Monday, November 8, 2010

Note from a Search Committee Member

Dear [Spiros],

Consider posting on your blog the following:

Dear Job Seekers,

Your CV should be short and to the point. Your publications should be listed on the first page. Papers and books "in process" should not appear under the heading "Publications." Neither should papers merely submitted to journals -- it takes no philosophical skill to stuff an envelope and address it to Phil Review. A long list of stints as "chair" of sessions at small regional conferences probably should be left off the CV. A two-page dissertation abstract is at least one page too long. Do not make it difficult to discern whether you're fully-degreed yet -- that's something else to be put up front on the first page.

This seems to me to be all good advice. But that this needs to be stated explicitly by a search committee member is a bit discouraging. Don't job seekers get proper advice about this stuff from... you know... their departmental placement officers, or at least their dissertation directors?

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

The apparent need (for some) for advice like this helps me better understand how I managed to get a job during a horrible market coming from a nowhere program...

Word verification: pains

Anonymous said...

I've been told that the CV should feature a one paragraph dissertation summary, and that a separate dissertation abstract can be up to two pages long. Was that bad advice?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what "in process" means. Are these papers that the author is writing but haven't completed or are they papers that have been accepted and are being processed by the journal but have made it into print? If the former, good point. If the latter, really?

Anonymous said...

I was told different things by different profs. One (my diss director) said to skip the dissertation summary on the cv and to write a one-page abstract. Another (dept chair) told me to add a one paragraph summary to the cv and to write a two-page abstract.

I chose to skip the summary on the cv and write the one-page abstract.

I stopped sending the diss abstract a year after defending the thing. Instead, I sent a research agenda and new work written during the year. Even though the new work wasn't published, I wanted search committees to see what I was planning/starting to do post-dissertation. Anyway, I knew that my diss director talked about my dissertation in the letter of recommendation, so I felt safe skipping this part of the application packet.

Anonymous said...

All points well taken but with a proviso - I thought it was perfectly acceptable to list a work in progress under publications if it is invited, under contract, or somehow already firmly accepted. Was I wrong?

Anonymous said...

Fab advice. I was also told to do a one page dissertation abstract (last page of CV). Mine fills the page, but is single-spaced, 11p font. Too long?

Anonymous said...

Consider posting on your blog the following:

Dear Job Seekers,

Your CV shouldn't merely be a page listing where you're getting your PhD and so forth. Make sure to include all other relevant material. Even if you've just "chaired" a bunch of sessions, it's okay to list them. We want to see all the work you've engaged in. This can at least show that you're active in the discipline. However, don't include papers and books "in progress" at all. Anyone can make up a paper title. Note also that your areas of specialization and competence should be at the top of your CV. Sure, most people begin with their education or employment history, but we care first and foremost about whether you can fit our needed areas, and you should know better than to not start off with something like you're publications. After all, we are a teaching-heavy school, so you should format your dissertation specifically for us. Furthermore, a one-page dissertation abstract looks like you don't have enough to say in your dissertation or that you think we don't have the attention span to read another half a page. And make sure you only have 1" margins! Large margins indicate that you don't know what you're doing and you're just trying to make it look longer than it really is. Finally, do not say your PhD is "expected" on a certain date; only give us hard facts.

This seems to me to be all good advice. But that this needs to be stated explicitly by a search committee member is a bit discouraging. Don't job seekers get proper advice about this stuff from... you know... their departmental placement officers, or at least their dissertation directors?

(Note: This is satire. The point is: don't get upset with us applicants when we get conflicting advice or no advice from our departments. It's not our fault. If we follow the advice of the person in the original post, then we'll likely piss off some other committee member. Cut us some f-ing slack.)

Anonymous said...

Obviously nobody knows with any real confidence how a person should tailor their application on some of these details. The only way to find out would be to run a survey, and nobody is doing that. So the conclusion to draw is that search committees should stop being dumbasses and remember that they're looking for the best philosopher, not the best application tailor. Isn't this obvious? Fuck.

Anonymous said...

