Academic Jobs Wiki

Spring Market page?[]

I'm new to the wiki. Is there a Spring Market page, or are recently-released jobs (VAP and otherwise) categorized under their respective fields (Victorian, Renaissance, etc.)?

New jobs with spring deadlines are being posted to respective field pages continuously. There is no separate page for spring jobs; check your field(s) page(s) instead - if you don't see a job there, please add it to the page. Una74 02:33, March 11, 2011 (UTC)

Opening Questions[]

The question in my life for this year's job season will be: is the fourth time a charm? X 2

  • The answer, for me, was YES! Fourth time on the market, and I finally landed a job. So lucky.

Mine is: Is the third time the charm? x2

(From original poster) Good luck, third-timer. I have very little hope, but you never know...

Q.Here's a question: if a school has sent materials requests / scheduled MLA interviews, how safe is it to assume that they won't send / schedule any more? I know that assumption isn't always true; but how often is it false?

Q. I have similar question to above. If a college on here listed as : 12/13 MLA interview scheduled e-mail, but I did not receive e-mail, is that it? Should I stop waiting and move on. (I was asked to send WS last week, which I did.)

A: Every schools does it a bit differently, that is the most important thing to remember. That said, it is more common for materials requests to come out on a rolling basis (over a matter of weeks) than interview requests (particularly for MLA), which usually are made on the same day or within a few days of each other. Again, though, this is a generalization that may not hold in any specific case (in the case immediately above, it seems like if you were just recently asked for materials, you might give it a few more days before totally giving up). Overall, though, it is best to recognize that there is a wide variety of practices in the academic job market, which does make it really nerve-wracking for candidates, alas.

Q. On a similar note, do schools tend to call their first-choice interviewee candidates first? If my MLA interview invitation came several days after the first invite was recorded on the wiki, does that mean I may be somewhere down the list for this job?

A. As the previous answer said, who knows? Maybe. Some schools might do invites in one sweep. Some may stagger them. Some may prioritize. Some may wait for responses to invites. Really, unless you know someone on the SC who can say, this is what we do, we have no idea. In a perfect world that would clear all our nerves, an SC would tell us exactly how they will proceed with everything, but since most of them get well over a hundred applicants, it is just not possible. In most cases, you won't know the final verdict until you get the rejection letter. (And even then, who knows. Two years ago I received a request to re-apply one month after I got a formal rejection letter . . . alas, it never went anywhere. But it just proves that this is not a fixed process.)

A. X2 -- Take the info you find on the wiki with a grain of salt. Last year there was info about campus visits already being scheduled for a job that I had interviewed for at MLA. I was pretty bummed because I thought it went well, so I wrote it off. But a few weeks or so later I got an invite for a campus visit, and eventually got the job. I'm not sure if there were campus visits and no one seemed to work out (and I was the next down the list), or if someone posted incorrect info. Point is, it's an insane process, and even when you think you know something, you really don't. That's for the good and for the bad...If you get an interview at MLA or on Campus, don't read anything into it. You got the interview -- you must be someone they're interested in.

A. Last year, I received 3 MLA interviews after the initial wave of interviews had been set up. If there are postings on Wiki about MLA talks being set up, don't get overly anxious, just now that things are under way.

Thanks for these responses; this is really helpful to know.

Q. Is there a point when time from date of PhD and experience begins to hurt chances of getting tenure track job? Got my PhD almost 2 years ago. Have gained great deal of teaching experience over years, teaching awards, several big journal publications, a book on verge of contract, tier one univ. Been offered a one year renewable contract position. I'd be crazy not to take it, and I will take it. But is there a point when time and experience becomes a detriment? Will this new job I'll take add, subtract or do nothing to my cv (a question that would be easy to answer in any other kind of job search). Scanning the pages here, it seems like there is nothing that suggests a clear pattern as to who gets these interviews and jobs. It makes me wonder why I've put in so much effort on everything when I know people getting jobs with comparatively lame cvs. Sorry if that sounds snobby, but I feel like I'm on the verge of having the type of portfolio someone would have used to gain tenure.

A. Not so much an answer but someone in a similar position. I have just this year published a book (three years out) with a major academic publisher in my field and a number of articles in the last couple of years in the top journals in my area but no tt job as of yet. I've been told repeatedly by colleagues that the terrible job market is to blame and that if I am patient I will get a tt job and as long as I keep publishing every year, I will stay "current" and hireable--depending on my mood sometimes I believe this and sometimes I do not. In Canada, where I'm based, many schools have hiring freezes so the hope is if the economy doesn't get any worse jobs will start to be posted within the next couple of years. I too have been told my CV would get me tenure and it is one of the most frustrating things anyone can hear when I don't yet have a tt job. As for who gets interviews and who doesn't--who knows how SC make their decisions. What I do know is that with so many of us looking for work, SC can be very, very picky and look for someone who fits their needs exactly (which is their right). If your research does not "fit" the call or if your research is outside of the norm, it is probably going to take longer to find a position (at least this is what I've told by countless individuals in academia). I never regretted my research focus as I love what I do but sometimes I wish I had done something a lot more conventional. Good luck with your search and at least if you have a contract position (I have a similar position), you're working in your chosen field, which is a good thing.

