Blogs > Cliopatria > Blogging Away The Job

Jul 9, 2005 4:26 pm

Blogging Away The Job

What is it with job seekers who also write blogs? asks the pseudonymous author from a search committee in the CHE. The author states that either through googling or from the candidates' own cover letter, the search committee found the blogs of some of the serious contenders for the job. Serious contenders until their blogging revealed that either academia wasn't a priority for them or that their personal lives and politics were too messy or that they had misrepresented their academic research [ouch]. But beyond all that was the very real caution and the conclusion of the piece:
The content of the blog may be less worrisome than the fact of the blog itself. Several committee members expressed concern that a blogger who joined our staff might air departmental dirty laundry (real or imagined) on the cyber clothesline for the world to see. Past good behavior is no guarantee against future lapses of professional decorum.
Not every case is so consequential. And in truth, we did not disqualify any applicants based purely on their blogs. If the blog was a negative factor, it was one of many that killed a candidate's chances.

More often that not, however, the blog was a negative, and job seekers need to eliminate as many negatives as possible.

We all have quirks. In a traditional interview process, we try our best to stifle them, or keep them below the threshold of annoyance and distraction. The search committee is composed of humans, who know that the applicants are humans, too, who have those things to hide. It's in your interest, as an applicant, for them to stay hidden, not laid out in exquisite detail for all the world to read. If you stick your foot in your mouth during an interview, no one will interrupt to prevent you from doing further damage. So why risk doing it many times over by blabbing away in a blog?

We've seen the hapless job seekers who destroy the good thing they've got going on paper by being so irritating in person that we can't wait to put them back on a plane. Our blogger applicants came off reasonably well at the initial interview, but once we hung up the phone and called up their blogs, we got to know"the real them" -- better than we wanted, enough to conclude we didn't want to know more.
As someone who is on the job market and blogs here and there, Bloggers Need Not Apply is of more than academic [ahem] interest to me. Jeez, if you google me, a blogging how-to is the first thing you get! An obvious response that occurs to me is Get with the times, people!. But that is not an adequate response. The author wants to argue that the job search is steeped in mythically incomprehensible calculations in any case - why make any"negatives" pronounced? Because I don't think my blogging is a negative. I also don't think that I have to hide my"techno geek" side from the committee [Shouldn't they try to hide their"techno phobe" side from me?] In real terms, the author should be thankful that the blogs revealed information about the applicants absent from the usual materials. Isn't it better to discover before you hire someone that they are mis-representing their work?

The point is that my cv, my dissertation, my blog [well, I wouldn't put it on my cv or coverletter], are all indications of who I am - as a scholar and a person. If as a result of close examination, the search committee does not think I am a candidate for them, fine. I'd rather not hide behind empty declarations on my cover letter. I'd rather my future colleagues know exactly who they are getting. As for dirt. Any job candidate worth their salt will have more than enough gossip and unsavory details about people in their field and in the departments that they are applying to. Without the help of blog entries even.

Also see Alan Baumler at the Frog in a Well [thanks to J. Dresner for the tip]

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Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

I was on the job market this year and eventually got a position. I was asked about my online writing at one interview in a semi-hostile context. I didn't get that particular position, but it's not clear that the online writing (or my answer) was the reason why, and I'm not sure whether my online writing has played a role elsewhere.

I don't put my online activities on my CV simply because they're not relevant to assessing my credentials as an academic philosopher, but I hardly (can) hide what I say here I draw a sharp line between my blogging and my teaching: my classroom is one thing, my blog another; I teach in my classroom, I rant on my blog. But I have no problem with anyone asking questions or posing objections to my blog--students, faculty or administration. That's what it's there for.

I agree with and applaud the approach that Manan describes here. Frankly, if my blog tells a school that I'm not the guy for them, their attitude tells me that they're not the place for me. I'd like to think that anyone who thinks that way would have the courage to offer their thoughts candidly and straightforwardly (to me!). Rest assured I'd say my piece to them, too. It's the subterranean, covert nature of the decision-making that I find problematic here, with all "problematic", "unpleasant" and "uncollegial" disagreements swept under the rug in the name of an ersatz collegiality.

E Mullah - 7/16/2005

By the way almost two/three months ago I stopped mentioning my blog in my cover letter and resume. My wife is a wonderful woman she realized the oddity and futility of mentioning my activities in applications long before Ivan wrote the article. However, I never hid my identity in my blogs.

probably my new employers did not earch blogs but I have a policy not to make a hole in the bowl you eat in. So I don't think they will have any trouble with my blogging.

E Mullah - 7/16/2005

The odd character Ivan Tribble is referring to who wrote his blog in the cover letter and in resume is ..... probably ..... ahem (me)

So Mr Ivan Tribble what are you affraid of. Why dont you disclose your identity. It seems like honesty is not the best policy these days.

Robert KC Johnson - 7/11/2005

Agree with Jon here: it sounds as if "Tribble"'s chief worry is that his department's "dirty laundry" will be exposed, not the fact that his department has "dirty laundry" in the first place.

It's really hard to identify the most ignorant section of this article. The overwhelming majority of academic bloggers (at least that I read) don't discuss matters relating to their department one way or the other. The mere act of blogging, it seems to me, should be viewed as a positive--it suggests that the person is, at least in some way, engaging him/herself with the key ideas of the profession and the broader world. There also (as Ralph's comment suggests) is a quality issue here: "Tribble" seems to want a department of people who don't challenge accepted norms in any respect.