Usually I make my dissertation abstract 5-10 pages long, and I list not just works in progress, but works I am thinking about starting on but haven't got around to writing yet. Thanks for the advice though.

Anonymous said...

Well fuck - I applied to 100 jobs and sent all of them a copy of my entire dissertation.

Anonymous said...

Don't job seekers get proper advice about this stuff from... you know... their departmental placement officers, or at least their dissertation directors?

No. Is that surprising? You know some philosophers, right? You've noticed that many of them, including many in important roles, are not extremely competent about practical matters, haven't you? And, that this rarely stops them from being placed in (or even seeking out) important roles? Have you noticed how people complain about the APA being incompetent all the time? Well, the APA is just a big group of philosophers, so there's no surprise at all that people get bad or no advice on all sorts of things. It would be more surprising if it were otherwise.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:31:

No need to vindicate Simon Critchley. Brian Leiter might get pissed. (Cf. falling into wells)

Spiros said...

8:21,

Your point is off target. My view has been that the APA does a fair enough job at organizing the meetings and such-- the APA isn't incompetent across the board, it just doesn't care about job seekers, and so handles the job seeking element of its operation incompetently. One would expect that placement officers and diss directors have a fairly clear interest in giving their students decent advice.

Anonymous said...

While we are on the topic, if you include more than four letters of recommendation in your dossier, you are probably just pissing off search committee members.

Anonymous said...

One would expect that placement officers and diss directors have a fairly clear interest in giving their students decent advice.

My point wasn't that they don't have the incentive to give decent advice, but that they don't have the ability. The ability to give decent advice requires skills that many, many philosophers (and other academics, admittedly) are sorely lacking, even if they are otherwise quite smart.

Anonymous said...

A question from an pathetic, miserable, disgusting undergraduate here (have I debased myself enough?):

This is a question about the issue of letter inflation, but that thread is dead.
I'm applying to graduate schools in a month and been fairly active in the field, given my age. I have presented at more than half a dozen conferences, 3 faculty and 3 graduate, have--in light of one of the faculty conference presentations--been asked by a prestigious journal (on the level of, say, Synthese but I won't say which one) to referee an article. As well, I have a couple articles under review at equally prestigious journals that my professors have told me they are confident will be published, though I doubt I'll hear back from them before my apps are due.

The point is that my professors have noted that they'll be effusive in their praise and I'm worried it won't be taken seriously. Is there an issue of letter inflation at my level, thus making my letters useless? If so, what can I do? I'm coming from a fourth tier public school and have poor to decent grades; how can I get across that I am doing good work, aside from in my writing sample? I'd like to submit a CV, but very few programs provide a medium for me to do this.

Thanks.

Anonymous #24601

Anonymous said...

"While we are on the topic, if you include more than four letters of recommendation in your dossier, you are probably just pissing off search committee members."

I hope you're kidding. If people get pissed because more than 4 letters are sent, they should say not to send more than 4 letters. Jesus. Is everyone on a search committee a dick?

Anonymous said...

Anon undergrad:

if you're telling the truth and have papers capable of being published in prestigious journals, then your writing sample should be this good as well. If your sample is this good, despite what looks like little formal training of any kind, then you might be a prodigy of some sort. A dept. should pick you up. Having said all this, it looks like a case of a false antecedent.

Anonymous said...

11:05

It's possible. This is just what I've been told by my professors who looked at the work. I don't think it's entirely unreasonable, or requires me being a prodigy, as on Leiter's blog last year it was mentioned that NYU received applications from three different applicants with publications in prestigious journals. I imagine that it's not as uncommon as you'd think, given pressures to publish that are trickling down to my level.

External evidence of the quality of the work is that one of the two papers currently under review was in history of philosophy and was rejected by my first choice, the archiv fur geschichte, with the editor noting that she thinks that it makes a significant contribution but didn't fit their agenda. The editor actually said she liked the paper and went so far as to recommend other journals that might fit better (all rather prestigious). I'm not familiar with this often being the case, though, as I noted, I do not have much experience with this sort of thing. The only other piece of external evidence I have for the quality of my work is the referee request. As for my other piece under review, I have no unbiased evidence for its strength.

