Friday, February 01, 2008

The romance has ended

Alas, poor readers, the romance with Wooing School has ended. It actually reminds me of my last boyfriend--back before I came out. A lot of angst and wondering, followed by a brisk breakup, and then a curious sort of calm. My main feeling walking away is "wasn't meant to be."

I am surprised, really, both that I didn't get the offer and that I am not more upset about it. But it would have been a very big job and a very big change. The gf is probably a little more disappointed than I am.

Ah, well. Nothing you can do.

I am awfully curious to find out who they DID pick, and what their issues were with me. I will certainly learn the former, but I hope I can find out (at least informally) why they didn't choose me.

My good friend has recently chaired a search committee, and he has gotten some of these questioning calls. He doesn't much like them, but tries to identify the concerns as best he can. He understands that "X was a better fit" is just not helpful to the candidate, and usually it isn't very honest. (Though, occasionally, I think fit is the issue, and it can be a good idea.)

I have heard candidates "not selected" because of their colloquium (disorganized, unclear, or weak research), the references (reference notes, however obliquely, that you are not a good citizen), or some stray comments they made during the visit. Others just didn't have the teaching experience we wanted, or their research just didn't look fundable. I think most of these are things that can be shared with the candidate. That kind of feedback is helpful.

So, what do you think? Is it ever appropriate to call and ask about the committee's concerns? Suggestions for change?


Dean Dad said...

I'd wonder how honest they could be. There's the obvious "we'd rather not admit to that" stuff, and there's the less obvious but still common "we aren't self-aware enough to know that that's what we were thinking."

It certainly puts the recipient of the call in an awkward spot.

I'd love to get honest and truthful feedback from the interviews I've done over the last year, but hold little hope of that happening.

But maybe, like Hamlet, I'm just being a melancholy dean. Is there a better way?

Rachel said...

I would think the "didn't have the right teaching experience" or "their research doesn't look fundable" should mean they wouldn't get an interview in the first place. Why get their hopes up with an interview if they don't even have the background you want?

Tenured Radical said...

From the perspective of someone who runs a lot of searches, I would have to say that all things being equal -- 2 or 3 candidates who were all good but different -- it isn't about you. It's about them. Who you hire often has less to do with "X hit the ball out of the park" or "Y's theory was a little weak" than who you can form consensus around. And that often does have something to do with field and "fit," less about how great you are.

When asked how a candidate could do better, I often don't know what to say when the hire actually depended on a discussion that was essentially about us and what direction we are going in intellectually. And oddly (or not) those issues often come to light during the search, because of the strength of the candidates, rather than before.

Sorry kiddo. Not so bad for your colleagues to know you did so well in the search, though.


julie said...

I'll confirm much of what's been said here: having been on a number of search committees (and crazily I just agreed to be on another), I can say that any answer you'd get to a question of "why?" would be partial/inaccurate/strained/strange. If any "suggestions for change" would be voiced, they'd be for the hiring process or committee, probably, not you!

Department Head: Jerry Rosiek said...


I don't think you can ask those questions and hope to get useful info, unless you have an inside contact on the search committee with whom you had a prior, and relatively strong, relationship.

There will be more and better opportunities.

Anonymous said...

you should let it go. I too have sat on many a hiring committee and think at the end of the day it has always been about us and not about the candidates accept in very rare occassions and in those cases we would never tell. People do ask "why" and people will answer b/c you are on the phone but . . . I would add that if you do know someone well enough to tell you the answer at wooing school make sure you want to hear it. Recently, a candidate I know found herself in the middle of departmental infighting, with people sending behind the scenes emails to her about the hire and calling her office. She politely asked the chair to reign in the drama and ended up having even more negative interactions as a result. By the time it was all done, she had learned way too much about her candidacy, the hire, the committee, and college politics. I doubt that happens often, but it is a slippery slope. Best to chalk it up to fit and move on.

Anonymous said...

a better offer will come from a north carolina school in good time...
i am certain!