I think Manan is probably right in his general comment--a generational aspect is at play here. Ten years down the road, I suspect that so many academics will be involved in blogging of one type of another (even if it's just commenting on blogs) that those who have no internet profile will be viewed as anachronisms.

Lisa Roy Vox - 7/10/2005

I'm going to be on the job market soon and have been thinking about this very issue. One of the reasons I associate my name with my blog is because I felt that putting my name on the front page of my blog would force me to be more responsible, i.e., think before I blog. There are times when I'd like to sound off about this or that...but I don't. Because the internet isn't the place to do it, and that isn't why I started the blog, as tempting as it is to use it for that purpose at times.

I also don't blog under a pseudonym because I am, by nature, neurotic, and many academic bloggers who blog under a pseudonym do so because they want to air controversial academic issues, often specific to their own institutions...I'd always worry about being "found out" and I am not comfortable with how some pseudonymous bloggers try to change details of situations etc. Ultimately I think privacy concerns are at stake and I couldn't blog about, say, my students, even if I tried to do so in a way that disguised their identity and feel as if I were doing something worthwhile.

But I have to agree...if I am not hired because of a google search, then it probably is not the dept. for me anyway.

I am thinking about using a classroom blog this fall, on another domain from the domain I use for my blog, so I am dealing with the issue of how to keep my own blog separate from that. I don't mind if my students read my blog etc. or post, and I would never censor them if they wanted to comment, but I express my opinions very strongly on it...and I try explicitly *not* to do that in class. So even though I don't talk about institutional politics, I worry that when I try to lead a discussion, my students will have preconceived ideas about where I stand. And many already assume that I am a leftist academic (although when I teach US since 1877, I make a point of distinguishing liberals and leftists for that very reason...but they still seem to think I'm a leftist after that lecture covering the 60s...albeit, a "good" leftist.)
If they discover my blog that is.

I have to admit one of my favorite things about having my own domain is tracking how people get to my site. The number of people who have searched for my full name, which is hardly common, since I started my blog in Feb. has also been surprising. Although recently "n u d e AND L t. U h u r u" has been the most popular web engine search leading people to my site (I innocuously used the word "n u d e" in one post and "L t. U h u r u" in another). [Spaces added to obfuscate search engines so hnn doesn't start getting hits for same].

John H. Lederer - 7/10/2005

about the author's prejudices and biases than that of the bloggers.

Somehow he reminds me of one of a group of old frumpy ladies fervently criticizing some well, but a bit revealingly dressed, svelte young thing.

I would not hire him.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/10/2005

The latter, I suspect. As Konrad Lawson notes, we are in a transitional period where online activities are more feared than understood, and it's not at all clear where they fit in the definition of academics and academia.

Another thought that struck me when I was reading the article was the transparency issue that KC talks about: the personal and gossipy things that blogging reveals go on all the time in the lives of non-bloggers, too. Some of what "Tribble" fears is the exposure of the non-blogging department to the blog-reading world through their blogging colleagues, the "airing of dirty laundry" problem. But that kind of stuff gets passed around and between institutions all the time in the form of gossip (sometimes it even makes it into memos); what "Tribble" fears is the exposure of normal practices and relationships to outside comment and pressures.

Grant W Jones - 7/9/2005

Does this include "unvetted, unreviewed and unedited" items written in other venues? Or are blogs just being singled out because they are so accessable?

Grant Jones

Oscar Chamberlain - 7/9/2005

I find this disturbing too, for the reasons mentioned.

I would point out, however, that in the specific examples given, the impact of blogging was worse when it seemed to contradict the candidate's official presentation of him or herself.

For those of us who do this regularly, it seems that the best defense would be a good offense. Incorporate the blogging not simply into a CV but go into detail about the positives, and discuss how blogging--despite the occasional statements that we would all love to take back--is one mechanism for bringing ideas into a wider forum. In short, don't let the committee simply browse your stuff randomly and draw their own conclusions. Give them a hand.

Finally, it is probably a little naive that we sometimes think that we can spout off at length in public and not expect bad consequenses along with the good ones.

Jason Kuznicki - 7/9/2005

Given how insanely competitive the job market is, we would probably be better off not blogging even if only a modest number of potential employers feel this way.

But it would be dishonest, wouldn't it, to take down my blog and hide everything I've written? (All the same, I'm giving it some serious thought now...)

Jonathan Dresner - 7/9/2005

My on-line activities are on my cv (though for some reason, I haven't put the Frog projects on; must fix that) and easily googled, and I'm troubled by this article. I try to keep my blogging reasonably professional -- nothing I couldn't say in a faculty club or meeting or seminar -- and the line "Past good behavior is no guarantee against future lapses of professional decorum" is deeply disturbing to someone who's tried to put a premium on civility and substance.

Frankly, that line should disqualify non-bloggers equally: anyone could start a blog with a few clicks and keystrokes, and past non-blogging behavior is no guarantee of future silence. Then there's the anonymous blogs...

Well, I'm grateful to "Tribble" for revealing the process, anyway. Even if I think he's wrong and representative of a lot of wrong-headed thinking.