Sunday, January 6, 2008

C'mon feel the noise.

All y'all remember Inside Man, who's on a search committee at a Leiterrespectable school this year? Here, via e-mail, is his take on the noisiness of conference interviews.

As an interviewer, you go in to the interviews knowing that there’s only so much information that you can get, that a careful perusal of the files is bound to be more informative, that candidates have bad days that don’t mean anything. In short, you know that you're going to get a lot of noise. And yet. I left some of the interviews so excited about some of the candidates that I wanted to hire them on the spot. Heck, I wanted to endow chairs to give to them. And, let me tell you, it’s really, really hard to put that sort of excitement aside.


Anonymous said...

And here's another view from the interviewer's perspective. As much as you, the applicants, don't like to spend your winter holidays at some conference, we, the tenured or tenure-track faculty, _really_ don't like to spend our holidays interviewing you.

Nothing against you personally, but most of us now have families and look forward to a long break after a long semester. And we senior faculty usually need to reluctantly tag along, if not only for the reason that it's not prudent to rely on a junior faculty without tenure (who's on the SC primarily to boost her or his tenure application) to make those decisions that can profoundly shape, or ruin, a department.

So give us a break as well, be nice, and if you look at a situation from different angles, you are likely to be more successful. This is true in virtually all other areas of life.

More to the point raised in the original post, yes, a very good interview at the APA is really, really hard to ignore. Make it exciting and fresh for us; make us believe that we want to work with you for the next 10-30 years; make us believe that we're not being conned by an "act" if you are fighting your true personality (in which case, you need to change your personality).

And don't forget about the bottom line. As a former department chair, I can tell you that running a department is very much like running a business. You need to be ever-cognizant of your budget...and growing your budget. This means hiring people who can bring excitement, students, research dollars, and recognition to the department. So show us how your research and strengths can contribute to the future of our department.

We want colleagues, excellent teachers, respected researchers; not candidates still stuck in grad-school mode who feel they're entitled to this or that, or who thinks her or his research is so much more important than teaching.

That said, most of the candidates I interviewed showed the proper respect for the profession. But others are clueless, self-absorbed...and still unemployed.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the 9:55A post. We, the interviewers, don't like to be at the APA Eastern (though the other ones are philosophically more interesting) any more than you do. We've been there, done that, and really don't want to re-live those bad memories. We're tired from all that traveling and string of interviews that start to sound the same.

So not only should you, the candidate, bring something new to the table, but also bring out your best "selling" skills. Sell yourself to us. Not in an obnoxious or self-serving way, but more as a partnership on how we can help each other. Don't try to outwit, outmatch, or outlast us -- we've done this a lot longer than you have and will always win that matchup. Instead, show us what it means to be a colleague we want to see every day. Good luck, all.

Anonymous said...


So you're saying it's good in APA interviews to be exciting and fresh, to make the interviewers want to work with us, to make them see that our enthusiasm isn't just an act, and that we'll bring students and research dollars into your department. And you're saying that you want "colleagues, excellent teachers, respected researchers; not candidates still stuck in grad-school mode."

This is advice for APA interviews that is as useful as it is timely. Because I'm sure most candidates really think they should try to be dull and run-of-the-mill, that they should make the interviewers *not* want to work with us, that our enthusiasm is completely a con, that we *won't* bring students into the department, and that we won't contribute in a meaningful way to the department's research profile. And most of all, we candidates mostly assume that departments are *not* looking to hire a colleague, but are actually spending a huge amount of money and time--leaving their families over the holidays--in order to bring in one extra grad student who costs three times as much as all the rest.

I know I won't make those mistakes again.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what motivates comments like this:

"Don't try to outwit, outmatch, or outlast us -- we've done this a lot longer than you have and will always win that matchup."

Is that the philosophical version of buying a red sports car as a response to a mid-life crisis?

Guess what? You have been at this a lot longer. But some of you will get your asses handed to you on a plate if you try to compete mentally with people who are coming out of graduate programs that accept 5 students but get applications from 300, a development since you were in grad school in the 1960s.

The point, of course, is not that any young one will beat any old one -- that's obviously false. It's rather that comments like the one quoted at the start of this reply are a little foolish.

Anonymous said...

From one grad student to another, comments #3 and #4 here seem defensive and perhaps show the kind of hubris that commentator #1 and #2 are alluding to. As for me, I'll take any advice from folks who've worked on a SC.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:59 ---

Hahahaha. Nice.

Anonymous said...

Given the stunning talent and brains on the other side of the table at the eastern div, the crappy questions that my senior colleagues ask candidates are squirm inducing.

Just keep nodding and smiling and pretend they're asking whether you want 50K a year to do philosophy. I think that's what anon 9.55 meant by "...give us a break as well, be nice..."

Tenured Philosophy Girl said...

Anon 10:34 - you write: "Don't try to outwit, outmatch, or outlast us -- we've done this a lot longer than you have and will always win that matchup."

I wonder if you can possibly be serious. Do you really think you (and I guess by insinuation all older philosophers) are able to outwit, etc. all your actual and potential junior colleagues? Boy do I not think anything remotely like that is true. If I thought that I could obviously outwit a job candidate I would not hire that person.

In some departments I have been in, the junior folks can OBVIOUSLY outwit, outlast, and generally out-publish, out-perform and out-teach the older folks ... if anything I think this is the most common situation.

I am genuinely curious what you had in mind with that comment.

Anonymous said...

Just want to enter a request for people to update the Wiki. I know of several jobs that have called people but are not posted. Don't be shy!

