Friday, November 8, 2013

Connie in Conyers With Some Job Misery.

I'm a sad sack in the humanities. Oh, I like my field, but the hiring situation has been especially bad over the years since my degree.

But I'm in the job market in a big way, and in my field it goes like this:

  • October / November: the majority of the jobs roll out.
  • November / December: some schools do phone or Skype interviews, usually signalling their desire to skip the winter national conference interviews - which are, of course, a clusterfuck.
  • January: the clusterfuck conference.
  • Feb / March: the campus visits!
  • April / May: the good and bad news.
It's always this way, as long as I've been in the field.

I got my first bite last Tuesday, a phone call from the search committee chair at a decent university in the middle of the country, a place near where my dad lives, and a place I've even visited to attend a regional conference in a subfield.

It's a tenure track gig exactly in my two main specialites.

They set a Skype interview for me for last Friday, gave me some stuff to review and prep.

The interview was great. The folks were funny - one guy was what you'd call a character, but it was welcoming and made the hour very enjoyable. I felt as though I got out what I needed to say. I even noted one particular sequence of classes they need covered, a sequence I've been teaching for three years now in a visiting position at a great research university in the deep South.

I spent the weekend dreamy, a bad thing to do, of course, looking at Google Maps, wondering about my chances at getting a campus visit in the winter. (Will I have to miss class? That's okay, I'll get a sub.) I don't have to worry about this place for the national conference; more time to see old friends.

Well, the reverie lasted until Monday afternoon when I got a brief email from one of the committee members.

They've hired someone already. Offered, accepted, done. Thanks, though!

How did it happen so fast? Friday at 5 pm they were talking to me. Monday at 2 pm the job was offered, accepted, done.

I didn't even have time to get on

- Connie


  1. You got a rejection note? Back in the dark ages (before Twitter and Facebook, as opposed to the stone age, before e-mail) I received precisely zero replies from any application from which I wasn't receiving a job offer.

    1. Incidentally, that included sites at which they had flown me in for an interview.

  2. What Strel said. They already had someone lined up, but they had to go through the motions that there was a competitive job search so that there'd be a HR paper trail that they "followed the proper procedures".

  3. Agreed, inside job. On the other hand, it's a good sign that an "early-decision place" was interested in you enough to make a good show of it. It's still early.

    Not to make anyone paranoid, but consider the possibility that "all good jobs are inside jobs". How did I get this one? New department head wanted to start a new research area in the department, and heard I was on the market. So he set an up a meeting at the "gigantic annual conference", and I passed the initial test. This in a weak year for TT jobs.

    Once when I was a graduate student I overheard at a party an econ professor say "we don't review unsolicited applications". This was such a shock, it stuck in my mind forever. Of course, everybody has to go through the motions, create the paper trail, etc.

    This means: check with the senior colleagues who like you (who wrote LORs for you) that they're making phone calls. People do that, you know: pester their advisors, co-advisors and postdoc mentors to make phone calls. Phone calls get jobs.

    Also: are you looking overseas? Maybe for a temporary position at Prestigious Research Institute, if nothing else. Might be a good idea (if your personal circumstances allow), you never know.

  4. Hi Connie. You got hosed. They likely had to meet an interview quota of some kind. Your credentials are good enough that you made a good possible candidate, but there's no way they made that turnaround time, with NO campus visit for a t-t job!

    Shake it off. Hang in there.

  5. It's a shame, Connie, and I am sorry for you.

    At our university hires usually work like this. The department or committee identify someone in particular that they're interested in hiring. A call is placed and the person is invited to apply to the position.

    Then a general ad runs in the Chronicle and other department-specific source, and a small group of "finalists" is interviewed, usually by phone.

    if any of those are extraordinarily right for the job, we plan a campus visit for them and the original candidate who was targeted.

    In the time I've been here we normally hire the first person, but there have been occasions where someone from the larger pool has won the committee and provost over.

    1. This has to be most depressing thing I have read on this site. All my incentive to write job applications just withered away. Whatever happened to the ideal of fair and equal field?

  6. Oh, dear. I'm sorry, Connie. Obviously, as everyone else says, there was an inside candidate (presumably one with very similar interests to yours), and they had to go through the motions. At least they didn't go through the motions of a campus visit as well; that strikes me as an improvement on what often happens (as your mental inventory made clear, campus visits are expensive, in terms of time, energy, and emotional investment, even if actual expenditures are promptly reimbursed -- and rarely are they all fully reimbursed, since a several-day visit often occasions things like clothing purchases).

    Since the interview went so well, I'd consider sending them a very brief reply saying that you appreciate them informing you so quickly, that you very much enjoyed talking with them, and you hope to meet some of them in person some day (leaving where vague). My reasoning: (1)It never hurts to make connections (in your field, in an area where you wouldn't mind living), and (2)you never know what will happen with this position, in the short or the long term (for instance, if there's a two-body problem involved, the quick offer to another candidate might be an attempt to keep a partner from going on the market, but that partner might go on the market anyway. By all means stop yourself if you start daydreaming along these lines, but I don't see any harm in leaving a favorable parting impression, and, in the process, leaving the door open. Even implicitly acknowledging that this department handled things as decently as they probably could in the situation -- no pro forma campus interview, quick notice that they'd made a hire -- can't hurt).

    At least it sounds like you've figured out the Skype interview thing. In the present market, that's one very useful skill to have under your belt.

    1. "and you hope to meet some of them in person some day (leaving where vague)" ... but suggesting that if this meeting were to take place in a dark alley brass knuckles may well be involved.

  7. Connie writes:
    I can't thank you all enough for the support and advice. I wrote to the committee this morning and was very appreciative of the chance to chat with them.

    I am, I guess, an "other," someone who reads the page regularly and keeps up with some of the amazingly hilarious high drama! I love it so much. I have my favorites, of course, Cassandra, The Cynic, Academic Monkey, Cal, Fab, Ben, Strelly, etc.

    But I learn something from every post and every comment. This is NOT just an academic water cooler, it's a gathering of terrifically smart and funny academics, the best damn college department and resource I know of.

    Thank you,