Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Poser Applicants" and other Job Market News

I just received the following from a colleague who works in a medium-sized Liberal Arts university with no graduate program. His department is hiring this year...
[Spiros],

Our deadline is still a few weeks away, and we have more applications than we know what to do with. We now have more applications for this year's job than we had in total for the last search we did. Things are tough. At our meeting yesterday, we agreed to the following vetting procedure. We have a three pile system.

The first pile contains applications from unqualified persons. This category includes: (1) Anyone who does not have the Ph. D. in hand; (2) Anyone who does not fit the specified AOS and AOC; and (3) all poser applicants. (In case you don't know, "poser applicants" are applicants who don't really fit the specified AOS and AOC, but try to pass for it, and apply in the hopes that we won't notice. It's insulting.)

The second pile contains applications from qualified persons (viz., people with degree in hand who fit both the AOS and AOC) without publications in their AOS in a recognized professional journal.

The third pile contains applications fro mqualified persons with publications in theAOS in a recognized professional journal.

We intend to draw our APA list solely from pile three. We'll dip into pile two only if necessary.

I should also mention that only 15-20% of the applications fall into pile three. And there's a gigantic number of poser applications. I feel like sending out a nasty email to the posers.
Good luck to all the non-posers with the required publications!

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Was having a PhD in hand at the time of application clearly listed as a requirement for the job? I know that there are a few listings for more senior philosophers that indicate that a PhD in hand is a requirement. If that wasn't specified, however, then it is disturbing that they would put the applications in the junk pile on that basis. If having a PhD in hand wasn't specified and this job is in one of my AOSs, then I probably applied for it. Yay for wasting my time and resources!

I can see discounting "poser applicants," but being pissed about them seems unreasonable in this climate. It is oft-repeated advice that especially because of the input of deans, etc., on job listings that you should apply for anything that you are close to, as some of those places will be more open about what they are looking for than the AOS/AOC specs might indicate. Is that bad advice? If not, then I don't know why they should feel insulted by the "posers." People are panicked and trying to find something, anything…. Why not cut them some slack?

PhilosopherP said...

I also wondered about the PhD in hand bit. As someone who has sifted out the "posers" in a couple of searches, I only included people who did not meet the minimum requirements as listed in the ad. Mostly those folks had degress in law or polticial theory...

I also hope (for their sake) that their school is "good" enough to get/keep the folks from pile three -- the application they sent to a SLAC may be the equivalent of the "safety school" application. If a "better" school comes along, the SLAC will be fighting for the right to do another search in a couple of years.

Anonymous said...

So there are applicants who don't fit the specified AOC/AOS and don't even try to pretend they do (category 2)? Really?

An ethical question here. Suppose person A needs x and B and C offer him assistance. Who is worse: person B who has y and tries to pass it off as x to meet A's needs, or person C who has y and does not even try to pass it off as x, yet still thinks it will meet A's needs?

Ben said...

I'm not too bothered about sorting out people without PhDs. I was always told that, even if a job didn't require the doctorate in hand, that quite often figures as a way of sorting between applicants when there are many. This doesn't seem much (if any) different from preferring people with publications - in each case, it seems permissible for the hiring institution to use non-necessary features to distinguish between applicants (how else could they do so?).

I'm not so sure of what counts as a 'poser' though. Some (see PhilosopherP, comment #2) may count me, since my doctorate was done in a Politics Department. Moreover, I've applied for jobs in diverse fields, such as medical ethics, and sometimes had interviews. I think it's legitimate for anyone with AOS/AOC in ethics who is willing to do medical ethics to apply for such a job, on the basis that they could do it, unless the ad makes clear something like 'a track record of research in this area is required.' Again, though, I suppose that these applicants couldn't really complain if track record was used to separate them from the rest.

Anonymous said...

I'm not the guy who sent the note in, but my department too has decided to put those who haven't finished the degree yet aside. The ad did not specify that degree in hand is necessary, but we have gotten a lot of apps from degreed people and our administration asks questions when we bring in ABD's.

729 said...