A to Q and A above: If you're applying to SLACs, they probably won't want you with a CV that would suggest you're more interested in research than teaching. I kind of think doing too much research hurts you if you're applying to SLACs. With that said, this is my fourth year on the market, two years out from the PhD, and I have only modest (and forthcoming) publications (no peer review journal articles, but one book collection article, and some other small things) -- and I got a job offer this year. I don't know. Everyone says publication is so important, but my focus is teaching. I think that's more important for the small colleges.

  • I rarely check this site anymore, but for what it's worth, I'd second the above answer about SLACs. I was on a search committee this year at a SLAC. Finding someone doing current research was the easiest part because so many ABDs and recent PhDs are publishing these days. The hard part was finding someone who could demonstrate that s/he cared about teaching students in a way that set him/her apart. All of our MLA interviewees had plenty to say about their research; most of them had much less to say about specific pedagogical approaches, unique assignments, or how they could get students interested in their courses. Some candidates never even asked about our students. At all.

Can somebody put up a salaries page for this year? A: Here it is (also linked on main English page): English Lit Salaries 2011-2012

Q. Has anyone ever asked for feedback after an unsuccessful MLA or campus interview? Is this regularly done/considered usual practice?

Hiring Patterns[]

A./Q. "Scanning the pages here, it seems like there is nothing that suggests a clear pattern as to who gets these interviews and jobs."

Look closer. Most people do not hide their IP addresses, so you can see where they are. I've been on this page a few years and have seen a total of one (1) rejection posted from a New Haven IP address. (Yea, I know, it was probably someone from University of New Haven…) I have yet to see a single rejection post from a Palo Alto, Cambridge, or Princeton IP address, and have seen dozens of “x4” and “campus visit scheduled” and “offer made” etc from each of those places. Terry Caesar is my hero and his book should be required reading by all the landed pissants on their way to MLA with Georgetown and UTexas and UChicago and on their agendas: Traveling Through the Boondocks: In and Out of Academic Hierarchy

I am from the States and did a phd in Paris. As an ABD I started going to conferences…and at one in France I met a few US-based grad students studying the same thing I was (which is a topic I won’t mention, but after a week they were on planes back to Durham and Chicago to study what I was living). Fast forward a few months, they’re sending out apps to the same openings I am, and getting callbacks. Last I heard from the little group of guys/girls at this conf, one was interviewing at Yale and NYU, another at Grinnell, another Notre Dame. I don’t know where they ended up. I did not have a single MLA callback that year. I had exactly two calls in the spring round of “who’s left?” postings and I ended up with one interview in the capital of Nowheresville USA for a one-year position. I ended up taking a job I got from cold calling a university the French Caribbean…earning 20% of what those jerks were probably taking home, jerks who came to France for 10 days and now teach using that as their basis of “real life” experience in the subject.

Fast forward another few years: I published a monograph--it won an award—have another on contract, a recent international grant, journal pubs, and student evals that are off the charts.

So I decided to send out a few hooks and lines again…and what?..::Crickets crickets:: Who are these SC calling? Each place I applied had a transnational, postcolonial, border studies, etc. focus. I have been abroad since I was 23… I have two mother-tongues and am fluent in a third lang...I work at a university in a French colony…I was plenary speaker at two conferences last year.

They are interviewing these 28-year-old puissant ABDs who went to California or Massachusetts from their suburban SUV-land to study “International Writing.” (Maybe they had a ten-day trip to a conference in Europe or the Caribbean? May-be!... Maybe they even went abroad for a semester…or a whhhoollee year!) I was working as bar-back in the Marais and living in flophouses with Algerians and Senegalese former soldiers with stories that would make your skin stand up for a week at a time…while these pampered enfants were sipping Starbucks and crying foul because the wifi was down once in their offices. Then they write up their journal articles and dissertation chapters on “Post-colonialism” (a topic that should be renamed “I read some books about someplace far away and visited that place once”).

Academia is stooopid.

The Ivy League’s description of “top” people, per their hiring practices, in reality = high social capital. Harvard says they hire the best. That “best” includes not a single person who has studied at a Community College. Just 1% comes from non-top-tier public universities. (See below.) Yay democratic sampling! Come on. Nice definition, folks. Why not up that endowment, pay no taxes, and continue to only hire/admit the rich? Oh, wait, you’re already doing that.

