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Can't trust 'em, shouldn't hire 'em
July 8, 2005 5:15 PM   Subscribe

Bloggers Need Not Apply A pseudonymous faculty member, writing at the Chronicle of Higher Ed. website, says that when faculty search committees do their jobs--that is, when they look for new hires--they may well find candidates who blog automatically suspect. This is true even if the blogger/applicant has never mentioned any details about his or her workplace or fellow employees, employer or students online. It doesn't mean the candidate won't! It doesn't matter if the committee just found the blog via Google either.
posted by raysmj (36 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Sounds like a discrimination suit should be pending.
posted by fenriq at 5:29 PM on July 8, 2005


<shrug> Their loss.
posted by Jimbob at 5:37 PM on July 8, 2005


But the site quickly revealed that the true passion of said blogger's life was not academe at all, but the minutiae of software systems, server hardware, and other tech exotica. It's one thing to be proficient in Microsoft Office applications or HTML, but we can't afford to have our new hire ditching us to hang out in computer science after a few weeks on the job.

I think that's a mistake on the hirer's part, but I see nothing wrong with using published material (including personal Web pages) to make a decision on a hire.

A discrimination suit seems very unlikely. You'd have to prove that the job was denied for reasons of race, sex, creed, or any other protected category, right?

I think "Bloggers need not apply" is an intentionally misleading title for that piece. "Too much information" would be better.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:37 PM on July 8, 2005


The pertinent question for bloggers is simply, Why? What is the purpose of broadcasting one's unfiltered thoughts to the whole wired world? It's not hard to imagine legitimate, constructive applications for such a forum. But it's also not hard to find examples of the worst kinds of uses.

This is the strangest thing I've ever read. Oh yeah, it's BAD to have independent thoughts in your own time! Surely, this is a piss-take?
posted by Jimbob at 5:41 PM on July 8, 2005


I would really love to know which incredibly flawed university this cowardly anonymous author works for so I could avoid all contact with the place. This part just kills me:

the site quickly revealed that the true passion of said blogger's life was not academe at all, but the minutiae of software systems, server hardware, and other tech exotica. It's one thing to be proficient in Microsoft Office applications or HTML, but we can't afford to have our new hire ditching us to hang out in computer science after a few weeks on the job.

All this inferred from a freakin blog?! Heaven forbid a job applicant has interests outside his or her chosen profession. God help us all when employers begin to judge us based on those interests. And whatever happened to academic freedom? This author should be ashamed of himself.
posted by TBoneMcCool at 5:42 PM on July 8, 2005


Speaking as a former graduate student, I can tell you that a substantial portion of academic opinion discourages outside interests, hobbies, romantic attachments, procreation or anything else resembling a life. Needless distractions from your higher calling. It's an old attitude, but it's by no means an extinct one.
posted by mcwetboy at 5:47 PM on July 8, 2005


Having served on half a dozen academic search committees, I don't buy it at all. Lots of younger applicants have significant web presences these days. This is a social science field, but I can't imagine it is different anywhere else. Academics blog like crazy anymore. Don't let this guy speak for the business. Now . . . law firms, investment banks -- much more likely that business like this would look askance. Don't make academia a straw-man.
posted by realcountrymusic at 5:52 PM on July 8, 2005


When they put up cameras in public places, they will use the argument that the space is public, that you can be observed anyway, so what's the difference? The difference is the persistence of the information, and the availability thereof. In a world which approaches that in which everyone's online activity will be databased, what's the difference between using your voice, or acquiescing to the voice of the Others? Using your own voice, your own right to speak, you may control a certain perception--or the availability of a certain perception--of yourself, exclusively. Among all these cases of identity theft, muckraking and slander, how else is one supposed to go about getting a date, than to shape an image for oneself? Nobody else will be as positive about us as we will be for ourselves, and who is to decide what positivity even means in that context.

Why would anyone take up such an authoratative tone, in effort to speak out to such a wide class of people (job seekers -> labor politics?!) to quench their thirst for self expression, to repress their creativity and sense of self, of self worth?

