Search Committee Members: You Could Update The Jobs Wiki

A philosopher currently on the market writes in with a request to search committee members: update the jobs wiki.

They write:

Every year, many jobseekers spend weeks or months waiting to hear back about jobs. At every stage of the search process—after the initial application, after the videoconference interview, and after the on-campus interview—they desperately want to know whether they have been eliminated. A lucky few soon hear good news. Most of the others have to wait. Days, weeks, months go by. Their hope painfully dwindles. Eventually, they accept their now-obvious fate. And then the PFO* arrives from an HR department, far too late to do any good.

It would be a great benefit to these people if they could find out that they have been eliminated as soon as they are eliminated. This would turn a prolonged and extremely painful process into a much shorter and much less painful process. Applicants would be able to emotionally move on much more quickly and turn their full attention to other possibilities.

Well, as it happens, it is very easy for these people to be informed as soon as they are eliminated from your search. All that is necessary is for members of search committees to update the jobs wiki whenever their search progresses to a new stage (i.e., when invitations for first-round interviews are sent out, and when invitations for second-round/on-campus interviews are sent out, and when offers are made). This year, the wiki is here.

Updating the wiki is anonymous, so members of search committees do not have to worry about being penalized for conveying information without HR permission. There is no downside to updating the wiki and there is a big upside. You can be a big help to jobseekers—many of whom are your friends, and all of whom are your professional colleagues—by just doing this one simple thing. All search committee members should see this as a responsibility of being on a committee.

In many universities, search committee members believe that they are not permitted to communicate this type of news to applicants until HR gives permission. However, in at least some universities, the rule is only that committee members cannot tell applicants that they have been eliminated. In such places, there is no explicit rule against communicating matters of simple fact, such as the fact that invitations to first-round interviews have been sent out, etc. (And such matters of simple fact are all that are reported on the wiki.) If you happen to be in a university where the rules are like that, then you would not even be violating any HR rules by updating the wiki.

But even if you are in a university where updating the wiki would violate HR rules, you can still update the wiki without any fear of being reprimanded, because updating the wiki is anonymous. Your HR department is unlikely to even know that the wiki exists and in any event will be unable to know the identity of the person who updated the wiki. The wiki can be updated by anyone.

Some committee members believe they should try to hide information from candidates because they think they might have a harder time snagging their Nth choice if their Nth choice knows s/he was not the top choice. But for one thing, this line of thinking does not explain why you would want to keep anyone but your tippity-top candidates in the dark. If someone is eliminated in the first round, for example, you can know that they will not be getting an offer in any case so there is no reason to hide anything from them. Also, your Nth choice candidates will eventually work out that they are not your top choice just by noticing the length of time it takes to hear from you. You will not get on their good side by clumsily trying and failing to keep information from them. It’s better to let them know what is going on (either directly or indirectly, through the wiki) than to keep them hoping on the off chance that you will offer them the job later on.

Sounds reasonable, no?

[*PFO = “please fuck off” aka a rejection letter]


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