I imagine, however, that optimism--both on my part and on that of my professors--might play a strong role in it being a false antecedent.

Anonymous said...

These CV mis-steps are obviously in bad form. But there's something fishy about nearly all of these suggestions. You can see it by just asking: are they really designed to help a candidate look better, or to make life easier for this irate letter-writer? Are these two goals identical? Or could it be he's just pissed at CVs that make it harder for him to zero in on the criteria he uses to reject a CV right off the bat (What? no published article? Scratch)?

All but one of the problems he cites just happen to make certain defects, of a simple "stats" variety, harder to catch at a glance. Eg, poor fellow had to turn an entire page to count someone's publications. Had to read too carefully to see if the candidate actually got a degree (which takes a LOT of work to verify, eh?).

Why post his rejection-aids just because they're disguised as advice? I, for one, didn't fall for it. In this market, I hope nobody else does.

Chairephon said...

3:21: Seriously, it's annoying to lump works-in-progress in with publications. Even for those of us who do not treat publications as a sine qua non (e.g. me), here's what can happen. I glance down the CV. I see several things listed under publications. I get my hopes up that this application is quite good on this particular metric. My hopes are dashed.

It's really not in one's own interests as an applicant to dash the hopes of SC members.

Anonymous said...

I'm a search committee member from a Leiter ranked research university, and have also been a pretty successful placement director.

My thoughts:

1. 1-page abstract or paragraph + 2pp abstract: either is fine. You just need a concise, clear, accessible statement of your dissertation research. Longer abstracts don't serve this purpose.

2. Putting papers you've merely submitted in the publications list makes it look like you are padding it. For cv structuring, look at online cvs of successful recent phds for guidance--imitate their cv format and you'll look professional, which is what you want.

3. For those already out of grad school: Anon 3:59's statement of current research (in place of the dissertation abstract) is a good idea.

Try not to stress too much about the finer points. (I know, it's hard, and the cv format is something you have control over. But try not to if at all possible.) At least at a research school, search committees care primarily about the quality of the philosophical work, not the cv format. Your letters and your writing sample are the two most important pieces of the dossier, and are mostly what determine whether you get an interview, apart from your AOS/AOC. At the early weed-out stages, I'd say it's mostly the letters that matter. If you don't have letters from well-known philosophers, publications and the writing sample play a more significant role in the early stages than they would otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:46 and 11:14,

One of the applications that you mentioned- where the undergrad published in a prestigious journal- was not accepted for admission at NYU. S/he came from a religious SLAC and had been headhunted by a famous religious philosopher and they worked on that paper- which was to be published with the famous philosopher's response- together. It was a team effort.

The kid went to a VERY good program anyway, but not NYU. It probably helped him/her to get that very famous philosopher's letter. You should try to do that. Since you've been so active in the philosophical community, and undoubtedly meeting very many big name philosophers, that should be no problem for you. That way, you would have external evidence of what your teachers have been telling you all along.

Glaucon said...

Anon 11:04 asks, Is everyone on a search committee a dick?

The answer is, No. Some of them are pricks, some are tools, some are peckerheads. The wad community is well-represented, too: fuckwads and dorkwads abound. Some are plain ol' assholes, while others are santorum-oozing sphincters. Obviously, cranky jerks -- young and old -- are common. As, indeed, are hilariots: idiots who think they're funny, but are not. Like me.

Anonymous said...

First off, Glaucon, can we please get married?

Second, I'm a (junior) grad student at a mid-ranked Leiter school who has extensive professional experience academia. (Finance, IT, and a few other fun things like Sales and PR).

Guess who reviews people's CVs, cover letters, talks about interview etiquette, and (to top it all off) gives wardrobe advice?

You can bet your ass it ain't the "placement officer". I wonder what that person thinks about the fact that most of their job is being done by a grad student.

Probably that it's awesome.

CTS said...