This year, with so many qualified VAPs and part-timers with Ph.D.s on the job market, as well as those who defended recently, applicants without Ph.D.s are up against a pool of some of the *most qualified* applicants there are. I can say from sitting on two hiring committees and observing what happens many times with hires that were without Ph.D.s in hand, that not having it at the time of application is a disadvantage. Thinking otherwise is unrealistic.

The disadvantage arises relative to the applicant pool. It can be overcome--this does happen. (Years ago in "better times," I was such a case with an on-campus interview. I didn't land this job--a better qualified person, a year ahead of me who had already defended, landed it. ) However, departments will favor applicants with Ph.Ds and every other qualification. There are reasons for favoring these candidates. Foremost, is that it is critical for the hire going through in the late summer or September. When someone is hired and fails to get the doctorate, this becomes a matter that has to be sorted out. At my institution, the hires go through, although specific contractual arrangements need to be re-drawn, and the hire is placed on a different payscale. What happens from this point is frequently a spiral into disaster--disasters of a couple of kinds.

The transition from graduate responsibilities to faculty responsibilities tends to hit folks hard. One may be tempted to think that because one is teaching one's ass off and writing all the time (as I did), that one is ready. ( I discovered I wasn't nearly as prepared as I'd imagined.) I've seen colleagues from my TT cohort come and go because their dissertations never got finished under this new condition. My university would re-negotiate generously for quite a while, and their departments were committed to the faculty members in these situations (there were positive reasons each one was hired), but this can go on only for so long. When departments take the risk of hiring someone without a Ph.D. in hand, they stand a chance of "getting burned," and, I cannot express the unhappiness and horribleness of these situations. Successful hires mean something to everyone involved (at least in well-functioning departments), and "getting burned" doesn't necessarily mean "fraud" so much as a sense of failure and profound disappointment all around.

But there is another sort of "disaster" lurking. If a hire without a Ph.D. in hand gets it on time at the set date--no problem, but this is trusting that no one on the committee comes up with anything else, that no one gets behind on reading, and everything goes right. Things rarely go right. Maybe a candidate deals with this very efficiently in the first year of employment. Maybe the candidate is able to stop the tenure clock for this time spent doing all the stuff required to finish up things, defense, deposit of dissertation. But unless an administration is willing to do this, time is lost on research for publications. My institution, for example, is not inclined to support faculty. Stopping the tenure clock for any reason is a huge deal to them. The department is blamed for having made such a "risky hire."

All in all, departments may very well want to keep their searches open to applicants with imminent Ph.D.s, while applicants with Ph.D.s in hand at the time of application have the advantage of eliminating virtually all of the potential problems that can arise. The pressures departments face in pushing hires through administrative levels needs to be taken into account.

Anonymous said...

I've been hearing contrary advice from Leiter and other places. Well, maybe only from Leiter's blog. He's said several times that doctoral students should hold off defending until, well, I'm not quite sure when, but maybe when there's a job offer or interviews or something. Maybe someone else can fill on the precise timing being recommended. Now it sounds like one should get the PhD and then sink into the job market, even if it takes several subsequent years. Of course, then one must worry about becoming "stale". Damned if you do and all that.

Anonymous said...

So, what I'm hearing anonymous and 720 is that being an ABD is a negative. Fair enough. But, one can still ask why the emailer’s department would junk the entire ABD pile rather than simply weighting those people being ABD as a negative of some value and adding that into the mix.

I don't know what the AOS/AOC the original emailer's department is looking for... but, assuming that I fit what they are looking for, then except for being ABD I would fall into their third pile, with many publications in recognized professional journals to spare. I guess that I won’t be considered, however, for a reason that (I am assuming) they did not see fit to post in their job description. Fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Seems odd that they would cut an applicant who has published in their AOS in a recognized professional journal, but do not have the PhD in hand at time of application.

Anonymous said...

@7:37:

Not odd at all. If they pull all their apa interviewees from pile three, all candidates with have phd's and pubs in aos.

729 said...

Anon 6:40 It does seem to me to be a seriously sucky situation. From my point of view, it seems like the job ads presently published are "old school." Back in the day, hiring committees could easily see a well-published ABD making the cut. The ancedoctal evidence about this year's market suggests that even if hiring committees aren't against ABDs in principle, the practical situation in receiving so many applications is that Ph.Ds with pubs have an edge.

