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January 27, 2012


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unsuccessful candidate

This is a great piece and should be required reading for every hiring chair at the beginning of every season. Some of the suggestions should be applied across the board:

"The stages of rejection. Timely rejection is always better than no rejection. Contact candidates promptly after a phone, conference interview, or campus visit if the news is less than favorable. If you have met the candidate in person, you owe him or her a timely update....

"No room for ambiguity. Tell candidates exactly what their status is.... Don't tell candidates that you will "be in touch" if you won't, and don't give them a search timeline unless it is accurate.

"Timing. Send an update to the candidate as soon as possible within the parameters of the search....

"Passive-aggressive behavior. Stop allowing the [Prawfs blog] and your own silence to do the important work of rejection....

As an unsuccessful candidate on this year's market, I don't really care about hearing from the schools to which I applied directly at this point, but there are several schools with which I interviewed at AALS from which I have heard NOTHING since the conference and one of those schools has already filled its position (which I know from the Prawfs blog spreadsheet). In addition, one school with which I had a callback has yet to be in touch either way, though now I assume the job has gone elsewhere. Another school responded to my inquiry for an update saying that the position had been filled, and asking me to keep in touch with my plans for next year, which I found to be condescending. It seems rather clear that they don't care, unless they're planning to hire another person in my field in the future, and if that's the case, they should've said that.

I am lucky one in that I have non meat market options for next year; it's significantly worse for less fortunate candidates.

And, as you so aptly noted, schools are trying to teach students professionalism. Most of what I've seen from, and heard about, schools is anything but, with the exception of the treatment of the candidates they want to hire. What a sad state of affairs...


Seconding a lot of this. I don't care if schools I didn't meet before/during AALS don't contact me - even if I contacted them directly - not getting a screening interview is evidence enough of rejection.

On the other hand, I think it's incumbent on a school to tell us what's going on. If we're cut quickly, tell us. And if you're still contemplating our candidacy by 4-8 weeks after the conference, tell us that too. Even if it's only a shadow of a chance, it's good to know.

As for what to say...I recognize schools probably use form letters for a variety of reasons. But, at least invite students to contact if they have questions. Most of us either got a job (in which case we won't care much) or will be doing this again - if you took the time to meet us we're likely not utterly hopeless candidates. Knowing what we can do - or that it was a question of shifting curricular priorities - is extremely helpful for the next go-around.

I get it that it's hard to keep track of the 20-40 students your team met at the FRC - I'll admit I had trouble keeping all my interviews straight in my head also. But it still speaks poorly of a school if they can't contact students (as of today, I still haven't heard one way or another from a third of the schools I met with).

Once Rejected, Now Prof

Another thing to consider is that many candidates one school rejects will becomes professors elsewhere. Bad memories of irresponsible unresponsiveness fade slowly. Years later, I still have a bitter feeling for the Penn State folks who brought me in for what seemed like a nice on-campus interview and then never, ever communicated with me again. Though it is admittedly petty and irrational on my part, my view of Penn State and the faculty who were there at the time is tainted by this experience.


I interviewed with Buffalo in 1987. Am hoping to hear from them soon.


After interviewing at the Target job fair, they told me on the spot that there weren't any positions available for me. The timely rejection was nice.

A week later, they sent a follow up rejection letter, just to make it really clear that I will not be making the swipy thing do the bloopy sound. That was less nice.

Another once-rejected-now-prof

"Another thing to consider is that many candidates one school rejects will becomes professors elsewhere. Bad memories of irresponsible unresponsiveness fade slowly."

I second (and third) that. A couple of years ago, Hofstra had me for a callback in November, then was unresponse to my emails in January/February, until I got a ding email in March. Then, in response to that email I asked about the possibility to come as a visitor for one year. The hiring chair NEVER responded.


Flipping this around: does anyone have advice for candidates when the time comes to reject offers? I was lucky enough to have a handful of offers, which meant that I needed to figure out how to reject schools without burning any bridges or appearing to be an ungrateful jerk. This was especially difficult because I truly liked the people at each school, and I'm hopeful that I will continue my relationship with them in the future.

Any tips on how to handle the rejections? Who should get phone calls, who should get emails, who should get nothing (e.g., the dean, hiring committee chair, other members of the committee, faculty that seemed supportive, faculty in your field, etc.)? To the prawfs out there, do you have any examples or stories of what not to do?

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