Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Thoughts from the Other Side of the Market

For the first time in my career, I'm reading job applications through an on-line format.  That means our applicants have to upload things in a specific format, and we have to try to keep track of them in new ways, and on line.

It's really different, and makes me realize how much I like taking notes at a desk with things spread out before me.  I don't have a good space to write notes at a computer because there's always a keyboard around.  On the other hand, since we were never supposed to take paper application files out of the department before, we'd all come to campus and read applications.  On more than one occasion, I was reading applications in droves on a Sunday, while other people on the search committee (or another search committee) were also trying to read files.  We'd be there, three or four faculty folks, bleary eyed, reading the many applications, taking notes, plugging along into the upper-midwest dark on a Sunday evening, knowing we had an early meeting on Monday to discuss candidates.  There was a certain camaraderie to that, especially since most people in my department get along pretty well.  But the idea that I could read those same applications in my PJs at home is enticing, for sure.

On the other hand, there are difficulties opening some of the files because they're supposed to be loaded in one format but some people upload them in other formats.  So, a quick note to candidates: whatever format they ask you to load up in, please use that.  (And if ours isn't clear about the formats it wants, I'm sorry to be critical.  I don't know what the system looks like on the candidate end, and that might be a problem.)  It's really hard to open up stuff in different formats, though our computers use those same formate regularly for everything else.

Another quick note: as always, candidates, make sure your materials are complete.  I'm not sure, because its hard to tell, but it looks like something I read starts not at the beginning.  Maybe it doesn't, or maybe the candidate put something in there that's way different from what everyone else has submitted.  I can't tell.

I'm at that stage in my career where I'm way more likely to know the people who write letters of recommendation than I am to know candidates.  One of my colleagues is on the other side, and hir comments made me realize that I've moved on.  We English department types could play seven degrees of Michael Berube or something as we read the files.

The good news is, I've been able to procrastinate on some grading (though probably for longer than I should), and from what I've seen, the candidate pool is really strong.  There are so many really fine candidates out there that it gives me hope, even up in icy country where we sometimes have difficulty enticing people in some fields.  (Accounting is a tough one, for example.  Lit, not so much.)  On the other hand, for candidates, well, there's some serious competition.  And not many jobs to go around.  It's the latter that's the really bad news for all of us.


  1. I'm on a search committee now too, and find the online format so frustrating, although it is nice not to have to share paper files with other committee members.

    I am so impressed with the quality of applicants. The profession has changed so much since I was in grad school (my PhD was granted in 1990--back then, grad students didn't have anywhere near as many publications and national conference presentations as so many do now). So much talent!

    And such gorgeous CVs, too. On top of everything else, so much layout talent.

    I will admit to a certain irritation at people who apply who are clearly not in the field we've advertised, and don't even seem to try to show how they fit the ad. I am puzzled by that--if it's a serious app, why not try to guide my interpretation of a record which seems, on the face of it, to be Not in The Right Field? And if they know they're not in the field, why apply?

    But mostly, I"m very, very impressed by the applications I"m reading. And even the Not in Field folks often sound quite interesting (if not appropriately qualified for our posting).

  2. Also searching, and our online system is *terrible* (though it is in the process of replacement).

    Really impressive candidates. But I do wish the cover letters were not so generic. Even if we were Standard University of Whatever, it would be nice to say something about people here, location, students, program, SOMETHING.

    Sorry. I probably pay way too much attention to the cover letter, but I do like to see that they have looked at our website.