Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nella in New England Wants Job Seekers to Give Themselves a Chance, and Give Her a Break.

Give me a break already with the job misery.

You don't know job misery until you run a search almost entirely on your own. Okay, so my colleagues are official members of the committee, but as the junior female of the group I somehow got all the clerical bullshit. I get to vet all the applications, sorting them into Yes, No, and Not in this Lifetime!

Our job ad - field unimportant - says clearly: "Letter, vita, writing sample, evidence of classroom excellence, and three job letters addressing teaching and dated this year must be sent as a single PDF file to We'vegotjobsandyoudont@XxxxxxxUniversity.EDU.

I am happy to tell you that I'm dying to hire someone. We desperately nead a new faculty member, and so I'm doing everything I can to be flexible. But here's what I normally find in my email inbox:

  • Long emails explaining that candidates letters are only available through a dossier service or direct from referees. "No" pile.
  • Emails with as many as 5 separate attachments, DOC files, TXT files, even a fucking JPG of a transcript and we didn't ask for that. "No" pile.
  • Job letters that talk about the candidates research first and sometimes teaching not at all. "No" pile.
  • Job letters with 2010 dates. One had a 2009 date. The explanation? The person had retired. "No" pile.
  • Emails asking me to further specify the above requirements for a single PDF file. One person wanted to know where he could find software for that. Well, open up Microsoft Word and use it. 
I, too, have been on the job market fairly recently, but do not have much sympathy for the complaints of jumping through the job hoops. We have a job, folks; it's your job to show us you want it. Start by following directions. Get it right, people, and then we'll talk.

- Nella in New England


  1. Thank you for No. 3. I'm showing this to my dissertation committee chair, who insists that I bury my teaching experience in page 2 of the letter EVEN for schools that SPECIFICALLY ask that letters highlight teaching experience. "That's bullshit," he says, "Nobody really cares about your teaching. It's like window dressing."

    He has issues.

  2. "as the junior female of the group I somehow got all the clerical bullshit" --- as the junior white male I usually get similar assignments even though we often have females much "junior" than me. Must be something wrong with our university :-)

  3. BlackDog, as a proffie at a teaching institution who has sat on several hiring committees over the past 5 years, if the school asks for teaching (and you've done your research into the place), you'd be effectively putting yourself in the NO pile if you don't highlight your teaching FIRST. On the FIRST page. Letters that reference research, projects, etc. first go into the NO pile, because we know from experience that if we go ahead and hire a star researcher, that person is going to leave us within 2 years. We are a teaching institution--research and professional development are [theoretically] secondary. You do have to publish, but you don't have to publish a book to get tenure. In fact, someone in my department, before I arrived here, was denied tenure AFTER getting his/her book published. Why? Teaching performance.

    So please, on behalf of the people who will look at your materials, give them exactly what they're asking for. No more, no less.

  4. Haven't we had earlier posts complaining about constantly having to bother our advisers and mentors for a stream of letters of reference when we know most of them will never be read? Why are you insisting on new letters for everybody? I mean, come on, a 2010 letter is "too old."? How about asking for new letters once you've narrowed the pile down to those worth looking at a bit more closely??

  5. Why insist the letters of recommendation come from the applicant themselves?

  6. Job seekers: we all understand--or we should--as we were all on the other side of this hell. But asking for NEW letters, PDF, etc may not be some thing we require--but something the HR department requires of all applicants to every position on campus--because the state now requires, etc. We live in fear that all of our hard work to find the right candidate will be wasted if the search is canceled because we didn't follow the rules--in every way.

  7. OK, it's been four years since I last applied for jobs (thank God) and I realize that it's become more of an employer's market than ever, but aren't recommendation letters in most fields are supposed to be confidential? How is the candidate supposed to make a single PDF out of these documents when he or she isn't supposed to see some of them in the first place? (Yes, I know lots of people do manage to get access to their letters, and at the very least it's prudent to send them to someone you trust who can tip you off if there's anything damaging in them, but it's still pretty odd to require candidates to compromise their recommenders' confidentiality.)

