Jason Mittell at Middlebury College just posted a more informal, contextualized version of their coming Position Search on his blog. Great idea.
What I like about this is that, as a prospective job seeker back in 2003, I felt the entire process was too formal, rigid, and lacking in context. I applied to positions all over the place based on a very short official Search ad, the campus address, and department website (and I had the internet; I feel even worse for all those folks who looked for positions in the 20th Century).
But here’s the thing: mostly, I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Turns out, if you contact the department with your questions, usually someone there is more than happy to speak with you about the process. Remember: we’re as interested in finding that diamond in the stacks as you are being one. When I applied at my current institution, the watchword was “fit,” as in “we’re looking for someone who has the right fit for this place.” And I like to think we did make that fit, primarily because I pushed past my own, natural inclination to keep it to myself by not keeping it to myself. I asked questions, told them what I thought about their program, and I believe it made a difference.
So when Jason provides a brief history of the department, the average number of majors, or the general attitude of his Provost, or adds the bit about how their teaching load is a bit squirrely, its a tip off about the openness of the hiring process. And that’s particularly smart, to me.