Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Notes for Junior Candidates (2)

At this time of the year, EconJobMarket (EJM) gets a lot of support requests from candidates about specifying their references and about communicating with them.  Here are a few common questions and answers related to references (also called “recommenders”):

1. How are reference accounts established in EJM?

EJM has a large database of references.  A new reference account is established whenever a candidate specifies a reference for an application and provides the proper identification for this person (including the reference’s own email address), and when the reference does not already have an account.  The database has been constructed over the past few years.  If your references provided letters on job-market candidates in the past, they probably already have reference accounts with EJM.  In this case, when you submit an application via EJM and give your references’ names and email addresses, they will be shown as already in the database.

2. Are my references notified every time I submit an application?  How can I be sure that they are prompted to submit their letters?

References are notified when their reference accounts are initially established (that is, the first time they are named for an application).  Subsequently, the notification schedule is determined by what the references specify in their account preferences (see point 6 in the October 15 blog post).  If you want to make sure that your references know about your recent applications, you should communicate directly with them.

3. My references say that they haven’t received any emails from EJM recently and they do not know how to log into the system.  What do I do?

Tell your references to use the reference password-recovery link on the EJM front page.  Entering a reference’s email address into this form will generate a password reminder message, sent to this email address.  Have your references check their email spam/junk folders if they don’t find the message in their in-boxes.

4. In my department, a staff person handles the letters on behalf of the faculty references.  I don’t want to bother my advisor with email messages from EJM.  Should I specify the email address of the staff person when specifying references?

No.  EJM must keep track of individual references using a unique identifier, which is the email address.  As noted above, references are not bothered with email reminders unless they specify that reminders be sent.  References can designate proxies in the system; these are staff people who can access the system and upload letters on behalf of the references.  If your department has such staff people, stay in contact with them to make sure that your application files are complete.  To reiterate, do not associate a staff person’s email address with a reference in EJM.  If you do, the reference will be denied.  (Actual people check this.)

5. If one of my references has multiple email addresses, which one should I use when specifying references in EJM?  Can a reference change his/her email address in the system?

Because EJM folks manually check to verify the identity of references, you should use the most “official” email address that your reference has (as opposed to gmail, yahoo, hotmail, etc., addresses that anyone can obtain without any formal identity verification).  EJM staff retain the option and authority to use a different email address to create a reference’s initial account than the one a candidate might supply; this is done, in particular, if an official email address is known for the reference.  When a reference gets a new account, he/she is free to log into the system and change the email address.  If the initial email address used for the reference turns out not to be functional, then the reference may not get his/her account information.  In such a case, please have the reference contact EJM support for assistance.  When EJM approves a new reference account application, a notification is sent to the candidate and includes the email address of the reference.  This is to help you determine if an incorrect email address has been used to establish the reference account.

5. How can I ensure that my references write good letters on my behalf?

Do brilliant work!  Kidding aside, I’m sure you are doing your best.  I hope your experience on the market is a good one.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Notes for Junior Candidates (1)

Junior candidate:

As the of the application phase of the job market begins, you are surely working diligently on your job-market packet and plans for the coming months.  You may have some questions about how to handle the process and what to expect.  Those of us associated with EconJobMarket (EJM) have relevant experience on both sides of the market (working to place graduate students, recruiting for our own departments, and also as candidates ourselves).  Like most faculty members, we are in the habit of doling out advice, solicited or not.  So, for what it’s worth, here is a short list of common questions and answers.  These questions are geared toward the Ph.D. student who plans to graduate at the end of this academic year.  Most also apply to candidates who have already completed a Ph.D. degree.

1. Whom should I rely on to provide guidance?
Your main dissertation advisor, along with others on your dissertation committee, should be your primary source of support and guidance.  In addition, if your department has its act together, it has a designated faculty “placement coordinator” whom you can rely on for useful information.  Mainly, though, your main advisor/mentor should be making sure that you are going on the market at the right time, are prepared, and are well supported.  Hopefully you have a good working relationship with this person.  Don’t be afraid to press him/her for advice and information.  It’s part of his/her job.

2. Under what conditions should I defer going on the market?
Ideally, at this stage the decision about whether to be on the market this year should be long behind you, but there are special circumstances under which the choice is made at the last minute.  Talk to your advisor/mentor; it’s a decision the two of you need to discuss and work out together.  You have the ultimate choice; it’s your life.  However, your advisor has a great deal of influence over when you will be awarded the degree, and this matters a great deal for timing on the market.