Job ads may very well begin to be revised if things continue this way. If we ever somehow get a hire some day (the likelyhood of which approaches zero), I know that from reading this discussion, I would take it up with my colleagues when composing the ad. You all should be aware that adding qualifications to jobs ads gets pretty involved--offices outside the department go nuts. So, when you see an "old school" seeming job ad (as I've suggested), recognize that universities and colleges often have standard formats and a whole lot of people outside a department are invested in the langauge. An HR office, for instance, may be absolutely clueless about current job conditions, a dean may want this, and an EO office wants that. Our last ad came back to us a number of times. Once you get one that finally passes, the temptation is to stick with that language.

But look, don't depair quite yet. Make sure that your anticipated defense date is right there up top with your dissertation title. Mention it right away in your cover letter. Don't bury that piece of imformation whatever you do. Make sure your letter writers confirm this date--remind them to do it. If you have the pubs and everything else in place, you're doing the very best you can under very difficult circumstances.

Anonymous said...

729 writes: There are reasons for favoring [candidates with PhD in hand]. Foremost, is that it is critical for the hire going through in the late summer or September. When someone is hired and fails to get the doctorate, this becomes a matter that has to be sorted out.

Doesn't this mean hiring committees should distinguish between a) ABD's who are close to finishing and b) ABD's who have a ways to go?

Here's what I don't get:
1) There's a prejudice against PhD's who haven't landed a tt-job within a few years of having defended.
2) A horrible job market increases the chances that, if one defends, then one might not land a tt-job and so may fall victim to the prejudice in 1).
3) Some ABD's who are close to finishing see 1) and 2) and reasonably delay their defense date, often with their adviser's encouragement.

Are hiring committees really oblivious to this? So oblivious that they'll simply lump all ABD's into the same category? So oblivious that they'll pass on a candidate who's a good fit simply because he responded rationally to 1) and 2) above? That sounds crazy.

Anonymous said...

Spiros, did the ad for this job specifically list PhD in hand as one of the requirements?

729 said...

Hi Anon 1:46,

Doesn't this mean hiring committees should distinguish between a) ABD's who are close to finishing and b) ABD's who have a ways to go?

In my experience, they do--or did. Once upon a time, it was pretty crucial to indicate clearly in your application that your defense date was set, and your letter writers confirmed this, to assure hiring committees. The anecdotal information so far suggests that the close to finishing people are not making the cut.

Here's what I don't get: 1) There's a prejudice against PhD's who haven't landed a tt-job within a few years of having defended.

This piece of age-old wisdom may very well be different presently and moving forward. We will have to see. Given the amount of search cancellations last fall, and diminishing number of searches, it's anyone's guess at this point. Ph.D's with publications AND considerable teaching experience may move ahead.

3) Some ABD's who are close to finishing see 1) and 2) and reasonably delay their defense date, often with their adviser's encouragement.

This is an interesting point, worth working through. There is a difference between *defending* and *depositing* (officially graduating). Grad students would be wise to find out what their university's policy is. When you defend, you have completed "partial requirements for the doctoral degree." This is the main thing--once it's done. You then have time to actually do revisions and set your deposit date. For example, I defended the very first thing in the fall before jobs were advertised. I deposited in the Spring--intentionally so that I could extend my heath insurance through that spring semester and smoothly transition into the health plan at my new job. Other students in my program did this to extend child-care benefits. We had this time alloted anyway and did not need to deposit immediately. Once you deposit your dissertation, that is that special date when, for instance, your student loan (if you have one) grace period begins (you've officially left the program). Deferring one's defense may hurt in this market--the defense is what is so crucial. Deferring one's deposit is no biggie--the defense is under your belt (depending on how long one has between defense and deposit). At my program there was at least one year. People worked the timing carefully.

Anonymous said...

I went to a top-ten program and I teach at a top-ten program, and I think the advice being given here is bad advice as advice *to* students at top programs and as advice *about* hiring at top programs. (But it may be good advice aimed at others.)

My department, like other top-ten departments I know, almost exclusively fills tenure-track positions with ABD candidates. Why? Because in any given year, the best candidates are ABD.

