I know it's too early to be worried, but I'm worried. In the event that I don't receive any campus invites, is it acceptable to contact someone on the search committee to request feedback on my application? My understanding is that it's more common to solicit feedback if you make the short list, but what if you don't make it beyond the phone interview or, heaven forbid, if you aren't contacted at all?
Date: 23 Oct 2012 17:40
Number of posts: 34
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I'm just another anxious applicant, so I don't necessarily have any expertise, but one suggestion is that if your advisor (or someone else you know well) has a good relationship with someone on the search committee, they may be able to make inquiries for you. I would not feel comfortable soliciting feedback directly.
One additional comment (coming from a veteran applicant), based on your "heaven forbid" language: You might want to get used to fact that the majority of the applications you submit will result in no additional contact beyond an application acknowledgement and eventual rejection. All job postings receive many applicants and only a small minority get phone interviews. This is why it's important not to get too hung up on any one particular position.
That's a great idea; thanks very much for the suggestion.
I wouldn't say that I'm hung up on a particular position; rather, I'm concerned about not receiving any phone or campus interviews at all. Thus, my interest in receiving feedback is more related to understanding whether I'm making any general missteps in how I frame myself and/or in my application materials.
Assuming you are talking about R1 jobs, if a person has not made a short list or been called for an interview, there is not a lot of information that is going to be provided that one cannot know already. The first "cut" is usually made based on numbers of publications. Job applicants often do not realize what the pool looks like. A vita that feels pretty good (even to a person's adviser) might not actually be competitive in a particular year's pool. People who have a competitive publication list are not left off short lists because of some odd idiosyncrasy in their application materials (printed on weird paper, submitted with a 2- 3 page rather than 1 page research statement, etc.). There might be weaknesses in a rec letter, but no one could tell you that anyway. At least in the R1 context, the modal reason is number of publications. There will be some candidates from schools that everyone knows don't really produce people who have lengthy vitas but are known to produce strong scholars. Such individuals might make it a little further along, provided they have excellent letters.
I think the next step is more "is this person's research area what we really want?" There will be times when a person's vita stands out in terms of numbers of publications but the area in which they work simply is not a good fit to what the department or committee is looking for.
In my view, there is not a lot of mystery here and basically it comes down to productivity and area of scholarship. I would add that a great to way to get a sense of this is to sit on a search committee. My department always includes at least one grad student on our committees. These students don't vote on hires but they do provide input and get a very good sense of how quickly decisions are made, what the standards are, etc. The truth is, in terms of the first "cut," there is not a lot of mystery (and perhaps a great deal less thought that one would imagine/hope). (I have chatted with a few advisers when a student did not get short listed and my answer is always the same, "You would not believe the quality of the pool!")
I fear that my post above put too much emphasis on quantity over quality. Surely if someone has fewer pubs but these are in outstanding journals that is taken into account. For instance, if someone in developmental has a Child Development or Developmental Psychology that is weighed more heavily than 2 or 3 papers in lesser outlets. If someone has a Psych Review ! or Psych Bull ! or some Psychological Sciencesthose are pretty big milestones that weigh, again heavily. If a person has fewer pubs overall but some first author papers (vs. lots and lots of down the line authorshipslike 3rd author on a 5 author paper) that will weigh more heavily as well. So, certainly quality matters a great deal.
I hope this doesn't sound harsh, but in terms of the first cut, there is not that much a person can do with a packagea really snappy research statement is not going to make up for a lack of strong evidence of productivityof being down in the trenches doing research and publishing it. The worst case scenario for a department is not so much missing out on the opportunity to hire someone with great potential—yes that can happen but it is not what is dreaded. What is dreaded most is the hiring someone who will not be tenurable: Someone who will come in and not let us give them tenure by not producing. No one anywhere (okay, maybe a couple places but generally) WANTS to be in a position of denying someone tenure. The only "hard" evidence we have, essentially all we have to go on in making that prediction, is the person's scholarly productivity, including its quality, quantity, and independence.
Your insight is very helpful and interesting, BeenThere; thanks for passing it along. Yes, I am talking about R1 or R2 jobs. In some ways, it's nice to know that the initial cuts aren't based on a nuanced set of criteria. Of course, I suppose it doesn't give much hope to candidates who might be a great fit, but who don't have enough publications to get a foot in the door. In your experience, is there an approximate minimum number of publications a person would need to have in order to make it past the initial cuts at an R1 or R2? For example, I have six (four first-authored; two second authored); none in top journals like Child Development, but all in respected second-tier journals like Journal of Research on Adolescence. Is it postdoc time, or should I hold out some hope? Or perhaps it's not possible to answer given the idiosyncrasies from one school to the next.
Most of my interviews last year were in Jan and Feb. many schools dont start looking at apps until December.
I think that the idea of "minimums to get noticed" vary widely across areas of psychology. And, again, very much depends on the pool of applicants. I would say that in developmental the area of research is a huge factor. There are so many distinctions made, between cognitive and social development and within that, lifespan, infancy, childhood, adolescence. It might well be that a particular department is looking for someone in a particular niche but not make that clear in an ad. Good luck!
I have two experiences with this. On my own job search (I'm developmental), I interviewed at a low tier R1 and was passed over for someone who had only 2 pubs in journals I have never heard of but did infant research (the only "development" they counted), which I don't do. I had many more pubs in all the top journals. Research area was much more important to them.
Now I'm on the search committee of my very good R1 state school, and we are totally open to research area, but will likely only interview candidates with many pubs, and in good places. The social search last year interviewed only candidates with Psych Sci pubs, with the rest being in JPSP. They had 4 people who all easily fit that.
I'm with the others, there's no way to know what a search committee is looking for (and they don't know until they see the candidates sometimes). Just apply!
Just have a question to those who have seen the search committee side at research universities regarding the above post. Let's go on the example in social psych stated above. Assuming that there are about 10-15 really good (R1) universities hiring this year and only about 4 people fit the criteria for having Psych Science or JPSP publications… I assume that these 4 people will get most of the interviews at those schools (we know this is common - superstars who interview at multiple places), but in the end they can each take only 1 job. What then? Or is it the case that there are easily enough strong candidates on the market each year so that the search committees can stick to their rule of "has to have a Psych Science or JPSP" and still fill the jobs with candidates who also complement existing research at both R1 and R2 universities without problem?