[Though perhaps people who are not updating the Wiki are also not reading this blog?]

Anonymous said...

On my "outwit, outmatch, and outlast" comment, which seemed to have raised the ire of many, that of course is the tagline for the reality show "Survivor"; so I didn't mean it in a Machiavellian way.

Rather, I meant it purely in the context of _interviewing_ candidates. No one can plausibly deny that those already with philosophy jobs have more experience at interviewing tenure-track candidates than those in or fresh out of grad school. Of course today's grad student is "hungrier" and more prepared to compete than those from my generation. And of course there will be some who have much more natural talent than some full professors. But none of that contradicts my point that we know how to play the interviewing game better than the interviewees.

So my statement stands: Just be yourself (unless being yourself is a liability), and don't try to second-guess what the interviewer is looking for. We call it a "game" but that's just a metaphor; it really should be more of a genuine partnership, not an adversarial process (though it feels like that sometimes).

Anonymous said...

Could anon 3:16pm please just SAY who has made calls for on campus visits, is s/he knows? What difference does it make if it is made public here, or on the wiki?

Prof. J. said...

Some of my peers are sounding a little patronizing. I think fairly specific information, rather than general pearls of wisdom, might be more welcome by the job-seekers.

Some of the grad students are sounding a little defensive, or maybe disrespectful. But let's remember, this is their blog, and part of the point of it is for them to vent. (And some of the sarcasm is pretty funny.)

Anonymous said...

I was first a bit put off by the "outwit, etc." comment as well, but this makes more sense now, given the clarification.

I would add that if candidates try to game us and act differently than they really are, then everyone loses. Current faculty may be unhappy to see the new hire's true colors finally come out (which doesn't bode well for tenure); and the new hire will be unhappy because s/he is not the fit that the department was looking for. If you say that you're a practicing Catholic or like small towns, but you really aren't or don't, that will eventually come out, even if only as unending agony to yourself.

Anonymous said...

"Unending agony" - how dreadful!

inside man said...

You know, I think I'm pretty smart. In fact, sometimes I forget how much smarter -- or at least better at philosophy, or at least better at philosophy in interview-like settings -- I am now than I was coming out of grad school, so sometimes it comes as a surprise to me that I am smarter -- or see previous caveat -- than various highly touted job candidates. But I can think of at least a handful of candidates who survived me during the interviews. If you're crushing all of your job candidates, maybe you should pick better candidates to interview. Because not everyone in the pool is crushable. At least not by me and my colleagues.

Anonymous said...

You know, it's this crass spirit of "I can crush you" that I despise so much about so many analytic philosophers. I'm one such philosopher, and not unsuccessful, and I'm here to tell ya': it ain't necessary. Grow up and focus on what matters.

Tenured Philosophy Girl said...

Anon 5:06: Thank you! I really wanted to write that. Why is withstanding attempts at crushing the big test here? Why is trying to crush people the way to gauge their philosophical and collegial value? What is this, wrestling?

However, 5:06, I don't see anything especially 'analytic' about this attitude. Let's just say it seems to be an occupational hazard for philosophers. (I will refrain from invoking the obvious and tempting gender generalizations.) (And yes I am fully aware of the performative tensions in that previous sentence.)

Anonymous said...

I would agree that analytic philosophers do seem to be more argumentative than other philosophers. But why is that?? Anyone? Bueller? Just trying to understand why some of my grad school classmates are such a-holes...

Drago said...

Nature of the beast, folks. If you aren't able or willing to defend the claims you make against vigorous attacks, then why in the world would you choose philosophy as a career? To be sure, there are professional and unprofessional methods of attacking/defending, but philosophy ain't all about having months to revise and resubmit your shit against replies and objections; a prized virtue in a departmental colleague is the ability to think quickly on fly.

By the way, the same pretty much holds for departments outside of philosophy. Assholes aplenty exist everywhere but so too do people who are incapable of separating attacks on their positions from attacks on their person.

Finally, ego checks may be in order for most of you. I think it is great that some of you think you are hot shit, I say tear it up, Tiger. Also realise that you won't really find out if you are hot shit until about 10 years are up. Also realise that if you aren't the top candidate coming out of rutgers, nyu, mit, or princeton, the safe money is on you being a loudmouth posuer who thinks strong arming a few senior faculty outside of your narrow field means something.

Anonymous said...

Is Drago right? Are there simply a lot people here and elsewhere who are simply full of themselves? In other words, only a very, very, small percentage of philosophers are actually "hot shit". Do you agree?

'Also realise that if you aren't the top candidate coming out of rutgers, nyu, mit, or princeton, the safe money is on you being a loudmouth posuer who thinks strong arming a few senior faculty outside of your narrow field means something."

Anonymous said...

I think anon 9:55's comments are worth hearing, even if they are (in some sense) obvious. A former placement director at my school used to say things like, "The temptation for a job candidate is to think the goal is to not lose an argument, but that's not the goal." The goal, of course, as anon 9:55 is basically pointing out, is to demonstrate that you would be a good colleague. Now yes, this is obvious, and I know this already, and I believe this, and I've heard this for years -- but there was at least one APA interview where I panicked and forgot it. And I doubt that interview is going to lead to a fly-out. And judging from some of the white knuckles I saw at the smokers, I think there are lots of other candidates who tend to forget this, too.

In some sense, the goal isn't even to get a job. It's to meet new colleagues and learn a few new things while having some interesting philosophical conversations. Hopefully one side effect of this is getting a job, but there's a lot to be said for indirection and detachment, a la Tao Te Ching or Bhagavad Gita. (And I don't even study eastern philosophy!)

