Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Inazu: The Pitfalls And Perils Of Faculty Hiring

John Inazu (Washington University; Google Scholar), The Pitfalls and Perils of Faculty Hiring:

InazuI have been thinking more broadly about the politics around faculty hiring as I’ve made final edits to my new book, Learning to Disagree. In one chapter focused on the question of what we do when compromise isn’t possible, I poke fun at what can transpire during the hiring process. The zero-sum nature of faculty hiring—a limited number of positions that can only address so many curricular needs—can lead to heated and sometimes amusing deliberations. You’ll have to read the book to get the details, but it’s fair to say that faculty—like most people—can easily conflate the institution’s priorities with their own.

The intensity and occasional absurdity of faculty hiring has caused me to reflect a bit about the current academic job market and my own past experiences with it. One important piece of context is how relatively few jobs there are, which raises the stakes and competitiveness of faculty searches. ,,,

[L]ast year’s hiring cycle saw 129 entry-level tenure-track faculty hires by American law schools. The bottom line is that the number of tenure-track faculty positions in law and the humanities is fairly small. And while many part-time and full-time faculty positions outside of the tenure track can be stable and rewarding, others can be financially challenging or even exploitative. ...

[L]et me offer three suggestions to those seeking faculty positions and those hiring for those positions.

  1. Learn the Inside Baseball  Every academic discipline has a set of unstated norms and customs. With rare exceptions, you will have to learn these discipline-specific norms and customs to have any shot at being a serious candidate. ...
  2. Try and Try Again, But Always Have a Backup Plan  Nobody likes to fail, but lots of people fail on the academic market. I did. And some of the smartest and most accomplished colleagues I know did, too. Sometimes you have to navigate the process more than once to understand how it works and how to bring your best effort. Sometimes you’ll have to endure embarrassing and vulnerable moments along the way. Sometimes you’ll finish just out of the running for your dream job. ...
  3. Be Kind, Always  This last point is directed toward everyone in the hiring process. If you are a candidate, be kind to everyone you meet, from students to faculty to faculty assistants. Nobody wants to hire a jerk.

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