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Eigen

2017-18 Job Market Support Thread

49 posts in this topic

All the conflicting job hunt information is confusing and overwhelming to me but thank you @Eigenand @spunky. I'm glad to know I was doing the right thing.

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So I was thinking about this when I submitted my application. The uni I applied to had a statement in their job description stating that they value diversity (making emphasis on gender diversity) as well as applications from underrepresented groups (which, if my memory serves me right, in Canada it means indigenous people, women, visible minorities and people with disabilities). There’s even an optional form you can attach to your application if you choose to self-identify as any of those groups. I fall in 2 of those categories and thought about filling out the form, but then I ended up getting all kinds of peculiar advice both for and against it. I got everything from “these jobs are hard to get so if they’re giving you the option to boost your application you should” to “your qualifications should speak for themselves irrespective of your gender/race/sexual orientation/etc. You don’t wanna be known as the diversity hire right from the start”. 

I ended up not saying anything to appear just like any other regular candidate. However, if I don’t get an interview I’ll be left wondering whether or not self-identifying as a minority could have helped.  :(

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42 minutes ago, spunky said:

“your qualifications should speak for themselves irrespective of your gender/race/sexual orientation/etc. You don’t wanna be known as the diversity hire right from the start”. 

I ended up not saying anything to appear just like any other regular candidate. However, if I don’t get an interview I’ll be left wondering whether or not self-identifying as a minority could have helped.  :(

Frankly jobs are so hard to get and there are SO many factors beyond getting the "best" candidate for the job (whatever that means) that go into making a hiring decision, that I would not hesitate to utilize any advantage given to me. Keep in mind that once you're hired, no one is going to know what box you did or did not tick in some form, so if someone wants to think you were only hired because you are a minority, they will go ahead and think that and nothing you can say or do will change that. Since you're dealing with the disadvantages that come with that status, why not make use of the tools they have in place to even the playing field? (disclaimer: not that I am all that sure that that legalese and those forms actually do anything.. but you never know.)

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Definitely do it. I can't speak so much for the situation in Canada, but it's typical for diversity to be ranked extremely high in importance at my current school. For one, if the pool is not diverse enough (or not enough people identify as diverse), it's not atypical for the search to be cancelled and re-advertised. For another, generally, if there are two relatively equally qualified people, preference for a hire will likely to go to the person with demonstrated diversity. 

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@spunky, my experience has been that the HR forms about disability and diversity aren't actually accessible to the hiring committee (at least not in the USA). Personally, I'd say fill out the forms honestly. Also, in all honesty, there are many other ways for people to learn about your background and see whether or not you're diverse (e.g., have you ever won a diversity award? Are you active in organizations for women in science, first gen students, etc.?) by looking at your CV and experiences.

Tenure-track job ads in one of my fields for next year have started trickling out. I'm looking forward to largely being able to ignore them for once.

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On ‎5‎/‎23‎/‎2017 at 1:52 PM, rheya19 said:

I'm just starting my PhD program, but my school's department posted this websites with PhD student career guide info. It's mostly geared towards Humanities grads, but I think there is some useful stuff for any of us here. I hope it's helpful!

 https://connect.mla.hcommons.org/doctoral-student-career-planning-faculty-toolkit/

Thanks so much for posting this. I am an entering Ph.D. Lit student this fall and this is a second career for me. While I knew some of this stuff, having it all located in one place is great to have. I have interviewed for positions multiple times over the years, but this is a new field for me and timelines are always different.

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This is all good stuff peeps, thanks! I guess I dropped the ball on that one, I’ll remember it for next time. I mean, my name in itself is sufficiently ethnic that people may be able to deduce that either I was not born in Canada (which is the case) or that my immediate family is not from Canada. But then again who knows… this is my first time at this rodeo! :D

I did have to meticulously scrub some social media stuff, remove pictures from my website, etc. Basically the whole “If I were cyber-stalking myself, what would I find?”

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I love how supportive everyone is in this thread. @spunky asked something I've been wondering about as well so thank you!

