The Plight of the Post-Doc

2.04.2010

We will not be acting further on your application

There is something so charmingly anachronistic in how, despite the entire application process being electronic, I'm receiving hand-signed letters of rejection in my mailbox.  I'm all for the personal touch, but really, why bother?  It costs money--both in stamps and in high-quality watermarked university letterhead--and time; 497 signatures simply cannot, nor should be, done in one sitting.  Carpal tunnel, you know (though you could always blame it on the sex).  Plus it's bad for the environment, as I am not one of those people who keep their rejection letters as some sort of ironic trophy.  My most recent is on a barge to a New Jersey landfill, I am sure of it.

To date, the number of official no-thank-you's is a surprisingly small two, but I can't imagine that this is an accurate representation of the number of departments that have decided not to act further on my application.  Or does everyone send these letters?  I had sort of presumed that the radio silence from, well, everywhere else was an indication that They're Just Not That Into Me, but should I still be holding out some hope?  Fat lady sings, etc?

Feel free to answer these questions in the comments without regard to my feelings or whatever. I've come to the full realization that I really have no idea how any of this works, because it's different everywhere.  All I can do is get my work done and try to put another manuscript together by the time the next hiring cycle comes around......or is there something else I can do?  Again, fire away!

13 comments:

Zen said...

Search committees vary tremendously in their efforts to keep candidates informed, but most are decidedly of the “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” school of management.

Part of this may be because search committees want to keep options open. You don't want to shut people out early in case you have to deeper into the pool for candidates.

Still, to all those search committees out: acknowledgment of receipt at least would be nice.

Arlenna said...

I had the same experience Dr. B--so many I never even heard a peep from whatsoever. I also had one dept. where I had interviewed pleasantly that never got back in touch. Since I HAD interviewed and met them all, I eventually emailed to check in and they were all awkward about telling me they'd hired someone else.

Search committees rarely have their acts together, and even when they do it's harder than you'd think to forumlate those rejection letters. Also, sometimes they've genuinely got you on a back burner waiting to see how some of their first round people pan out. Being a first rounder for interviews can be incredibly arbitratry--like, maybe someone on the committee just likes your undergrad institution and decides to go to bat for you. Or maybe somebody else has a bugbear about some technique you use and keeps frowning when they talk about you. "Enthusiasm" for a candidate is extremely vague and floaty and ever-changing, so don't feel like it's you, really: it's them.

Arlenna said...

I should qualify that the arbitrariness I talk about above depends on already being in the top of a candidate pool because of your CV/letters. It's like what CPP and DM say about NIH scores: can you really tell the difference between the 15th and the 16th percentile proposals at a 15% payline institute? NO. But something about the 15th percentile proposals caught the eye of their reviewers and panel, and that something may or may not have had anything to do with its objective quality.

Dr Becca, PhD said...

Sigh. Remember 15% paylines?

Thanks, Zen and Arlenna. It does seem to completely vary. Most places sent me email notification of receipt of my application, and interestingly, everywhere I wrote to update on my latest paper being accepted wrote back to say thanks and that they'd add it to my file. No one said that the position had been filled, which I found just the tiniest bit encouraging. But really, who knows. I'll of course keep everyone posted!

pinus said...

I only got 1 official rejection letter. Only 25% of the places interviewed at never said anything. I ran in to a person I met with at an 'interview' school, and she was apologetic about it. I said 'wait...you mean I didn't get the job!' We both had a chuckle.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

(1) You should definitely save all your rejection letters. When you are a successful PI, you will occasionally enjoy looking at those letters and laughing your fucking ass off at how stupid they all were not to give you a job.

(2) Many searches don't bother sending rejection letters. Shitty, but true.

(3) I wouldn't give up hope yet. Some departments have a hard time getting their acts together. The position that I hold now wasn't even advertised until January, and I didn't get an interview invitation until April.

Professor in Training said...

What PP said. I never heard anything from about 75% of the places I applied to. For the job I currently hold, I wasn't contacted until February (even though I was their top choice) and didn't interview until late March. I was also the top candidate for another school but they didn't contact me until the August after I had applied as their search committee had run into some "issues."

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Here's some other hilarious job search aftermath shit. There are faculty from at least three different institutions that didn't *give* me offers who--whenever I see them at meetings, study section, or other contexts--express regret that I didn't *accept* their offers.

When you're an applicant, it's hard not see yourself as the center of the fucking universe. From the standpoint of the hiring institutions, you are nothing but a speck of dust on the windshield.

Prof-like Substance said...

I never heard from about 50% of the places I applied to, although I was fortunate never to have the interview-and-forget bullshit that Arlenna described. I threw most of the reject letters out, but saved one particularly good one that included two spelling errors and a grammatical error. All in three sentences. BTW, I gave an invited seminar in that department last semester.

Dr Becca, PhD said...

CPP, that is hilarious. I hope your response was something along the lines of, "I really appreciate that, and I probably owe you an explanation. Here's the thing: when it came right down to it, the main reason I decided to accept at my current institution instead of yours was that THEY MADE ME AN OFFER AND YOU DIDN'T, YOU EEEEEEDIOT!!!!"

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Ah, grasshopper, you have much to learn. The appropriate response is, "My institution has been an outstanding place to build my research program, which is doing extremely well."

Anonymous said...

During law school I kept all of my rejection letters, I had like stacks of hundreds. It was actually kind of cool.

Dr. O said...

My own experience this past year - I've gotten rejection letters from half the places I've applied to, and the other half, well, I have no idea. Most rejections have been by email, but, like you, I have been very humored by the rejections on letterhead sent by snail mail. I have also gotten irregular updates from a couple of places, informing me that I'm still in the running, but providing no other info. I've heard that most search committees are getting overwhelmed by a larger-than-normal number of apps, but who knows.

Other than that, I keep reminding myself that this is my practice round. One interview would be nice, but I've tried to expect nothing more. Next year, with more papers under my belt, will (hopefully) be my year... ;)

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