The Long Odds of
the Faculty Job Search
IT WAS classmate versus classmate, colleague versus colleague, and sea- soned professor versus graduate student. In some cases, it was even ad- viser versus advisee. Applicants for academic jobs, particularly in the humanities, know instinctively—and by the job offers that never materialize—that they face tough
competition in trying to get tenure-track positions. And when the odds are
sometimes as high as 600 to one, as they were for a recent opening for assistant professor in the department of political science at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, candidates have no way of knowing exactly whom they
are up against or how they stack up.
To be a contender, they might wonder, do I need more than one published
book? Have I presented my research at enough high-profile conferences? Will
my teaching experience push me to the top?
Through an open-records request, The Chronicle obtained all of the CVs
from two recent public-university searches for assistant professors. One was
conducted by the English department at the University of Ohio and drew 117
applicants. In the other, 71 scholars vied for a spot in the linguistics department at the University of Florida.
Together, the applications provide unusual insight into the competitive nature of academic job searches. The CVs show that candidates are competing
against people they know, and that applicants possess a wide range of credentials. They also reveal that the qualifications necessary for landing a tenure-track job are ever escalating.
Play the role of a search com-
mittee. Sort through more than
100 applicants for a tenure-track
professorship in creative writing,
adjust the applicant criteria, and
see if your choice matches that
of the actual search committee.
pHO TO IllUs Tr ATIOn By JOnATHAn BArk AT FOr THE CHrOn IClE