  8. I can understand the desire for a single PDF file, but I don't agree with requiring the letters of recommendation in the PDF. Why not accept letters from a dossier service or straight from the writers? I've never seen the letters of recommendation that were written for me, and I don't care to. And, to be frank, I've never even heard of people seeing their own reference letters. It seems like a really bad idea.

  9. Put me on the dossier bandwagon.

    As Fretful Porpentine says, letters of rec are supposed to be confidential. If your search doesn't accept dossier letters, you're just acting like assholes.

  10. ^^This.

    What solution is there besides mashing all of your stuff (letter, CV, etc.) into one PDF, then forwarding that to the first of your referees and telling them to mash their letter onto the end of that PDF, then, when they're done, forward it to the next referee, who has to do the same thing, ditto the next, who has to send it to the hiring committee? Do you seriously expect anyone to do this?

    Wait, don't, I've got one. Why don't I just throw confidentiality out the window and write my own damn recommendation letters? They'd fit nicely into that PDF.

    It's not just about "la-tee-dah, we have a job opening, all the peons must show us that they REALLY WANT IT," it's about dealing with referees for whom "merge PDFs" signifies about as much as "compile UNIX kernel" and who need to be prodded constantly to even remember to upload a letter to Interfolio, much less go through the necessary dance steps I've outlined above.

    But no, I guess it's all the job seekers' fault. Damn scroungers.

  11. Thank God we have someone like Nella looking out for us!

  12. Nella sends this comment in:

    Tell your readers that somehow more than 40 candidates have been able to negotiate the requirements.

  13. I'm confused. Application packets from doisser services, like Interfolio, DO come as a single pdf. So I guess I would fail this test too. Because I would have gone through Interfolio and assumed that's what you wanted. Confusing process results in confused applicants.

  14. @Burnt Chrome...I don't suppose y'all are hiring in the social sciences?

    Also, yes. I have taken to simply reformatting my letters after he looks at them, but he's a control freak and he gets mad if he finds out I did it.

    REASON A MILLION to get out of grad school.

  15. Maybe things are different north of the border w.r.t. HR matters, but I have never, never, never seen a tenure-track search where the letters of recommendation weren't sent direct to the chair of the search committee. Recommendation letters are confidential, never to be seen by the applicant. I did my fair share of applying for jobs, never to see what my references wrote about me...

  16. more than 40 candidates have been able to negotiate the requirements --- guess how many of those candidates wrote their own letters of recommendation. Speaking of "job misery". Gotta love that single-pdf-file-including-2012-reference-letters requirement.

  17. @BlackDog: Yes, we are. However, I would caution you to stay the fuck out of Wisconsin:


    aaaaand from yesterday:

    Our governor has decided to freeze our wages but give himself and his minions a raise. DO NOT ENTER WISCONSIN UNTIL GOVERNOR FUCKTARDO (Scott Walker) IS OUT OF OFFICE.

    I'm getting out of here myself, and stupid me, I have tenure.

  18. We had a conversation in the first search committee meeting to set the terms of the application - our prerogative, I believe - and that's what was recommended by a couple of people with experience in searches at our university in New England.

    Whether or not it matches your experience was not my goal in sending my post in to the website. What I was trying to do was encourage job seekers to match the job ads.

    Too many applicants don't even get a chance here, and that's too bad.

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. It is indeed too bad that many on the job market would be excluded because the terms of an ad are impractical and make no sense. But I suppose that's one way to winnow the numbers down quickly.

    And your stilted pseudo-folksy condescension (We have a job, folks! Get it right, people!) suggests either (1) that you're recovering from the job market by taking pleasure in your newfound authority, or (2) that you're a relatively unpleasant person. Or (3) both.

  21. Can't stop myself from using this line in response to an earlier comment...from my hubby's favorite movie...which I've seen 20 times now...

    "yes, Stew, that would be cool..."

  22. And more to the point, yes, the job gauntlet has a variety of people like Nella (or Nella's colleagues), and sometimes the rules and regulations seem unreasonably capricious and arbitrary.

    I hate to think we make each other jump through hoops. Haven't we all been on the market at some point? Haven't we all witnessed inhumane treatment?

    You'd think we'd all do a better job from the other side of the desk.

    PS: anyone else going to Seattle in January for the MLA?