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

drago --

You know, I've just reread this entire thread fairly carefully, and I can't figure out who might need an ego check here. Who here said they were hot shit?

And if no one did, what exactly are you reacting to?

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Prof. J --

"I think fairly specific information, rather than general pearls of wisdom, might be more welcome by the job-seekers."

From my perspective, truer words were never written about how to advise people on the market. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the Wiki for anyone to update if they know something? I don't understand how anyone can know information and then get upset that others aren't reporting it, when they're in a position to report it themselves. If you're on a search committee and know you've assigned three campus interviews and won't do more, then update the Wiki to say so. It's not as if it needs to come from one of the job candidates to be reliable information.

The only case I can see it being bad is if you know a committee has contacted some but don't know if it will contact more and can't indicate if it's done contacting or how many it's contacted. In that case the dittoing might get duplicates. But most people who have information aren't in that position and can simply say that, e.g., three campus interviews have been invited. Someone has in fact done this for one position already, and those with information need to stop telling others to update the Wiki and just do it themselves.

Anonymous said...

I am the "anon" that told people to update the Wiki, and I myself added all the information I knew (i.e. information about other people's interviews). But I inferred from the fact that I knew information that was not posted that there was other information I did not know that wasn't posted, and that is partly why I made my comment: to encourage everyone to post.

Anonymous said...

I second the motion that you don't have to have the fly-out yourself in order to update the wiki. It is just about information sharing.

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering whether we can expect to receive notice from the schools with which we've interviewed at the APA that we *aren't* being brought to campus on the first go around. I realize that some schools might be hesitant to do this so soon, since they figure that if their top candidates turn them down, they might end up looking farther down the list. However, I know I *would* very much appreciate hearing in the next week or so that I didn't make the first group of campus visits. This would in no way prejudice me against a school if I were later invited.

It seems to me that this wouldn't be a big burden on search committees, since each school interviews a relatively limited number of people at the APA. It would be a matter of sending out a few emails.

So, if you are in a position of power and reading this, let me encourage you to notify your applicants about their situations as soon as you can, even if you have bad news. I've heard back from one school I interviewed with that I am not on the list of people initially invited to campus, and I know that I have a much more positive view of that school as a result of at least hearing *something*.

Anonymous said...

to Anon 9:13: Don't expect to hear back from places you've interviewed with anytime soon. Out of 15 APA interviews I had a few years back, only two actually rejected me at this stage. I never heard back from 8 of them. I'm also still waiting to be rejected from two schools that I had on-campus interviews with three years ago. Unfortunately, I don't think my experience is atypical.

Anonymous said...

to anon 9:55

This is absurd. We need a change in norms and schools should be embarrassed about not notifying applicants of their situations as soon as information becomes available, even if to say "We're sorry." It's *so* little to ask.

Anyhow, it's in each school's best interests to let its applicants know what's up - it builds relationships. I am a fellow-traveler in philosophical circles, even if not in your department, and being at least polite to me matters. But anyway, do we have to justify all good behavior based on self-interest anyhow? To a bunch of philosophers?

[I don't, of course, mean to be complaining about departments who just haven't made their decisions yet. That is perfectly legit. It's only been a bit over a week since the APA.]

Anonymous said...

I'm with Drago on this one. There are too many uppity grad students here who think they're hot shit, and they really have nothing with which to back that up. Yes, graduating from a top program is an excellent start, but like new Harvard Law School graduates who need to win a number of big cases, etc. before they can claim to be a great lawyer, new philosophy PhDs have a long road ahead of them. Modesty is a useful virtue here (in relating to colleagues, though don't hold too much back during the interviews), as is being charitable to the philosopical elders whom you want to criticize.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

10:27 --

Still waiting for any evidence of egos here. But your choice of words--"uppity"--does increase my suspicion that the real objection here's got nothing to do with people thinking they're hot shit (which, as I say, no one here seems to be saying).

No, I suspect the real objection here with "uppity" grad students is that we don't always act with the high degree of obsequious deference that some--though not most, thank god--faculty seem to think is their due.

tt assprof said...

I think in the last thread, I introduced the concept "hot shit" to describe some papers I read by candidates applying to our job.

I think I said, "some of what I read is some seriously hot shit."

I stand by that. Some of what I read was really outstanding and thought-provoking.

We just agreed on whom to invite on campus, and it was really really hard, because so many of the candidates were so damn good. A number of the senior-most colleagues kept crying out: "This is SO hard."

I would be proud to be in a dept. with any of the twenty people we had to narrow down from.

Some of my colleagues, including my self, had to wonder aloud how we ever managed to get a job. (Then the chair told us that in our years the pool wasn't as good. Thanks fearless leader!)

But I think there was consensus that the newer philosophers are just more proficient (technically) and sophisticated (technically) than we were at that stage.

I think that makes sense.

In fact, it would be utterly pathetic of the profession if the latest generation of philosophers were not, on average, just better (technically) than, on average, the last generation of philosophers.

So I stand by my suggestion: You guys are hot shit! (Some of you, technically speaking.)

Of course, beauty (the technical sort) does fade. But why worry about that now?

10:27P replies said...

By "here", I meant this blog generally or at least the posts I've read around the APA dates. As for evidence, see 12:59P and 1:21P in this thread, though I was thinking more about previous threads.

And it's not at all about showing deference. In fact, deference is bad. What's needed is to show that you are an _equal_ with senior colleagues, not an ass kisser.

