How to Reject


The job-seeking process in philosophy is, to put it politely, generally long and drawn out and tiring and discouraging and costly and anxiety-ridden, a perfect storm of stress, self-doubt, and probably a bunch of other things that start with ‘s’ (no suggestions in the comments about that, please). What can those on the hiring side of the table do to make things better for the candidates?

Some little things might help. Here are some thoughts from Jeff Sebo. I thought they were worth a larger audience, and Jeff has kindly allowed me to share them here. He was on the market this past season, and he writes how he is feeling “grateful to the search chairs who take a moment to write a few kind words in their letters of rejection, even if these kind words are completely generic.” Here’s an example of such words, from a letter from LSU: “It takes a great deal of time and effort to prepare and apply for a position. We are enormously grateful to you for having done all that when you applied for a position here at LSU. Allow me to say that I wish you the very best as you search for another position in philosophy.” As Jeff said, this is pretty easy to do, and can make a real difference in how the market feels to candidates. 

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michaelpwolf
7 years ago

A similar selection from our bad news email last spring:

“Our call for applications was met with an enormous number of responses, and we made every effort to review each one with care. We are all too aware of the difficulty of finding a job in the current market, and the disappointment that comes with not being interviewed or hired. It struck us in reviewing these files that each one of them represents years of work in a noble pursuit, and we strove to review each one with care and respect in light of this. The needs of our department narrowed our choices considerably, and ruled out a great many excellent philosophers we would have welcomed as colleagues under other circumstances. We thank you for sharing your work with us, and we wish you the best of luck in the future.”

Candidates wrote back to thank us for the note, so there’s anecdata affirming its impact.Report

Nate Smith
Nate Smith
7 years ago

I think that might be nicest rejection letter I’ve read for anything.Report

Anon Job Seeker
Anon Job Seeker
7 years ago

I know someone who applied for a job this year at Birkbeck College (University of London) – they have yet to receive any sort of official rejection, though they have discovered they have been rejected by reading about the successful candidate on the Leiter blog. Would it be so difficult for departments to let unsuccessful candidates know *before* the posts to the gossip blogs?Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
Reply to  Anon Job Seeker
7 years ago

Though I agree that’s not how I’d like to learn I didn’t get the job, it may not be possible to prevent, since the post on Leiter can be made by the new hire. They could send an email accepting the offer and post their new position on Leiter moments later, before the department even knows they’ve secured their hire.Report