Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Phony Searches

What percentage of open rank positions in a given JFP are phony searches (viz. searches in which the hiring department has already decided who to hire and is just going through the motions of a search for legal purposes)? We all know that this is common. Anyone care to speculate?

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

I got my tenured job from a phony search, flown in as window-dressing to fulfill requirements so that an internal candidate could claim the job. But since even so-called phony searches must go through the motions, sometimes the motions actually place a better candidate before the SC. It can happen. I'm not saying I'm overall better either--maybe the internal candidate had a bad interview day and I had a great one. But that can be the luck of the draw and make a huge difference. FWIW.

Ben said...

I've often known internal candidates not get jobs, though of course the fact there's an internal candidate doesn't mean that the search is a phony one. I don't really know why a department would want to do a phony search, rather than getting the best person they can for a job.

I gather some searches are phony in a different sense: ones where a department advertises every year, just to see what they may be able to get, but are quite happy not to hire anyone if they can't attract a future star. Isn't that also a phony search?

Anonymous said...

The first few commentators don't seem to understand the sort of phony search you are talking about. The winning candidate has already been selected as a result of a silent search by the department in which the department decided who to approach. Searches like this do not have to "go through the motions" after receiving responses to an ad -- the motions have already been gone through with the one or more targets of the search.

But the sort of phony search you are talking about is usually not listed as "open" rank. It's usually listed at the rank the person already selected will occupy. When it's a full professor position, for example, no sane department would advertise "open" rank -- we don't want the hundreds of junior files for no reason.

These kinds of searches are common, especially for senior positions. In fact they are so common for senior positions that departments wanting to genuinely advertise a senior opening should signal in the ad that the search really is an ongoing search rather than an ad placed to satisfy advertising requirements on a search that has already finished.

Anonymous said...

The first few commentators don't seem to understand the sort of phony search you are talking about. The winning candidate has already been selected as a result of a silent search by the department in which the department decided who to approach. Searches like this do not have to "go through the motions" after receiving responses to an ad -- the motions have already been gone through with the one or more targets of the search.

But the sort of phony search you are talking about is usually not listed as "open" rank. It's usually listed at the rank the person already selected will occupy. When it's a full professor position, for example, no sane department would advertise "open" rank -- we don't want the hundreds of junior files for no reason.

These kinds of searches are common, especially for senior positions. In fact they are so common for senior positions that departments wanting to genuinely advertise a senior opening should signal in the ad that the search really is an ongoing search rather than an ad placed to satisfy advertising requirements on a search that has already finished.

Anonymous said...

It's called a "wired" search and they happen all the time. Just be happy that you got a free trip to bum-freakin Egypt out of it.

Anonymous said...

Why can't they just make an offer to the person if they're not a grad student? Isn't this common? Why would the pretense be necessary?

PA said...

10%, but maybe I'm just blowing smoke.

Christopher Hitchcock said...

I agree with 10/23 9:03 A.M. If you have already decided whom to hire, you would not advertise for an 'open rank' position.

In response to 10/27 11:09 A.M. Even if a dept. knows whom it wants to hire, often they still need to do a search. This may be required to satisfy affirmative action rules, or immigration rules. This might be necessary even if the person you want to hire is a U.S. citizen. E.g. at Caltech, there is a policy that rules must be uniform for all employees, regardless of citizenship. So if a search is required before appointing a non-citizen (by U.S. law), it must also be required before appointing a citizen (by Institute policy).

Christopher Hitchcock said...

It is helpful to think of this process from the point of view of senior applicants. Most people with tenure do not read the JFP every year and send out applications. At the same time, many senior people might be willing to apply for a specific job if they are specifically invited to do so.

So if a dept. wants to make a senior hire, it doesn't make sense just to place an ad. You really want to contact some people you would be interested in and persuade them to apply. At the same time, you don't want to do this too promiscuously, or you will create a lot of ill will. So often the dept. will settle on one candidate before starting the search. Sometimes more than one person in a dept. will contact someone that she would like to hire, resulting in more than one candidate being encouraged to apply. But even in this case, it will be a small number. This doesn't mean that other candidates won't get consideration. But there will be some presumption in favor of the candidates who have been invited to apply.

Anonymous said...

If I remember right, wasn't Aristotle the victim of an inside hire?

Anonymous said...

to 11:29: You can't just hire the person you want without a search, without violating a gazillion civil rights/equal opportunity reqirements. Indeed, "pre-selection" violates those rules, so the department needs to keep very quiet if it has somebody in mind as a definite hire, regardless of the other applicants.

Administrators might know that you have somebody in mind, but they'll still make you go through a search to see what else is out there and develop a credible record that the person you want to hire really is most appropriate for the stated job requirements.

Anonymous said...

8:59,

I'm pretty sure Aristotle didn't get the job because his cover letter wasn't up to snuff.

Anonymous said...

Aristotle was into pony-play.

Anonymous said...

@12:39

Maybe so, but did this count for or against him in the hiring decision?

Anonymous said...

I'm not against spousal hires, but can someone explain how they happen without violating a gazillion rules too. Has any unsuccessful candidate ever challenged the outcome of these phony/strategic hires in court?

Anonymous said...

in my experience, there's lots of oversight (it's often burdensome) for job searches. searches are closed all the time for violations of law and for perceived violations of law. some of these posts make it sound like it would be easy carry off a phony search. That's really misleading. I've been on dozens of search committees and I am aware of lots more in other departments. the eeoc monitors searches very(!) closely and so do diligent deans and other administrators. i've seen many searches closed for all sorts of reasons, some good and some bad. but departments are definitely not running searches without lots of oversight.

Fritz J. McDonald said...

Would someone be so kind as to either fess up to their own phony searches or rat out any phony searches you might know about? Naming names on this would help save me the $6-8 or so bucks I would be sending to Interfolio for no reason otherwise.

I can tell you for a fact that our search (Oakland University, Go Grizzlies!) is totally legit. We have no specific person in mind now. Hopefully, when all is said and done with reviewing files and interviews, we will have a specific person in mind. Hopefully.