But thinking that you are better than other, even if you are hot shit, is much worse. I've personally known and worked with a number of philosophers that most in the field would know, and _none_ of them carry an attitude that they are better than other philosophers or any other person in general, including the homeless.

There's no nice way of saying this to those who need it (and not everyone posting on this blog needs it): Confidence is good, but too much becomes arrogance. So get over yourself.

Anonymous said...

We don't contact our candidates to tell them that they didn't make the on-campus stage of interviews. One reason for not contacting them is that it may change--we've had people cancel their on-campus interviews before they actually arrived. And then we went to the next person on our list (the of persons we liked best after the APA interviews). It would be a bit awkward to call someone in a few weeks and have to say "well, we told you we didn't want to invite you, but now we do..."

Of course, the existence of the wiki changes this--the candidate very well may know that they weren't invited as soon as the others--but that's only if the candidate actually knows about the wiki. I've found that most of my own grad students (and nearly all my faculty colleagues) had no idea it existed.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

10:27 --

I'm afraid you're confirming my suspicions more than allaying them. What does Anon. 12:59 say to suggest he or she thinks of him or herself as hot shit? That he or she has any ego about his or her philosophical abilities? Absolutely nothing.

However. Anon. 12:59 does have the temerity to point out that the first comment in the thread contains no advice beyond blindingly-obvious generalizations and a heaping helping of condescension. And Anon. 12:59 expresses that point sarcastically, i.e., without the sort of deference some--but again, not most, thank god--faculty expect from grad students.

So to be clear, Anon. 12:59's comment says literally nothing about his or her philosophical ability.

So what could lead you to infer that Anon. 12:59 thinks of him- or herself (god, these pronouns are getting annoying--sorry) as hot shit? Do you really think any candidates take themselves to be hot shit because they can figure out for themselves that they should try to be interesting on the job market? And that they should try to seem excited and exciting when it comes to teaching and research? But Anon 12:59's point is obviously just the opposite: it doesn't take hot shit to figure that out about the job market. Anyone with half a dissertation and two brain cells to rub together already knows that. After all, it's blindingly obvious.

There's just no ego about philosophical ability here. God knows, if I were better philosopher, I wouldn't have to be so anxious about the job market myself. But what is here--on full display--is the lack of respect for academic hierarchy as such that usually only rears its sarcastic head once the profs have all gone home for the night.

A prof who interviewed at APA said...

We’ve also just decided today whom to bring to campus and surprisingly, most of the candidates are foreign – for some reason, the U.S. candidates where that great this year.

This concerns me, deeply. We currently have one position to fill. Next year, we’ll have 2 more and I’m seriously concerned about the quality of applicant pool.

Our interviews at APA were all similar – what concerned me were the social skills ; try and veer the topic away from philosophy and most of the candidates looked like deer in the head lights – if you can’t connect to the committee – can your really connect with students?

Something else that concerned med what the entitlement factor – one candidate told us don’t bother flying me in unless you guarantee and a spousal hire (ok..we won’t). Another told me they wanted their first year off to work on their book – umm..we aren’t at the negation stage yet.

There has been some conversation about compensation so I can tell you my shop’s range-
We hire at 55, additional compensation is available if you teach summers, but there is no pressure to do that if you don’t want to – we have killer benefits and a great faculty mortgage program and housing is affordable, also you’ll get every third semester off to do research – it’s not an academic sweat shop.

Maybe we need to concentrate on more recruiting in Canada, the UK and Europe. – It would add some great diversity to the faculty.

Anonymous said...

TO anon 10:58

I'd like to press further that you should contact people to tell them they aren't in the first wave, or are completely out of the running post -APA:

1. Certainly some people are completely out of the running after the APA. You should let them know this. Why not? They will appreciate it.

2. For those who might *eventually* be called, it is possible to let them know of their situation while leaving open the small possibility that you will contact them later for a fly-out. I think the frankness will be appreciated. Perhaps it is very marginally awkward for you, but compare that to the distress of not hearing anything for people on the other end.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that "a prof who interviewed" is real. His or her claims about what candidates said to him at the APA are wildly implausible. He or she probably just likes insulting people anonymously.

Anonymous said...

And the spelling sucks.

Anonymous said...

Some schools have contacted me to let me know I'm not in the first wave of fly-outs but not entirely out of the running yet. I really appreciated that. Others have shown up on the wiki but said nothing to me. I like that a lot less -- it means I have no idea whether they might still be interested in me but want a shot at someone they like better first, or would really never be in the same time zone as me again, or what.

Also, I kind of suspect that there are a very few people who are getting an awful lot of the first round of interviews. Does anyone else know if this is the case? Because if so, then those of us who didn't make the first round but are not out of the running entirely can still keep some hope, since those very few people can only take a very few of the jobs.

Anonymous said...

General notice: the APA finally updated their web-only job ads, adding a few more positions to tease us.

Anonymous said...

to anon 11:53

Those comments may be implausible, but from friends who have been on search committees I have heard some amazingly insulting/idiotic comments that match up with the ones that you say are implausible.

for example, the person was from a Lighteriffic top 20 grad program and was being looked at very nice SLAC where the candidate would have been a generalist with very ample time to research. The person responding to a questing about philosophy replies
that the only worthwhle philosophy is ancient philosophy and proceeds to argue that people who do philosophy of x and y are not philosophers (mind you that phi of x and y were the specialities of the two people interviewing)

The candidate wasnt joking. No, the candidate went on a rant for 10minutes while continuing to insult the committee members.

The interview ended early and an early round of drinks was had.

people say and so some incredibly self-destructive things.

Mr. Zero said...

