Are applicants getting advice from somewhere to make informal contacts with departments (e.g., email, phone, stopping by) when they apply? There seems to be a spike in this type of behavior, but it is definitely a practice that HR warns against.
Date: 21 Sep 2015 19:02
Number of posts: 10
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Yeah, anonbanon, we're all a little bit desperate, but I don't see what you could gain by doing this. (I'm an applicant that hasn't even thought about doing this).
I know that when you apply for grad school that the advice is to contact a potential advisor to see if they are taking students (good advice!), but what could you possibly learn from contacting the faculty search chair that wouldn't already be in the ad?
I didn't say I support the idea or think it's a good idea. I just meant that when the job market gets this tight, people will start looking for any way to increase their odds (whether it willwork or not) of getting a job…
I have no idea how anyone could think that would increase your chances. The job ad states what the department is looking for. The vague ones that list two areas are more difficult, but when you email the chair they are just going to tell you to apply because everyone will be looked at. To be honest, as a search chair, that would probably put me off. The vast majority of your questions can be answered by looking online and reaching out for silly questions makes you look lazy.
To play devil's advocate, I think it's sometimes ok to contact someone you know in the department about a job. Though in retrospect, I think that the two times I did this I was invited to apply, so maybe it's different.
I agree. If you have a friend/colleague in the department, putting out a feeler email seems fair game to me. But to randomly show up at a department? That just seems so strange.
In many cases I've found that job ads don't clearly indicate what the department is looking for, because they are a patchwork of verbiage written by various constituencies who don't necessarily agree on what they want. It's also pretty common for the text of the job ad to ask for one set of documents while the UI for actually applying demands another. These are cases where reaching out for clarification would seem to be a sign of conscientiousness, and not necessarily looking for a leg up, especially if the job ad provides the name of the department chair or search chair as the person to whom such questions should be addressed.
I only speak from previous experience on the market where I've asked for clarification and just been told "if you feel that your research can fit that, then apply."
Asking for clarification regarding materials to send in is something entirely different, IMO.
As someone who hit the SLAC hard last year with success (10 ish phone interviews, 5 campus), I had luck with this approach.
That being said, I only contacted chairs if 1) there were multiple jobs openings at one institution that I thought I was qualified for and wanted to know how to handle those apps (mention I was applying to both? Separate cover letters? etc) or 2) their ad was extremely vague or I was unsure if my research/teaching area would even be glanced at by the committee.
In all cases, I only received very positive feedback. I definitely got a leg-up by using these informal types of contact at at least two schools, because this email started a line of communication I would not have otherwise had.
This MAY only be specific to smaller schools. This DEFINITELY only works if you have an actual question (if you ask something already on the ad, you're going to just look incompetent). I would also suggest VERY SHORT EMAILS ('this is me, this is what I do, here is my question').
Take that for what it's worth, my assumption is it can help and also can hurt depending on the committee chair.
P.S. - the position I eventually accepted was one where the description did not really match my own work and it was only via this type of contact that I decided to apply.