Like it or not, the internet is not an exclusively corporate canvas, and those who exercise their freedom of speech are not part of a crowd of barbarians at some so-beautiful corporate firewall, itching with a desire to break in, to finally discover the secret ingredient X.

We are all in this together, job seekers, members of hiring committees, fixed income retirees, etc. Creativity and intelligence, humanity, those are the things we should celebrate, and express most of all.
posted by nervousfritz at 5:52 PM on July 8, 2005


Past good behavior is no guarantee against future lapses of professional decorum.
Oh, just like a blogless past is no guarantee against a blogful future? For instance, after a hire gets tenure?

And it would be totally awful if someone in your department had computer knowledge and you didn't have to call someone in IT every time one of the more tenured faculty members forgot what a mouse is.
posted by Airhen at 6:10 PM on July 8, 2005


Well, to be fair to the hiring board, here was one of the entries found on one of the blogs:

Images, by Tyrone Green
Dark and lonely on the summer night
Kill my landlord, Kill my landlord

Watch dog barking - dooggie [sic] bite!
Kill my landlord, Kill my landlord

Slip in his window, break his neck
Then his house I start to wreck.
Got no reason... what the heck!?

C-I-L-L [sic] MY LAN-LORD!

posted by Davenhill at 6:33 PM on July 8, 2005


realcountrymusic: Having served on half a dozen academic search committees, I don't buy it at all. Lots of younger applicants have significant web presences these days. This is a social science field, but I can't imagine it is different anywhere else. Academics blog like crazy anymore. Don't let this guy speak for the business. Now . . . law firms, investment banks -- much more likely that business like this would look askance. Don't make academia a straw-man.

That's my impression.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:34 PM on July 8, 2005


This sounds like their interview process intentionally looks for things that are wrong with job applicants rather than the things that are right about them. I doubt that having a blog will cause trouble with prospective employers unless you do something stupid. Think before you post and you should be alright.
posted by camworld at 6:41 PM on July 8, 2005


If I was in HR I'd refrain from hiring bloggers mostly because I'd rathor not listen to some douche at work talk about his website all the time.
posted by angry modem at 6:47 PM on July 8, 2005


Having served on half a dozen academic search committees, I don't buy it at all. Lots of younger applicants have significant web presences these days. This is a social science field, but I can't imagine it is different anywhere else. Academics blog like crazy anymore. Don't let this guy speak for the business. Now . . . law firms, investment banks -- much more likely that business like this would look askance. Don't make academia a straw-man.

Realcountrymusic, I think it does depend upon what field you're in to some extent. I work with researchers, mostly molecular bio, and given what I hear from postdocs, this comment and the extended assumption of disdain for an outside life rings pretty true. (Certainly I agree that all of academia should not be singled out, here.)
posted by desuetude at 6:58 PM on July 8, 2005


Thanks, this was interesting. The indelibility of the internet scares me. It's like a grade school permanent record.
posted by painquale at 7:01 PM on July 8, 2005


would it really be that bad if people started realizing there are real-world consequences for their online lives?

i wouldn't want to work at the place this asshole seems to be representing, but I'm all for accountability for what one says and does in what is essentially a public area.
posted by es_de_bah at 7:11 PM on July 8, 2005


really...?
posted by carmina at 7:18 PM on July 8, 2005


As an early-career academic, I'd just like to say that this sentiment is in no way an eccentric point of view. I'm sure academia's not unique in googling every final candidate. But a profession based on publishing has a different idea about public persona. I have just been offered my first tenure-track job. Call me a coward, but the idea of having my name on my MeFi member page has seemed like quite possible professional suicide to me during the period leading up to now (political opinions and personal revelations seem equally compromising).

