Monday, December 3, 2012

Signal in a bottle, Reviewing Job Applications

I'm on the hiring committee for an assistant professor position in the economics department at Towson. We have a couple hundred applications to review and I know that many applicants apply to over 100 jobs. So how can I tell as a reviewer who is really interested in the job and who is just sending their application in. I care, because as part of the committee we will decide on a couple dozen people to interview in San Diego.

Luckily economists have devised a clever solution to help make sure candidates who really want a job can indicate it. Each job candidate is allowed 2 schools to signal. All that happens is the hiring school receives an e-mail of all the candidates who used their signal at their school.  The idea is that you can show you really care about a couple of jobs, but if a school doesn't receive a signal it doesn't show you don't care because you only can send 2. More info here

When I applied for my job at Towson, I sent one of  my signals to Towson. I'm not sure if it made a difference in me getting an interview. I sent the signal because I really wanted to move to the DC area to be with my wife and the job seemed like a really good fit given my research and teaching interest. I wasn't sure if my application would stand out enough given my background. On the other hand I did not send a signal to a job at a well known small liberal arts school in the midwest, because I thought my record with 1 year teaching at Beloit (a similar school) and an undergrad at Grinnell would be enough to get me an interview. I was right I did get an interview and an on campus interview with the well known SLAC (although not a job offer). The SLAC department chair did notice they didn't receive a signal from me, although this was more pointed out by the Dean and the Chair had explained to the Dean that I probably believed I had already shown enough interest in teaching at SLAC given my experience and didn't need a signal. I think the chair was right (given I got the interview).

In the past based on talking to my colleagues  a signal will give your application a little more attention. I think it might also help if departments are worried that a candidate won't take a job, this could also help.

I think signaling is good particularly since there is a non-zero change that it helped me get a great job.
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1 comment:

John Cawley said...

It might be helpful to allow candidates to send one signal after the AEA meetings, to indicate special interest after gaining all the information from the interviews. However, this might slow down the market; some departments make flyout invitations immediately after (even during) the meetings, and they might start waiting to see the signals.