A New Model for Conducting Job Searches in Philosophy?

“We typically get around 300 applicants. In our first pass through those applications, we read one and only one thing by every single candidate: the Abstract of their job market paper.”

That’s from a tweet by Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, professor of public policy at the University of Chicago. It was brought to my attention by philosopher Nils-Hennes Stear (Southampton) in a post at his blog about the academic job market in philosophy.

As Brian Weatherson (Michigan) remarked in a follow-up tweet, “Philosophy searches could do this.”

Hiring departments could ask candidates to initially just send in an anonymized abstract of their writing sample, say, up to 400 words (or perhaps the whole writing sample, anonymized, along with the anonymized abstract in a separate file), their c.v.’s, and a cover letter, with the first round of cuts being based solely on the abstract. The c.v.’s of those who made the cuts could be consulted to see if various other criteria are met. The departments then ask for the rest of the information from those who’ve made the cut.

This may not work for all types of academic philosophy jobs—perhaps just assistant professorships or post-docs for which research is among the most important considerations. But it seems like it could help counter the influence of some biases and focus attention on the candidates’ ideas, at least at the initial stage. It could also cut down on candidates’ application expenses, as they would not need to pay to have transcripts or confidential letters of recommendation sent out for all of the jobs they apply to.

Your thoughts—including your estimates as to the percentage of applicants who would make it through an abstract-first screening process, on the assumption that its use is well-publicized—are welcome.

(photo of untitled sculpture by Tara Donovan)

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