Another thing. Academia is a profession that annoyingly assumes you devote 110% of your vital energies to it. So the writer's dismay at the idea of a software nerd is unremarkable. While, of course, the most interesting academics (people, generally) are passionate about random crazy things, most top departments would react negatively even to your being an avid fisherman, not to mention web ho.
posted by Zurishaddai at 7:36 PM on July 8, 2005


their interview process intentionally looks for things that are wrong with job applicants rather than the things that are right about them

Also, this is typical of academic searches. The number of very qualified applicants for a position is just so huge that committees are eager to find a reason to go sour on any one of 'em.
posted by Zurishaddai at 7:39 PM on July 8, 2005


Even having a child is considered a liability in the academic hiring process. Actually, let me rephrase that. Having a child is considered a liability if you're a woman. If you're a man, it's tacitly assumed that the mother will be doing the child-rearing. Academia is still incredibly sexist.
posted by painquale at 7:42 PM on July 8, 2005


A pseudonymous faculty member, writing at the Chronicle of Higher Ed. website...

Well isn't that ironic.

Anyway, that guy seems to embody everything that's petty, club-ish, bureaucratic and, frankly, inbred about academia, and which made me decide in a heartbeat that I simply wasn't interested in pursuing studies beyond my BA, despite the agreement of everyone who knows me that I could easily have been the third person in my (extended) family with a Ph.D.
posted by clevershark at 8:03 PM on July 8, 2005


so thats why i didnt get into grad school.

it wasnt my crappy poems, it was my crappy blog!
posted by tsarfan at 8:23 PM on July 8, 2005


eventually, they'll run out of people who don't blog ... or those who don't will be dull stick in the muds

1910 - "i wouldn't let him on the staff ... he's obviously eccentric ... he's got one of those horseless carriages"
posted by pyramid termite at 8:37 PM on July 8, 2005


Images, by Tyrone Green

I didn't know that Eddie Murphy was a blogging academic.

Actually, if you are looking for a job in an American Studies department, knowing 80s pop culture references should be a selling point.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 8:57 PM on July 8, 2005


Amatai Etzioni: Communitarian social theorist, decrier of excessive individualism, poster of "awww"-inducing grandson pics on personal weblog.
posted by raysmj at 8:57 PM on July 8, 2005


Davenhill: what, the ivory tower can't handle SNL quotes?
pfft.
posted by hototogisu at 12:19 AM on July 9, 2005


Holy jeebus, how stupid can you get?

Do they REALLY think that the people who don't blog somehow don't have outside hobbies? That the ones who SEEM so quiet and humble in the interview truly are? That only bloggers possess opinions about pop culture?

I mean, if I were running a hiring process, I'd REQUIRE blogs! Let me see what the candidate is REALLY like - and make the decision knowing that the people who aren't blogging are most likely even scarier! Because, after all, better the devil you know than the one you don't.

These guys have managed to combine the worst aspects of the luddite and the ostrich. I congratulate them and wish them the best of luck with what is almost certainly going to be a truly horrible hiring choice.
posted by InnocentBystander at 8:04 AM on July 9, 2005


It's one thing to be proficient in Microsoft Office applications or HTML, but we can't afford to have our new hire ditching us to hang out in computer science after a few weeks on the job.

Heh. When I was student assistant in my university's philosophy office, the department head used Linux. But then again, most of the faculty -- get this -- had outside interests! Which they shared with each other! Another of the more experienced professors was a Chinese man who did a lot of calligraphy that decorated many of the walls in that building.

Of course, this wasn't a "top university" or whatever but, from what I've learned, best to avoid those sort of places anyway. Obscure schools are so much more fun :)
posted by dagnyscott at 9:39 AM on July 9, 2005


This guy hails from a "small liberal-arts college in the Midwest." Sounds plenty obscure. I'm just glad I don't have to take this guy's classes. Sheez.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 10:44 AM on July 9, 2005


From the article: 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.


So let me lay it out, as someone who has been in the position to read a potential employee's blog. You can find out a lot about a person from what they write, and it's stuff you generally won't find out in a half-hour job interview, and sometimes stuff it's illegal to ask. Things like whether they are able to use grammar, whether they can express cogent thoughts, whether they are having a dispute with a neighbor, how that coming-out thing is going, how their kids are doing in school. It is possible for one's site to be an asset to the hiring process, and possible for it to be a liability.

