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The Job Application Process in Higher Education is Broken—and We Need to Fix It

The following is a rejection letter I recently received for a tenure-track position in English literature, which I quote at length to illustrate the current state of the academic job market from the applicant’s perspective:

Dear Christopher Stampone:

Thank you for your interest in employment with [X]. There were many highly qualified applicants who applied for the position of ASSISTANT/ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR 10 MONTHS position and our decision was very difficult. Although your background is impressive, we have selected a candidate whose qualifications most closely match our job requirements. . . . Please accept our best wishes for success in your job search endeavors.

Sincerely,

Search Committee

<department> Department

Clearly, the school’s statement about my “impressive background” is disingenuous because the “Search Committee” of the “<department> Department” failed to complete the appropriate spaces in their rejection form. I am quite convinced that they do not really think I am “impressive” since every applicant has an “impressive” background by default. The position went to someone with unspecified “qualifications” that supersede my own. I might ask questions but I doubt “Search Committee” would respond to my queries.

Such poorly-written and thoughtless rejection letters—which, as I discovered, are quite common in academia—reveal the reality of the HR-driven job application process. This process is broken—and we need to fix it.

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