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Science Careers Blog

February 21, 2011

What Could That Hiring Committee Have Been Thinking?

From the standpoint of the disappointed candidate, the process of hiring new faculty members is not only frustrating but also opaque and mysterious.  "Why did they not even consider my application?," ask some also-ran applicants.  "Why did they string me along for so long and put me through all that if I didn't have any real shot at the job?," moan others.

In a thoughtful and informative essay in Inside Higher Ed, a search committee veteran, Timothy Larsen of Wheaton College in Illinois, attempts to clarify the thought processes and actions of the people on the receiving end of those huge stacks of applications.  To the most basic question, "What did I do wrong?", he offers a compassionate answer:  "Probably nothing.  Candidates sometimes do make mistakes.  Most of the time, however, your application and indeed your entire educational and career path looks admirable, even highly impressive to us.  In fact, you often exacerbate our impostor's syndrome....  Believe me, we know we could not get our current jobs now with the CVs we had then."  

After discussing a number of considerations that weigh in decisions, he adds, "None of this, of course, is any real help or comfort."  But maybe it does help just a bit to know how things look from the other side.

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