Dear Prof who Interviewed,

Assuming you are who you say you are, have you considered the possibility that you are not as adept at determining whom to interview as you think? I'd like to suggest to you that you got lots of applications from really talented people. You just didn't decide to interview them.

What I'm saying is, maybe you suck, not (all of) us.

Anonymous said...

Just so everyone knows, there are at least SOME schools that are courteous enough to inform candidates that they have NOT been chosen for on-campus interviews. In my own case, three schools have already done this. Granted, two of those schools had VERY small short-lists, having interviewed only 4-5 people at the APA. But one school at least, CSU Northridge, had a much larger pool of interviewees. So I'm not sure to what extent, if at all, the number of candidates a school interviews effects its decision whether to contact ALL of the candidates re: fly-outs. On the face of it this would seem to vary dramatically from program to program based on a number of complicated factors. *shrugs*

Anonymous said...

That's right, Mr. Zero, it's not your fault that you didn't get hired; the department/interviewer wasn't smart enough to see all your bursting philosophical talent and sunny personality. Ass!

Man, some people cannot take criticism or constructive advice well. That's called a character flaw. (But I agree that the 'prof who interviewed', if real, sucks at spelling, and there's no excuse for that unless you're drunk or dyslexic.)

Anonymous said...

When writing your statements of purpose while applying for graduate school, did you tell your sixth-ranked department that you would likely only attend if you weren't accepted, with funding, from any of your top five? Granted, this is sort of a disanalogy, because the power lies with the department in both cases but in one it's the outsider doing the notifying. But people here seem to be concerned with politeness and/or the peace of mind that comes with being notified of your status. If that's the case, then you should have included your own rankings when you applied for both graduate school and jobs. It sure would have helped the departments out and given them some peace of mind.

Anonymous said...

I am fortunate to have a position, but I remember the agony of the post-interview process and not knowing whether or not you'll get a callback. I believe that schools have an ethical responsibility to contact candidates in a timely fashion, letting them know that they will not receive an on-campus interview. If there's a chance that candidates will be called up as second round candidates should non of the other flybacks pan out, this can be expressed in the email or letter.

As I read this blog I am at a loss to explain the attitude I'm hearing from so many of the interviewers. There seems to be a deliberate hostility towards the candidates. Perhaps this is some sort of "reaction formation" arising from dim memories of their own time on the market and just how awful and anxiety provoking that experience was. No one likes to think that they are now a part of provoking the anxiety that they once endured. Perhaps, for some, they were on the market in markedly different times, when there just wasn't as much stiff competition. At any rate, it is not difficult to send a simple email to the other 12 or so candidates that won't be flown out. This should be done immediately after those candidates that will be flown out have accepted the on-campus interview. Honestly I suspect that a number of academics just lack ordinary social compassion and would prefer not responding to enduring the potential discomfort that comes from rejecting others.

Let's not forget that those interviewing for jobs have often pursued this life at great personal cost. They have witnessed their friends going on to lucrative careers and to build families, while they've continued to live as poor college students. For years they've been made aware of the likelihood that they will never even obtain an academic post. To make matters worse, unlike so many other professions, academia isn't simply a question of acquiring a job with a sustainable income, but also is bound up with personal self-worth. The candidate that fails to get a job also experiences him or herself as having failed as a person insofar as the issue here isn't simply one of economic capital but symbolic capital. While I've encountered some horrific and obnoxious candidates myself when interviewing, I don't think it should be forgotten that the candidates being interviewed are under tremendous personal stress. They are wondering if their 6+ years of commitment will finally pay off and whether they'll be able to begin their lives or will instead have to pursue an entirely different line of work. No wonder so many candidates so often have that "deer in the headlights look" or occasionally oversell themselves. There are so many bizarre socio-psychological dynamics going on in these interviews and so many opaque power structures, that it is extremely difficult for anyone, much less the average socially inept academic, to navigate them all. Yes, they made a choice to pursue this life, but that doesn't mean that we have to make it even more agonizing for them. Those interviewing thus have, in my view, a responsibility to do their best to see through these tensions, recognizing the social awkwardness of the interviewing situation and the high personal stakes behind this event for the candidates, heeding the candidat'es accomplishments on paper, their teaching record, reports from other colleagues, etc. As philosophers should we really be evaluating the worth of candidates based on business models of general charisma when in foreign and disfunctional social situations. So many of us are passionate about politics and ethics, yet when we look at our practices we behave in deeply unethical ways, encouraging a process that is deeply inhumane and dehumanizing.

I hope blogs such as this go some way to changing certain hiring practices in our fields. With any luck, other job candidates will pick up the torch of this blog after all of you have gotten jobs.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 3:39,


Anon @ 3:19,

I don't see how your analogy is at all apt. First, nobody is saying that departments should tell candidates what their ranking is, or whether they *would* get an offer if the others turned them down, etc. And candidates aren't expecting, *at the beginning of the process*, to know how likely they are to get an offer at a certain school.

But after the APA interviews take place, the interviewing departments and the candidates are in a different relationship. Everyone involved knows that the candidates were under consideration for the position; everyone knows that, at a certain point, some candidates will no longer be under consideration; candidates simply want to be told when they are no longer being considered.

As far as I can tell, departments do expect -- and generally, *are told* by candidates -- when they (the candidates) have been made an offer and when they intend to withdraw their candidacy thanks to some more attractive offer that they have been made. (And departments often do ask candidates to inform them of any other offers they may be considering.) It sound as though candidates simply want to be shown the same courtesy they are *already* showing to departments by keeping those departments informed on the progress of their job search.

