Hiring season is upon us, and this is an opportune moment to discuss best practices. There is an excellent discussion of APA interviews on Leiter Reports, and as far as I can tell, there is an emerging consensus that these should be eliminated.
But let's go back a bit earlier in the process. You have advertised a position, you have somewhere between 200 and 500 applications, and your first task is to cut that list down to 20 or 25.
Alright, let's put this aside for a moment. Usually, the search committee is divided into groups and the files are shared. The last couple of times I've done this, two members read each file; each pair advanced some names for discussion, and the whole committee then read these files and arrived at a "long list" by consensus.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Given that nobody can read, or is willing to read, 80-100 (or more) files fully (including a 20-25 page writing sample in each), how do you skim? How, in other words, do you decide which ones to look at (more) carefully? (In subsequent posts, I'll bring up other issues, including the vital "How Do You Read a Letter of Reference?")
One thing to say right from the beginning is: all files must be treated in the same way. If you don't have an orderly procedure that you apply uniformly, you risk bias and inequality.
Here's what I do. Comments, suggestions, and questions from readers (including job applicants) would be very welcome.
1. The cv.
PhD? (Yes? Relevant? Good fit?)
School: Good resources for field?
Letters: any obvious omissions?
2. Writing sample. Read very quickly at first for originality, quality of argument, list of references.
3. Letters: read especially for comments that throw light on the writing sample. Look for red flags. Do not take gushing seriously, but look for negative implicature.
On the above basis, assign score A, B, C. Bring all A files to front for closer examination. (The letter grades are heuristic only: since only the As pass muster, I could do Pass/Fail. But I find it easier for some reason to assign letter grades. The important point is that no more than 25% of files should have to be re-examined.)
One Important Don't: Do not call your friends to ask about individual applicants at this stage. (Blatant inequality of treatment.)
I can think of many ways the above procedure can fail. How can it be improved?