Beggars cannot be choosers…or so the saying goes. However, I have to share with you some of my frustration with the academic job application process. I have worked hard on my application, so the least I expect is a "Hey, thanks for applying. Unfortunately, we're not interested. Good luck!", but from what I understand about the process, even this is too much to ask for. There might be a really good reason for why most search committees don't even bother sending out rejection letters, but I am having a hard time thinking of one. I feel as though time and resource (or lack thereof) are not good enough excuses. If a 100 applications come in, and you only short list 10 people, sending out 10 templated emails a day for a couple of weeks will probably take no more than 10-15 minutes a day, if that. Without offending any search committee members who may be reading this, what exactly is the philosophy behind leaving applicants in limbo about a position they're highly likely not going to get anyway?
Date: 26 Nov 2013 19:05
Number of posts: 27
RSS: New posts
I agree this is a bit frustrating, but it can also be annoying getting a rejection e-mail really late. I applied to a job at Columbia last fall (2012) and got the rejection letter this October (2013).
You are right but this is not unique to academic jobs. If you apply for jobs outside academia, more often than not, you will not receive any official rejection.
You both make good points. anon: Agreed that this is the rule rather than the exception, but I still don't think it is right. This is specifically wrong in light of the fact that we are applying to an academic job in psychology. You would think that the department you are applying to would have a decent understanding of the human psyche, the discomfort of uncertainty (for us naturally anxious people, anyway), and the inconvenience of needless waiting. So, if employers generally should be held to a ethical high standard, employers in psychology departments should be held to an even higher standard. Pipe dreams, I know.
I also don't think it's right, I was just saying it's common everywhere. It should be difficult to get a student copy all the emails and send one uniform mass email to everyone. One of the things that I learned from the whole process is that department like to keep the cards close to their chest and not say anything until the process is completely over and a candidate signed a contract. There is always the chance they will go back to the initial pool of candidates and thus, they can't officially reject anyone until the hiring is done. Since it can take months until it happens, the official rejection becomes meaningless in most cases, as you already know you weren't chosen.
I agree with anon. I've sat on a SC and after 3 candidate interviews, we went back to the pool of applicants and then invited 3 more. So it would not make sense for us to reject candidates until the position is filled.
As an over-extended faculty member I'll note that at times, the lack of rejection letter notice may simply be an inadvertent slip from a search committee that has simply too much to do. This can especially be the case with smaller departments and with departments at non R1 institutions where committee members may have a pile of teaching and service work atop their own research duties. In such circumstances, it's easy for "quick and easy tasks" like rejection letters to go unattended. Sometimes there seriously isn't the 10 or 15 minutes in a day available (again, I'm one of those over-extended faculty members!).
For any academic job seeker - keep tough skin, an eye on the email, and an ear on the phone. Good news will come via email or a phone call. Any "letters" are either nonsense (demographic surveys) or bad news (sorry, you're not "the one"). In general, if you go more than about 2 to 3 months past an application deadline without word from a position, it's bad news.
Re: DocJ. Why do you need to do so, can't an administration send email to everyone, or pay a student for a few hours of work? I really don't understand why this is so difficult.
I've applied for about a dozen jobs outside academia. I only ever heard from the ones that interviewed me. So it's no different in the private sector. But I sympathize with you Anonotron. Academic job applications are more involved, and there's more riding on them since jobs in a particular research area are scarce and we've been working towards this career for, well, let's just say a while. I guess this makes it feel worse?
One thing to add to this discussion: It never hurts to write the SC chair to inquire about the status of your application. I wrote one school recently who hadn't even acknowledged my application a month after I submitted it. They never responded to that e-mail, but a few weeks later I got an interview request. So my what-the-sh*t-is-going-on e-mail clearly didn't hurt me (I was more polite in how I asked the question). Last year I wrote 3 SCs to inquire about the status of my application and to inform them that I'd successfully defended my thesis. Two responded the day I sent the e-mail and said that they were sorry but interviews were completed. The third replied a day later congratulating me on defending, and then sent me an interview invite a week later. Long story short, if you feel like you need to know what's going on writing a polite e-mail to an SC chair will not tank your application if you are still in the mix.
Speaking as a search comm member, our hands are tied until after the search has been closed (after a person is offered the position or we choose not to make an offer). From an HR perspective the search is ongoing until the final decision has been made, and as someone mentioned above we might dip into the pool for a second round of invites and thus consider all applications 'active' throughout the duration of a search.
Once the search is closed in the late winter or spring, I agree that applicants deserve an email. When I was on the market, I got system-generated emails from many schools with electronic application portals. For others, I heard nothing. That is not polite, for certain, but you can blame absent-mindedness or excessive workload rather than any ill will.