Tuesday, November 11, 2008

AALS Agonistes

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw (not Bill Henderson, but my name sits right below his on the left)

Brian Leiter has provided a link to his post from a year ago about when candidates should expect to hear from schools with whom they interviewed this past weekend in Washington.  I looked at the post and realized that I had commented twice, and they were worthy of being brought into the full light of bloggicity.

First, I speculated that callbacks were a front-end loaded curve.  Brian's observation that you COULD get a call late is accurate, but the likelihood is low. Here's a guess on call distribution: 20% before the weekend is over; 70% by the end of the first week after the conference; 90% in two weeks.

Second, here is my "Person/Unperson" theory having never sat on an Appointments Committee, but having done interviews and hiring in other contexts for over 25 years.   From the standpoint of the Appointments Committee, there is likely the A team, the B team, and the C team. The A team hears within two weeks about in the time sequence described above. The C team ought to get a brief "it was nice but no thanks" within a couple days, and more often than not it doesn't. The B team gets radio silence because it is the B team, which means it isn't the C team, and apparently somebody thinks it has a chance of moving up to the A team.

From the candidate's standpoint, the rationalization/self-deception progression goes as follows: (1) "I'm still on somebody's A team, but their committee is not going to do call backs until January;" (2) "I am still on somebody's B team," (3) "I am lower than dirt, and please call me in April when I have uncurled from the fetal position."

The A team fantasy will disappear on its own sometime between the conclusion of the Rose Bowl and the kickoff of the BCS Championship Game. The real issue is the "still on the B team fantasy." I'd bet dimes to dollars that if we looked at it in the macro, there actually is no pure B team person. Rather there are "Persons" and "Unpersons." (I can't remember: do I give credit to George Orwell for that?) That is to say, a real B teamer would be on SOMEBODY'S A team, and hence a Person. If you are on everybody's B team (and hence without callbacks), you are really an Unperson. I believe that was my experience in 2005.

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