Thursday, October 25, 2007

Random Update 2

Token Ignoramus (August 31, 2007 post): I am being a dutiful search committee member for a faculty search in a field that is far beyond my expertise. Although I found the initial organizing stages of the search to be painful (e.g., insider gossip sessions by faculty close to the field in which we are searching), once we started reading and discussing applications, things got much better.

At the most recent meeting, I was annoyed because only 3 of us had read all the applications – the search committee chair, the grad student representative, and me – although the meeting had been called to discuss all the applications. So now we have to have another meeting. It definitely takes a long time to read 100 applications. Am I less busy than the others on the committee? Is the fact that I made the time to read these applications proof that my life is unbalanced? I prefer of course to think that I am more efficient, but I recognize that I could be delusional about that.

I was happy to find that many of the applications are interesting, and some are intriguing. I do have some biases – there is one whole subfield of this field that I find boring. My department has invited a lot of speakers in this subfield in recent years. I will listen to my colleagues if any of them make a case for this subfield, but we haven’t had that discussion yet because the others haven’t read all the applications.

Memo to people actively applying for faculty positions now:

(1) Spell-check your application materials.

(2) Make it clear at the top of your CV what your current position is.

(3) Use your academic or business address/email if you have one, not your home address and your cute hotmail or yahoo username.

(4) If you are seeking to leave a tenure-track or tenured position, do not write in your statement/cover letter that all your colleagues are morons, you are the only one in your department doing transformative research, and you just can’t stand being in such an intellectual bog anymore. Perhaps this is true, but it would be better to explain your interest in leaving in a more positive way; e.g., mentioning interesting opportunities at the place to which you are applying rather than denigrating your current colleagues.

(5) Re. mentioning or not mentioning your spouse/partner: I don't have any particular advice about this because there is so much variation in how different places deal with the issue of 2-career academic couples. In the recent applications I have read, I saw 3 different classes of behavior with respect to this issue:

1 - not mentioned at all (even if the applicant is part of an academic couple); I think the lack of mention is entirely appropriate. It may be very relevant eventually, but it is not relevant at this early stage.

2 - explicit mention of being in an academic couple; I think this is fine as well. If someone wants to mention it, that is their right. In some cases it might make it easier for the university to be proactive in finding a good solution.

3 - explicit mention of not being in an academic couple; this is a political maneuver. It didn't affect my opinion of an applicant's credentials one way or another, but I thought it was bizarre to read in a cover letter/research statement something like "My wife, who is a [insert name of very portable job], and I are both very excited about the possibility of moving to X." Is there any reason to mention this other than signaling that you don't have a potential complication? I use the example of a "wife" because that is what I saw in this batch of applications.

17 comments:

Female Science Professor said...

I may be more efficient, but I am not more organized. I lose things too..

One of the committee members who did not read all the files has an extremely neat office, and he came to the meeting with his lunch in little containers -- he even had neat little Condiments and Utensils. My office is stacked high with piles of stuff and I drank my lunch* that day. I think perhaps I prioritize things in a different way than some of my colleagues.

(* juice)

Anonymous said...

re spouse issues: maybe the coupel in option 3 does not see her job as so portable. My husband works in supply chain management, and although one would think it's a very portable job, he is currently in a different city bc he could not find a good job in the large metropolitan areas where I live. I am applying (pretenure) to a different institution, and one of the drives is that it's in a city that would offer more opportunities to hubby. But I did not mention any of this in the application, and tried to be as positive as I possibly could be reg my current job... took some deep breathing ;-)

Amy said...

I, too, find it frustrating when others show up to meetings unprepared. It's not a matter of how organized you are, but of what your priorities are. It's insulting to others not to do the work required for a meeting, since they all gave up precious time to attend this meeting. I get really tired of the "Oh gosh, I'm just an absent-minded professor" types -- I think this is very often an excuse for avoiding work and letting other people take up the slack.

