Sometimes readers send me “reports from the front” of the job searches in their departments. Last week I got this report from a former client who wanted to tell me about how a young ABD candidate prevailed over a much more experienced Rising Superstar candidate by, among other things, doing her homework and showing real knowledge of the department, particularly, the graduate students. The reader kindly gave me permission to share her story on the blog. Read and learn!
We had a wonderful job candidate- an ABD from a top notch humanities program on campus this past week. She was competing with a Rising Superstar close to getting a tenure. Some of the more savvy students (like myself) saw right through the Rising Superstar- she was in it for fame and honestly did not mind having the graduate student discussion revolve around her and her research when she was supposed to try to focus on us. So she ultimately did not learn a thing about us and our program. The ABD, on the contrary, wanted to know EVERYTHING about our program from the exams to advising system to course offerings to language requirements. She was so humble- she made comparisons only on the basis of understanding the differences and liabilities of our programs, not suggesting in any way that her program was superior to ours.
The most impressive part was that she DID her homework! In the morning session with graduate students, when I introduced myself and specialized field, the ABD asked if my adviser was X. I was amazed (and so were others). Then I described my project to her briefly. Later, at the job talk, I asked a question about attracting students from fields outside of her own for her courses. In front of about 30 or so faculty members and students, including my adviser, she used my research project- and got the place and subject correct- as an example in her response. She looked so comfortable and confident in her answer. You could hear the audience gasp and I saw one of my committee members turning to my adviser to whisper excitedly, as if the candidate just won the lottery. My adviser later wrote how the candidate was so sensitive to her environment and impressive.
I wrote her a very strong recommendation because she wanted to be here and work with us and I could see her as my ally among other reasons.
The SC is nominating her for the position and I have been asked to contribute my further thoughts.
I’m sure there are other factors but this is just one of the smallest ways a job candidate can stand out from the rest. Listen to the graduate students!
Addendum: After reading the SC’s report last night, the candidate’s preparation and attention to details won over the department.