What Should Search Committees Initially Ask For?


A reader draws my attention to the advertisement for an assistant professorship in philosophy at Duke University as an example of the problem of schools asking for excessive information for the first round of applications.

Robert Mangold, “3 Square / Loop Study”

Applicants must send in:

  • a cover letter
  • a full CV
  • a sample of written work (10,000 words max)
  • a one page dissertation summary
  • a research statement
  • a teaching statement
  • teaching evaluations (where available)
  • a diversity statement, indicating how your skills and experience could contribute to campus equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts
  • at least 3 letters of recommendation

The reader writes: “This is definitely the most extreme example of a trend in philosophy job ads to keep on asking for more and more material. The thing is, you know they won’t look at most of it. It looks to me like they’re requesting on the order of 50 pages of material per candidate. So if they get 200 candidates, that means they’re asking for 10,000 pages of junk. That’s silly, and isn’t a good use of anyone’s time.”

At least they don’t ask for a transcript. Or for applicants to create a special website just to apply to their job.

It is not clear to me that there is much of a trend in asking for more material. Over the past 15 years the normal list of materials to send in has looked roughly similar to the one above. (The exception is the diversity statement, requests for which have gained in popularity only over the last few years, it seems.)

Still, one does wonder whether all of these materials are needed at the outset, from every applicant.

Readers may recall the minimalist option to just ask initial candidates for abstracts of their writing samples. That wasn’t too popular an idea, but perhaps there is some happy medium that could become the new standard. How does the following sound?

  • Cover letter (including whatever remarks about one’s research, teaching, and suitability for the particular position one thought worth mentioning. Maximum length: 2 pages)
  • Full CV
  • Abstract of writing sample

Do we need more at the initial stage?

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