Less than 1 of every 6 Harvard students qualifies for a Pell Grant (BTW, what is less than 1 Harvard student? Harvard (and the academia “merit” system in general) labels the majority of poor people (just like it has labeled me) “bad” and “not as capable” compared to our friends from the suburbs that are often private-schooled (or from a public system that's essentially private-from-poor) and believe in the system's measures, and are otherwise well shielded from reality. There are exceptions of course, but let’s have a look at the rule:

These are the academic affiliations of the profs in the Eng depts at ivy league schools:


Berkley, Berkley, Michigan

Princeton, Brandeis, Brown

NYU, NYU, McDaniel College

Stanford, Stanford, Harvard

U Sussex (Eng), Sussex, North London

Brown, William & Mary, Carleton

Chicago, Chicago, San Jose State

Hopkins, Oxford, Princeton

Harvard, Chicago, Harvard

Cornell, Cornell, Yale

Yale, Oxford, Georgetown

Texas, Texas, old Dominion

Penn, Penn, UNC Greensboro

Princeton, Northeastern, Southampton

Iowa, Iowa, Cornell

Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz

Hopkins, Hopkins, Wesleyan

Upenn, Oxford, Georgetown

Brown, Yale, Yale

Cornell, Cornell, Ibadan

Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Brown

Berkley, Berkley, Barnard

Yale, Yale, Harvard

Brandeis, Brandeis, Brandeis

Cornell, Cornell, Yale

Yale, Oxford, Austin

Duke, McGill, McGill

Total Degrees 81

IVY 29 (35%)

Public Non-flagship 3 (11%)

Public Non-flagship Phd 1 (3%)

Community College 0


Yale, Yale, Rice

Oxford, Oxford, Bombay

Cornell, Princeton, Princeton

Yale, Harvard, Harvard

Berkley, Berkley, Vassar

Harvard, Harvard, Yale

Princeton, Cambridge, Yale

Cornell, Cornell, Michigan State

Yale, Dublin, Dallas

Harvard, Harvard, Harvard

Harvard, Harvard, Pitt

Yale, Yale, Swarthmore

Cambridge, Yale, Yale

Iowa, NYU

Yale, Cambridge, Yale

Harvard, Cambridge, Georgia

Rutgers, Rutgers, Oregon

Chicago, Chicago, Emporia State

UVA, UVA, Stanford

Columbia, Columbia, Pomona

Columbia, Columbia, Brandeis

Yale, Yale, Harvard

Harvard, Harvard, Konstanz

Yale, Oxford, Princeton

Yale, Yale, Stanford

Cambridge, Oxford, Melbourne

Free Berlin

Yale, Perdue, Wesleyan

Columbia, Columbia, Haverford

Toronto, Trent, Trent

UVA, UVA, Amsterdam

Harvard, Harvard, Emmanuelle

Irvine, Dartmouth, Dartmouth

Toronto, Oxford, Cambridge

Total Degrees 93

Ivy 8 (51%)

Public non-flagship 2 (2%)

Non-flagship Phd 1 (2%)

Community College 0


Upenn, Yale, BU

MIT, MIT, Harvard

Upenn, Temple, Hendrix

Cornell, Yale, Yale

UCLA, Cambridge, Harvard

Cornell, Cornell, Columbia

Yale, Yale, Yale


Cornell, Cornell, Mt. Holyoke

Harvard, Harvard, Rice

Upenn, Upenn, Washington U


Yale, Yale, Harvard

Harvard, Harvard, NYU

Harvard, Harvard, Berkley

NYU, NYU, UW-Madison

Yale, Yale, Yale

Yale, Yale, Yale

Hopkins, Hopkins, Hopkins

Chicago, Chicago, Princeton

Princeton, Cambridge, Columbia

Stanford, Stanford, McGill

Harvard, Harvard, Dartmouth

Yale, Oxford, Yale

Princeton, Princeton, Trinity Dublin

Belfast, Belfast, Belfast

UVA, Middlebury, Dartmouth

UPenn, Cambridge, Williams

Brown, Brown, Wheaton


Cornell, UCollege London, U London

UCLA, UCLA, Brandeis

Yale, Yale, Yale

Oxford, Oxford

Cornell, Cornell, Michigan

Yale, Yale, Hamilton

Yale, Yale, Yale

UCLA, UCLA, Cal State Bakersfield

Duke, Duke, Berkley

Stanford, Stanford, Trinity

Stanford, Harvard, Alberta

Rutgers, Rutgers, John Fisher


UC Irvine, UC Irvine, BYU

Yale, Yale, Swarthmore

Total degrees 126

Ivy 62 (49%)

Public non-flagship 3 (2%)

Non-flagship PhD 1 (2%)

Community Colleges 0

Schools with a Religious Affiliation[]

The majority of the job postings that I am looking at happen to be for colleges and universities with a religious affiliation--Jesuit, Franciscan, Lutheran (I am not applying to Evangelical schools)--but very few list anything to do with religion in their job apps. Those that do suggest that the applicant be interested in "service" or, occasionally, in the college's mission statement (which is likewise vague, listing service and upstanding citizenship). Each institution's website notes that religious affiliation is not necessary and that persons of all religions are welcome. My question, then, concerns how or even whether to address religion in the cover letter. Is this something that needs to be emphasized, or should I discuss service or global engagement or something similar instead?