  23. This reminds me of a story my Mom liked to tell about her first Principal (she's a retired teacher.) He'd refuse to accept any note from a parent excusing a sick student that didn't fit exactly into that student's folder. He'd also walk around each classroom at night to measure how far down the teacher pulled the window shades, because he specified an exact distance between the bottom of the shade and the window sill. He just liked making people jump through hoops.

  24. I still don't understand how it's even POSSIBLE to send a complete job application in one PDF file including recommendations. If it's actually possible to do that without compromising confidentiality, I'd like to know, so we can use that method ourselves for future job hires.

    So color me confused. The job letter as a pdf? Yes, of course that can be done. Teaching statement? Sample of scholarship? Of course.

    But the recs? How on earth could that happen in ONE pdf file without the applicant seeing the recs, or, as has been pointed out, writing them?

  25. Wow, this is the snottiest posting from a search committee member that I've ever seen, and particularly egregious from someone who has lucked into a job in the past few years (as Nella's junior status suggests). I've chaired 4 searches at an R1 in the past decade, some with 700 applicants for the position, DOING THE CLERICAL WORK ALL BY MYSELF, and I have never, ever produced this kind of crap for applicants or talked about them this way. Whoever advised your committee is full of it, and has made sure quality candidates will be eliminated for random reasons, exactly what a serious institution hopes never to do.

    First, Nella, what your your requirements suggest, is a third-rate institution unused to doing searches. At serious places, candidates are required to waive their right to view the letter (otherwise, we don't read 'em). If I saw those requirements, I'd tell my Ph.Ds not to apply for your job. Second, for your fucking information, Microsoft Word tells you nothing about how to merge documents into a single pdf. You have to take everything, save each thing individually as a pdf, then go into Acrobat and do it (you can't merge a pdf into a Word doc, so if you have 1 pdf, like scanned teaching evals, everything has to become a pdf and then you arrange them in order). No way do I have time to add my confidential letters to some behemoth pdf file this way for my 15 dissertators. Third, your attitude sucks, and I'm glad I don't work with you. I hope you fail your search, as you richly deserve to.

    I haven't been this pissed off on CM in quite a while.

  26. I created an account just to agree with everyone above. This is a petty and counter-productive approach to the job search process. I would never write a letter for student who had to integrate it into a PDF. I hate this attitude when I see it in colleagues, where blind adherence to policies somehow becomes more important than the reasoning behind the policy in the first place. Yes, it's annoying when students/applicants/whoever doesn't follow formatting guidelines or other requirements, but I would never let the ability to follow those requirements substitute for measuring the actual quality of the work/submission/etc. I see people who will cheerfully give an F to someone for being 10 words over the length requirements but happily give A's to people who do nothing more than fill in the blanks on a pre-rendered "essay." That's bullshit, and it's the same attitude that gets us to this post.

  27. Thank you, F&T, for that. I would think that most job seekers are told about the exhaustion that search committees feel, and I would hope, too, that they craft their materials with that in mind--don't yatter on about research at a teaching school, don't provide materials that they don't ask for, etc.

    But it has to work both ways. These people are applicants, not supplicants. If they're willing to play your games, you should at least put their pieces on the board.

    Darla: Yes. I forecast yet another year of grinding myself down with campus visit preparations in the spring, followed by a series of losses to internal candidates.

  28. Congratulations on your absurd application requirements. Why on earth would you embrace a system that will ensure that you hire not the most qualified person but the person who knows how to produce a pdf? You may as well hire the person who can tie his or her own shoes. Is it really so vital that the candidate send one rather than two electronic files? You don't follow directions and give us exactly what we want? No job for you! Good to know you're protecting your students from the slack-ass rebels who insist on maintaining the confidentiality of their reference letters and forget to copy-paste their cover letters so that the teaching paragraph comes before the research paragraph. You people are pathetic and petty, and I pity the poor fool who ends up with such a group of entitled tyrants as colleagues.

  29. Oh, and one more thing, Nella, re: your smug reply that "more than 40 candidates have been able to negotiate the requirements." In most fields in my discipline, if we came up with an applicant pool of only 40-ish candidates, our search would be canceled, for the process would clearly have been tainted somehow. "Too many applicants don't even get a chance here, and that's too bad" doesn't cut it where I work.