3. What is a “job-market paper?”
To most candidates, the answer is obvious.  However, we periodically get this question so perhaps the following will be useful to some people.  The job-market paper is a candidate’s main piece of recent scholarly writing.  It represents the unique qualities and qualifications that the candidate brings to the profession.  The job-market paper is normally a contribution to the scientific literature, but alternatively may be a contribution to pedagogy or a study in the practical application of economic theory.  The latter alternatives may be the case, in particular, for candidates who seek positions in teaching-oriented colleges or consulting firms.  Recruiters often rank candidates partly on the basis of their reading of job-market papers and, later in the recruitment season, on the candidates’ presentation of these papers in a seminar format.

4. Is it really important to have a lot of papers listed on my curriculum vitae (c.v.)?  Should I include a paper that I wrote for a class but decided wasn’t novel enough for my dissertation?  Should I include papers that are incomplete?  What should I focus my time on at this stage?
It’s my view that improving your job-market paper is typically more important than getting an extra paper into your job-market packet, but you should talk to your advisor about this.  Regarding weak or half-baked projects, the standard advice is to think twice before including on your c.v. a paper that is not ready to be circulated.  By putting a paper on your c.v., you are advertising it and essentially asking people to read it, so you should be ready to send the paper to people who request it.  If you wouldn’t be comfortable with someone reading the paper, then you probably shouldn’t put it on your c.v.  In my opinion, having many “lines” on your c.v. is less important than is having the top-line item (your main paper) in good condition.  As always, though, talk to your advisor about how best to structure your c.v. and what papers to include.  And keep working hard on your research.

5. How can I be sure that an organization has received and is reviewing my application?
Candidates sometimes ask EJM to confirm that a recruiting organization is processing their applications.  In fact, EJM does not provide this kind of service.  It collects and transmits application materials but it does not offer any assurances regarding whether and how these materials will be processed.  For example, when you use EJM to submit an application to University A and your references submit their letters, the EJM system makes this information available to the recruiting directors at University A.  These folks can log into EJM to view and download your application materials.  They can also have the application materials automatically transferred to their own systems or to third-party “back-end” systems that are used to review applications.  But EJM has no control over whether the folks at University A will look carefully at your materials.  How they deal with applications is their responsibility.  You can confirm when logged in that your materials have been uploaded and have been “delivered” to University A’s EJM account.  But, to answer the question, if you want to make sure that University A is reviewing your application, then you should contact University A directly.

6. How can I be sure that my references have written and submitted their letters of recommendation?
EJM folks are sometimes asked to remind references (also called recommenders) to write and submit letters of recommendation.  We resist this for two reasons.  First, we think it is more appropriate for candidates to communicate directly with their advisors and their other references.  It is not efficient for EJM to serve as an intermediary in this regard.  Second, we must be sensitive to the wishes of the references, who usually tell us that email reminders from EJM can be annoying especially when they have designated proxies to handle letters on their behalf.  We recently added features to EJM that allow references to specify the frequency of automated emails; these emails provide a summary of recent activity (letters automatically delivered and recent new requests).  So, depending on how references configure their EJM accounts, they already receive regular reminders.  If you want to make sure that they are reminded to write and submit letters, we strongly recommend that you talk to them directly.

7. Where can I find more information about the workings of the job market and how to prepare?
Placement directors in various economics departments around the world have put together documents on job-market procedures and advice.  A good place to start is this one on the AEA's JOE page.  Some useful documents can also be found on the Harvard Econ site, and at Oxford, Purdue, and elsewhere.
If you have any questions about the workings of EJM or suggestions for blog topics, feel free to submit them here.  I will create another post with additional questions and answers if there is sufficient demand.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Why this blog?

I am an economics professor at UC San Diego, one of the founders of EconJobMarket (EJM), and the current CEO/Director of EJM.  I and the other EJM directors decided to start this blog as a way of providing information and tips during the job-market season.

There are several reasons why we are doing this.  First, this blog is a place where we can post answers to questions and support requests that we routinely receive, but written in a more comprehensive way than is common with a long list of "frequently asked questions."  Users of EJM (candidates, recruiters, references/proxies) often ask for information about features of the EJM system and for help using the web site.  We hope that by providing some details here, and then referring people to blog posts, we can communicate more efficiently.  (We are running EJM as volunteers, so any time savings is a plus.)  Second, we'll use this blog to provide general advice for candidates on how the market works, what to expect, and how to prepare for the various phases of the market.  Third, we hope to provide some updates on the status of market over time; we might tweet such things as well.  Fourth, we can give some background on EconJobMarket.

The blog is a bit of an experiment.  I plan to post at low frequency -- maybe once per week -- and may not have time enough to keep even this pace, but hopefully something useful will come from this exercise.  By the way,
if you would like to suggest a topic or have leads on useful information for candidates, please put your suggestion in the EJM contact form.