Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Because I'm Wondering

And this isn't actually about me.

Let's say that you're a person, a person who has decided to apply for an academic job.

The job that you're applying for is not an entry-level position. It's a position that would come with tenure, if you were to receive it, though the search is open, and will allow for assistant-level applicants.

You're applying for this job because it's where you'd like to be location-wise, but on paper it would be a step down from your current institution. (Think going from a research university to a regional-comprehensive sort of institution.)

Your field is not a ridiculously glutted one like English, though it's also not a ridiculously barren one like accounting.

And let's say that the job ad specifies that you are to mail your materials by a certain date to a certain address.

And let's say that you email the materials to the search chair rather than mailing them to where the ad tells you to.

If the search chair sends you a curt email in which he tells you to mail the materials as he job ad specified, should you be offended? Should you take it as a sign that your application will not be received favorably?

I've got my own thoughts, but I'd be interested to hear what others think about this.

11 comments:

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I don't suppose that a complete package, mailed to the appropriate person, would be a waste of time.

On the other hand, the chair is right to ask that every candidate follow the procedure... especially since it seems that the e-mail would then entail someone printing the application anyway...

I'd look at the e-mailer as someone who may not follow directions well...

~VP~ said...

Two possibilities (and I've seen both happen). The first is what you said, the app will be trashed. The second is that they get so many apps that if you wait a bit of time then yours will be lost in the shuffle and they'll forget you didnt' follow directions the first time :-)

VP

Lawgirl said...

Coming from the HR side, absolutely they look at it as someone who doesn't follow instructions.

Coming from a human side, if they're this snooty during the application process, is it someplace that you would really want to be?

Lesboprof said...

I think that the person re-sends the application to the correct address and hopes that the rest of the committee likes the app. If the chair is irritated, it may be because they had a number of people make the same error. Perhaps the chair is traveling, or is in a different building, or just has too much to do... I wouldn't sweat it too much. And also remember that emails can often sound curt when they really are being brief and to the point.

Dr. Crazy said...

So many of you have weighed in so quickly! Since you have, though, I'll weigh in with my thoughts on the matter.

My thoughts are that if the ad says to send it to x address (paper), then you do what the ad tells you to do, if you want the job. I don't think that emailing it will necessarily kill the application, but I do think that if I were the chair, I'd not make the effort to print an emailed app out. (Note: I'm also a professor who won't print an emailed paper out. You can email it and I'll count it as in on time, but you provide the hard copy within a week or it's a zero. Period. I'm a hard-ass like that.) I'm busy. Not something I should have to do.

Yes, it would speak to the directions-following tendencies of the applicant, but I don't think that would matter if I (and the committee) really liked the applicant on paper - not so much that it would stop the candidate from getting an interview, at any rate. I think I'd err on the side of being kind to the applicant rather than fucking the applicant over because of a misstep.

BUT. Here's the thing: I think at a place like mine, I'd read the failure to follow instructions (esp. from a person taking a step down the academic ladder) as arrogance and as the person thinking that they're too good for our rules. This would irritate me. It wouldn't kill the applicant or stop them from getting an interview (necessarily) but it would mean that they'd need to really impress upon me (if they made it to the interview stage) their desire to work *here* - even with our antiquated ways and such.

So those are my thoughts. Again, I wasn't the person who did this, and I don't see any cause for the person who did to be offended. The person who did this didn't follow directions. Why should this person think people should cater to his/her needs/convenience or be really nice in directing them to follow directions? That seems to indicate a certain sense of entitlement to me, and one that I don't think many people on search committees (or who are chairs of departments) would be terribly into.

Does the applicant really want this job? My thought is that this applicant really doesn't. My thought is that this is sort of self-sabotaging behavior. My thought is that the applicant thinks that he/she is too good for this place, and thus is performing that by not being respectful of the process at this place.

But as I am not the applicant, I cannot really know what is motivating this applicant or what this applicant is thinking.

What's nice about blogging, though, is that you all confirm my sense of things and so I don't feel like an asshole for having the sense of things that I have.

~profgrrrrl~ said...