Different question: I got a preliminary interview for a place that is exactly where I want to start (small, liberal arts, teaching focus, etc.) but the leading member of the department believes strongly in a theory I vehemently disagree with. Everyone in an academic department is, of course, entitled to their opinion/niche and I wouldn't worry about working with someone that doesn't agree with me. However, I've heard you should be careful with how you talk about those theories during the interview process.

Have any of you had the experience of interviewing with someone who is quite different from you in academic theory/practice? What are some good ways to be respectful while also expressing your own theories even if they contradict or clash with the hiring committee members? 

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5 hours ago, ProfDag said:

Have any of you had the experience of interviewing with someone who is quite different from you in academic theory/practice? What are some good ways to be respectful while also expressing your own theories even if they contradict or clash with the hiring committee members? 

Not a formal interview, but I've given "job talks" at places where an audience member is an opponent of an idea/model/theory that I was working on and speaking about. The advice I got was to ensure you show them that you know about their work and that you acknowledge it. Ensure that you aren't presenting your idea/theory/work as the only correct method. I would first present the research question, then talk about how your chosen theory can answer it. Then, say something like, "However, this is still an open question, and Prof X here argues that ...." State why their work is good but then professionally highlight why you would disagree. Don't be afraid to also mention the weaknesses in your chosen theory. I would try to end on some common ground. I think as long as you are open/honest about differing opinions and don't make it personal, it should be okay! 

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I've been thinking about long term jobs a lot lately as well. I'm confident in my ability to compete for permanent positions as they become available. But I'm geographically constrained, and the available full time academic jobs post- post-doc (including tenure track) don't pay enough to live comfortably close to work (which I define as no more than 3 hrs a day of commuting). A couple of my fellow postdocs are re-branding themselves as data scientists, which pays 2-5 times our potential academic salary. That seems like an increasingly good idea to me. It turns out that stable housing and the ability to one day retire are more important to me than "saving the planet," at least compared to when I was in my 20s.

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So I'm prepping for my interview and there is one question that I know almost all schools will ask and I'm very hung up on it. "What is your experience with diverse student populations?"

I struggle a lot with this question because I think it's unfair in some respects. Particularly, I feel like it forces candidates to justify something that isn't in their control; the overwhelming white upper-middle classness of R1 universities. I have only taught at R1s and there is almost no diversity! Because I can't directly address the question to my experience, I feel like I try to either justify that lack of experience or use my own personal identity as a proxy for experience with diversity. I am not sure what they're looking for with this question especially when so few R1s are extremely or notably diverse. I've even considered being up front about the fact that I believe it's an unfair question but that simply sounds too negative.

My best approach (so far I think) has been to say that diversity is important because it teaches students to be open to points of view they don't necessarily agree with and that my courses are good at giving students the critical thinking skills necessary to have those conversations. 

Has anyone else had similar struggles with this question? Does anyone have more insight into what kinds of response they're looking for?

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Whenever I am asked one of those questions that I don't have experience with, my go-to strategy is to say something like "I don't have much personal experience with this but I have given this some thought, and here is what I think I would do/what I think is important in such a situation", and I try to bring it back to where I can speak with confidence. I don't think you want to justify anything, that's not a good approach. I think you want to acknowledge the truth of your situation and state it as fact, then show that you are a thoughtful candidate who can deal with all kinds of situations. A similar place where this may come up is "what is your experience advising undergrads/grad students/theses/dissertations/etc?" At some point as a young applicant, you will basically have no experience, and the committee will know that. So you just straightforwardly say "I haven't had the opportunity to advise [whatever], but based on my experience as an advisee, here is what I imagine my advising style will be (or: here is what I think matters most in an advisor)". Similarly if asked about teaching something you've never taught before, dealing with a difficult advising situation, etc. It's really about showing that you're a mature candidate who can do the job, more so than demonstrating that you've already done every aspect of it on some past occasion.

For the diversity question, you want to say something about what you take diversity to be, why it is important, and how you can address it. It should be less about generalities, more about specifics. No one is going to say that diversity doesn't matter when asked that question, so just saying that won't teach the search committee anything interesting. It would be more helpful to describe *how* your courses can encourage critical thinking and *why* that is important for promoting diversity. If you've thought about how to promote participation from underrepresented student groups, talk about that here. Be specific and give details. Bonus points if you can give examples of things you've done as a TA or instructor that are relevant. This can be about selection of materials (is your syllabus a collection of works by white males or have you thought about inclusion?), about discussion topics, etc. There are lots of ways to bring it back to your comfort zone. 