We alwasy seem to return to this kind of 'do it this way, only' nonsense - and then have people weigh in on how that is not THE way to do it.

A clear and easily reviewable cv is what you want. Yes, most places would appreciate the AOS and AOC on the front page, along with grauation date/expected and dissertation title.

How long the diss presentation is is probably not a matter of the precise number of pages to most SCs. Just go for the golden mean: neither very long nor very short.

Lots of places will want to see what you are working on, even if it is not yet accepted. It's easy enough to break up your scholarhsip section into Published/Accepted and Submitted/In Progress and then make clear where each item is within these categories.

I do think most of us frown on a simple list that includes published, accepted, submitted, or - especially - work in progress as though these merit the same level of attention.

Further, if you have some pieces or presentations that are in the field but published/presented in non-scholarly places, you should distinguish these with an "Other Work" category or leave them out.

Last thoughts: No, most SC members are not selfish monsters (no doubt some are). However, it is a demnading task, especially as the average number of received applications goes up. Think of you task as applicant as twofold: showing yourself to best [but honest] advantage and helping the SC to see that.

It's not a war. Really. The vast majority of SCs are looking for colleagues, not victims for ritual sacrifice.

Anonymous said...

I hope things work out for you, anonymous undergraduate.

At the end of the day what counts is thinking up, and then writing up, good philosophy. So if you do not get on a good PhD program don’t give up. If you have to do a second tier PhD then keep at it – if you have the publications and obvious talent then that will win out in the end.

Furthermore, in the unlikely event that you did not get on a PhD program, then you can still get a part-time job and work on philosophy independently. It really helps to have feedback from others in order for your work to develop maximally, but that does not necessarily need to be in the context of a PhD program. But don’t kid yourself that you can do a *full time* job and still keep up with your philosophy – most people don’t have enough mental energy.

With regard to your original question, I am not an expert on these things so don't just follow what I say, but there must be a way for you to get a CV or a cover letter containing the sort of info you have stated here, to someone responsible for admission selections. If the worst comes to the worst, email the person directly - explain that this is the only way to convey important information relevant to your application.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

"It's not a war. Really. The vast majority of SCs are looking for colleagues, not victims for ritual sacrifice."

6:53--hear, hear!

Frank O' Phile said...

"It's not a war. Really. The vast majority of SCs are looking for colleagues, not victims for ritual sacrifice."

Of course, if SCs really were looking for victims for ritual sacrifice, they wouldn't actually go out of their way to advertise tis fact on prominent blogs.

So I'd say that this is less than probative.

Anonymous said...

Spiros writes: "One would expect that placement officers and diss directors have a fairly clear interest in giving their students decent advice."

Sure, it sounds like a reasonable expectation, but you'd be surprised. I know this job market candidate has been. I have absolutely zero confidence in the advice of my placement officer, and I wouldn't be surprised if every other candidate from my department feels the same.

Anonymous said...

"Of course, if SCs really were looking for victims for ritual sacrifice, they wouldn't actually go out of their way to advertise tis fact on prominent blogs.

So I'd say that this is less than probative."

Due to the horrid inference from absent evidence--along with the use of the Elizabethan "tis"--we need to exclude the author as a serious commentator on this matter.

Bazinga.

Anonymous said...

Well,
I am currently at the job market but have my PhD from Germany, so have more than one perspective. And although I agree that a CV should be concise, I am a little annoyed about this part:
Neither should papers merely submitted to journals -- it takes no philosophical skill to stuff an envelope and address it to Phil Review.
Well, if a paper is under the heading "under review" then you should probably believe that the candidate used his philosophical skill to write a paper that he considers to have a reasonable chance to be accepted at the journal to which it is submitted. I do think that most philosophers at the job market do not conflate the categories "under review" with "sentences that have been written without any philosophical skill but nevertheless submitted to a top journal"

Anonymous said...

@ slightly annoyed 5:15:

There's no problem listing those submitted papers under the heading "Written with great philosophical skill". Spiros' correspondent is only objecting to putting them under the heading, "Publications".