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.
8 years ago