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I think if you've experienced a significant lack of diversity, that can tail really well into the "why diversity is important" end of things, using your personal experience at an R1 to talk about why you think more diversity initiatives are needed and how you'd go about them. 

For me, personally, racial diversity hasn't been something I've had as many opportunities to work with, but I am passionate about getting girls and young women interested in STEM, as well as in working with first generation students- and I've had a lot more opportunities to work with both of those groups. 

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On 7/2/2017 at 6:12 PM, ProfDag said:

So I'm prepping for my interview and there is one question that I know almost all schools will ask and I'm very hung up on it. "What is your experience with diverse student populations?"

I struggle a lot with this question because I think it's unfair in some respects. Particularly, I feel like it forces candidates to justify something that isn't in their control; the overwhelming white upper-middle classness of R1 universities. I have only taught at R1s and there is almost no diversity!

Please do NOT say what you just said here. R1s are full of (perhaps invisible to you) diversity. There are LGBTQIA+ students, first generation students, veterans, students with children, etc. in amongst the students in your R1 classroom whether you realize it or not. Addressing what you've done to ensure those students are welcomed and included in your classroom is something you can and should be able to address, even if there wasn't visible racial diversity in your classroom.

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Thank you both so much! I took the approach suggested by @fuzzylogician and I got a very good reaction! I even got an on-campus interview.

I just want to state that I am a woman, bisexual, first gen college student from a conservative, religious family and a racially tense area. I'm not saying I don't care about diversity or understand it is often invisible. I'm also not saying I don't see it on my campus. I'm saying I don't see it much in my personal classroom. It also doesn't mean I don't teach to it; in the interview, I addressed several specific instances where I've taught and engaged students with diverse case studies and topics. I just find the question as it is framed in interviews misleadingly non-specific. But I believe many things about getting hired in academic and non-academic settings alike are misleading. I believe they often ask questions about one thing when they actually want to hear about something else. Diversity is one of those areas. Like right now on my campus, diversity is explicitly reserved for conservative politics; but before it was mostly focused on LBGTQ+ issues. It's like trying to hit a moving target especially interviewing in a subject area that often directly addresses diversity alongside current events and social climates. The place I was interviewing for is near where I grew up and diversity is a tangled mess of conflicting ideas there which is also difficult to address in an interview.

On a different note... I'm not sure if I should do the on campus interview, not because I don't want the job but because they implied that they were hiring for Fall at the end of the interview. Even though my application specifically states I cannot start till spring and the job announcement stated they were looking for both Fall and Spring, I'm worried they aren't aware of that fact. Is it possible they just do the hiring for the full year at once? Should I mention this to them when we're making arrangements? Or should I trust that they are aware of my possible start date?

 

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I would trust it. 

We just ran a search at my school that had a Fall/Spring start date. The preference was for someone who could start in the Spring, but we wanted the most qualified person irrespective of when they started. 

My guess is that your situation is similar- they have a preference for when they want you to start, but that's not the most important part of their hiring criteria. Either they hope there's a way they can get you there in the Fall, or if they really like you would do something for a stopgap in the Fall and hire you in the Spring.

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1 hour ago, ProfDag said:

On a different note... I'm not sure if I should do the on campus interview, not because I don't want the job but because they implied that they were hiring for Fall at the end of the interview. Even though my application specifically states I cannot start till spring and the job announcement stated they were looking for both Fall and Spring, I'm worried they aren't aware of that fact. Is it possible they just do the hiring for the full year at once? Should I mention this to them when we're making arrangements? Or should I trust that they are aware of my possible start date?

 

Congrats on the interview, and yes, definitely go. If they make you the offer, you can negotiate the start date. We're talking TT, right? That means it's a long-term investment, and they should be willing to wait for you for one term, especially when your materials also made it clear that you'll need it. Either way, it's good practice. If they do pick you, and they can't push the start date to a time that works for you, you can always decline. Better have that problem than turn down the interview before trying. 