Furthermore, Leiter's advice is *good advice* for someone at a top-ten program: do not defend your dissertation until you have accepted a job. (It's great advice to then defend in the summer before you start teaching, but that is not as crucial as some people are suggesting.) This is good advice because--as least for applicants from these schools--the only reason someone would have a PhD in hand is if they've already been on the market and failed to do well, so having a PhD in hand is a big red flag that this person has already had trouble on the market.

Of course *students* at top-ten programs should hope to be hired at any one of a wide range of kinds of schools. But I refuse to believe that schools that are in a position to hire some of the best candidates are ruling out ABDs--because in any given year, the best candidates are always ABDs.

Anonymous said...

So, 729 your application would have went into the junk pile as well (you didn't have your PhD in hand, after all).

"The anecdotal information so far suggests that the close to finishing people are not making the cut."

Do you have other anecdotes besides the example of this single anonymous emailer with an axe to grind?

Spiros said...

I have not had the opportunity to read all the posts on this thread yet. But I'm almost certain that the ad mentioned in the original note does specify "PhD at time of application" (or some such).

Anonymous said...

Gosh, friend of Spiros at a medium-sized SLAC--it must be awful to sit on your tenure-track or tenured arse and waste your precious time reading applications from an enormous pool of smart and talented people who are going to end up working at Starbucks because we're finishing our degrees in the worst hiring season in decades. We forgot to know that was going to happen! Stupid us! I get the need to sort the applications, but how 'bout knocking off the attitude?

And ps: maybe you could let us know where you teach, so those of us who don't have our phd in hand can save ourselves the fifty bucks it's going to cost to mail our applications to your trash can.

Anonymous said...

Why are the best job candidates in any given year ABD? Why? Because they're from top-10 programs and all students from top-10 programs who are ABD and on the market are the best candidates on the market?

Anonymous said...

when I was in graduate school, the rule-of-thumb was not to defend until you had a job, because otherwise you could not get funding. Professors assumed that their assertion that "x will defend in the spring" would be taken at its word. Having the policy suggested in the original post seems pretty discriminatory!

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:20 - Yeah, because letters of recommendation shouldn't be taken with any skepticism at all - ever -especially not when prognostications about the future are being made. You and Anon 9:51 should get together for a beer.

Anonymous said...

Jeezsch... if the ad says "Ph.D. in hand at time of application" and specifies clear AOS and AOC, and you apply w/o degree in hand or w/o having that specific AOS & AOC, why shouldn't your dossier go straight into the trash?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Spiros. If the job description does indeed make clear that having the PhD at the time of application is a requirement, then I have no problem with their trashing applications from ABDs.

(Of course, "PhD at time of application" is easy to misread as "PhD at time of appointment" when going through a few hundred listings, perhaps explaining some of the pile 1 applications that they received.)

729 said...

Hi Anon 9:57:

So, 729 your application would have went into the junk pile as well (you didn't have your PhD in hand, after all)

I'm unsure if you realize that this remark seemed to me to have something of a hostile tone. Let's put it this way, if it had been the case that I answered ads that stated "Ph.D. at the time of application," I wouldn't have gotten either my interviews and one on-campus interview about nine months before I defended, nor would I have gotten the interviews and ultimately the job I have after I had defended. None of the ads I had responded to had "Ph.D. at time of application." All of them had "Ph.D. at time of start date." The market was better just a few years ago--but it was no walk in the park by any means. With my successful round on the market, I had already defended, but had not yet deposited. So, under Education I had a date (defended) beside the title of my dissertation. I also was able to indicate that I defended "with honors" (no revisions), my letters described my defense and research, and indicated that I was truly done. The deposit is clerical stuff. I was also able to state in my cover letter and at interviews when I had scheduled my deposit, and that this was set in the next semester on account of health insurance. Having already defended, I had set to rest questions that could be raised about any snags, deferments and potential disasters regarding my dissertation defense. Would this make a difference presently? I'm unsure. It definitely made a difference under competitive conditions less than ten years ago. In my second round on the market, I hadn't deposited, but made the cuts, got a job.

I did not attend a grad program at which students were encouraged to defend *after* getting jobs. The advising I received differed. Mileage varies.

"The anecdotal information so far suggests that the close to finishing people are not making the cut."
Do you have other anecdotes besides the example of this single anonymous emailer with an axe to grind?


