The grand experiment...

It's amazing how picky academics can be.

I say this in anticipation, though I could certainly offer more than a little evidence. As I've noted previously, I'm hitting the job market this year. After a few years teaching - typically (at least for those of us just starting out) we're advised to wait until our third year of teaching someplace to apply elsewhere - I've decide it is time for me to see what the jobs out there are like. And while looking for jobs is never fun - even when you've got one and can look just to see - looking for academic jobs is about the worst experience I've ever had.

Typically for an academic job, you're putting together a fairly lengthy packet of information: a letter, your C.V., references and/or their letters as a start. Then you might be asked for samples of your research/writing/production (depending upon your field). Possibly they want syllabi. Maybe they want statements of your teaching philosophy and your research intent. Maybe they want evaluations. Oh, and while you're at it, it couldn't hurt to send your transcripts (official, of course). Sure, send both the graduate and undergraduate transcripts.

If they want all of that, it's a pretty sizable packet. For me, the full packet can reach 200 pages., of which the average search committee member will look at maybe 10 (letter, C.V., references, and maybe a syllabus of interest). I'm told the smaller packets used to be very popular, but it hasn't been my experience. Now everyone wants everything, and frankly, it's a pain in the ass.

Sure, I can come up with a justification for why someone might want to know what my GPA was fifteen or so years ago in courses I might not even be teaching anything about today. I had to reach for that explanation, but I found one.

It still doesn't make this process any easier to swallow.

So this year, I'm going to experiment. Instead of printing and somehow binding together 200+ pages so someone can subjectively knock me out for my choice to talk about research before teaching on page three of a CV that chronicles everything but my shoe size (14, depending on brand), choice of beverage (Coke Zero if we're talking non-alcoholic) and a brief description of my ideal mate (thank goodness, because my answer still changes daily on this one). So before the University of Southern Nowhere You Want to Live asks me for a printed letter telling them whether I like Pina Coladas and walks in the rain, I've decided to let them do the work (or at least the printing) by sending them a CD with all the documents they could ever want.

Here's where things get nervous though. It's entirely possible though this would be a good, applicable, environmentally friendly use of technology to solve a problem, it may be seen entirely otherwise. After all, we all had professors who seemed so ancient they probably wore sundials on their tweed-covered wrists, right? And that hasn't changed. So what I risk with this approach, designed to save me some effort while demonstrating some tech savvy (which I like to think would be important for the sorts of things I want to do), is that it may land on the desk of someone more curmudgeonly than yours truly.

Imagine, doing all that it takes to make a CD-Rom that'll run on PCs and Macs (and maybe Linux/Unix machines) with 200 pages or so of documentation in some way that's both easy to follow and interesting, only to have it be the excuse someone doesn't call for an interview?

Wish me luck.


7 Responses to “The grand experiment...”
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Samantha said...

I've heard of some colleges and universities accepting application materials via email now, so why not a CD?

Just don't write, "I'm a bachelor and able to relocate" like one of our applicants once did!

September 23, 2007 at 2:26 PM
ash said...

i read this and my first impulse is to wave my little arms up and down and yell, "danger, will robinson!" because i don't want you to end up in the "no" pile on account of some search committee member's unwillingness to load a CD and hit print...

...but then i stop and think about that and say, "what the frak!?" the very idea that an otherwise qualified candidate might be rejected based on format of their application just seems mind bogglingly petty and stupid.

September 25, 2007 at 1:11 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

It's funny because I wouldn't think format should cause a problem either. And there does seem to be an interesting leap from taking things in electronic format (because it's expressly asked for) and this.

My nerves haven't quieted about this. It feels risky. But it seems to make sense on so many other levels, not the least of which is the role technology plays in what I what I research and teach. If I weren't so anxious to be someplace geographically that I like more, I'd be alright saying "if they're too insular to do try this, I don't want to go there." But I am anxious to be somewhere else, and that makes me pause.

I still don't have an easy answer.

September 25, 2007 at 1:25 PM
Dance said...

followed your de-lurking from New Kid--are you going to put *everything* on the CD? or are you planning to send the small packet on paper--cover letter, CV, teaching philosophy, research agenda, with a note that further documents (list contents) may be viewed on the CD (syllabi, publications, evals, etc). That is, can they figure out who you are before you ask them to do anything extra?

At my university, all the files are kept in a box in an empty office with no computer, and people went there to read them, so a CD would have been pretty annoying. Actually, if you are going to do this, why not give them the option of either CD or a webpage where they can download stuff? Then committee members might actually appreciate that they aren't trapped in this office reading it.

October 3, 2007 at 9:53 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

First, welcome. Nice to have a few new readers. One more benefit to de-lurking.

The plan was to send the letter and CV on paper with mention that the rest would be on the CD. The reason I'd not put it on a web page is that I can't password protect a website here (problems with the university's setup). What I've actually wound up doing is sending the full packet plus a CD. I'd actually called a few places to make sure they'd be okay with it, and they've not been.

October 3, 2007 at 10:05 PM
MommyProf said...

Maybe too late - I'd say no on the CD. Two reasons: older profs are more likely to be on search committees, and may be more technophobic and often reviews are done by putting everyone's materials in a big room that people visit. You don't want to stick them with printing 200 pages, but you don't want your lonely CD in a room without a computer, either.

I got this answer about including a CD with my tenure notebook.

October 17, 2007 at 5:04 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

Thanks for your thoughts. It's not too late - there are still several applications to go out.

What I've done so far is to send the paper copies and a copy of the CD as an example of a portfolio project that I might include in an appropriate class. I'm hoping that it shows some versatility, some thought about how all this technology stuff can actually be useful as opposed to just used, and can tie together teaching and research in a different way.

October 17, 2007 at 5:25 PM