Anonymous said...

anon at 3:39 p.m.: Awesome. Thank you!

inside man said...

Everyone we interviewed was smart, and they all seemed nice, too -- well, except for that one person who was rude to me (although I was tired, so maybe it was just me). I think most of us would have been happy to hire just about any of the candidates we interviewed. So, candidates, some of your interviewers actually liked you. I don't know what's wrong with the other interviewers.

Mr. Zero said...

dear anon 2:14,

I know why I didn't get hired: my dissertation isn't done. That's what I expected, and I'm fine with it. Better luck next time. My frustration at with "a prof who interviewed" is not about me.

The asshole who interviewed says he can't find any acceptable candidates in his applicant pool. I find this hard to believe. The talent is there. I stand by my contention that his ability to find the talent is what is lacking.

And another thing: how is the asshole who interviewed's post "constructive criticism" or "advice"? He's just pissing on the applicant pool. You're right, I am an ass. I didn't learn from getting pissed on by an anonymous dickhead.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

I didn't see 'prof who interviewed' as saying what that s/he couldn't find any acceptable candidates in the applicant pool. I thought s/he said only that most of the people brought to campus are foreign, presumably Canadians and Brits.

It's probably an exaggeration to have said that the US applicants weren't that strong, but that's not the same as saying there are no acceptable candidates (or even that there are no acceptable US candidates).

Anonymous said...

I agree very much with anon. 5:02's analysis.

We, the applicants, are expected to tell schools when we are no longer considering them; thus, they should give us the same consideration. (Given the difference in power between us, they would have this obligation, I think, even if we didn't.) It would be so _easy_ for them to do this!! So start sending those emails, ladies and gentlemen. I'm really counting on you, now.

I just really want to stop wasting time worrying about this whole shennanigan and get back to doing some philosophy. The sooner you contact me, the sooner little-miss-anxiety (i.e., me) will stop resenting your silence and start thinking about something interesting.

Mr. Zero said...

Anon 5:56,

The prof who interviewed says, "for some reason, the U.S. candidates where [sic] that great this year.

This concerns me, deeply. We currently have one position to fill. Next year, we’ll have 2 more and I’m seriously concerned about the quality of applicant pool."

I read this as saying, The applicants suck. It was so difficult to find even one decent applicant this year that I cannot imagine how we will find two next year.

I still say this is bullshit. There are lots of qualified applicants. Lots of the other SC members come on to this blog to express their delight about the candidates they interviewed. This guy is the only one who says poo poo on them all.

Look, it takes skill and expertise to look through a stack of application files and find the ones who represent good potential colleagues. Since a prof who interviewed couldn't find them, he must not be good at it.

BornInTheSixties said...

I've been part of a few hiring committees where candidates who were interviewed at the APA but not in the initial group of three fly-backs were not told their status, and in all of these cases that was because there was no official decision made about who else to fly back if the initial three did not pan out.

Sometimes this is because settling on the initial three used up all the time allotted for the meeting, and those faculty members who had to leave to teach classes etc. didn't want any further decisions to be made without them there.

Further, hiring meetings are easily the most divisive and unpleasant meetings that we have, and some of the bad blood that boils up in them can take a long time to simmer down. Consequently, if people suspect that choosing candidates 4-6 is going to be controversial, there will be a strong movement to simply not discuss the matter unless it turns out that it really has to be done.

inside man said...

I think it's good if departments tell candidates that they haven't decided to fly out that they haven't decided to fly them out -- even if that doesn't mean that the candidates are definitely ruled out. My department should do that.

Continental Pissant said...

Here is a textbook example of the kind of departmental notification one ought to receive when one is not one of the fly-outs, but still is a candidate of possible interest.

I received it on January 23 of last year, after seeing on the Philosophy Wiki that the department in question had arranged for their on-campus interviews.


"I wanted to update you on the progress of our search committee. At present, we are not actively pursuing your application. I wanted to let you know, however, how much we enjoyed meeting you at the APA and how impressed we were with your application--reaching our final ranking was quite difficult.

I have a favor to ask. Since you were one of our top six candidates, it may well be that we will return to your application in the next couple of weeks. So if for any reason you are no longer interested in the position here, please let me know. We wanted to tell you our current situation in case the information is of use to you in your current career decisions, but you are by no means out of the running in our minds.

In any case, I wish you the very best in your career."


Departments, take note--THAT'S how it's done.

poliphil candidate said...

Question: is there anyone here who interviewed at the APA with Fordham, Michigan State, and/or Mills College who received a phone call or e-mail indicating that he/she was NOT being invited to campus? I ask because I interviewed with all three but have not heard anything (and the wiki indicates that all three schools have contacted at least SOME people about fly-outs). Just thought I'd throw that out there and hope for a bite. Trying to figure out whether I've been given a tacit PFO or what....

Anonymous said...

I just want to give a shout-out to Notre Dame, who admirably just sent out a very polite email which indicates to candidates who haven't been contacted that they were not selected for on-campus interviews. I hope that other departments will do the same.

Here it is:
Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of the Department of Philosophy at Notre Dame, I am writing to
thank you for meeting with the interview committee at the Eastern APA.
All of you should be congratulated for your very fine interviews and
stellar academic records. Our Department met late yesterday to discuss
the recommendations of the interview team and decide on whom to bring to
campus. Those candidates have now been contacted.

I wish you all the best in what I am sure will be very promising careers.

Anonymous said...

