This semester is a rather busy one for me. In addition to my usual four classes, advising, serving as the philosophy & religion facilitator, I have a few more duties. These include the program review and serving on seven (possibly eight now) committees. Two of these committees are hiring committees. I have had plenty of experience on such committees, but they are always a considerable amount of work to do properly.
Serving on a committee and assessing applicants is somewhat like grading papers-the idea is to assess the candidate on the basis of the materials provided. As with student papers, the application material varies considerably. However, there are some fairly easy ways for a candidate to put together a better application package.
One common mistake made by candidates and students alike is to
simply leave out things that are supposed to be turned in. I have seen applications missing a few things (such as transcripts) and others that are missing almost everything. While search committees will often review incomplete applications, some committees will not consider them-especially when they are large numbers of applicants to consider. Even if the incomplete application is reviewed, the fact that it is incomplete will mean that those reviewing it will have less information to go on and this will tend to result in a lower evaluation.
A second mistake common to applicants and students is turning or sending in too much. In some cases, people seem to have thrown anything close at hand into the envelope they send in. There are some good reasons to not send in too much material. One is, obviously enough, the extra cost of mailing all that extraneous material. An important reason is that some unfortunate person probably has to make copies of or scan all the material sent on paper to make it available to the committee. As might be suspected, pushing an entire dissertation through a scanner is not something most people enjoy. People enjoy reading through it even less and, as might be suspected, some committee members will elect to simply skip over all those extras. In most cases this is quite reasonable-after all, the committee is supposed to assess based on what is requested and not based on whatever an applicant decides to send in (apparently in the hopes of increasing his/her chances).
A third mistake is to send in the requested material, but to make it needlessly long, perhaps in the attempt to “pad” the application. While the material should present all that is requested and provide adequate coverage of what should be covered, making committee members plod through needlessly long material will tend to not contribute to the desired result. As with a good paper, the application material should do what must be done, yet remain as concise as possible.
A fourth mistake is have material that is poorly organized or unclearly written. As might be suspected, this sort of material makes it difficult for the committee members and does not create a good impression.
Back to work…