May 21, 2013, 3:17 pm
“Dr. Incredible” announced her retirement with plenty of notice, so the department conducted a national search for a successor throughout the academic year. Her academic specialty was not particularly hard to come by, but she had been a terrific colleague and leader on the campus, a super-professor who was a mentor for dozens of students, led significant committees, and produced serious scholarship. She even had prepared baked goods for Monday mornings and had donated financially to the department to enhance faculty travel and student scholarships.
As the search committee began to review applications, it became clear that none of the candidates were the next Dr. Incredible. They were solid but not spectacular, promising but not omni-capable. Committee members began to believe that there was no way to replicate their about-to-depart colleague and said so publicly in the faculty…
May 10, 2013, 1:43 pm
Recently I had a conversation with a search-committee chair who was seeking to fill the need for a strong teacher-administrator for an academic unit. The position was administrative in title, but it carried with it a 50-percent teaching load. Having consulted on such searches in the past, I asked a question I’ve learned to ask in conjunction with this kind of position: What are you doing to vet candidates’ teaching abilities?
I have found that search committees consistently interview candidates for teacher-administrator positions based solely on their administrative chops. After all, this is the primary concern for the position, as even a 50-percent teaching load really tends to be less than that in terms of the actual day-to-day functioning of the position. That teaching load, however, is a pretty big role to have detached from the considerations, especially if the position is in…
May 2, 2013, 3:13 pm
Academic couples know all too well the problem of having two bodies involved in the academic search. Let’s suppose for a moment that a couple has located two very good positions at the same institution, in two different departments. One person, however, has administrative aspirations and moves into departmental leadership with significant success. An opening comes up at the next level of leadership, the deanship or even a vice presidency, but then comes the trailing next step of the two-body problem: nepotism in leadership.
Many institutions have rules against couples being involved in a supervisory relationship; while this role can be sidestepped at lower levels of administration, the higher the level, the more complicated this becomes. In the case of an institutional move, the complications become even greater. At smaller institutions, in particular, it is difficult to create a…
April 23, 2013, 2:38 pm
Sarah shared with her doctoral-program mentors the joyous news of her first job offer from a relatively small teaching institution. Several of them said, “What are you countering to their offer?” She was surprised, figuring she should merely be appreciative of the offer itself.
They started peppering her with items she should ask for. Relocation expenses? A research assistant? A library allowance? Travel money? Those were not that surprising as she thought about it, but then they pressed on: a full-time, tenure-track position for her spouse? An interest-free loan for a house or down payment? Deferred compensation? A two-day teaching schedule? As they continued, she expressed her hesitancy that she might overreach and end up undermining the offer, or at least ruin the start of her career. One of the mentors pressed her hard: “Look: they want you; make demands. A good administrator will…
April 5, 2013, 3:04 pm
My all-time favorite phone-interview story is not from the job market but from a professor’s radio interview, by phone, to promote a new book. The interview occurred at the same time as a bout of stomach virus. He was terrified that he would lose the long-scheduled interview if he asked for a postponement. He tried to juggle the phone in between the waves of discomfort, speaking as expertly as he could and trying not to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation.
At least in a phone interview, people at the other end of the line can’t see you. The radio audience probably never knew what was happening in the background. But I’m sure that folks have had similar experiences on academic-job searches.
The bigger challenge occurs when the on-campus interview has finally arrived, only to coincide with a personal challenge or tragedy. I myself have awakened in a hotel room on the morning…
March 20, 2013, 3:18 pm
This is the time of year when deans and department chairs dread the unexpected request for a meeting with a faculty member about an unspecified topic. A resignation may be coming, and our hearts flutter a bit at the thought of having to scramble to cover classes, conduct a late search, or, worse yet, engage in an uphill battle to fill the position the following year.
I have sat on the listening side of the desk enough to know that while I am sad to lose a colleague and perhaps a dear friend, people who submit a resignation usually do so with a heavy heart. I’ve had only a handful of departures that were purely about salary or teaching load. By far the most common reasons for moving are personal: professional advancement, social opportunities, or family necessities. The latter may involve factors like finding educational services for a special-needs child, caring for an aging parent…
March 13, 2013, 1:42 pm
While there are occasional exceptions, most colleges that extend invitations to job candidates for on-campus interviews provide reimbursement for their travel expenses. Most professional organizations affirm the practice, as does basic good manners.
Since travel involves the expenditure of actual money, I am constantly surprised by how long it takes for reimbursements to be processed in some situations. Oddly, this cuts in both directions: Sometimes visitors take weeks or even months to send in their receipts for reimbursement; worse, sometimes institutions take forever to process the receipts. This is particularly egregious in the case of graduate students because dollars are dear to them and having to carry interview expenses as credit-card debt is downright odious. When the interview fails to result in a job offer, it merely adds insult to injury to have to semi-grovel for…
February 25, 2013, 1:04 pm
On Seinfeld, George Costanza once tried to decide if he should tell a girlfriend that he loved her, which would be the first time he had uttered that phrase. When he discussed the situation with friends, Jerry warned him that it was a huge risk: the unreturned “I love you.” As he phrased it, “That’s a pretty big matzo ball hanging out there.”
The internal candidate in a genuine national job search faces the same conundrum. If you apply, you risk having your colleagues on the search committee fail to return your metaphorical love, which can lead to hard feelings. Members of a search committee cannot (or at least should not) reveal their private discussions, and when internal candidates are not selected, it can lead to all sorts of prognostications and even rumors.
I have been an internal candidate for several positions that involved national searches, and it was always awkward and a…
February 15, 2013, 12:57 pm
One of my all-time favorite Dilbert cartoons shows the evil Dogbert making a public announcement that, due to an impending weather event, all nonessential personnel are free to go home early. The final panel showed him looking out the window with binoculars and a clipboard, saying, “The next round of budget cuts will be a piece of cake” (or something like that).
Since we are in the season of weather events that sometimes include the rather infamous statement of “only essential personnel must report to work,” I thought I would throw this question out. Faculty members are essential to the institution but may work from home on these days. Some support staff members and administrators are in the same circumstance: They may telecommute on such days. Many other employees are unable to do that, however, including housekeeping and maintenance staffs who may work harder than ever on such days….
February 11, 2013, 11:35 am
One of the most difficult things about the job search is the monkey wrench that appears out of nowhere, upending what had been a smooth process. There is no bigger monkey wrench than the unexpected resignation of a campus leader.
When I was on the market for the first time, a phone interview turned into an invitation for an on-campus interview. I could not believe my good fortune and was very excited about the opportunity. Three days before the interview, however, the search-committee chair called and told me that the president and the board of trustees had become entangled in some sort of fight and that the president had resigned. The campus was in an uproar, he further offered, and he felt like it would be wrong for them to interview me in the midst of such turmoil. While I was sad about the lost opportunity to land a job, I was grateful for his forthrightness.
I know an…