  • A: There is a thread on this topic on Talk:Medieval 2011 that you might find helpful. I do not believe that you are obligated to address religion in the cover letter for this type of school, although if your research/teaching touches on "social justice" in some way, it wouldn't hurt to mention it. You could expect to be asked at interview/campus visit stage something like "What do you know about Jesuit education?" and, if you get to that level and don't have a background in that area, it would be a good idea to do some research on the tradition in advance to produce a thoughtful and informed response. That said, it is true that usually Catholic schools do not expect Catholic (or any) religious affiliation, although they often do value candidates who can show some respect/appreciation for their educational traditions.
  • A: I got an interview and campus visit at a religious affiliated [Catholic] school that mentioned its mission statement in the job description. I am not a part of this affiliation (I'm actually Jewish, as they may have even gleaned from some of my publications/research interests), but I tailored my cover letter to illustrate how my teaching methodology aligns with their mission statement. During my campus interview, they said of the 250+ applications they had gotten, less than 20% had even mentioned their mission in their letter, and that was part of what set the top candidates apart. So my suggestion: as long as the school has some "neutral" language in their mission statement (many Catholic-affiliated schools have language like "truth" or "citizenship" or "ethics" rather than more doctrinal language), show how your teaching philosophy relates to that mission in your cover letter.

State of the Market / Job Seeking in Multiple Fields[]

Discussion from Main English page (10/1-3)