I interviewed for the other Michigan State position (I'm assuming you're talking about the social/political one because that's the one someone has been contacted for). They told me they'd be getting back to me in about two weeks. It's possible the two committees are on different time schedules, but I would expect them to be keying it to when they all get back to campus, so it should be near each other.

One other schools with two positions put them on the Wiki on the same day. Departments usually have to run these by administrators before scheduling them, and it's easiest to schedule them all at once to get a feel for when all the candidates are available before finalizing any of them, so it's best to get administrative approval all at once. I'd be surprised if they've contacted some candidates but not all, for those reasons.

But they did tell me probably two weeks until I would hear about the position I interviewed for, and it's only been a little more than one, so I'm not sure what to think.

Anonymous said...

What's odd is when you have, say, five people who noted their APA interviews on the wiki but only 1 who noted his/her on-campus interview. One would presume that at least ONE of the other wiki users received an invitation for a fly-out. Then again, I guess it depends on how many APA interviews there were in toto for a given position versus how many of those interviews were noted in the wiki. The wiki is a bit annoying for precisely this reason. Look at all the listings for only ONE on-campus interview per position!

Anonymous said...

Five out of fifteen interviews is 1/3. If they bring three candidates to campus, that's the same percentage if only one reports it. Now there's no reason to expect the same percentage either. It may well be that the three candidates selected out of the twelve who interviewed are one who reported the original interview and two who didn't. In fact it's more likely that those who didn't report would get selected than those who did, just by the numbers.

that guy said...

The ND email is weird. It doesn't say that the recipient hasn't gotten a flyout. It doesn't even imply that the recipient hasn't gotten a flyout, since the recipient is, by that very email, being contacted. I guess that's how politeness works?

Mr. Zero said...

To That Guy,

You're right, the ND email is weird. However, I think it conversationally implicates that its recipient isn't getting a flyout. The Gricean maxim of quantity says that you ought to include all relevant information. Since the email doesn't include an invitation to campus, and it would if its recipient were being flown out, its recipient can conclude that he is not being flown out. Admittedly, this requires the use of some elliptical, conversational inferences and auxiliary premises. I guess it's possible that the SC was being ironic or something.

Hey, I think I just violated a Gricean maxim of quantity, too. I think I just included far more information that was conversationally necessary.

Anonymous said...

That's because the 'dittos' are retarded. Especially for rejections!

Anonymous said...

On ND e-mail:

"Those candidates have now been contacted."

Read: "And you ain't one of 'em (since in this contact I didn't mention you were being flown out)"

Yeah, that's how politeness works. It's good we're philosophers, so we can tease out implicit implications of what is supposed to be informative correspondence.

Anonymous said...

No, the email says clearly enough that the candidates who are getting campus interviews have been contacted about that. This email doesn't include such information. Only if you have absolutely no sensitivity to contextual clues and Gricean maxims could you think that you might be one of these because it doesn't explicitly say that this contact isn't one of those contacts. It's not mere politeness, as if it's politely disguising the truth. It's simply human language.

Anonymous said...

I received a call the other day from the head of the SC at a dep't. I interviewed with to tell me I wasn't going to be invited to campus. He also said that things could change if things didn't work out with the people they had invited. I really can't understand what reason a SC would have for not placing such calls, other than laziness or the desire to avoid any potential unpleasantness -- it took all of three minutes; I'm sure he got through the whole list of uninviteds in less than an hour.

Obviously, it wasn't the call I would have liked. But it was very nice to be treated with that degree of respect. When I run into this guy again -- and given how small the world of philosophy is, it seems unlikely that I won't -- I'll be able to go up to him and have a pleasant conversation. Not so with those who, for whatever reason, couldn't be bothered to take three minutes to reject me in person. (An email like the ones quoted above would be fine, too, though a phone call is evidence of a finer character.)

Anonymous said...

I don't know; I think receiving a phone call from a SC member gets one's hopes up, so calling just to reject someone might be cruel. But perhaps they called you because you were pretty near the cut-off, and they actually might want to fly you out later.

btw, I suspect that at least some SCs will have to fly out more candidates than the initial three, because there are a lot of junior jobs and the fly-outs don't seem well-distributed (i.e. some people are getting a lot). So if you get a job offer, you might want to seriously consider checking with places that you didn't get a full rejection from before taking that offer.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 7:04,

God, I would hate getting a call like that. "Hello, this is Prof. Awesome from Dream U. We very much enjoyed meeting with you in Baltimore, and we were very impressed. However,...."

Slit my wrists.

Anonymous said...

I'm not posting this to be obnoxious, but to indicate that there is something wrong with the fly-out selection process and to suggest that there should be lots of people who receive calls later, in the 2nd round, for fly-outs. Basically, I have 10 fly-outs, and the calls are still rolling in. Based on how things are going, I think I can reasonably expect 3 more fly-out invites, leading me to have a total of 13. I don't know what I'm doing with my class this semester -- should I just cancel the first third of the course?

I do not deserve this much attention. I am no star. Friends just as smart and well-positioned are not getting attention. One associate in my field, in many ways a carbon copy of me (except that he has a book contract and I don't!), didn't get a single APA interview. I find it all baffling.

I could start turning down fly-out offers, but I'm just as paranoid as the next guy that I still won't get a job, despite all this. From my perspective, these people obviously have a falsely-inflated view of me, something which is bound to come out on the campus visits and leading me to forfeit most of my opportunities. (This might or might not be rational -- I can't tell.)

I expect there are a few other people in this position. It's a big waste of time and money for lots of people. Not to mention how it feels for those equally deserving candidates who haven't been so fortunate.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 9:48,

Maybe you're just too humble. But anyway, thanks for filling us in that this sort of thing is going on -- it gives some hope to those of us who keep getting the "we've already contacted three people but may be calling you later" calls or e-mails.

