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Friday, January 12, 2007

Reasons for Non-Selection of Job Candidates

If you are on the job market, you might wonder why you didn't get an initial interview or a follow-up interview with a particular school. At my school official non-selection criteria are used. Here are the most important ones (slightly reformulated so as not to step on any administrator's toes).

(1) Degree-granting institution not as strong in the field as those of the candidates selected.
(2) Candidate accepatable but candidates selected have more/better publications.
(3) Insufficient publication record considering the length of time.
(4) Reseach/Publications not appropriate to position as advertized.
(5) Area of specialization overlaps significantly with those of current members of the department and/or does not fit with the needs of the department as advertized.
(6) History of difficult interpersonal relationships.
(7) Dissertation not completed and insufficient evidence that it will be by the end of the year.
(8) Degree in a field not compatible with the needs of the department as advertized.

A note is added to the effect that (1) should be applied cautiously for females whose choice of school was dependent on her spouse's career, because - as they say - in such cases the candidate may not have had the 'luxury of choosing a top-ranked school for her work'.

I couldn't resist quoting the last part. I find the suggestion as such rather crude in its formulation. As for the selection criteria: they would have made it possible to reject Wittgenstein. But of course that is consistent with the views of both parties in the current debate.


Aidan said...

In (3), is that length of time since graduate degree received?

Brit Brogaard said...

I suppose that's what they mean. I have been on two search committees at my current institution but didn't see the "rules" until today (or maybe I just didn't look at them). Needless to say, I did not create them. And I think the part about women following their men around the world is rather primitive.

Clayton said...

I'm not a huge fan of (1) [Disclosure: I'm from an unranked department, but I'd like to think I'd think this even if that weren't the case]. It doesn't seem that as a general rule institutional affiliation tells you much once you've already taken into account CV, writing sample, interview, fit, etc...

My $.02, which I'm not promising is worth quite that much.

Brit Brogaard said...

Right, I'm not a huge fan of (1) either. Admittedly (1) might be helpful when there is nothing else on the C.V. (yet). But obviously publications count more than pedigree. Just so happens that students right out of grad school rarely have publications. I am surprised the school rules do not mention letters. I give the most weight to letters (if there are no publications).

Aidan said...

Also (re: (6))), are there non-interpersonal relationships?

(I'm tempted to ask if there are non-difficult interpersonal relationships too, but I'll refrain)

Brit Brogaard said...

Oh yeah. Relationships with cats, dogs, type-writers, desks, armchairs, and conference dinners (not to mention intra-personal relationships). But a history of difficult relationships of this variety is apparently not regarded as problematic.

Alan White said...

Hi Brit--and a belated happy new year!

This is interesting to me because I'm in the middle of plowing through a few dozen dossiers for a t-t position in my institution (don't bother looking it up on Leiter!). Of course, we look primarily for strong teachers, though one cannot earn tenure without at least a couple solid publications. (And our track record on post-tenure publishing has been pretty amazing.) But your post made me curious enough to ask this: what is the place of teaching in your decision-process? More specifically, is it generally a necessary condition to be a good teacher to be hired at more research-oriented institutions? Can outstanding publications trump mediocre evaluations in the classroom? (Though don't get me started on what constitutes a genuine assessment of good teaching. . .what a briar-bush that is!) Do you require a teaching demonstration? (This I thnk is the best indicator of classroom performance.) Thanks in advance for any input.

Aidan said...

"Oh yeah. Relationships with cats, dogs, type-writers, desks, armchairs, and conference dinners (not to mention intra-personal relationships). But a history of difficult relationships of this variety is apparently not regarded as problematic."

Oh right. Yeah, that was a little short-sighted on my part.

Brit Brogaard said...

Happy new year, Alan. We do not typically have candidates on campus. We typically just talk with selected candidates at the APA meeting and then make an offer.

But I find it very time-consuming to do it that way. It requires reading the candidates' work (dissertation or publications) very very closely. Since we rarely have candidates on campus, we do not require a teaching demonstration.

Teaching does not play a large role in our decision-processes. I think the hope is that good research will lead to good teaching. Personally I am not sure how much a teaching demonstration can tell you about a person's teaching anyway (the candidate may be nervous with all the faculty around even if she wouldn't be in a regular setting, or she may have rehearsed the presentation so many time that she gives the impression that she is an excellent teacher when she is really not -- or wouldn't be in a regular setting).

At my old school teaching played a large role in the decision-processes, and a teaching demonstration was required. At both places the people we have ended up hiring have been really great teachers.

So I have become convinced that there are two ways to get great teachers. The second route (which involves hiring people with a solid reseach potential) may fail more often than the former, but I don't think the difference is significant.

As for the non-selection rules, I am sure the school as a whole puts a lot of emphasis on teaching but our dean puts slightly more emphasis on research. His opinion of course shapes the opinions of the department chairs and t-t faculty members, and so on.

I think outstanding pubs can trump mediocre evals at our school.

Alan White said...

Thanks so much Brit--if there's one thing I can count on at your blog--it's honesty. If there's a "No-Spin Zone" that Rupert Murdoch would hate--it's yours!

The Brooks Blog said...

These comments are really terrific---thanks for posting them. I was curious about how one decides that a candidate has interpersonal relationship problems worth worrying about? Are referees asked about such things? What exactly would warrant a problem beyond the usual (e.g., criminal conviction)?

PS Happy New Year as well! Of course, it was a pleasure meeting you at the APA!

Bryan Frances said...


Speaking for myself (and as someone on a search committee), interpersonal relationships figure in in two places.

First, if someone just can't get along well, and quickly, with strangers, for instance, then they might have real difficulty teaching.

Second, who wants a colleague who lacks basic social skills? All other things equal, I'll take the socially intelligent person over the social misfit. In fact, I might take the first over the second even if I know that the second is a better philosopher. Part of what I want in a colleague is someone who can help me with my own research, and that typically requires us to communicate other than with just email.

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cstars said...

I'm with several of the commenters, here: 1) we do not care all that much about 'pedigree,' especially as grads from those programs tend to want to end up at those places; 2) we care a lot about teaching/promise as a teacher; 3) interpersonal problems can be a real deal breaker. As to the last: we have heard of a candidate who lost a tt line because s/he pushed a Dean beyond endurance; not smart. We know someone whom we will not interview because s/he has a reputation as just an unpleasant person. As Bryan notes, we want colleagues with whom we can converse and cooperate.

Brit Brogaard said...

Sorry for the delayed response. I have been traveling and settling back in. I agree that interpersonal problems can be a real deal breaker. But I doubt that you do not care all that much about pedigree. Maybe you really don't. But I find that surprising. In some cases the candidate's pedigree might be one of few things you know about them before interviewing them. Of course, you always have the letters and a writing sample but letters are good or bad only relative to the letter writer. And who writes for the candidate partially depends on his or her pedigree. As for the writing sample, hardly anyone reads every writing sample before narrowing down the pile of applications.