  • 9/16 (a.m.): the JIL is up, but it is running veryyy slowlyyyy . . .
  • 9/16 (1:15 pm EST): I can't get the JIL to load at all...
    • I can't get through either. I think the system is overwhelmed . . .
  • 9/17 (a.m.) JIL is loading relatively better so far. Maybe the crunch is over. . .
  • yeah, now all we gotta deal with is how sh*tty the list is so far. at least in my field...
  • Is it possible that the job market is even worse this year than it was last year? Whereas I went into the market with my eyes wide open to the slim pickings, I'm a bit surprised at how few TT positions there are available in 20th century British. My second year on market, vast teaching experience, four big journal publications in past year, several awards, a lot of recommendation and support from both PhD and teaching institutions, and my applications only got a nibble last year. I'm not looking forward to a full-time career of being a part-time faculty member.
    • It definitely depends on the field. Mod. Brit. is really, really tough this year. On the other hand, 20-21 c. American was absolutely miserable last year, but seems healthier this year. Renaissance also looks pretty good.
    • Ugh, to me 20-21 Am seems way worse this year *unless* you do an "ethnic" lit field (chicano/a, asian-am, af-am, native am, etc.).
    • The first thing you need to realize is that most jobs available in the country are teaching jobs, not research jobs. That means that you have to do more than publish and teach a lot (quantity). You need to show that you are devoted to innovative teaching (quality) and service, and you have to show that up front in your letter. I am on a search committee this year, and we are all stunned at how few applicants think about what our school values. We value research, and it's well supported at our university, but the first thing we look for in selecting people is that they recognize we are a student-centered (not research or self-centered) campus and write a letter that showcases that.
    • In response to the above, I recognize what you're saying, and I am aware that most of the jobs are teaching jobs, but it seems to be that each department in each college/university has different things they look for and value in a cover letter in the majority of positions open for a "teaching" position. Yes, I think it is shocking that many job searchers fail to address the the needs and concerns unique to the institution to which they are applying. At the same time (and I'm still addressing those majority of jobs that are teaching jobs), it remains difficult to guage what a search committee values in a cover letter from institution to institution based on the job description and the their website. It's hard to know when, for instance, if a job is advertised for a 20th century American lit job at University XYZ whether or not to showcase your research and scholarly accomplishments in the first paragraph, or your pedagogical and community accomplishments. So I suppose there is a tricky politics, and a bit of a guessing game (unless a job posting says explicitly that we're valuing sholarly achievement less than pedagogical achievement, or, as is rarely the case, a job posting tells you what they want you to address in a cover letter) as far as the placement of the paragraph or two that emphasizes teaching ability and the paragraph or two that empahsizes dissertation and scholarly accomplishments. And, by the way, most sample cover letters and "how to write academic cover letter for English jobs" type articles produced by job placement committees at universities or mla, tend to show letters in which one's academic achievement and dissertation are emphasized first. Yes, most of the jobs are obviously teaching jobs, but I don't know anyone yet who has a clear consensus on where to place the initial emphasis in the cover letter for each individual job (unless, again, the job posting says explicitly, this is what we want you to emphasize in the cover letter).
    • I couldn't agree more with the above response... It is impossible, and somewhat dangerous to anticipate what a search committee might want with a cover letter. I once asked my advisor, who I really respect on job search issues, how much I should tailor my letter to specific search ads. He advised me that being too specific to the ad can be problematic as some search committee members were unhappy with what the school was looking for, and thus what the ad said the department wanted. As the above posting recognizes, politics can get a bit tricky to negotiate. Also, should search committees really expect job letters to be so so specific to their ad? On one hand maybe. But people apply to so many schools out of necessity that shaping each letter becomes not only time consuming, but sometimes a bit insincere. Obviously some shaping needs to happen, but I would present who you feel you are, and who you want to be as a scholar and teacher. If they want you, so be it. If they don't, oh well.
  • OK. Now I don't mind revealing perhaps my ignorance revealed in this question concerning job search: My specialization and dissertation is modernist British novelists. But I spent a great deal of my PhD program studying/ conducting research on Shakespeare and Renaissance, work that led to my dissertation--AND nearly half of courses I have taught over past 8 years at a private liberal arts college were Shakespeare--I have taught all of the college's Shakespeare: the survey classes, the seminar, and a special topics Shakespeare class I create every year. Additionally, I have an article coming out in a major journal that uses Shakespeare in context of modernist political philosophical argument. Would I be a viable candidate for jobs in both Renaissance / Early Modern and 20th cent Brit lit, or am I stuck with looking only at 20th century Brit lit since my dissertation was on three modernst Brit novelists? (As you can see, I'm hoping I can widen my search, and, quite frankly, I love teaching Shakespeare).
    • Yes, if you have experience teaching Shakespeare and some publication record on Shakespeare, I think it is realistic to apply for both Early Modern and Modern jobs. The more you can widen your search, the better your chances . . .
    • I'm a job search novice, but the placement committee at my university told me that a secret to the job search is that teaching a course or publishing in a subject area, even if it is not the subject of your dissertation, makes you viable for jobs in that field. Candidates often don't realize that. So yes, I think early modern jobs make sense, and the market in that period seems relatively vibrant this year. Maybe a search committee will love the idea of having someone who can teach early modern and modern.
      • I think the advice you've been given is a bit disingenuous. Being "viable" for a job and being competitive are different things, esp. in this tough job market. It's a bit like saying that anyone with a BA is viable for a PhD program -- this is true, but the bar is usually set a lot higher than that.
      • Point taken.
      • Yes, that advice was probably too optimistic. I work with a chair of an English department at big research univ. who is probably in the know more than most anyone about how the search works. Most of big universities and top liberal arts colleges hiring for tenure track look first for someone whose research shows the promise of consistant success in the future--whether that is journal pubs, journals/conferences showing interest in your research (revise and resubmit), and / or if your research resonates in way that has a future for you as a scholar they want to invest in. Then they want to know that you can get into the classroom and hit the ground running with teaching. They are definitely suspicious of anyone who has slim experience designing and teaching courses--so if any of you only have experience TAing, try to get some work designing / teaching your own course, whether at your phd institution or somewhere else as an adjunct. And search committees like people who have experience teaching outside of the university in which they worked on PhD
    • You do seem to have a lot of experience outside your field, but that might actually work against you in post-1900 job searches because it dilutes your focus. That might still be okay in some teaching-focused schools. Either way, it will make you more appealing to schools looking for a generalist, but people who want a Renaissance person or a Modernist probably won't interview someone fresh from graduate school working primarily in a field that isn't their dissertation field. "Why did this person write a post-1900 dissertation if most of his/her teaching and research are actually in Renaissance?" That's the question that your cover will need to address.
    • Definitely, you should craft two separate cover letters--one for each type of job.
  • Thanks for all the quick responses! Actually, first three years of PhD program were Renaissance, and after that my focus of research was 20th cent. Brit. I first studied under big Shakepeare scholar, and then got an advisor who was both a big Shakespeare and 20th century brit scholar. A third of courses I've taugt are Shakespeare, and most of others are modernist--and 3 of my 4 pubs are 20th cent Brit. So I think I can remain confidently modernist if need be for a job looking for that. My profs from phd institution all think I could teach anything, which isn't really helpful advice--wish they'd be bit more tough with e. but if I need to I could sell myself as Generalist. I'm just a bit uncertain I could compete with the Shakespeare crowd, but with market as it is I might as well try. And yes, I have written three different letters to draw from so far: one for modernism, one for Shakespeare, and one for Generalist. Again, thanks. I'll keep perusing these pages to see what's up.