By the way, excellent advice to job candidates.

EcoGeoFemme said...

FSP, you seem to be super productive, so you must be efficient because you also talk about other aspects of your life (daughter and vacations) and don't sound all spastic about your job. Teach us...

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree with ecogeofemme- tell us your efficiency secrets.

Ms.PhD said...

Based on my experience, I am going to bet that guy with lunch in little containers = guy with wife who makes lunch and puts it in little containers

Twice now I have complimented coworkers (both asian men) on their lunch food containment devices, and both times they credited their stay-at-home wives.

You actually READ the applications? I thought rule #1 was that nobody actually reads the applications.

Also, I'm confused. You said you know nothing about this field, but that your department invites speakers who work in this field. Either your department is very broad, or I am just missing something.

Female Science Professor said...

"Nothing" was an exaggeration. I don't do research in this field, but I attend talks on topics in this field and have colleagues who work on some aspects of this field. I am the least knowledgeable about this field of anyone else on the committee.

Female Science Professor said...

I am secretless with respect to efficiency. I prioritize and try to get as much done as I can and still have fun and remain sort of sane.

Anonymous said...

Do you care to comment about what you would look for in a research plan? Should it be short, long, detailed, high-level, etc? I'm a non-academic looking switch from industrial-lab to the green grass of University life.

Female Science Professor said...

I like research statements that start with the big picture, have detailed information about recent and ongoing research, then ends with description of plans for near-future research (ideally demonstrating that the candidate has ideas and the 'vision thing'). That's all..

Anonymous said...

could you expand on how you prioritize? as a junior faculty I find myself pulled in too many different directions...
often times I respond to deadlines (eg grants) rather than write papers, for example. I am trying to change my ways by devoting 2 hrs each day to papers only, but I've only tried it for a week (with no grants deadline in sight) so I don't know how long it will last!

Unbalanced Reaction said...

re. spouse issues: It (almost) makes me glad to be single! Not being a two-body problem has certainly opened up a lot of job possibilities that I wouldn't have considered otherwise. :)

Female Science Professor said...

anonymous - That's excellent if you devote 2 hours/day to writing papers. There's no way I could spend 2 hours that way on some days, but I try to do something on a paper most days, if only moving along the technical aspects (e.g., references, tables, formatting etc.). It's fine if you have to set aside paper-writing temporarily as grant deadlines or conferences loom, especially if you've been making progress in between.

Kelley said...

I think what amazes me that you were asked to look at 100 applications. It seems like the HR office and/or the chair could preview and pull out the people who are obviously unqualified. My HR department complains that not enough of us are willing to serve on search committees, and think it signals apathy on our parts about who we work with. I'm on a committee FOR our HR department looking at their procedures, and pointing out all the ways their correspondence and procedures are inhospitable to those of us who voluntarily look at all of those applications and attend what end up being pretty much useless meetings because no one has defined what we should be looking for.

VWXYNot? said...

re: email address. I just applied for (and got!) a new job, and I couldn't use my business account. Our company is known to read employee email, and it is the kind of place where if they know you're looking for other jobs, they'll fire you anyway. I had to set up a new gmail ccount as my regular one was, as you said, too "cute"!

coderprof said...

"Our company is known to read employee email..."

Some sort of alternate, professional email address with forwarding is useful in these cases. In my case, for example, if I don't want job hunt-related emails going to my current employer, I use my Association of Computing Machinery (acm.org) email address that I receive as part of being a member.

This maintains a professional appearance, while avoiding potential issues. This is mainly a problem in the corporate world. Perhaps as many as 33% of businesses will read employee emails (with some not telling their employees about it). I would be shocked if any university read employee emails. The fury from faculty would be intense if it was discovered.

EliRabett said...

You can get compartmented lunch food containers at just about any Asian supermarket. My wife is nuts for them, but not nuts enough to make me lunch each day. I like the fresh fruit and veg