    Occupy search committees, everyone who is sane, please.

  30. Having been blasted on this blog by my fellow miserians, I feel kind of bad for Nella because (1) this is her first job search committee assignment and she hasn't done this before to know if this is unreasonable or not; (2) her committee came up with the absurd requirement that letters of rec be part of the PDF package, so she's just being a stickler because she's a junior faculty and wants to do things "right."

    If it's a committee, it's not fair that she be stuck doing all of the 'hard' work here. Job search committees I've served on have divvied up the work (Based on others' experiences, I now see that I was lucky to have served on ones that did that instead of assigning me to do it). When I was chairing a search, however, I did all of the preliminary screening because I felt that was the chair's responsibility.

    And while the whining sounds reminiscent of what we hear from our students, I do feel bad for Nella's first contribution to the blog resulting in people calling her names & claiming she is to blame for her committee's restrictions.

    That said, I have to agree that it's counterproductive to exclude people simply because their recommender has since retired or their letters are older than a year. If one is looking for a large picture of a person's experience, and a letter of recommendation was written in 2010 (a WHOLE year ago--GASP), what's the big deal? Are you worried that current employees who are duds will apply with old letters? I have several friends who have been unemployed (due to budget cuts) for over a year. Where would they be expected to get a letter of recommendation (aside from the temp agencies they've been frequenting)?

  31. I too feel bad for Nella, but then I keep rereading what she wrote and it only seems to underscore that she is allowing the most talented applicants to fall by the wayside.

    It shows poor planning and foreshadows a terrible job environment.

  32. A requirement is a requirement, and I agree completely that candidates unable to meet requirements clearly laid out in a posting shouldn't be given a second look.

    However, these ain't dolphins jumping for mackerel. I'm all for search committees making intentional choices to limit their busy-work and shouldering some of the workload on those who wish to join their fine institution. But simply being lazy and proscribing ridiculosity to supplicants indicates a lack of empathy and an unreasonable selfishness.

    Nella, I commend your strict adherence to the posted requirements. It is a simple, and quite appropriate, way to sift out chaff. But, you committee members should know that their chosen requirements will stop many well-qualified candidates from even applying. If your committee's absolute goal is a small pool of people to winnow through, you have succeeded. If your committee's goal is to find the best qualified person for the position, they have failed.

  33. @Burnt Chrome, I got an email today asking me to contribute $5 to Walker's recall. I deleted it. Five hours later, I thought of your posts, dug it out of the trash and contributed. Hope they get the a-hole.

  34. Nella,

    I appreciate you wading into the comments. Besides the complaints about the requirements and your tone, some people have raised a good question:

    What is the value of a recommendation letter that is disclosed to the applicant?

  35. to: Beaker Ben

    I don't know how all candidates do it, but in the past I've asked my letter-writers to provide me copies for distribution. I believe they have email address and phone numbers on them, and we will call every one of our top tier candidates's references at a later date.

    If someone has written their own letter - and I have to believe that's more rare than common - then it will be sussed out then.

  36. No way would I provide a candidate with copies of my letter. That completely compromises the recommendation process, which is akin to the blind peer review process in academic publishing. Where I work, unusually, we see our tenure letters, but these are redacted so we don't know who wrote them; that's what protects the writers' integrity and credibility.

    I know I've been hard on you, but I am truly appalled by your institution's process and your condescension toward candidates. You're not answering Ben's question of what good recommendations that the candidates see can possibly do. They will, I assure you, err on the side of overly glowing, though I don't think anyone will go so far as to write their own. The best candidates, though, will have advisors who rightly refuse to do this, so they simply won't apply. And an ad specifying that requirement will make your institution/department look idiotic.

  37. About ref letters.

    I'm in English, and during my most recent job search, I asked two former mentors and a former colleague for letters. All three submitted copies to my dossier service (the great AWP!), and all three sent me copies for my own use.

    It was no secret that I asked people who knew my work well, and I suspect that could they not have written a letter for me, they wouldn't have.

    I don't feel weird about this notion at all.

    When I'm asked for a letter, first of all I decline if I can't write a positive one. And when I do write one, I provide a copy for the job seeker.