    • Do you plan to do significant future research in the Renaissance? That will be key if you apply for early modern jobs at any school that values research for tenure. Since most people turn their diss into their first book (often necessary for tenure), having a modernist diss is already a huge strike against you. Even your "Shakespeare" article is focused on modernist philosophy. So based on what you've said here, your CV shows little or no record of research in the Renaissance (coursework doesn't count). Your profile will be most attractive to smaller schools seeking a generalist, or dual-field coverage.
    • Yes. My diss dealt with biblical / eschatological paradigms that had begun to wear out during Renaissance, resulting in shifts in narrative temporality in modernist fiction, particularly how indeterminacy frustrates consummate endings causing a postmodern play with notions of death, time and eternity--I would like, for instance, to extend Kermode's, Fidde's, Ricoeur's et al examination of paradigms of origins and "the promised end" they argue begin to break down in Shakespeare's plays. I suppose my goal is idealistic, but I'd like to be able to speak and write with authority as a scholar who can bridge both early modern and modernist literature. But I realize I can't just get a TT job as both -- have to begin as one or the other. As I wrote earlier, my first half of PhD program I studied Renaissance under one scholar, and then second half I studied modern Brit and hermeneutics under another scholar, under whom I wrote my diss.
  • (10-16) I found the posts above really helpful. But I have a question: is it better to get into conferences wherever I find them, or better to wait for the big name conferences? Do search committees discriminate? What about publications? How many publications does one need to be competitive? I'm on the job market for the second year, but really the first year in earnest, one publication in revise and resubmit stage, 5 conferences, tons of teaching, dissertation will be defended in four months. How important is it to have the PhD in hand, and how do I strengthen my application?
  • Those are good questions that tend to nag everyone -- what does a search committee look for in a cv and other materials. First, it depends on type of school you're applying to. For instance, community colleges are interested almost entirely in teaching experience, professional development in teaching, and service. A small liberal arts college will be interested in both your teaching experience and your research. A large research university will be more than likely more interested in your research. But between liberal arts colleges and universities, it is not a steadfast rule -- always research what you can about what a certain institution values. With that said, the most important thing all around is to have some good teaching experience, particularly in your specialty. Of course, publications are important, but not having publications is not the end all be all (it is great to have revise and resubmit, and you should emphasize this on cv / cover letter). But if you have one or more pubs in good peer-reviewed journals it is a big plus. As far as conferences go, it is a vague area. It would appear from the surveys done by MLA--actual responses from search committees--that conference attendence is pretty low on the list of things committees look at. In fact, i've talked to some faculty on search committees who look at cvs suspiciously if the candidate lists or emphasizes tons of conferences. Obviously conferences can't hurt an application, but the data I've seen collected over the years suggests that conferences are very low on the list of things committees look at compared to teaching, publications and research. Also, committees don't want to know just what you HAVE done, but are interested in knowing what you WILL do, too, since they are making an investment in the person they hire -- in other words, it really helps if you offer a sense of future research you plan to conduct and / or projects you've got in the works. And it is becoming more and more the norm for committees to want PhD in hand -- not a lot of ABD hires going on anymore--so make sure you emphasize at the VERY BEGINNING of your cover letter that you will have your dissertation defended by May, or something like that. Somewhere there is a good study that Ibelieve MLA did last year concerning all of these questions. Maybe someone else knows. Or go to ADE page
  • Thank you so much! I can't tell you how helpful this is.
  • Perhaps this belongs on a venting page, or something, but I have to be honest, I don't know what gets people even a foot in the door for an interview in this field and market. This is going into my third year on the market and here are my stats so to speak: four major journal publications; EXTENSIVE teaching expereince at three institutions, one where I have been teaching all of their classes in my area for several years, and one where I teach all of their Shakespeare; several awards, one for the best teacher at a major research university; I have conferences; I have had professors who serve on search committees spend hours working with me on my materials--cv, cover letter, etc. And I have not received ONE call, one interview. Nothing. I've been teaching 7, 8, even, on a couple of occassions, 9 courses a semester just to make ends meet, and now I'm trying to figure out how to make extra money so that I don't default on my mortgage. I'm paying for health insurance out of pocket for me and my family. I dedicated a decade of my life to get this PhD for something I love. I'm getting too old to make a career change. And I'm burned out. It's feeling inhuman to teach this many classes a semester. I'm supposed to be an English PhD and I don't have time to read a book. I literally do not know what else I can put on my cv or what else to do--what difference would one more major publication make? Is five better than four? What difference would teaching one more Brit lit class make on top of the forty or more I've already taught? Does a search committee really care if I went to one more f-ing conference? Sorry to sound so negative--it looks like I'm not going to MLA again this year--but I really don't know what gets people a job. I know I'm not the only one in this situation.
  • 1) On Nov. 20, it is a bit too early to assume you will not get an MLA interview. Most schools have not even made their interview calls yet, some schools have been known to call right before X-mas, and with MLA in Jan. now, I wouldn't be suprised if some pushed it even later. That said, it is better to assume the worst, and then be pleasantly suprised if it turns out otherwise. 2) the "X" factor is just sheer chance, luck, fortuna, whatever you want to call it. There are so many idosyncratic factors that go into any single search, you can't calculate or know for certain why not you, why someone else, why you and not someone else, etc.. I wish I could tell you the magic formula, and certainly there are many things you can do (as others have suggested above) to maximize your chances, but none of those suggestions is a guarantee of success. You also need plain, dumb luck.
  • Yes I know all of that. I'm just feeling lousy about everything, particularly the slim pickings in my area. And I'm just feeling a lot of panic, looking at finances and feeling uncertain that I can go through another year and a half of part-time teaching and little to know pay in the summer, etc etc. (Yikes, maybe that's why I haven't gotten a job yet -- I'm spelling "no" as "know"!)
  • Have you gotten someone you trust--either the placement advisor, a member of your dissertation committee, or the department chair--to vet your letters of reference? If not, do this ASAP: I have heard multiple stories about candidates who have been submarined by a lukewarm recommendation. You also might consider throwing out your old letter of application (which obviously isn't working for you) and drafting something new and fresh. Then, have lots of random people look at it, and maybe attend the job seekers' workshops offered at MLA every year. Last but not least: remember that getting a TT job is akin to winning a small lottery, and don't beat yourself up about it.
  • Yes, I've done all of the above a few months ago. The letters are awesome, and I've had some top-notch people comb through my cover letters, etc. I'm pretty sure my problem in the past two years has been that I am geographically constricted to a 100 mile radius or so (I've expanded beyond 60 miles) in the northeast (family / medical issues, etc). Obviously if I could do a nationwide search, things would probably be different. But, on a good note, I just received a VAP position at a state university for up to two years, so I have some more breathing room in my search. Yipeee!
  • Congratulations on the VAP position! That will definitely help your search in future years.