In the end, do not ever ever ever put anything online or in email that you wouldn't want to read out loud to your mom, your boss, or a judge. And never post drunk.
posted by ilsa at 10:53 AM on July 9, 2005


Two academic bloggers, Daniel Drezner and Bitch PhD., weigh in.
posted by diftb at 1:01 PM on July 9, 2005


I don't like applying for jobs ever since I discovered Google had a record of every old poem I posted on the old usenet bulletin board Rec.Arts.Poetry.

Sure I wrote Google and they deleted all my posts from their archive. Only problem is Google can't delete the responses to my poems which also include the poem text.

And jeez I wrote some bad poems. I was just killing time at work, you know?

Oh well. I guess I was meant to be self employed.
posted by surplus at 2:19 PM on July 9, 2005


Anyway, that guy seems to embody everything that's petty, club-ish, bureaucratic and, frankly, inbred about academia

Since you were too smart to bother with grad school, how the heck would you really know? There's a lot that's weird about academia, but no more weird than any other profession -- no more clubbish, petty, or "inbred," though maybe a bit more bureaucratic, in my experience. Jeez, have a little resentment bottled up there? Betcha dollars to donuts there are more blogging academics with interesting outside hobbies than there are thoracic surgeons or corporate lawyers with blogs or serious extracurricular interests. I call BS on a totally stereotypical caricature, propagated first by the idiot who wrote this article, and then by you. In the upper reaches of academia, having a strangely obsessive passion for offbeat subjects is not a hindrance; it's a credential. And it makes for interesting colleagues. So you didn't get a PhD. That doesn't make you better than people who did.
posted by realcountrymusic at 6:41 PM on July 9, 2005


Some of the details ring.. well, not falsely, I guess, but weirdly.

It can be hard to lay your hands on an obscure journal or book chapter, but the applicant's blog comes up on any computer.

WTF? There should be copies of those articles and chapters in their files, unless you're drawing all your applicants from a vCJD ward. Even if they weren't there to start with because, for reasons probably best left unexplored, your search didn't ask for writing samples, you could take the difficult step of asking your shortlisted people for them. If you wanted writing samples, why the hell didn't you ask for them?

It's possible that someone might have a really interesting, cogent blog, where you can see the blogger interacting helpfully with people who just don't get it, or who aggressively don't get it (ie, people acting like undergrads), where they're weaving bits of what they learn from their research into discussions of events, and so on, and that would could be a big plus. But it's a lot more likely that a blog will show warts of some sort, just because positive information usually requires a lot more oomph to get counted than negative information does -- nothing unique to academia about that, just basic signaling theory.

In fairness, real no-shit blogging -- something approaching drezner's or delong's output -- seems closer to having a second job than it is to having a normal outside interest or hobby. Not that I blog.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:33 PM on July 9, 2005


What a ridiculous piece, and what an insight into the Chronicle's standards that it was published anonymously.
posted by mediareport at 11:32 PM on July 9, 2005


First of all, I believe that what someone blogs on their own time is really their business. There are a number of cases where it could impact on their work life: if they are criticizing their employer or co-workers, talking about company processes, publishing hate speech, and so on. Otherwise, it really shouldn't matter if they want to publish something.

I think it is very telling that this sort of article appears in an academic publication. The dean of my faculty once told me that the mean number of people who read a published article in a psychology journal (not counting the author, editors, and peers) is ZERO. Even well-cited academic articles are not actually being read.

Academia is obsessed with disseminating certain types of knowledge in certain ways. Careers depend not on the impact and accessibility of work, but on its publication. Whether or not someone reads your stuff is irrelevant. We are now beyond the cliche of the "ivory tower" to situation where the Academy often no longer wants to or can connect to the rest of society. In the long term, this is bad for the Academy and bad for everyone else.

Academics who are serious about their research should embrace blogs and open access archives. They should feed into the intellectual and academic discourse at various levels. Just as a professor might teach different things in the same subject to undergrads and grad students, she can share her research with all of us in ways that are useful.
posted by tranquileye at 6:47 AM on July 15, 2005


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