Nope. Like everyone else, I'm responding to Spiros' post and another comment that seems to confirm the situation he described. Things seem grim. We had the "Harvard of the Proletariat" last year making cuts based on program rank. We have posts from Leiter indicating that people should stay in graduate school and ride it out. My last post suggested that, at least in the not too distant past, some graduate students took advantage of the difference between defending and depositing. In the cases that I'm aware of, these students who had defended (but not deposited) were not penalized in the way that ABDs were (they landed jobs, and hit the ground running). I put this information out there, because it is simply another way to (possibly) strategize, given how disadvantages seem to be accumulating.

I also suspect that some folks may be worried about how to maintain their health insurance and any other grad. benefits like child-care, and when student loan payments and interest kicks in, and figured that being aware that the defense is not when you officially leave is important to keep in mind.

Anonymous said...

This post encourages. I graduated from an unranked program 1.5 years ago. I've published in my AOS in a top journal. It's nice to think that *somewhere* I might be ranked above the hot-shot ABDs from the top-notch programs because, well, I have tons of experience teaching and have published.

Anonymous said...

I just thought it would be worth noting that at a department in which I am a graduate student, a "poser" candidate (in the sense of this candidate's AOS and AOC not even being in the ball park, so to speak, of the specifically advertised AOS and AOC) managed to get the job (note: this hiring also occurred very recently). The candidate, was, however, otherwise well pedigreed and qualified, gave a great job talk, but did not have a degree in hand at the time of his hiring. Given the existence of such cases, why should similar candidates not apply?

Anonymous said...

Why not just post the actual requirements (Ph.D in hand, publication in recognized journal mandatory at time of interview/appointment) instead of leaving the guesswork to the applicants and encouraging false hope?

Seems to me that the bulk of the responsibility lies on the part of the SC to be clear and up front about what it actually requires. Otherwise, it's like asking a student to write an essay on (say) Descartes' proofs for the existence of God and then grading them based on whether or not they adequately defend the arguments for the immortality of the soul in the Phaedo. Or maybe it's more like asking students to consult five sources for an essay, but then penalizing them for not consulting ten. Or some such thing.

(Granted, the posted AOS/AOC should probably match the job description. But even then I can imagine times when it doesn't *quite* fit, but is worth an application--especially given the wonky situations that some students are in regarding what their departments allow them to claim, how applications are sent out, etc.)

Filosofer said...

One issue that has been alluded to but not explicitly addressed (here, anyway) is this: Applying for jobs requires a significant amount of effort. If hard copies of application materials are required, it costs money too: probably $2-$5 per application.

Most of us who are applying to these jobs are poor. Dirt poor. One reason it would be nice to have more details about what the necessary criteria for a particular job really are is that it would save me some money! Suppose that I apply for jobs while ABD, and the hiring committees for five of those jobs immediately dismiss my applications for that reason alone. That's roughly fifteen dollars that is completely wasted. Um, that sucks. It might not sound like much money to someone who's been settled into a job for a while and can actually pay the bills, but I've got a kid and a really tight budget. Every dollar counts in my house. It makes me sick to think that I and others are--almost literally--just throwing money away when we apply for certain jobs.

Given that it's no secret that grad students are poor, and that applications cost money, it seems to me to be morally incumbent upon hiring committees to either (1) clearly state the minimum necessary qualifications for the position in the ad, or (2) refrain from applying general criteria that are not explicitly stated. So, for example, if the ad says "Ph.D. required by August 2010," it would be wrong for the committee to decide to prefer all applicants who have Ph.D.'s to all applicants who are ABD, even though that might seem like a tempting way to make the first cut (especially when faced with a pile of 200+ applications).

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that two things should be obvious that are not being treated as obvious. (Maybe that means they aren't obvious after all. Well, not for long...)

