From the issue dated August 6, 1999


The Woes of Academic-Job Seekers

To the Editor:

For two decades, I have served on search committees, participated in candidate evaluations, and observed potential academics make their way through the sometimes-tortuous application process. Despite my position at the opposite side of the table, I must concur with Michael Loyd Gray's lament concerning the treatment doled out by prospective employers during the job search ( "To: All Search Committees, From: a Stymied Job Seeker, Re: How About Some Respect?," Opinion, July 2). During my four-year tenure at the University of Oklahoma, there was never a time when we were not conducting a search, and at St. Cloud State University, we have had an ongoing series of candidates parading through our halls.

Over the years, the process has become more onerous, more bureaucratized, and more harmful to candidates. The ludicrous legalistic and time-consuming sequences that are now part of a committee's obligations so hindered and hurt a search in which I recently was involved that I wrote to the academic vice-president requesting relief. She offered a sympathetic response, and since she is now the interim president, perhaps things will improve.

The worst aspect of this scenario is that ...short notice, foolish or unfair questions, preferred in-house candidates, a priori but unspoken necessities, lengthy periods of silence, and ultimate rejections hurt the institutions almost as much as they harm the individuals who are vying for these positions. We mystify, alienate, and lose as many people as we manage to hire.

Robert Hauptman
Professor of Information Media Reference Librarian
St. Cloud State University
St. Cloud, Minn.

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To the Editor:

I hope the screenplay that Michael Loyd Gray is working on is entitled "Interviews from Hell." I could add a few interesting scenes to such a screenplay.

I have watched while colleges paid for trips -- as well as full-ride scholarships -- for athletes ...from Africa, England, Australia, and refused to pay for a plane ticket for a job candidate to interview for a job in the same athletics department. ...

I have sent letters, resumes, and official transcripts of all academic work as requested by search committees -- and haven't even received a post card informing me that I was no longer a candidate, and that someone else had been hired. ...

In one case, I submitted a resume, only to find out later that my resume, along with those of other candidates, had been used in a graduate-level class as examples of how to write letters of application and resumes -- no candidate was ever hired for the position!

Lynn M. Conley
Lincoln, Neb.

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To the Editor:

Michael Loyd Gray's missive to search committees struck a sympathetic chord. ...

I would like to add to his list of indignities suffered by job seekers. Over the years, I have had to survive interviews in which a bored personnel director clipped his fingernails, a dean ate pizza and then had ice cream for dessert, a search-committee member put her head down on the table and simply fell asleep, a department head chatted with her husband on the phone for an hour about daycare facilities, and a faculty member worked on his tax returns. ...

In addition to these scenarios, I have been criticized by search committees for being "too prompt" (I guess they would prefer that I arrive fashionably late by half an hour or so), "too neat" (remind me not to wear clean clothes again, especially after one interview, in which two of the interviewing-committee members had pronounced body odor and the other member had clothing stained with food), or "too New Englandy" (I must remember to remove that scarlet letter). ...

At one community college, where I gave a 30-minute teaching demonstration, a committee member presented all my ideas and materials as hers at a conference six months later. ... She only deleted my name and address from the heading. ...

Michael Gray is either overly optimistic or naive to expect search committees to heed his words and treat job candidates with decency and respect, especially when there are so many qualified individuals out there who are more than willing to suffer interviewing indignities in the fleeting hope of securing a full-time position.

Susan Roberts
Somersville, Conn.

Copyright © 1999 Chronicle of Higher Education
August 6, 1999
Section: Opinion & Arts
Page: B10