How big a part does academic pedigree play in hiring decisions?, asks Douglas W. Portmore, a blogger at Pea Soup.
To find out, he proposes that search committees conduct blind reviews of dossiers:
Insist that candidates submit dossiers that contains blinded copies of everything, such that the files that are prepared by the staff and then passed on to the hiring committee members are assigned only a number, containing no information as to the candidate’s name, gender, or associated institutions. The writing sample would, then, have to be prepared for blind review. The C.V. could only list degrees but not the institutions from which they were granted. Teaching evaluations would need to be summarized in such a way that they contain no information about the candidate’s institution. And letter writers would be asked to write in such a way that both their identities and the identities of their institutions would be indiscernible. Only after the hiring committee reviews the files and settles on a list (or ranking) of finalists would someone on the hiring committee be allowed to go back and verify the information, verifying, for instance, that the letter writers were indeed people who knew the candidate in the capacity stated in their letters. This procedure would, then, eliminate the possibility that one candidate might do better than another simply because her graduate program is more prestigious or simply because her letter writers are bigger names in the field.
If academic pedigree is a major consideration in hiring, as he and many others suspect, then, he says, the $64,000 question becomes, How does that affect candidates over the course of their careers? Portmore’s conclusion: Potentially a lot.
Of course, it’s possible to scratch and crawl your way out of a less than ideal job, but it’s not easy and the deck is stacked against you. So if pedigree affects your chances of landing a good job right out of the gate, then it also affects your long-term chances for success.
Of course, as About the Edge of the American West’s Dana McCourt is quick to note in an excellent response to Portmore’s proposal, pedigree “cuts both ways.” Also see Brian Leiter’s response
(hat tip: Benjamin L.).
Readers, tell us what you think.