Bloggers Need Not Apply

In some cases, a Google search of the candidate’s name turned up his or her blog. Other candidates told us about their Web site, even making sure we had the URL so we wouldn’t fail to find it. In one case, a candidate had mentioned it in the cover letter. We felt compelled to follow up in each of those instances, and it turned out to be every bit as eye-opening as a train wreck. –“Ivan Tribble” —Bloggers Need Not Apply (Chronicle)

A troubling essay. When jobs are scarce, employers look for any trivial reason in order to reject a candidate. While on the one hand the author notes that the blogs weren’t themselves responsible for shooting down the candidate’s job hopes, at the same time, the author suggests that it’s the fact the author has a blog, rather than the content on the blog, that’s the deciding factor.

Since one of the three vignettes describes a job seeker who was thrown out due to something somebody else said on a different blog (that is, not the job seeker’s blog), in that case the blog helped the committee members that the candidate’s application seemed to include a misrepresentation. So the lesson there seems to be “Don’t misrepresent your work.”

I am slightly more sympathetic towards the blogger whose public diary revealed too many rants and too much teen angst, but only slightly. That blogger could have easily kept a private, anonymous LiveJournal.

I am the most sympathetic towards the candidate whose blog expressed a passion in a subject that was not exactly the one the search committee was searching for.

Students who keep a blog for a class, and then don’t touch it after the class is over probably have little to worry about. If they did well in the class, their blog will reflect it. If the class isn’t important to their major or their job, the hiring committee probably won’t worry about it. If the blog is full of typographical errors, or long gaps interspersed with complaints about falling behind, then it’s probably revealing work traits that have already revealed themselves in other venues.

It would be too glib of me to say, “If these folks are so shallow as to reject an applicant for keeping a blog, then a blogger probably wouldn’t be happy working with such people.” But probably only a bit too glib.

Employers reject candidates because of what they are wearing, how they answer the telephone, what bumper stickers they have on their car, and countless other reasons.

A committee member who’s looking for an excuse — any excuse — to throw out a candidate and thereby winnow the stack of applicants might find something in a blog. The idea that an individual can publish research results without going through a vetting process is still threatening to many in academia, just as the citizen journalism movement threatens mainstream media, and grass-roots political activity threatens oppressive governments.

Update: I didn’t have the time or inclination to fisk this essay, but check out “The Trouble with Tribble

Update, 18 July: For some reason, I missed Matt Kirschenbaum’s excellent response to this article.