Thursday, December 29, 2011

Duffer Darryl from Dallas on Search Committee Dynamics.

We're nearly done a fairly boring job search process. There haven't been any big blowups, no crazy scenes. Work got passed around. We had some votes. Most things made sense.

We're hiring two positions, we're a small department, and we got along just fine.

There was one guy we didn't invite to campus and I guess that was the only decision that went against what I thought was right. But the whole process had been so calm and normal it didn't even occur to me to complain.

Then today I was sitting in the lounge with another tenured proffie from the committee, Judy. We were not in committee mode; we were just shooting the breeze.

I suddenly said, "Hey, why did you and the rest vote against that one candidate, the guy from Florida?"

"Oh," Judy said. "All that talk in the phone interview about golf! My sister's husband is a golfer. He spends all his time on it; his clubs alone cost more than a thousand dollars. It's really wasteful. And he's gone 5-6 hours three or four times a week. We don't want someone like that teaching here. We have too much to do. You can't just take a whole day off to go golfing in the middle of the semester."

I looked at her open mouthed. I'm a golfer. She knows it. I have a tie with golf clubs on it. It's a bit of a running joke that if I'm not in my office I'm probably golfing. He didn't have much to say about golf, but I'd actually brought it up because I asked a question about what he did to unwind from the pressure of a heavy teaching load. All he said is that he played, and knew that Dallas and environs was good golf country.

"That's ridiculous," I said. And Judy was now open mouthed. "I taught my 9 and 10 am classes today. I had an office hour. I went and played 9 holes with a neighbor at Stevens Park, and got back here for our textbook meeting at 3. Am I doing something wrong?"

"How can you play that fast?" she said.

"I play 9 holes in about 90 minutes. Lots of us do. 18 holes I might play on a weekend, and that can take 5 hours if I have lunch and some drinks. But surely you spend time on the weekend on things just for yourself, right?"

"Well, you know me," Judy said. "I've always got my grading with me."

"Yeah," I said. "But your kids? Your husband? Don't you have your mother over in Ft. Worth you go visit on the weekends? Didn't you take her someplace last week during the week? Weren't you off campus all day, in fact?"

And at that point I'd gone too far.

"Well, golf is a silly hobby. Just look at your tie," she said.


  1. At least you hired nice people. Search committee dynamics do not always guarantee this.

  2. At least you hired nice people. Search committee dynamics do not always guarantee this.

    Indeed. It looks like at least one of the previous searches in your department dredged up some real sludge.

  3. Hostile work environment, followed by a campus-wide awareness campaign. It's surprising and disapoointing to see this type of open prejudice in this day and age.

  4. This bespeaks work-life balance problems. Remind your colleague that you're not purchasing a machine: you're hiring a human being, and for a job that requires careful thought, at that. Whoever is hired will need some time off, without departmental intrusion, on order for her or his mind to work effectively. If being ineffective is acceptable, ask your colleague about how much she'd like to do all that search committee work again, since that's what's likely to happen.

  5. That's unconscionable -- and your department may have lost a really great hire. I hate people who think that any time not spent working or taking care of family is "wasted." These are usually the same people who have benefited from maternal and caretaking leave policies.

  6. But here's the thing. With a razor thin margin between the right candidate and the almost-right candidate, you can't take a chance on talking about how much you love golf, hiking, your family, or warm weather retreats.

    You have to grin and tell them that you might just live in your office, so great is your love of committee work, grading, and kissing the Dean's butt.

    Plus, have you ever met a golfer who wasn't a bit of a right wing asshole? I haven't.

  7. Dr. Jekyll: Our college rejected a possible new hire for the same reason. One of my colleagues said that he had used a particular decision technique to evaluate the candidate and his conclusion was that this candidate would just play golf all the time.

    Prof. Hyde: It is so easy to hide the real reason you don't like a candidate.

  8. Several years ago, I was interviewed by a college but I didn't get the job. Something about there not being a "fit" or some such thing. I wasn't given any details, though my personal interests were never discussed.

    Then there was a company I worked for many years ago. During my interview, the department head said he wasn't happy by the fact that the personal activities I listed on my CV (back then, one could do that) were of a solitary nature. By being interested in reading and listening to classical music was, in his mind, an indication that I wasn't a team player.

    Despite that, I got the job but I spent the time that I was employed there being frequently reminded of how much that same department head despised me. After 10 months of making my life miserable, he fired me.

  9. Christ. What douche wankery. I know (at least in part from talking to some of these folks, which is weird, but it's a small sub-field--what can you do?) that I lost jobs for similarly inane reasons last year. WTF folks?

    In the end, it doesn't matter. I walked into an interview where my department campus tour guide was singing the same piece in her choir as I was in my one at home (both secular). We sang the same damned section, had a good rant about how high the sanctus is for sopranos, and she's become one of my best friends in the department.

    However, I still think it shouldn't have to be the world's! most! perfect! fit! ever! in order to be a hire or a campus visit. Christ. "Not offensive in any way" does not equal the person for the job. Blah.

  10. I wish I could say that these were not places anyone would want to work at, and yet I know that any place is now a place someone wants to work at. But still, choose golf. Choose life.

  11. I think all search committee members should have to read Bob Sutton's book, mark, observe, and inwardly digest its contents, before interviewing anyone. That's what we all mean by "fit", we just don't say so, but it really does matter. Golf doesn't matter. We just want to find a way not to hire a complete jerk.


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