Post Academic


Here come the lame responses too…

Last time, I wrote about how you need to be prepared for any kind of crazy response for materials that may come your way after your initial application.  So it seems like it would be a good time to give you a head’s up that you’ll likely be getting some lame responses to your oh-so-conscientious effort to send in a strong job application.  We’re strolling down memory lane for some of our greatest hits from earlier posts before you probably knew we existed, along with a few new entries to this hall of shame.   Some of these are garden-variety, out-of-anyone’s-control deals, but some of the others are in such dubious taste that you wonder what people are (not) thinking.

Sorry, but the search was cancelled after you invested time and money in applying: Back in the Dust Bowl markets of 2008 + 2009 — which must seem like ancient history to a fresh-faced batch of first-time applicants — it was a fairly common occurrence to find an email message noting a cancelled search or log on to the job wiki to get the bad news before you personally received it.  But there’s still a few of these that might pop up, like what happened to this Af Am lit search at well-heeled Wesleyan.  Courtesy of the Academic Jobs Wiki:

Note 9/13: Received email that search has been postponed.

Subfield/description: The African-American Studies Program and the English Department at Wesleyan University seek a specialist in African-American literature and culture for a tenure-track appointment at the assistant professor level….Expertise in one or more of the following areas is particularly welcome: diasporic and transnational studies, cultural theory, performance studies, gender and sexuality.”

Deadline: Completed applications received electronically by November 1, 2010, will receive full consideration.

Hey, at least they seemed to notify potential candidates fairly early in the game, even if it’s a bummer that a prime job got cancelled.  What’s worse is actually putting in the time, effort, and sometimes money to send in an application, only to have the rug pulled from under you via a terse but apologetic email.  What’s even worser is the situation I’ve heard of but haven’t experienced first-hand of a search that dropped after the interview stage, which calls for even more psychic and material investments from all parties.

Have you heard of BCC?: More than a few years ago, at the advent of the digital job correspondence era, I received either a mass acknowledgement or rejection email — with all the hundreds of applicants’ names and emails present in the “to” field of the message!  It must have been a rejection e-letter, not because that seems more dramatic, but because I remember not feeling so bad about being rejected because of all the good company I had, which included friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and some people whose pubs I had read.  And come to think of it, I recall it being a job at…Wesleyan?  If this jogs anyone’s memory back to, what, 2006, please comment below!

Even lamer examples from the Post Academic archive below…

We want you to teach English, but grammar we don’t care about too much: This blast from the past came from “To Whom It May Concern: Rejection letter do’s and don’t’s, Part 1” — which begs the question of how many parts are there (2) and how many rejections have I received (many).  Though technically not a rejection letter, the do/don’t I addressed here had to do with writing grammatical/ungrammatical correspondence.

In retrospect, I have to say that this one was more funny than it was infuriating.  Below is a particularly egregious example of an ungrammatical notification, which reads more like spam than professional correspondence:

Good Morning,

Your material for the Professorship in American Literature at [redacted], can you please click here and fill out the Affirmative Action Survey.

This is basically a one-line response that includes 2 grammatical errors (comma splice and missing question mark)!  Well, it was prompt as an acknowledgement, so it did its job.  It’s a also a good place for me to pick up on next time, since EEOC groveling is one of my biggest pet peeves!

Your application is rejected, but buy my book: Speaking of Part 2, this one is a classic and probably my all-time favorite rejection.  Actually, getting this rejection was probably worth the effort to apply to a job I wasn’t interested at all, but did because there were so few positions last year and I had the cover letter factory running anyway.  The “don’t” from the post suggested correspondence not be used to sell product.  I wish I could include the message here — complete with a thumbnail of the book cover and a salespitch that it’s “Now available at Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers!” — but that might be worse form than even the letter sig itself.  If you really, really have to know about it, you can look for it on last year’s Ethnic American lit job wiki site.

Your application is rejected, but you’re on our mailing list: Ah, the oldiest but goodiest, since this example comes from my very first post for Post Academic.  Alas, I used to be able to write very short posts.  To quote:

On Friday, I received another email from the host institution which rejected my application — this time with an attachment to its newsletter!  So maybe spam is now a consolation prize.

Hello all,

We hope that you enjoy reading the Center for Africana Studies’ latest issue of Horizons, our biannual newsletter. Your comments and interest are always welcome.

Ah, good times had by all, er, me!  It makes me almost feel like applying for academic jobs again.  But this year, I’m probably relying on you, gentle readers, for material.

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2 Responses to 'Here come the lame responses too…'

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  1. Mackie Blanton said,

    This posting had/has me chuckling throughout, just below a tinge of sadness. You render with gallows humor the sheer inhumanity of it all. I can imagine aloof, trapped upper administrators making wrong decisions within an Academy that does not yet know how to be less diffident and more daring and magnanimous.

    • Arnold Pan said,

      Thanks, Mackie. The gallows humor is my consolation prize from being the fifth runner-up in all these job searches. Well, that and a lot of junk mail!


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