Via Inside Higher Ed, I learned today of the tradition of the “smoker” at the American Philosophical Association’s Eastern Division meeting:
Over the years, the reception at the APA eastern conference has functioned as a job fair of sorts, where, over free-flowing booze, candidates talk to potential employers.
For weeks, philosophy blogs had been alive with discussions about how women job candidates feel vulnerable at the reception, how some of them had been hit on as they talked to recruiters, and the sheer awkwardness of trying to navigate job interviews with a beer bottle in hand. While many disciplinary meetings feature departmental receptions, they tend to be for alumni gatherings and outreach as much as anything; the philosophy reception is one event where candidates say they are urged to schmooze simultaneously with hiring committees, random others, and competitors for the jobs they want.
Ugh–for all of the reasons that the women philosophers note in the linked blog posts above, of course. But this is also clearly the bright idea of a profession in which the job market is almost entirely a buyers’ market rather than a sellers’ market. As a tenured professor, I must admit that it would be a lot more fun for me to conduct quasi-interviews over cocktails instead of meeting in the pit in a drafty hotel basement with a sad water cooler the only refreshment. It would also be a lot of fun for me to ask job candidates to wear silly hats, sing show tunes, and pass trays of hot appetizers of their own devise. But then, the job interview process isn’t about me, is it?
Ideally, the job search process in any profession should prioritize professionalism and fairness as well as the preservation of the dignity of all participants. There are a lot of people who might well feel uncomfortable with this unseemly mixture of interviews and socializing over alcohol–Mormons, observant Muslims, and recovering alcoholics, just to name a few. Most campus academic job interviews are fraught with enough fake-socializing events like lunches, dinners, and coffees, but most everyone knows that there’s no such thing as a purely social event on a job interview. Furthermore, there’s more than just alcohol on the menu at those events. (That is to say, not drinking alcohol is more typical than usual for job candidates, and asking for a soda or a hot cocoa in a cafe instead of coffee isn’t regarded as an oddity.)
Tell me your stories of job interview hell, with bonus points for tales of alcohol-fueled bad behavior, in the comments below.