A Hiring Game

In a comments thread over at Brian Leiter’s blog, John Doris mentions the following experiment.

If you’ve been around awhile, think of the 2 or 3 rookie “stars” from your year(s) on the job market (the ones who got most and best interviews and offers), and then ask if these people are the most influential members of their cohort. I suspect that for many of us, this exercise does not engender strong confidence in the profession’s predictive acumen. (Perhaps this is why some major programs avoid hiring junior.)

I don’t want to get into the pros and cons of hiring junior, especially while Rutgers is searching, but I thought this was an interesting experiment.

Here’s one data point. When I was first on the market, 10 years ago, the person who seemed to have the most interviews was Jonathan Schaffer. And the person who has been (deservedly) the most influential from my cohort has been … Jonathan Schaffer. Now Jonathan didn’t do too well through the interview/fly-out process that year, and certainly didn’t get the most offers. So I think we end up with a mixed verdict here. The evidence from the 1998/99 hiring season is that philosophers look relatively prescient when reading files, but less so when interviewing people and/or hearing job talks.

But what about other years?

2 Replies to “A Hiring Game”

  1. Your anecdote about Jonathan Schaffer helps confirm my suspicion that APA interviews may actually be disinformative — that departments’ preference rankings of candidates before the interviews may actually better track candidate quality than their preference rankings after.

    I can’t recall anyone being especially “hot” in 1996-1997 (though I wasn’t paying much attention). I remember competing for jobs with Brie Gertler and Jesse Prinz, both of whom have continued to do well — Jesse, of course, very well! I don’t know if Jesse was perceived as hot in December, 1996, or not. My sense was that he was perceived as just one good candidate among several.

    In fact, 1997 was probably about the tail end of the bad years in the philosophy job market. It may be that I can’t remember anyone being “hot” because it wasn’t until 1999 or so that people started landing 10+ interviews at the APA. (I could be totally wrong about this.)

  2. This experiment is just suggestive though (and I don’t think John meant it as anything else); no individual is going to get that much data from it, and in any case it may be too soon to tell who’s going to have done the best philosophy by the end of their careers.

    Not that I want to defend the efficiency of the hiring process! I think the sidebar link from Feminist Philosophers about advice to hiring committees gives us pretty good reason to think that the hiring process is likely to produce highly imperfect results. And hiring committees’ predictions about who will be most influential are to some extent self-fulfilling, since they determine who will get the most congenial situations for research, who will get the most prestigious jobs which probably help get your views heard, and at the extreme who will have to leave the profession and so will have no influence. But we shouldn’t be too hasty about drawing fine-grained conclusions about interviews vs. files (of course there’s independent research about that too).

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