I am curious as to why search committees decide to go back to the applicant pool after an initial round of interviews? I know that sometimes applicants sound better on paper than in person, but it seems unlikely that out of (usually) 3 candidates, none of them would be chosen for the job. Or, is it that the candidates chosen take other positions?
Date: 16 Dec 2014 19:22
Number of posts: 2
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It can be a combination of taking other positions and people not turning out well in person. Lets say you're a SLAC and you didn't do phone interviews, or they weren't that informative. Then when your three candidates show up, two of them are awesome, and the third complains about students/teaching or asks questions that truly demonstrate s/he doesn't understand the college's mission. Well the third person will not get hired, period. Maybe the other two take other offers. Maybe your first choice person is first choice lots of other places and chooses one of them. Maybe your second choice person doesn't get the offer from you in time to have to make up his/her mind on another job but would have selected you if given the chance. Third choice is unacceptable, so you move on to another set of people.
Some people give very bad job talks, which matters at all institution types. Or they give a polished talk and can't answer a single question reasonably. That's REALLY bad. As a graduate student I saw a talk like that from one of the candidates and quickly realized that her record was probably just from riding on the coattails of her prestigious lab. If it's obvious to the grad students you're not doing well, then you're not doing well.
I think it's very rare to bring in 3 people and have them all be "not good enough" (though it happens at certain schools year after year!) but it's easy to have one dud and have the others take offers elsewhere. Excellent candidates usually get multiple offers.