'Dear Forums ...': Are Speedy Faculty Hiring Decisions a New Thing?

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Questions …

How to Maintain a Collegial Workplace. Q (from larryc): Last night we had our annual holiday party and white-elephant gift exchange for the folks from the nonacademic half of my joint appointment. For the first time, we had it off site — at my house, in fact. My colleagues brought over a potluck dinner and some booze. I built a fire and I set up a bar in the kitchen and showed everyone how to make whiskey sours with egg whites. The talk was about kids and winter activities and how much we enjoy working together. The academic half of my job is pretty much the same, marked by mutual respect and regular departmental happy hours.

Collegiality doesn't just happen, of course. We used to have a toxic, micro-managing tyrant in charge. I hid out in the academic half of my appointment best I could until she was fired, but it has taken years for the unit to get to the place where it is now.

To those of you who also work in sane spaces, how do you maintain department collegiality? What are the little things, the big things, the items beyond our control?

Research Proposal and Cover Letter in a Single Document? Q (from oreo2187): I'm applying for a position in a Faculty of Arts and the application asks for the following:

“Cover letter including a research proposal not more than 1100 wds.”

Initially I had read this as a cover letter, plus a proposal with a maximum of 1100 words, but upon re-reading the wording, it seems like they want the proposal to be included as part of the cover letter? First off, what does that even look like? A cover letters is supposed to be a synopsis of my experiences and skills in relation to the position criteria, no? So how does one squeeze a proposal into this? What portions of the proposal would be included in such a document? Would I just give a general overview of the research proposal (i.e., dispense with intro/research questions/theory/methodology) and exclude in-text citations/bibliography?

I'm uncertain what to do, as this the first time I've come across this particular document request (and I've seen tons). I would email the contact person for clarity, however those people so rarely respond and I fear it might make me look like a weak candidate. I spent considerable time re-writing my research proposal and cutting it from 3,500 to 1,100 words. The idea of injecting it into my cover letter and cutting both down even further has me agitated and questioning whether or not I or the ad's creator have misunderstood something?

Any suggestions?

… and Answers

On Speedy Hiring Decisions. A well-regarded institution at which I am interviewing is moving at lightning speed to fill a tenure-track position for which I am applying. They will make a decision and extend an offer before the other institutions I applied to even hold on-campus interviews.

When I remarked on their speed and efficiency, they said "Well, we know that any good candidates will be applying elsewhere and we want to grab them first."

Is this new?

A (from shrek): Nope, not at all. We do this, and I'm in an R1 in a city that is highly desirable. Why wait? My field is one in which only 50 percent of the Ph.D.s go into academia and the other half take clinical jobs. There's a lot of competition for the stars.

A (from goaswerfraiejen): My field recently eliminated the conference interview, and abandoned the association's jobs newsletter in favor of an online format that lists jobs as they come in. As a result, a few schools have tried to take advantage by extending very early offers in an effort to lock in their candidates before they have a chance to accept offers from elsewhere, or have much of a bargaining leg to stand on.

So, maybe they're trying something similar?

A (from hibush): This attitude is the sign of an effective search committee and department. I bet the offer they make is one intended to make the hire an effective faculty member, not a lowball offer aimed at exploiting the lack of competing offers.

A (from puget): There can be other reasons for speed as well — my department is currently interviewing five candidates in three weeks, with the last candidate leaving next Friday and the department vote on Monday morning. Why so fast? In part, yes, because we want to nab the best candidate quickly, but most pressingly because several faculty members, including the search chair, are on sabbatical next semester, so we simply can't let the process spill over after break. Once we vote, the dean takes over, so we can all go off and let her worry about negotiating. In reality, that probably buys the candidate a couple extra weeks to decide vs. the usual two weeks, since not much will probably happen in the dean's office between December 24th and January 1st.

A (from eigen): My first campus interview this year was in early October, less than two weeks after the application deadline.

The institution extended an offer the next week, and the search was completed (and an offer signed) less than a month after the start of review.

The reasoning was the same as yours — they wanted to be the first on the market with an offer, and were a very highly regarded school. That gave them the best pick of candidates.

A (from tamiam2016): Original poster here. Interesting. Thanks for the responses.

I have two phone interviews scheduled this week and a pretty strong, positive feeling about the on-campus and speedy love-fest last week.

At the "slower moving by default" schools is there any benefit/possible speed-up to be gained by saying — "look, I'm very interested in learning more about this position and moving forward with the process, but it's possible I'll have an offer in hand before you decide on your list of on-campus interviewees. If you think you'd want to take a closer look at me, you'll need to fast-track it."

A (from wanna_writemore): I can't speak for private institutions, but at my public university, our search process is considerably constrained by the dean's office and HR. We work as efficiently as we can, but we can't do anything at this early stage. Later, particularly after on-campus interviews, we might be able to cut a few days out of the process by urging the dean and HR to fast-track our search over other departments. But early on, we'd probably tell a candidate that there's nothing we can do. Also, we would be annoyed and unimpressed if a candidate told us she might have an offer soon and we should, therefore, hurry up before said offer is actually in hand.

A (from ergative): Yes, this. It’d be like bugging the IRS to fast-track your income-tax refund. You can ask, but it won’t work. The reason? It's about how the tax system, or in this case, the hiring system is set up, and what hoops need to be gone through, and how long that takes, and how much power the search committee has to affect the timeline.

A (from sugaree): You can possibly help speed up an offer if you inform the search committee that you already have one on the table. This happened to me — I got an offer after another campus visit was already set up. I went to that interview (as planned), and when it was over the search-committee chair asked me about my job-hunting situation. I informed him that I had an offer and had another week in which to reply to the department (which was true). He called the next day to offer me the job.

Of course, I have no way of knowing whether or not this school moves this fast on all interviews, and the SCC brought up the timing issue (I didn't offer the info first), but that’s what happened. In general, I think it’s best to be honest about all things at an interview and try not to go too far down the path of reading tea leaves and/or second-guessing what you think a committee will want to know or not know.

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