Saturday, October 22, 2011

Repeat applicant etiquette

Ah, another dubious pleasure of academic job-hunting: seeing the same institutional names again, as one attempts to get a position at a university that rejected one from consideration last year.  Aside from avoiding the sense of failure resurrected, there's a particular trick about these that I'm still not sure how to do right.  Is it appropriate to refer to one's previous application, even if it was for a different position within the same department?  I'm tempted to say to Repeat U:

Please refer to my academic transcript from my previous application to your department.
It is, after all, sort of stupid to have to pay DOU-Town to send the Pseudology Dept. at Repeat U the exact same transcript that they sent last year.  It's not going to change at this point.  But good applicant etiquette demands that I do this anyway, doesn't it?

For that matter, in general, should I not mention my previous application?  In the case at hand, Repeat U is a pretty small place, and the Pseudology Dept. therefore is a very small place.  I'm already personally acquainted with the intended recipient of this letter as a result of last year's application process, if only by correspondence.  It seems somehow odd not to acknowledge this fact, especially since a lot of the form of my letter is the same from year to year — although, obviously, some pertinent facts have changed about my CV, and the nature of the position being advertised is also different in focus.  But does etiquette demand that we politely ignore this reality?  Must we (pretend to) start fresh?

I'm quite interested to see what readers have to say on this topic, both my fellow job-hunting rookies and more senior faculty who have served on hiring committees.


  1. I am not now nor have I ever been a member of a specially small department. So milage may vary. But in my dept., members of the screening committee* might not be the same from year to year, especially if the search is for a different area (and not, say, repeating a failed search). So you really could be addressing different people. And don't count on departments having kept any elements of an application around. I think they get shredded, in fact. So yes, you have to send another transcript. In case you are remembered, though, stress what is new about your CV and how you are a good fit for the job presently advertised.

    *Just because you address the letter to the chair doesn't mean the chair reads it, or not right away, anyway. There may be a screening committee charged with going through all the applications and making up a list of people to interview.

  2. I had a school that I applied to, got an interview with, then their search failed. (Insider knowledge suggested that they didn't quite know what they wanted after they interviewed people, and they needed to regroup.) I reapplied the following fall and didn't get an interview at all. I did happen to mention my interview, and that I really enjoyed talking to them (phone interview). Then, there was another place I had an MLA interview with that I loved, and their search failed because of funding during the financial crisis of 08. They advertized again in the fall, and I ended up not applying until just after the deadline (I had been offended at the way they handled cancelling the search -- they never told anyone; found out on the wiki). I didn't get an interview.

    So I don't know... take it for what it's worth -- one person's experience. But yeah, you'd definitely have to send them all the application materials again. Sucks, eh?

  3. What I've heard is that you pretend you've never applied before if they just did a search and you didn't go anywhere with it, but you can mention/remind them that you were a finalist or had conf. interviews with them.

    And I have been doing this for some damn departments for *years* now! (Cal State ____, I'm lookin' at you!)

    I figure if there gonna keep running the same job every year or so, I'm gonna keep applying there until they finally see the light and hire me. So there.