Thursday, February 09, 2006

Reject codes 

Doc Palmer, on the costs of searching for faculty (we are in the midst of hiring three positions, which is one reason posting has been a little lighter lately.)

I gather from friends at other places, being on the hiring committee isn't always fun. The reason: paperwork nonsense.

Suppose, for example, you teach economics at a small undergraduate school that is not highly ranked (three profs in the department, no graduate programme, 12-hour teaching load, sub-normal pay). I'm not making this up: some places like this make the hiring committee complete forms on all the people they chose not to interview and why. I can just see the implementation of this policy:

We chose not to interview the number one graduate from [a top grad school] with four major publications and excellent teaching ratings because

  • They refused to return our phone calls
  • They weren't a good fit for the direction we would like for the department
  • Their salary expectations were not in line with what we could offer.
Do you think it acceptable to say that the expected benefits of pursuing such candidates were outweighed by the opportunity costs involved?
Oh hell no. Remember, you have to explain this on the modern university campus to your dean, your provost or president, and your affirmative action officer. At our school, any of these people can shoot down your search. And while we're a larger department (19 on staff), we have a "flow chart" wherein we must input "non-select codes". (Even I would have balked at "reject codes".)
And then, once the decision is made and an offer is made, the department must justify/explain why the other candidates were not offered the job. Again, I am not making this up.

Here are some of my suggested answers:
  • The candidate suffered from halitosis
  • Bad manners at meals - refused to pay his/her share
  • Poor attire: stripes, checks, and plaids do not go together
  • This candidate is just plain stupid
  • Didn't offer us enough money
  • Forgot to wear clean underwear for the job trip
  • Likes the wrong brand of beer.
I would add: Yankee fan.