    The only case in which I think some kind of confidentiality comes into play is when committees check previous supervisors and such who are not referees for the candidate.

    But who on earth is asking for and getting letters from people who are going to write negative ones?

  38. My 5 cents.

    I am in physics. In all my 20 years in academia [undergrad, grad, postgrad, postdoc, assistant prof.] I have never even heard of anyone in my field [and chemistry, engineering, biology as well] asking his/her peers to provide copies of their rec. letters.

  39. I'll bite, Plasmon.

    Who knows your teaching enough to write a rec if not a peer or colleague?

  40. Nella,

    Perhaps I wasn't clear in my "5 cents". If I need a letter of recommendation I sure ask my colleagues/peers who know my work enough. But I'd never ask them to send their letters directly to me [or show those letters to me]. It is very unusual in phys/chem/etc to ask your references to show their letters. Moreover in nearly every job ad at, for example, one can read something like "the candidate should ask these references to supply letters directly to [University of Super_Puper State]".

  41. I have never commented before, but after reading the disgustingly smug Nella, I just had to write. I am a junior faculty member on my first search committee this year, and although I understand the need for an orderly application process, what you are doing at your school is capricious, counterproductive, and petty. And even worse, you seem to take smug satisfaction in executing these asinine rules.

    You deserve the smackdown you are getting here... unfortunately, self-awareness doesn't seem to be your strong suit given how you write in to double-down on your stupidity.

    I am in the sciences, and it is absolutely unheard of for a candidate to submit letters of recommendation directly as part of the application package. And even IF that was your preference, not making reasonable accommodations for candidates who cannot do so because their recommenders prefer to maintain confidentiality is just repugnant. Or refusing to read a 1-year old letter from someone who has retired. Seriously, who the F*CK are you people (you and your committee) to even come up with this crap. You should be ashamed.

    Seriously " You think that is clever?

    If there is any consolation, any decent candidate will be scared off, and I hope you get stuck with some jackoff who is just as anal about minutia, but is a horrible colleague.

  42. Ditto the above re. recommendation letters: I'm in English, and I would *never* provide a copy of a recommendation letter to a candidate for whom I was writing, and I've never seen a letter written for me. In fact, I'd never even ask one of my referees to provide me a copy of my letter; I'd be too embarrassed to look so unprofessional.

    I'm also unsure why or how all three letters must address teaching. I write for PhDs whose committees I've sat on, but whom I've never seen teach. When I was on the job market, my director made sure he saw me teach, but neither of my other two referees did. One wouldn't have been able to, even if she'd wanted to.

  43. I'm late to the party again, but no fucking way would I ever give someone I write for a copy of my letter of rec. Not in a million fucking years.

    I will, on occasion, if I think a gradflake or recent PhD I work with is missing an opportunity to describe her work in a particularly compelling way, tell her in very general terms one of the ways I describe the work in my letter. But no fucking way would I ever show her the text. In addition to the obvious questions of confidentiality, there is also the fact that 9 times out of 10, at least with very junior scholars, the letter writers do a better job of talking about the project and its importance than the student does. Anybody who has been on search committees knows this to be true. So the temptation, or perhaps the natural reaction, of the student, should she come into possession of the letters, would be to borrow some of the best parts of the letters and incorporate them into her own cover letter, abstract, and whatnot. And then, all of a sudden, it looks like she did write her own letters, even though she didn't.

    At the end of the day, Nella, by imposing this absurd requirement, you have probably eliminated most, if not all, of the decent candidates in your pool. You know, the ones with decent, ethical, advisors. So kudos on that. But it sounds like that's what you were aiming for. Thosewithjobs, after all, try to replicate themselves most of the time.

  44. I've always had personal copies of my letters; it helps me pick which ones go where for grants, fellowships, even when I was on the job market.

    And in all the letters I write for former students and colleagues, I provide a PDF of that file for everyone's personal use.

    I'm in a large Humanities field. I guess I mostly echo what Darla said above.

