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.