Anonymous said...


The same thing is happening in my department (and I don't think we're in the same department) - some people are getting many flyouts, and there are large differences in numbers of flyouts without any differences in philosophical talent.

Also, all the people with a lot of fly-outs seem to be M & E people.

Anonymous said...

I find it hard not to wonder if the 'I have 10 flyouts' email is bullshit. A flyout takes at least 2 or 3 days. So even if the flyouts were back to back, you're talking about non-stop flyouts for 20-30 days. Except that people don't do flyouts on the weekends, so then you're talking two flyouts a week for five full weeks. I just can't see how it would be possible to schedule all these. On the candidates end, it would be utterly and unbelievable exhausting -- it's just not do-able. And on the end of the schools, it obviously wouldn't be possible for every school to accommodate your schedule, so the five weeks would inevitably stretch to about 8. But you can't schedule flyouts for the middle of March now, in January, for any school making calls now is going to want to make offers by mid-February.

So this all makes me wonder if the message is bullshit.

Oh, one other reason to wonder: fewer than half of APA jobs appear to have set up flyouts, which means that it is especially hard to believe someone got 10 flyouts by this early date.

In any event, if the post is not bullshit, good for you! It would be crazy, however, and almost certainly unfair to the schools, to not cancel at least a few of those flyouts. Many schools are authorized for financial reasons to offer just 3 flyouts, and if they waste those on candidates who are going elsewhere they may not be able to make a hire, or might in some other way be fucked royally.

Anonymous said...

I have a creeping suspicion that more of this variation than anyone would care to admit is due to the willingness of one's letter writers to gush shamelessly about one's brilliance. Restrained, sensible letters just don't have the impact of "THIS GUY IS A GOD AND WE SHOULD ALL KNEEL BEFORE HIM FOR FEAR THAT HE SHALL SMITE US."

arete08 said...

On Anon 9:48 and 12:12

Do you really think there is no difference in philosophical talent between you and your peers? Are some of peers simply better than us, which would account for the large number of interviews? Thirteen flyouts is insane. You must be an extremely humble person. Since they wanted you for these interviews, be prepared to knock their socks off. Good luck!!

Prof. J. said...

2:04 pm, on the suspicion that willingness of letter-writers to gush is having a huge impact:

I can allay that suspicion somewhat. I've been reading recommendation letters for over a decade. When somebody has 13 fly-outs (and honestly I have never heard of anyone getting even close to that many!), there's a very good chance at least one person on the search committee has read letters from those recommenders. Extreme gushiness is pretty memorable, and the committee is going to discount a letter from a known gusher heavily. For instance, "He really is quite good" from Miles Burnyeat is more impressive than "Very likely to be the most important philosopher since Kant" from Hilary Putnam.

Anonymous said...

Do departments generally announce who will be giving job talks? I'm curious about who got the same on-campus talk invites that I got. (Not for any good reason.)

Anonymous said...

"For instance, "He really is quite good" from Miles Burnyeat is more impressive than "Very likely to be the most important philosopher since Kant" from Hilary Putnam."

Damn. You're probably right. I _warned_ Hilary about this...I said, "Hil, replace 'Kant' with 'Quine', and maybe it won't sound quite so outrageous." But no, he wouldn't listen. And now he's officially screwed me seven ways from Sunday! Goddammit!!!

Just kidding. But that is pretty funny.

Anonymous said...

To arete08:

"Do you really think there is no difference in philosophical talent between you and your peers?"

There isn't. At least that's how it seems to me from the inside (being someone with an emabarassingly large number (> 7) of fly-outs).

"Are some of peers simply better than us, which would account for the large number of interviews?"

Obviously there are differences in talent (not that they go in my favor). But, at least as I see it, perceived differences (based on writing samples, letters, etc.) are accentuated by a bandwagon effect - person A is labelled as a "rising star" and they seem that much more attractive b/c lots of other people find them attractive. I think more objective evaluation decisions would be made without all the whispering going on b/w schools. Think Rousseau.

Anonymous said...


I am also in the 7+ fly-out camp, and I agree that there is no difference in philosophical talent between me and my peers.

But I also believe that eventually the talented people will rise to the top, and that what happens this year will not prevent someone who is really good from getting his/her recognition (and nice job) in the long run. The only thing that might prevent that is despair due to poor prospects this year. So don't let it get to you!

Best of luck to all.

Anonymous said...

Departments have to announce job talks to the people who are expected to be at them. If it's a school with a graduate program, the grad students have to be informed. If it's going to be the sort of thing undergrads and faculty from other departments will need to be at, then they need to know. I doubt it will go up on websites at most places, if that's what you're wondering. But it's always possible, and that's easy to investigate for yourself.

Anonymous said...

Well, maybe people should start listing names on the Wiki...

Anonymous said...

Oh, please. Do not list names on the wiki. Then you're really going to have problems with vandalism.

Anonymous said...

the name is "myles" burnyeat, thank you very much, and if he says that someone is "quite" good then he will expect you to understand that he means they are irremediably mediocre--"quite" in british english has a pejorative valence.

but otherwise i agree about the relative significance of understated praise from burnyeat vs. flattery from putnam.

curiously, several of the worst offenders came from harvard--cavell's letters were also notoriously over-the-top, so much that people came to discount them rather steeply.

Anonymous said...

risk of vandalism aside, does anyone seriously want random strangers on the internet to know which flyouts they have?