The Job Search is Not a Striptease

One of my pet peeves in job documents is when the job candidate coyly gestures toward a research conclusion, without actually coming out and saying what the conclusion is.

I have no idea why so many job seekers are so invested in this coyness.  The job search is not a striptease; you don’t get points for strategically withholding.  That withholding does not make search committees perk up and take notice. It makes them bored and irritated, and motivated to instantly reject you in favor of the people who can actually articulate their arguments and conclusions.

This coy withholding is done through the vague meta-claim.  Here are some examples:

“I conclude that gender plays a significant role in xx.”

Really?  And we care why?

No.  We need to know: WHAT ROLE does gender play?  WHAT ROLE????  Spell it out!

“I discovered that there is a relationship between xx and yy.” 

REALLY?  IS THAT INTERESTING?  (no).

WHAT RELATIONSHIP did you find between xx and yy?  Spell it out!

“I argue that this is an example of neoliberalism.”

SERIOUSLY?  WHAT ISN’T, at this point?   Tell us, instead, HOW, SPECIFICALLY, IS THIS AN EXAMPLE OF NEOLIBERALISM????  WHAT IS NEOLIBERAL ABOUT THIS PARTICULAR THING AT THIS PARTICULAR TIME AND PLACE?

“I conclude that policy is not linear or static, but multidimensional and changing.”

WHO IN 2015 SAYS ANYTHING IS LINEAR OR STATIC?  Don’t waste our time with idle pseudo-theoretical posturing.  If I were on a search committee I’d throw out the letter from sheer irritation at the combination of tendentiousness, self-importance, and cluelessness.  TELL US A SPECIFIC CONCLUSION: “Policy emerged from the input of [xx actors], [yy actors], and [zz actors], operating in [xx condition] and [yy location], and shifted in response to [xx event] and [yy event].”

Don’t tease, job seekers; show us what you’ve got.

(By the way, this is a close cousin to both stating the obvious, and making claims so painfully general as to be meaningless.  Please read and study these posts and banish generic verbiage.)


Comments

The Job Search is Not a Striptease — 5 Comments

  1. I think this is the result of insecurity about either not wanting to insult the search committee or not wanting to appear like an idiot yourself by connecting too many dots. It’s hard to know when to “show, not tell” and leave something to the imagination vs when to spell it out letter by letter.

  2. On my RSS feed, the parenthetical links at the bottom lead to some, shall we say, explicit websites. Definitely not the same type of striptease you’re talking about. Wondering if there’s a way to fix that?

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