As for vague questions.. I find that they are helpful because they allow you to steer the conversation in a direction that you're comfortable with. This was one piece of advice I got from a trusted advisor that took a while to figure out but I now think is extremely helpful: answer the question that you want to have been asked, not necessarily the one that you were asked. So take their question and work into the something that you are comfortable answering (obviously closely related, but find a way to bring out your strengths, even if they didn't precisely ask about them). Vague questions are good for that, because they allow you a lot of leeway to do that. 

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Sooo... on an interesting turn of events, I received an email yesterday from the hiring committee which attached a PDF file with the exact same… uhm…“self-identification diversity form” (don’t know how else to call it) that I inquired about on my previous post. The email I received stated that said form was an important piece of my application package and would very much appreciate if I could fill it, sign it, and email back a scanned copy ASAP. I guess my very ethnic-sounding name must have clued them in :lol:

On the bright side it tells me they’ve reviewed my application and they haven’t tossed it on the “no” pile yet (yaay!). On the not-so-great side… well, it forces me to deal with the delicate issues of race and race relations which I generally try to avoid. They define a visible minority as someone who is “non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour”. I’m one of those Latinos who (at least as verified by 23andMe) has a mix of 70% European ancestry and 30% Indigenous/South American ancestry. Which I guess gives me just enough European features to pass as your average “white guy”, but once you hear me speak with an accent you can readily tell I wasn’t born in an English-speaking country. 

I guess I’ll just self-identify as a minority and see where that gets me. I honestly didn’t really think it was such a big deal, LOL. 

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1 hour ago, spunky said:

Sooo... on an interesting turn of events, I received an email yesterday from the hiring committee which attached a PDF file with the exact same… uhm…“self-identification diversity form” (don’t know how else to call it) that I inquired about on my previous post. The email I received stated that said form was an important piece of my application package and would very much appreciate if I could fill it, sign it, and email back a scanned copy ASAP. I guess my very ethnic-sounding name must have clued them in :lol:

On the bright side it tells me they’ve reviewed my application and they haven’t tossed it on the “no” pile yet (yaay!). On the not-so-great side… well, it forces me to deal with the delicate issues of race and race relations which I generally try to avoid. They define a visible minority as someone who is “non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour”. I’m one of those Latinos who (at least as verified by 23andMe) has a mix of 70% European ancestry and 30% Indigenous/South American ancestry. Which I guess gives me just enough European features to pass as your average “white guy”, but once you hear me speak with an accent you can readily tell I wasn’t born in an English-speaking country. 

I guess I’ll just self-identify as a minority and see where that gets me. I honestly didn’t really think it was such a big deal, LOL. 

Your interpretation could be correct (I don't have much experience here) but it could also have a less complicated interpretation too. Most places that want to collect this data would want to do it for all applicants, because then you could look at statistics like what fraction of applicants of a certain demographic made it to the interview stage compared to the applicant pool as well as the population of the country as a whole. It could be standard practice to ask this of any applicant that didn't include this information initially.

The employer I work for now only collected this information from me after I accepted their job offer. When I started this week, HR mentioned the form again and confirmed that it was not for "affirmative action" type programs, but rather, just to see how the demographics of their employees compared to the demographics of Canada as a whole. i.e. the info is only used in aggregate statistics to "monitor" or track the population of employees, but not used to make decisions. They could be lying, but since they only asked for the info after the decisions, I think it's honest.

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10 hours ago, TakeruK said:

Your interpretation could be correct (I don't have much experience here) but it could also have a less complicated interpretation too. Most places that want to collect this data would want to do it for all applicants, because then you could look at statistics like what fraction of applicants of a certain demographic made it to the interview stage compared to the applicant pool as well as the population of the country as a whole. It could be standard practice to ask this of any applicant that didn't include this information initially.

^This. Most often this is just straightforward bureaucracy and means nothing about the status of your application one way or the other. HR is trying to collect stats on who is applying for positions, and this most likely won't factor into the search committee's decision. 