MLA Interview Requests after Christmas?[]

12/20: Given the new, later date for the MLA convention, I'm wondering if some schools will still be making interview requests after Christmas this year. Or are they done at this point? Thoughts?

--my advisor says that in past years, interviews have been scheduled as late as the 24th. This year there's an extra week, so perhaps some small chance of post-Christmas and pre-New Year?

12/22: And then there is the question: to go to MLA(LA), no interviews in hand, or not? How important is networking, or should I exchange my Southwest tickets, book a yoga retreat, move on . . . ? 13:56, December 22, 2010 (UTC)

12/22: I may be answering my own question here (I'm the original poster), but I just got a writing sample request from a school that says it plans to interview at MLA. I shudder to think of all the reading those committee members will have to do over Christmas, but I guess at least one school still has interviews to schedule. Re: going to MLA without interviews in hand, I have to say I'd skip it ... I did that once, and I just ended up feeling depressed and not managing any significant networking (although that may just prove that I'm a bad schmoozer!).

12/23: I went to MLA in New York without an interview--I wasn't in middle of search then--but with the idea of networking. I, too, must say it did not work, and I AM good at schmoozing (I was a fundraiser for an ivy league school in a different life before going on to grad school). I found that most people were either too busy to be in networking frame of mind, too stressed, or just too plain depressed. In fact, it was one of the most depressed group of people I've ever run into -- most people seemed to be either drowning sorrows in whisky and gin, or pining to do so. Also, it is such a gigantic event with so many choices it just becomes overwhelming--and then you just want to crash in your room. Greenblatt described that particular MLA as having all of the drinking associated with the convention without the sex. BUT, I have heard of rare cases where a person who did not get an interview was able to snag a last minute interview at the MLA. I'm sure it happens, but I would guess it's a 1 in 10,000 chance. . . ? (What might you have to lose if you run into members of SC who asked for writing sample but not an interview and you introduce yourself? Maybe you could wow one of them with a twenty second pithy literary insight?)

12/26: Any further thoughts on the question of whether any interviews will be scheduled after Christmas? I suppose hearing from someone on Sunday the 26th is unlikely - but I'm snowed in and obsessing. Possible? Or self-deluding? 18:37, December 26, 2010 (UTC)

A: A handful of places have scheduled MLA interviews after X-mas this year: looking through these pages, you can see interviews scheduled in various fields between 12/26-12/29, by schools like Seton Hall, Pacific University, Central Florida. Definitely a minority of schools running this late, though. Will be interesting to see whether any SC's schedule MLA interviews right after New Years. 19:18, December 31, 2010 (UTC)

A: I just scheduled an interview today (12/31) and am still waiting on another. The SC told me they'd be in touch by 1/3 if they wanted to schedule an interview. It's certainly very late, but I guess not that surprising. Last year, interview requests went out as late as 12/23, which was roughly the same amount of notice pre-MLA.

Applying to Community Colleges[]

So after not receiving any interviews, I am now branching out to applying for community colleges. Does anyone know if this will hurt my future chances at employment at a 4-year university? What are the odds that I will be able to move from a CC to a 4-year institution?

1/13: I'm not saying you are necessarily thinking about this with this attitude, but I think a lot of people run into trouble when they think of applying for jobs at community colleges as a "back up." Keep in mind, community colleges have their own set of criteria for hiring, and a whole different set of expectations, and many of them are just as competitive for job seekers. Most of them will not be that interested in your PhD and / or your research--in fact, some community colleges are hesitant to hire people with PhDs because they assume 1. you really don't want to be there that long. 2. you're more interested in research and publishing than teaching. Unless you are really good at bs-ing in an interview, most community college SCs can smell if you are really not interested in community college teaching--because one of the most important things community colleges look for is a person who thoroughly understands, believes in and is dedicated to the mission and philosophy of a community college and service to the community. Probably the best thing to do to get a job at a community college is to adjunct at one for a year or so to get experience and to prove that you really want to do it. In answer to your question, I don't think any teaching experience hurts in getting traditional college job, but I'm not sure it really helps either.

