As someone who met her spouse on Match.com, I feel uniquely qualified to compare my current faculty job search to…online dating. Stay with me here. If we consider the position posting to be the initial profile of a prospective partner, then my sending an application packet is much like sending a “wink.” It says, “Hey there! I saw your profile and I’m totally in to you. Take a look at my profile and let me know if you think we’re a match.” Thankfully, every day is like an eHarmony “Free Communication Weekend.” So, it’s not like I have to pay to send my message. I just have to put forth quality time and effort to build an outstanding application packet. That means reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading the position posting while aligning my responses with the qualifications they seek. It also means looking up the department/program and institution to try and get a feel for their culture. If only online suitors were this thorough. In the end, I cross my fingers and wait, hoping that they liked what they saw (both in the “profile” and after some Google stalking). If I’m lucky, I’ll get a “wink” back that says, “hey, you’re kinda cute and I like what you had to say…so, let’s chat.” At least in this courtship, I might be more likely to get a nicely worded rejection letter if the attraction isn’t mutual.
Of course, once you move into chatting stage, the nerves kick in. Will they really like me? Will I like them? Will we get to go on a real date (read: campus interview) or will it end here in a Skype/phone interview? That initial chat might be with one person or it might be with a panel. It has been suggested to me that I request a Skype interview in lieu of a traditional phone/teleconference interview. You can activate your video camera with Skype and your “prospective date” has the benefit of seeing how prepared (or unprepared) you are and the facial expressions or body language that accompanies your responses. But, if all goes well, you set the date for a date. If not, you move on and try again with the next profile.
Really, it sounds silly, but if you’ve ever tried online dating, then it makes perfect sense. It’s not that I don’t take this seriously. On the contrary, I’ve probably stressed myself to near sickness over searching for a faculty position (you should see my beautifully color-coded Google Form to track openings, references, and submissions). Perhaps this is just my way of lightening the mood.