Tuesday, December 20, 2011

From the Other Side of the Process. Randy from Redlands With Some Advice For Job Seekers.

I occasionally read this page for a little fun. And for the most part, your writers get the details right. Students need to be held to higher standards, the adjunct crisis is ruining higher ed, and old silverbacks need to do more or get the hell out of the way.

But too many of you have it all wrong on your complaints about job hiring.

We want to hire you. We want YOU, personally, the person whose dossier we're reading right now, to be the one. We want to find a completely legitimate and wonderful colleague right there in the process. We can't wait for the process to be over, and we'd love to give you the keys to your office and your little part of our kingdom more than anything.

But you have to help.

Here are some mistakes our TOP candidates have made this year so far:

  1. Braindead Brenda, in a Skype interview, called our college by the wrong name at least twice. (I think 3, but a colleague talked me out of it.)
  2. Ephemeral Elsie spoke sprawling and incomprehensible sentences to things like: "Tell us how you use technology in the classroom." She said "ethos" so many times I wanted to puke. Answer the question. We don't need you to justify technology as a device in the larger pedagogical concerns of ideas and markers. We actually want to know how you use it in your class, with students, actually!
  3. Twitchy Tony, also in a Skype interview, kept looking nervously around his own room. Look at the camera. We're in the machine, Tony. I thought he was on speed.
  4. Googling Gordon. In another Skype interview, he seemed to fail to understand that we could actually see him frantically typing on his computer during the interview. My realization that he was looking up answers came when this exchange occurred: "Gordon, tell us what particular courses of ours in the department you're suited to teach?" Tap tap tap. "Well," Gordon started, tap tap tap, "You see, I've taught so much, and uh, I'm sure that the classes there are similar to other classes where I've taught, as I was saying, like where I am now," tap tap tap, "But getting more directly to your point," tap tap tap, "Uh, is there, like, a survey course? Right, like a general course? I could definitely," tap tap tap, "Like 350!!!!! I could teach 350." (It took all my strength to say, "We've discontinued that course.)
  5. Hot Harry told us at least 3 times that he had a full slate of interviews at a national conference. He told us that it had been hard to schedule us because the response to his applications has been so "frustratingly" intense. He even held up 3-4 different colored folders to show us what was on his agenda in his search at other schools.
  6. Settling Sarah went to an Ivy. She taught as a VAP for one year at another Ivy. We aren't an Ivy. She said, "I really don't know how I will feel leaving the Ivies. I feel as though I was bred for that world, and the terrible economy is forcing so many of us to reconsider our paths." 
I hope we don't hire any of them. We have 4 more Skype-rs tomorrow, and then on to the national convention where surely some of these clowns will have to pull up chairs opposite us in our suite.

I pray someone will do the whole thing right before it's all over.


  1. Oh, these are all such fun! I think Googling Gordon is my favorite.

    Can I add Alpha Annie in an in-person interview?

    First, she used the writing sample to criticize and deconstruct the prompt. Then she focused on the white members of the committee, remembering our names, while using the wrong name or no name for the members of color, including the person who would be her future boss. When we'd ask a question, she'd smile condescendingly and say it was a great question, and then avoid answering it, instead giving her talking points.

  2. Anybody like Settling Sarah who thinks she is "bred" for a job must, deep down, consider herself to be an animal like an ox or a mule.

    I do not know how to use Skype nor do I want to learn. This means that I'll need to work harder so that I don't lose my current job and have to look for another.

  3. Nice post. But could you--pretty please?--lay off the gratuitious cheap shots about "old silverbacks [who] need to do more or get the hell out of the way"?

    Sure, there are plenty of slackers out there, but I don't think we silverbacks are overrepresented in this category.

  4. Philip, I think you are missing the running theme of "crap silverbacks do to our department but we can't get them to leave even though they are pushing 80 and still teaching super old-skool racist crap" that runs on this site.

    I loved this post. more please!!

  5. I PROMISE I would never do any of those things...if I could just get an interview.

  6. Thanks--this was fun to read! And scary. Having gone through a search this year, we had a few Settling Sarahs who didn't make the cut.

    I'm worried about a Skype interview. I love talking with family on Skype, but a job interview sounds very intimidating when there is nothing but me on a computer screen for the committee to look at. Brrrrr.

  7. @Philip: You should ask the moderator to let you be a correspondent. I wouldn't mind hearing more about real goddamn misery from responsible silverbacks. But you'd need a more exciting name. How about "Flirtatious Phil From Philadelphia"?

