, there are differences here, but what's the commonality? A need for some marker of one's scholarly self-worth, perhaps. So maybe it's us . . . all of us.

Anonymous said...

Holy shit, this stuff is priceless. I don't know if it's the stress of interviews, no interviews, the holidays or what but I think Santa pissed in EVERYONE'S wheaties this morning.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, there's been a lot of animus floating about (some of it mine from a post this morning). I've been looking at the wiki, and here's something I don't understand (the assumption, of course, being that the wiki is relatively representative overall of what's happening, etc.). Let's say I'm in a department that got, say, 300 applications and we've made the cut to 12 people we're going to interview. We're responsible so we've asked our admin assist, as part of the job of figuring out which apps are complete, to stick the email addresses of applicants in a simple text file that we can use for mass emails. (This takes about as much work as getting together a list of the names of applicants, maybe 2 seconds per file.)

Now, we starting calling all the 12 lucky ones a couple of days after classes ended, and we now have all our interview slots filled. Why wouldn't we take 5 minutes to send a mass email to the other 288 applicants saying (a) we have scheduled all our APA interviews and you're not on that list. (b) We'll send another email when the position has been filled, just so you'll know, and (c) you may, but probably won't, receive some communication from us in the interim. This last would cover the situation if something unusual happens (another position gets approved at the last minute, none of the finalists is acceptable to the dean), and may be harder to write, but once you have good copy, you can use it every year. (d) Thank you.

That's not too fucking hard. Now, I understand some schools won't do this because it's not working out as an ideal search for them (late end of the term, hard to reach agreement on semi-finalists, etc.) but I would think 80-90% of departments would be doing this because it's the right thing to do and it's so easy that, well, why not just go ahead and be professional?

Right, so set aside all the "hey, you guys are asking too much to be treated like human beings" on the one hand and the "why can't CSU XXX" post on the wiki the stuff they're unwilling to tell me in a letter or email (they'll make calls on Christmas eve, they read my CV and laughed and laughed and laughed, whatever)" on the other. My question is a little simpler. It's: why doesn't it work, for most schools, like I've described? Anyone who can figure out predicate logic, or how to use Blackboard -- hell, anyone who can figure out how to write on a regular blackboard like with chalk should be able to figure out that this is how a search should be handled. Now, tell me how I'm wrong. Really, I'd like to know.

Oh, and thank you. :)

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:51, if you're still reading, I want to apologize for the fucktardedness of many of my brethern job searchers.

Thanks for your input - I for one am glad to read it. After all, none of us has a right to expect anything from departments, and for those that don't like it, well there's a plethora of other fields out there, and I for one wouldn't be sad to see you go...more interviews for me!!

Anonymous said...

John, are you serious (or just being ironic)? "none of us has a right to expect anything from departments". Have you spent the last six years in your advisor's lower colon?

I hope you don't stay in the profession if I'm hearing you right, because you sound like the same sort of jackass who'll love to disrespect everyone he can once he gets his ounce of power: students, potential peers, postal workers. "Hey, I let people trample on my self respect and treat me like shit, I've earned the right to do the same to you." That's how the system self-perpetuates.

If you were being ironic, forget all of the above.

Anonymous said...

"Why wouldn't we take 5 minutes to send a mass email to the other 288 applicants saying (a) we have scheduled all our APA interviews and you're not on that list. (b) We'll send another email when the position has been filled, just so you'll know, and (c) you may, but probably won't, receive some communication from us in the interim[?]"

Point taken. However in Florida, for instance, a matter of state law the search is not completed until an offer has been made. Quite frankly, for some this would be illegal in some states.

I hear a lot on this blog "Why don't search committees do x?" (where x is something that would make candidates' lives easier). It's easy to opine about the lack of consistency between institutions--and no doubt some of it is due to laziness, apathy, or whatever on the part of search committees. But often, the reason that these simple solutions are enacted is because things are rarely that simple.

Vis a vis the hostility to search committee members offering frank advice in the cloak of anonymity, I for one think that it is helpful. Clearly some search committee members also need to vent about the process, whether this is the forum to do so or not. And it is perhaps troubling (I can imagine) to hear the bitching that goes on here--my own posts not excluded. The process could be more transparent, and some TT SC members are too far removed to remember their own struggles seeking academic employment to empathize. But many are posting here in order to help us, and should not be discouraged from doing so.

Lastly, I agree with 'Tenured Prof Girl' that this is a necessary evil--like running the gauntlet--that we all must pass. I hope I get a job out of the Eastern (C'mon Boise State, Chicago State, Frostburg, Macalester, etc!) If not, I'll probably get a VAP from the February issue. And if I don't, then I can adjunct for another year and improve my CV. It's not the end of the world if we don't get academic employment, much less an offer from a top-50 by March.

In a word: Some here need to stop acting like entitled little prima donnas, and start acting like the young faculty members that we think we want to be.

Anonymous said...

This would be even easier. The department could have a web page devoted to the search. They could update it saying things like "Initial 12 candidates for APA interview chosen" .... "On campus interviews selected" ... "Offer made and accepted". No mass emails (which may get bounced as spam), no violations of privacy, and I wrote these lines in all of 2 minutes.

It's not exactly personal, but at least it is more transparent than what happens now and helps to reasonably deal with the expectations and anxieties of those concerned.

Just a thought ...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, PGS and friends. I think I'll have to stay away from your blog for a while. I've enjoyed it, but it's getting frustrating. Will Philosophize for Food seems to think it's illegal to update candidates on the status of a search, and who's gonna bother arguing with someone who reasons that way? Yeah, it's a tough season for everyone, and I know it's tough for Ryan Leaf and all the other geniuses who think they're oh so smarter than everyone else because they won the job lottery, but still can't figure out how to do a mail merge. I've got interviews with a couple of you jackasses coming up, and I really want to want to be your colleague, so maybe the less I talk to you the easier that'll be to pull off.

Anonymous said...

"I've got interviews with a couple of you jackasses coming up, and I really want to want to be your colleague"

And I yours.