Thursday, January 27, 2011

Internal Candidates

Most of the academic job seekers who are preparing for their campus visits right now have no idea how many the jobs they are interviewing for in good faith have already been promised to internal candidates. Often, an internal candidate is somebody's relative or friend, which makes the entire process smell really bad. In other cases, however, there are legitimate internal candidates who are perfectly qualified for the position.

I understand very well how a department might want to offer a tenure-track position to an adjunct who worked hard for the department for years or who is about to get a PhD. What is really wrong, though, is that even in cases when the department is 100% convinced it has the right internal candidate, it is still forced to declare a national search. Such searches waste university resources that are scarce as it is. They also exploit hopeful candidates who apply for the position in good faith, go through a gruelling 9-month job application process, interview at the MLA, kill themselves to deliver a great campus visit, and have no idea during that entire time that they don't have a hope in hell of being hired. I've seen such fake searches, and they honestly break your heart.

So my question is: why not dispense with fake searches altogether? They waste precious resources, undermine a university's integrity, and cause damage to job seekers. They are conducted for the sake of keeping up appearances, which is hardly a goal worthy of all this sacrifice and dishonesty.


Pagan Topologist said...

I have twice in my life seen "fake searches" such as you mention here lead to the hiring of someone unexpectedly better for the job than the candidate that was the a priori presumptive person to be chosen. In my view, this is enough to justify the searches. On the other side of the same coin, it often happens that a candidate is not real, but is just looking for an offer to try to get a matching offer from his or her current institution.

Clarissa said...

"it often happens that a candidate is not real, but is just looking for an offer to try to get a matching offer from his or her current institution."

-Really? Who would put themselves through this painful process for such a strange reason? People are weird.

Pagan Topologist said...

I have always considered it to be unethical, but I know quite a few people who have done it. Sadly, it is widely regarded as the only way for an outstanding scholar to get a really big pay increase.

Patrick said...

I have to agree with Pagan. And it's not unique to the academic world. In private industry, I've had employees who went on job searches, to try and pry higher wage increases. And it generally works - the cost of searching, interviewing and training a new person is generally three times the amount of money it would take to satisfy the employee's wage demand.

It's generally only best to replace someone when their work is substandard. If they are an average or above performer, were generally better off keeping the experience.