  45. One more thing: I went to the job wiki and looked up jobs in my field, random subfield. 2nd job down says this:

    "Online Application system assumes you have access to your confidential letters of rec. You have to email the HR folks to see if someone there will receive your dossier as a PDF attachment and they will upload for you. I can't believe the presupposition that candidates will be able to upload their own letters!"

    Grand Valley State University, not doing itself any favors. This isn't Nella's institution, as it doesn't specify that the thing must be one pdf.

    Took me 2 minutes.

  46. First and most important: we now have evidence that Black Dog made it back from Starvistan, and is hard at work on diss/applications. Hurrah! Welcome back, BD, and good luck with the market! Let us know how it's going now and then, please?

    Chiming in late to agree with what everyone else said: A teaching-focused letter for for a teaching-intensive job is a reasonable expectation. Any candidate should do at least that much homework before applying, and the ad should make the focus clear in any case, though that was getting harder and harder even when I was last applying intensively, since everybody seemed to want evidence of both "teaching excellence" and "research excellence" -- and it didn't hurt to throw in a sentence or two of enthusiasm for service, either. Still, jobs tend to lean one way or the other, and it's actually easier these days, thanks to the internet, to get an idea of an institution's focus, and standard teaching load. And it has never been difficult to switch the order and length of teaching and research paragraphs.

  47. This comment has been removed by the author.

  48. But expecting candidates to submit their own recommendation letters is absurd, and, as many above have pointed out, undermines the whole process. I've never seen my letters from my advisers and other grad school professors, and my department runs its own dossier service to facilitate that. I was strongly advised to waive my right to see the letters on what we used to call the "Buckley form," and I did. It's my understanding that a copy of that form goes out with the letter, enhancing its credibility. I do have a general idea that my letters are positive and support my candidacy, because our graduate placement director read them over for me (a service the incumbent was still willing to perform when I contacted her a couple of years ago, though she did advise me that I needed more current letters from people who know me now). If that service isn't available (or isn't trustworthy), I've heard it advised that one should have the dossier sent to a friend/professional acquaintance at a university other than one's own, as if for a job, and let him/her look them over with the same intent (or pass the letters on to their subject, if he/she doesn't mind the deception involved). That practice may be sneaky, but, since I heard the same advice numerous times, I suspect it was, at least in the early '90s, pretty common (enough so that I'm sure that letter writers were aware of the possibility).

    I have, interestingly, seen the letters written by colleagues in departments where I teach (usually the chair or someone who observed my teaching), because they gave me copies. In part, that may be because very similar letters served different purposes (e.g. a teaching observation letter for contract renewal, which the department member does handle, morphed, with a few changes, into a recommendation letter). Or maybe, as Darla's experience suggests, it's more common to receive copies of one's letters as one begins seeking recommendations from people who are, essentially, peers.

    But what Nella's department wants is still ridiculous, and makes the department look bad, and will drive away good candidates. You may not be able to change the practice this time, Nella, but please don't get the idea it's in any way normal or acceptable. If I were to apply for your job, I would send a single PDF with everything else requested, and note in my cover letter that, because of confidentiality constraints, I don't have copies of my letters, but have had them forwarded under separate cover by a dossier service. And my packet would land in the "no" pile, which might or might not be a good thing for either or both of us, but you'll never really know if you reject candidates who try to find a reasonable way of dealing with an unreasonable request (*short* emails asking that you accept letters from a dossier service strike me as an equally reasonable approach, though perhaps a bit more time-consuming for you).

  49. FWIW, I have been asked to submit copies of my rec letters, and I have copies from most of my references that I can use. After all, the school can call the person and confirm it.

    I was once tossed into a 'no" pile. I "didn't complete my work history" because I couldn't remember a supervisor's name or give a phone number for a summer job I held 30 years ago washing dishes at a chain restaurant.

  50. I'd feel more sympathy for Nella if she said "it's the system I was told to use and I'm doing the best I can with it." instead of "well, 40 people managed to do it." The ability of some people to jump through the hoops does not mean that the hoops are reasonable or useful.

  51. "open MS Word and start using it"

    What version of microsoft word produces PDFs?

    I use open office and it's idiot proof - there's a little red button to click at the end and it's done. But I've spent hours trying to figure out how to do it with MS. I don't care about anyone's tone or how a job search is done - I'm just here for the info. I ask because it would be great if I knew how to do that.