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30 minutes ago, fuzzylogician said:

^This. Most often this is just straightforward bureaucracy and means nothing about the status of your application one way or the other. HR is trying to collect stats on who is applying for positions, and this most likely won't factor into the search committee's decision. 

Especially if there are diversity requirements on the search. For instance, at my school, the search committee doesn't even see the candidates until our diversity officer has looked over the demographics. If the search isn't diverse enough, it gets re-advertised until the pool is deemed diverse- and this all happens before the committee sees any of the results. 

So it's also possible the search didn't meet muster, and they're hoping some people declined filling out the forms and are re-sending them to everyone in the hopes that they can continue the search.

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Posted (edited)

Greetings! 

I'll be on the market this year mainly for postdocs. I'm a little unaware on how important this is, how long it takes, and the fact that I'm actually on the market so I am consciously doing these little things to force me realize. So, here I am! I'm so ready for the stupid questions I may ask!

For example: There is this postdoc position I want to apply for but there is no reference as to whom to address the cover letter. The only reference is "Dean of Studies" but the dean isn't doing the search so I can't address the letter to him/her. I was going to go for "Search Committee" such as University of X, Department of Y, Postdoctoral Fellowship in W Studies Search Committee, what do you all think? 

Edited by AP

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On 7/12/2017 at 11:05 PM, TakeruK said:

Your interpretation could be correct (I don't have much experience here) but it could also have a less complicated interpretation too. Most places that want to collect this data would want to do it for all applicants, because then you could look at statistics like what fraction of applicants of a certain demographic made it to the interview stage compared to the applicant pool as well as the population of the country as a whole. It could be standard practice to ask this of any applicant that didn't include this information initially.

The employer I work for now only collected this information from me after I accepted their job offer. When I started this week, HR mentioned the form again and confirmed that it was not for "affirmative action" type programs, but rather, just to see how the demographics of their employees compared to the demographics of Canada as a whole. i.e. the info is only used in aggregate statistics to "monitor" or track the population of employees, but not used to make decisions. They could be lying, but since they only asked for the info after the decisions, I think it's honest.

 

On 7/13/2017 at 9:54 AM, fuzzylogician said:

^This. Most often this is just straightforward bureaucracy and means nothing about the status of your application one way or the other. HR is trying to collect stats on who is applying for positions, and this most likely won't factor into the search committee's decision. 

 

On 7/13/2017 at 10:25 AM, Eigen said:

Especially if there are diversity requirements on the search. For instance, at my school, the search committee doesn't even see the candidates until our diversity officer has looked over the demographics. If the search isn't diverse enough, it gets re-advertised until the pool is deemed diverse- and this all happens before the committee sees any of the results. 

So it's also possible the search didn't meet muster, and they're hoping some people declined filling out the forms and are re-sending them to everyone in the hopes that they can continue the search.

 

Thanks. I guess that makes sense. I was kind of excited because, although the email was not signed, the email address from which it was sent belongs to a professor in the program I applied to (yeah, I Google-stalk sometimes, LOL).  That made me think "oh wow, profs area already checking out my stuff! Great news!" But who knows, maybe it was just his secretary getting all his paperwork in order.

I guess I'll find out soon enough anyway.

 

 

 

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4 hours ago, AP said:

Greetings! 

I'll be on the market this year mainly for postdocs. I'm a little unaware on how important this is, how long it takes, and the fact that I'm actually on the market so I am consciously doing these little things to force me realize. So, here I am! I'm so ready for the stupid questions I may ask!

For example: There is this postdoc position I want to apply for but there is no reference as to whom to address the cover letter. The only reference is "Dean of Studies" but the dean isn't doing the search so I can't address the letter to him/her. I was going to go for "Search Committee" such as University of X, Department of Y, Postdoctoral Fellowship in W Studies Search Committee, what do you all think? 

Good luck! I am very glad to be out of it for at least a year, maybe two. 

When no contact person is named in the job ad, I did what you were thinking: some variation of "Search Committee", "Hiring Committee", "<Fellowship Name> Search Committee" etc. This is what most profs do when addressing their letter of reference for you too, I believe.

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