(1) A department that very strongly prefers a Ph.D. in hand at the time of application isn't going to tie its own hands by explicitly *requiring* that in its ad, if it can imagine circumstances in which it may wind up wanting to hire an ABD. In my department, a very good research department without a Ph.D. program, we sometimes want to hire one of the hot-shot ABDs on the market but can't pull it off -- they simply get scooped up by hot-shottier departments. Our second and third choices -- sometimes this is our first choice as well -- are usually people whom we can already see will be a shoo-in for tenure (or maybe are already tenurable). In sum: we expect that some of the ABDs will be very attractive to us, but that mostly we'll want people with not only a Ph.D. in hand but with a proven track record (i.e. teaching experience and multiple publications in top journals). So why should we tie our hands and exclude ABDs? I'm sure this generalizes to other departments in our position.

(2) In light of (1), when people say that a search committee is "excluding" applicants without a Ph.D., I'm sure they usually mean that the committees are mostly rejecting those applicants -- not that they aren't even considering them (as Spiros's correspondent's department seems to be doing).

There are bound to be some very attractive ABDs applying -- ABDs who are already doing important work (as one can see by reading it), even if they haven't tried to publish it yet. The point is that there are comparatively few such applicants.

Anonymous said...

12:39:

(I'm a different person)
I don't think it has to do with being from a top-10 department. The idea is just that the job market for junior hires will be people who are in grad school, people who have a job but want to find a different one, and people who have no philosophy-related job. Most people don't graduate and get a non-philosophy job just so they can then have a PhD in hand when applying. So pretty much all the new talent will be applying as ABD at first, and it's to be expected (or at least hoped!) the best will get TT jobs. Therefore, the people who already have PhDs are mainly those who have already been on the market and either didn't get a job or got one that's they're not satisfied with. It's true that they might have gotten some more publications in the meantime, but an ABD candidate with strong letters would be expected to get publications once they're hired, so it's not really superlative to do so.

AAA said...

I think the author of the note is a real ass.

I think it's pretty shitty for a department to publish an advertisement that does not explicitly say that they require PhD in hand *at the time of application* if they in fact require PhD in hand *at the time of application*. I really can't recall any ads for a TT position that said as much. Many of them say nothing about it. The others say that the PhD is required by the time the candidate would begin the job. Why shouldn't people who expect to finish by then apply for those jobs?

I really hate the kind of sanctimonious, self-involved moaning that gets from job seekers on some current philosophy blogs. But almost as much, I dislike the attitude expressed in the note on this blog. People are desperate. If this person didn't want 500 applications, he or she should have written a more specific advertisement, one that explicitly states that PhD in hand at time of application AND publications are required. (I don't recall a single ad this specific.) Instead, this guy wrings his hands, whines about how bad his job is right now and gets angry at applicants.

So called "poser" applicants aren't trying to fool you. They're hoping that your conception of a certain AOS or AOC is broad enough that it reasonably includes their work and teaching. And they probably sincerely believe that they will do an excellent job in the position advertised. Given how frequently people (reasonably) disagree about what constitutes, e.g., an AOC, the author of the note is really overreacting. I kind of hope he does send out bitchy emails to "posers." Once he's outed on one of these blogs, I can be thankful that I didn't become his colleague.

Re: people who don't in any way fit the job description, I can sympathize, but separating out the apps from these people is something that whoever opens the envelopes can do pretty quickly, I would think. So the author of that note should be a little less pissed off, I think - dealing with *actually* unqualified applicants isn't going to ruin the holiday season for him.

Unless the advertisement really does state that the search committee won't consider applications from people without a PhD in hand AND publications, then the author of this post owes us a defense of A) not explicitly stating the criteria that will be employed in the process and B) using PhD-in-hand as a criteria at all.

I doubt (A) can be given any plausible defense. Unless this is a very specific ad that no one can recall, whoever wrote it fucked up. (B) also seems suspect. I'll bet there are plenty of job candidates who were ready to defend before they sent out their apps but decided to wait until the end of the year so that they could enjoy the financial benefits that go along with retaining one's status as a graduate student. According to the process described in the note, those candidates are entirely ruled out at this point.

It is a fantasy to suppose that the practical decision to postpone a defense by itself shows a candidate to be less meritorious than someone who is unencumbered by such financial constraints and so defended at the moment he or she felt prepared. But the process described in the note implies exactly that. That a group of philosophers would find themselves engaged in this process - especially if it is the result of writing a vague job advertisement - is a little nauseating.