    Oh - I've done what it says when you enter "PDF" in the help search box, but when I click "save as > PDF" it just gives me another help window describing what a PDF is. WTF?

    I mean I could do most of this (not the reference letters, but that's been discussed to death) without a problem, but I don't see how "open MS Word and start using it" is a reasonable thing to say.

  52. Wombat: there is a pdf option in Word 2007. I use it sometimes. Do a "Save As" and pdf should be an option. Given that this is MS Word I am surprised it wasn't buried about 10 levels down...

    That doesn't the fact that some of the requirements Nella's department has set are a bit much. (I'm still struck by her refusing a letter from 2010>)

  53. I wonder if we have bootleg software here. I do that and just get a window opening that explains what a PDF is.

    It wouldn't surprise me to find out we have bootleg software. We have to click the "go anyway" warning to get to the campus e-mail from campus computers. It's literally what we're instructed to do and it has been like this for years. Yeah, don't figure out what the warning is about or anything, it's probably fine and it's probably not a waste of the time and money you put into the new pain in the ass firewall that was put up without fixing the old issues.... IT inspires the composition of run on sentences, sorry.

  54. Wombat: There should be (if you've installed the software) a print to PDF option. Go to "Print..." and in the "Printer Name" drop-down menu, look for a PDF option (usually Adobe, but there are others). See how simple and not at all unintuitive it is? Why wouldn't you click on "Print" when what you want to do is "Save"?

  55. For the "Print to PDF" option to work, at least Word 97-2003, I believe you need to have a PDF printer installed (I think some later versions of Word may have a "save as PDF" option instead). That means you've either installed the full Adobe program (which costs money, but can combine PDFs) or a free PDF-printing program. If someone else has set up the software on your computer, it will feel like the "print to PDF" option is a native part of Word, but take it from someone who had to ask for admin rights on her office computer so she could install a PDF printer: it isn't; it's an installed printer, just like any other printer. To the best of my knowledge, you can't combine pre-existing PDFs in any version of Word (except, perhaps, by cutting and pasting the text from the PDF and making a new Word document). I'm not sure what free options are available for that task, since I have a (very old) copy of the full Adobe program.

    Hmm. . .this comment thread seems to have broken a tradition of the internet: instead of devolving through the flinging of more and more outrageous and personal insults, it has evolved into people offering each other practical help. I think Cynic, who took Nella's particular position and point of view into account, might be responsible for beginning to turn the tide.

  56. Late to the game and just had to make an account to post this for the first time, like a number of others here.

    I'm a grad student at a prestigious R1 on the job market for the first time, in the humanities. My diss adviser has always been academically supportive, but is notoriously difficult to deal with personally. I believe wholeheartedly that he wrote me an excellent recommendation; however, he has made my life absolutely miserable already by ignoring deadlines and not sending letters out on time. He refuses to submit a letter to Interfolio; I'd rather have timely generic letters than late 'personalized' ones.

    He would never, never, ever, give me a copy of a confidential letter of recommendation. And if I asked him to attach it to the same pdf, I'd be at least 5 weeks waiting, and even then it probably still wouldn't happen.

    Couldn't apply for the job, couldn't be done. If the egos at my university are any indication, I don't think this would be uncommon. It's not about me; he's simply too important to do such a thing.

  57. I've both MS office 2007 and MS office 2003 on computers I own the rights to. In Office 2007, I have native PDF printing capability, but before I upgraded to 2007 on that computer, I had installed GhostWriter, a free pdf program, then I upgraded to Adobe Pro.

    In any of the Office combos, freeware or native, combining multiple files into a single PDF is slightly onerous, particularly if you've prepared all your docs to send out as PDFs. Word cannot edit a created PDF, so you must first get all of them into the original Word file and then print to or save as a PDF.

    With Adobe Pro, you can merge docs and do some editing, but I certainly wouldn't put it on the required software list. It has some features I find nice for other stuff.

  58. One more reason to switch to Mac :-) printing from any texteditor allows a user to save file in pdf format. Merging pdf files in a single document is also very/very/very easy. I know understand what Nella is after: they need a Mac user as a candidate :-)


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