  8. Is it wrong to secretly hope that Hot Harry and Settling Sarah die in a fire?

    Because I soooooo want them to die in a fire.

  9. I wonder if it's as easy to spot a Settling Sarah on Skype as it is in a conference interview? It's dead easy to spot the ones that are phoning it in from across a table, but we could save ourselves a bundle of money if we could spot it via Skype. Not to mention avoiding the aggravation of having to fly to some conference in the Northeast during the inevitable January blizzard/ continental fog-in/ essential services strike.

  10. I probably couldn't handle a single instance of the use of the word "ethos", much less multiples, but... Elsie rambled on because you asked an open question and wanted a simple answer. Next time ask a question that starts with "What" or "When" instead of "How". "How" is the queen of all open question starters, and Elsie was taught you don't give a once sentence answer to a question that starts with "How". Don't blame Elsie. Blame the "Impossible is Nothing" douchebag and everyone who made a douchebag like him possible.

    And in Elsie's defense, admit it - you had some silverback on the committee egging her on with follow up questions to cover up the fact that he stopped paying attention to technology after the mimeograph machine left and took its intoxicating aroma with it.

  11. I pray someone will do the whole thing right before it's all over.

    While I recognize each problem as a problem, I would remind the audience that the applicants tend to be people - biological systems run by highly complex algorithms, incalculable and chaotic. If somebody really makes it through the whole process without doing anything wrong, I'd figure there's something wrong with them - an alien or a robot or something.

  12. If I ever get a Skype interview, I'm going to expect the interviewers to look like the lady in the graphic used to represent hiring committees.

    Ben, if I'm not dead before you retire, insist on being on the committee to replace you, and sit behind a cardboard cut out of white collar woman, please????

  13. WotC, I like the idea of a disguise. Our entire interview committee would wear KISS makeup.

    "You seem to be well qualified for research and teaching but we look for other qualities in our candidates as well. Can you rock and roll all night and party every day?"

  14. Bubba: Silverback misery isn't any different from the various miseries folks write about on CM, except we've been there and done that. This is a place for people to vent, and I don't want to dampen your enthusiasm with comments like "You think this is something NEW? Get over yourself."

    Adjunct angst is a good example: I was a freeway flyer for fifteen years, during which time there were zero full-time job openings in the area I work in. When I started teaching I was one of two part-timers in the department; when I finally got a full-time gig, there were about 60. ALL of my fellow silverbacks where I work put in looooong stretches of adjuncting. So you think the exploitation of adjuncts is something NEW? Get over it.

    In fact, to get my foot in the door, I taught my first college class for free as a student teacher under the supervision of a sexist, racist silverback who should have been forcibly retired years earlier. He showed up to "mentor" the first class session, and that was the last I ever saw of him. He didn't even take my out for a thank-you lunch after the semester was over. So I've been THERE, too.

    I'll spare you the boring details, but students 'way back then were just as unprepared and snowflakey as they are now.

  15. Never mind setting Hot Harry or Settling Sarah on fire. Much more satisfying would be simply to say, "Fine. I'll drop you from further consideration, then."

    @Philip: As a silverback myself who appears to be about to serve his second term as Chair of the Department of Physics (you'd really have thought I'd have wised up after the first), I say: come on. You know far too many silverbacks who richly deserve it. I don't think I've ever seen anyone in CM (or, come to think of it, RYS) claim that any of the abuse we complain about is anything new. I've seen most of it since I was an undergrad, in the '70s. It's still abuse, and we shouldn't have to take it.

  16. Did Sarah ever look around and notice that many of her most interesting Ivy-League professors didn't start or spend their whole careers at Ivies (or notice how hard it is to get tenure at an Ivy)? While I have no desire to see her in flames, I wouldn't mind seeing her surrounded by the scalding steam of an espresso machine ("two skinny lattes with whipped cream, coming up!").

  17. Frankenstien: Who said we should sit back and take it? Not me.

    And, sure, there are plenty of silverback slackers, but there are plenty of non-silverback slackers, too. I was objecting to the implication that "silverback" automatically equals "slacker."

    My experience is that most slackers were always slackers; their slackitude didn't begin yesterday or last year or in the last decade. And, as I said earlier, I don't think silverbacks are overrepresented in this category.

  18. @ Philip - While I agree that older and more powerful colleagues are not any more often slackers than anyone else, the slacking aspect is strongly implied by the use of the word "silverback." According to our glossary, silverbacks are "often" considered "deadwood." So technically I'll grant your point, but the word "silverback" does strongly connote deadwood, at least on this blog.


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