I've put a ton of work into applying for jobs and, frankly, it's going to piss me off and depress me quite a bit if I don't even get a look at certain departments because I don't meet some hidden criteria that they have. Of course, I guess I'll never know....

I think the author of the note should recognize that failing to write a job ad that explicitly described the qualifications for the job doesn't warrant introducing arbitrariness into the process. He should suck it up and spend a month doing due diligence.

CTS said...

I'm not surprised that job seekers are feeling sressed and, hence, angry about complaints from people on SCs.

But, you should know that there are genuine 'posers': applicants who, more or less effectively, try to pretend they are qualified in X, event though they are not.

We ended up interviewing one such candidate recently - a very, very good poser. As the interview went on for a few minutes, it became clear that he had nothing more than a graduate course in X. When we expressed our surprise, given his cover letter and other materials, he smiled and told us he had been sure that when we met him we would realize what a great hire he would be.

This means not only that we wasted time looking over all his materials to figure out if he was qualified, but also that we did not interview someone else who was.

No one who has a job fails to understand that they are in an enviable position relative to those on the market. And those of us who are not genetically arrogant can not fail to see that many applicants are really fabulous.

But doing due dilligence with 300 files and 3 SC members is a lot of work; it is work on top of everything else one has to do - and often at the worst time of the year. So, sure, we do get annoyed by posers and folks who are just sending stuff out willy nilly. Which is to say, we are human.

Wishing all of you well this year.

Anonymous said...

I'm with CTS. I understand the anxiety. But seriously. Those new to the market might not appreciate how frequently we see "poser applications." And as CTS points out, it can hurt those who are not posing.

How much diligence is due to an applicant for an Ancient Philosophy position who does not list Greek among her languages and has a dissertation squarely on later MacIntyre? Do I really need to examine closely the dossier of a guy applying for an Early Modern job with a dissertation on Heidegger's views on Newton? An applicant for a Political Philo job with a dissertation on Royce and zero course work in the area?

You'd be less indignant if you saw the dossiers.

Anonymous said...

This is amusing. In my experience, most applicants apply to at least a few jobs as a "poser," thinking that it certainly can't hurt to apply. However, when those same people get jobs, they get very angry at "poser" applicants for wasting their time. Then many of them turn around and advise their own graduate students to stretch their qualifications, encouraging their students to become the "poser" applicants they hate and yet once were themselves.

kaptain_krunch said...

Anonymous @ November 1, 2009 2:03 PM writes:

How much diligence is due to an applicant for an Ancient Philosophy position who does not list Greek among her languages and has a dissertation squarely on later MacIntyre?

I'm sympathetic to your complaint. However, part of the problem stems from the fact that some hiring committees simply are not competent, especially when it comes to hiring an historian. It's extremely frustrating to 1) spend the time necessary for acquiring the relevant research skills and then 2) see someone get a job at a research institution when he lacks the language skills necessary for doing scholarly work in his and your AOS. I'm talking about someone claiming as his AOS, say, Aristotle, or Descartes, or Kant, and yet not having reading knowledge of Greek, or French/Latin, or German. It happens. How, you might ask? I suspect over-reliance on pedigree and inadequate criteria for evaluation.

In short, when committees hire candidates who lack the research skills necessary for scholarly work in their AOS, then it gives other candidates reason to think expertise in the advertised AOS isn't really the operative criterion. And that makes "posing" look like a viable strategy.

CTS said...

However, when those same people get jobs, they get very angry at "poser" applicants for wasting their time. Then many of them turn around and advise their own graduate students to stretch their qualifications, encouraging their students to become the "poser" applicants they hate and yet once were themselves.

Ok, so some people are jerks. Why emulate them?

We have seen posers far more devious than “an applicant for an Ancient Philosophy position who does not list Greek among her languages and has a dissertation squarely on later MacIntyre” or “a guy applying for an Early Modern job with a dissertation on Heidegger's views on Newton” or an “applicant for a Political Philo job with a dissertation on Royce and zero course work in the area.”

And the terrible fact is that those of us who really want to do due diligence – and who recognize that not all applicants are well trained in presenting themselves – end up spending absurd amounts of time weeding out the posers. It really is unethical to apply for a position for which one is not qualified.

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