I don't have any insights into whether or not the application would be received well -- hard to read what the search chair would be thinking. He may simply not want to deal with the materials himself. Many farm that off to the secretaries who intercede and log/file all applications.

However, I definitely don't think the applicant should take offense at the email requesting that the materials be mailed. And is curt for sure curt in a bad way? Or could it just be brief and no-nonsense with no real sense of tone?

I suppose if the chair truly didn't want to consider the applicant he simply could have not replied, right?

Signed,
A chronic rule follower.

Autumn Song said...

I think you're right. The applicant should not be offended by a request, albeit curt, to send the application as instructed. It might well be, as others have suggested, that the Chair is too busy. But it might also be that application procedures dictate that there are a variety of systems and procedures it will have to go through before it gets to the committee Chair, and the Chair is not prepared, quite rightly, to skip those stages.

It would be worth sending it in on paper - I don't think this emailing incident will cause the application to be entirely disregarded - but I'd make sure it goes to the right place before the closing date for applications, and a suitable apology is sent to the Chair for "any inconvenience" the error has caused. As long as the applicant doesn't look like they are deliberately trying to circumvent the rules (emailing it on the deadline day because it won't get there in time by post, for example) rather than making a genuine mistake, most people would be prepared to give them a second chance. Hopefully...

Then I'd hope that my application was sufficiently strong to impress the rest of the appointing committee!

PowerProf said...

I'm with you, Crazy, on the disregard for rules as indicating he or she feels above them. An applicant taking a step down may be more likely to feel that the institution is beneath hm or her and be more arrogant. I teach at an institution similar to yours, and I've encountered arrogant applicants who even have been subtly snide to our students during a job talk, assuming they won't get it. Bottom line is follow the rules. Inability to do so now signals that there's a good possibility that he or she will be much worse later. After all, we tend to be on good behavior during the job search.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

I don't think someone should be offended by an e-mail telling them to follow the directions when they haven't (because come on, not following directions on the application *does* raise questions about whether you'll follow directions in anything else!). Unless it literally says "here's where to send your materials, you idiot!", which would amaze me. Sounding curt on e-mail can mean very many things that aren't personal.

I actually don't think the mistake would be that big of a deal, though - if the content of the application is good, they won't care about how it got there. But I also wouldn't read the mistake as expressing the candidate's sense of arrogance towards this job, either. Obliviousness, possibly, and perhaps reflecting a sense of privilege that you might get from an R1 (i.e. maybe you have enough admin support at the R1 that it doesn't matter so much that you don't follow procedure). But I don't know that I'd read that as directed at my institution particularly.

Now, if the content of the application reflected arrogance/a sense of doing the non-R1 a favor, then the screwup might be remembered and held against the applicant. But if the application is good, I don't think this would be that big a deal.

But no, no right to be offended at the search chair.

Jenny Davidson said...

Yes - I agree with lots of what's been said above - and in fact "curt" seems to me an unreasonable description of even a very brief e-mail from a search chair in such circumstances. It is arrogant to ignore instructions, and I too am a professor with a strict hard-copy rule - it makes me extremely irritable to print things out for other people, why should I be the one who has to buy the paper at the store and lug it home and tinker with the toner cartridge?!? That said, I do not think it is even particularly likely that this interaction will be remembered later on - it's not a big deal - the applicant should just send stuff in as asked for and it is most likely that the name will never be connected with the initial interaction in any case - if I were the chair, I would be unlikely to remember the name of that applicant unless it were someone I knew already. (But we usually have anywhere between 60 and 150 applications for a position, so they do not differentiate in your head until a later stage of reading.)

Doctor Pion said...

Gee, you wouldn't be the search chair, would you? ;-)

I'm not sure I would read a whole lot into the actions of the applicant, but legally I don't think you can print and transfer the documents to the HR address and my e-mail would say exactly that. What if the application is incomplete? What if a page doesn't print properly, making it incomplete?

I'd try to find the happy medium between curt and succinct, saying something like "Thanks for your interest, but our policies forbid me from submitting an application for someone else. You need to mail the complete application to ....."