Contact After MLA Interviews[]

Q. How soon ought we expect to hear from schools with whom we interviewed at MLA? Two weeks? A month? More? Just wondering... 22:11, January 11, 2011 (UTC)

A. Always one more day than you think you can possibly stand.

I'm wondering this too. Any word on what the norm is?

A: Like everything else, there is no "norm" (which is probably why the best answer is the one above). Some schools invite at MLA, some need to go back to campus first to have invites authorized so there is a delay of a week or so (or even sometimes longer, depending on a particular university's semester schedule) . Some schools invite their top 1-3 candidates and keep others on the back burner, who may be called in later if the first few candidates don't work out, take other offers, etc. I know people who got invites to campus right away at MLA or in the few days after (and got the job), and I also know people who didn't get invites until March (and still got the job). In the interview, the SC should have given you some idea of their timeline (and if they don't bring it up, you should always ask). The committee's own statement about their timeline is the best thing to steer by, but otherwise, in general, if you have interviewed and have not gotten a rejection yet, you may very well still be in play, even if you are not immediately invited for a visit. Anything can happen.

Q. I forgot to ask about the timeline during the interview, which went over the alloted time. Is it OK to send an email asking when a decision will be made?

A. Probably best to sit on your hands and weather the anxiety in silence. Search Committees are very busy with the process, coupled with the start of the new semester. The not knowing is difficult, but you will receive info when necessary -- an invite if its forthcoming, uncomfortable silence if its not.

Q. Do schools call to request/schedule campus visits all on the same day? ie, if the wiki says one call has been made on Monday, can we assume they've called everyone they're inviting to campus and won't call someone else on, say, Wednesday? Really what I'm asking is--is it too late?

A. As with everything job search related: maybe. Sometimes there's some lag between calls, and there's always the (very real) chance that initial visits won't yield a viable candidate. So it ain't over 'till the letterhead in your mail says so.

What's up with the wiki this year?[]

hey fellow wikians--just a question, but has anybody else noticed that there is much less participation on the wiki this year? it seemed to me that relative to last year, far fewer people noted their materials requests/interviews (i mean in the parenthetical field where we note "x2" "x3" etc.) but more troublingly, i know for a fact that there are some jobs on this list that have made campus visit invites as far back as a few weeks ago, but there is still nothing noted under the listing. altho it's often a stressor, in general i've found the wiki a really reassuring site of mutual solidarity, and i think it's been a really important way a way to make this horrible, incoherent process a bit more transparent, albeit anonymously, so i find this trend distressing. has the wiki become so much a *part* of the process--e.g. something that's checked by committees, that's known to the mla powers-that-be--that we no longer feel safe posting here? is the job market these days so stressful that folks just don't want to know, and thus are staying off it? are there aspects of the conversation (e.g. snark, misinformation) that have turned folks off completely? and finally, most importantly, is there anyway that we can work together to make it a more consistent source of information in the future? just a question...

  • Re: I've noticed the same general silence, but I've also felt within myself the sort of misgivings you mention toward the end of your post. And, truly, I've had conversations with tenured, hiring-type faculty members who said, directly, that if they ever found out a candidate was posting info on a wiki they would immediately consider that individual unsuitable for hire. Of course, I deeply disagree with that protectionist sentiment. The wiki has a great purpose in breaking silences that are too deep and troubling. I wonder, however, if this is also part of this year's quiet -- so many are so disappointed in the sheer lottery of the job search that they're staying away. The wiki can drive you nuts, of course, with wanting to know. So perhaps more are avoiding this open forum to encourage greater self esteem and sanity.
  • I've heard accounts of SC members who supposedly will hold wiki posting against a candidate, although I tend to believe that this fear is overblown: if a candidate is a good fit in every other way, most normal depts. aren't going to hold a wiki post against him/her . . . (and if they would, what does that say about the dept? seems pretty petty to me . . .). But I wouldn't discount the paranoia factor among desperate candidates. I think one thing everyone can do to keep this forum useful is to add even second-hand reports of movements on searches (the OP mentions knowing visits that haven't been posted here . . . why not post them yourself, as "through the grapevine" type reports?)
  • I think also that people are increasingly nervous about posting as the process moves along. There doesn't appear to be any downside to posting a materials request, as at that point it is only one among many, but there may be reason to be nervous about posting a campus visit invite, when the school could easily figure out who you are. That said, I wish more people would participate, as this is a valuable source of information in a very opaque process. All of us who do post here should encourage our friends/colleagues to participate as well!