Thursday, May 05, 2016

Finding My Biases in the Job Search

Reading applications makes me think about my own biases.  The nature of bias is that you aren't usually aware, but you can work on thinking about biases, and try not to let unfair biases affect your decision making.  (Fair biases might include being biased, in this search, against someone who didn't study interdisciplinary basketweaving but somehow is applying to the job.)
In reading these applications, I'm finding that I'm biased against certain institutions which sound, well, "flaky" to me.  If someone did their degree at Compass Point State University, I nod.  But if someone did their degree at the United Basketweavers Institute, I tend to feel a bit skeptical.  I might look it up on the web to make sure it's accredited, for example.  Of course, if I were a real Basketweaver, instead of an outsider, I might know that UBI is a superb place to study interdisciplinary basketweaving.  Or, I might know that it's not.  But as it is, I find myself feeling skeptical.
I also tend to be skeptical of people whose degrees are in basketweaving management, rather than interdisciplinary basketweaving or one of the numerous specialties within basketweaving.  I guess someone has to know how to manage basketweaving, but I'm skeptical that that person is ideal for teaching interdisciplinary basketweaving, and theories of interdisciplinary basketweaving, and international interdisciplinary basketweaving.

As a Shakespeare person, I've thought a bit about what Shakespeare people are like.  I think we like to think we're hip and such, but we're less hip than medievalists, for sure.   (Where hip stands for doing the latest cool theoretical thing.)  I think we tend to either like authority, the great chain of being sort of hierarchy, or we fantasize about knocking it down.  At least that's the fantasy until we become the authority, or have a fairly high spot on the hierarchy, and then we're as strongly in favor of hierarchy and authority as any Victorianist or Dryden scholar.  (I think of Victorianists and 18th century scholars as more hierarchical, with Romanticists pretending to be anti-hierarchical, but secretly being super hierarchical.  Obviously, my biases are wrong in many ways.  Except the part about medievalists being cool and hip.)

Shakespeare still has a lot of cultural capital, so being a Shakespeare person, you sort of get that.  But you also get a negative reaction from people who hated Shakespeare in High School or people who think all Shakespeare people must be stuffy and snooty.  (Those same people often think medievalists would be boring and stuffy, but they're wrong, obviously.)

I'm aware of age bias, so I don't look at dates beyond making sure that the applicants are qualified and either have their PhD or are just about there. 

I've now read through all the applications, and have put them into our agreed upon groupings based on their qualifications as demonstrated through their letters and such.  I really appreciate the applicants who've addressed the qualifications we advertised directly. 


  1. I like your hierarchy of hierarchical-ness!

  2. Medievalists are SO cool. Love them. I also quite like Shakespeareans though. Really, anything pre-1642 is good.

  3. Heh. I do look at dates, but mostly because I find people who -- like me -- have somewhat non-traditional careers interesting. And I like to give them an extra look.

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