We have to do something about the job application issue in sociology. Background: https://scatter.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/interfolio-letters-and-such/ My department has been encouraging our students to use Interfolio, but I was shocked last fall to discover that the evolving technology of on-line application systems has created chaos, and that some of our students were paying a great deal of extra money to have their reference letters delivered by Interfolio because nearly all applications now are on-line, but in a hodge-podge of different systems. The result is either extra work or expense for everyone involved. Some professions have consolidated their applications. All math applications go through https://www.mathjobs.org/jobs , powered by AcademicJobsOnLine. All economics jobs go through https://econjobmarket.org/ , using a system created by a team of volunteers. The Modern Language Association works with Interfolio http://www.mla.org/jil_interfolio to provide dossier services and application management services for advertisers, with a maximum fee of $6 for sending a MLA-member dossier to a non-advertising employer.
I’m in touch with the people who run the Economics profession job application site. https://econjobmarket.org/ This is a one-stop site where people applying for economics jobs can put their dossiers up once, letter writers can upload confidential letters to be included with dossiers, and institutions trying to hire economists can download dossiers. It is backed by all the associations that economists join. I asked them what would be involved in cloning the dossier system for sociology. They said the marginal costs would be low. This is a non-profit group of academics that is willing to work with sociology if there are enough of us to get buy-in. The idea would be to go the direction of economics, math, and other fields that have one standardized on-line portal for applications. What do you think? Is this worth working for?
The economic site has a companion backend product https://editorialexpress.com/hh/hh_info.html that departments can use to process dossiers that costs $500/year. You don’t have to pay this; any recruiter can register with the site for free and just download full dossiers.
When there is official sponsorship, the price of the ad with the professional association includes an employer’s access to the on-line portal. We have not tested this interface so we don’t know how well it works.
Competing services are the non-profit Academic Jobs OnLine https://academicjobsonline.org/ajo which runs the Math site, and the for-profit Interfolio, which has been adopted by some other groups, including the Modern Language Association, and is trying to become the standard. Interfolio is selling ByCommittee, application review software. AcademicJobsOnline solicits employers to use it for applications, so it must have some sort of back end, but I have not seen any on-line documentation of it.
(1) Can the service send a dossier to an employer that does not pay for to it? Interfolio, yes, but at $6 a “delivery”. AcademicJobsOnline –no. EconJobMarket — yes, if they are willing to register.
(2) Can the service send a dossier to an employer that does not register with them? Interfolio – yes, for $6 a delivery. AcademicJobsOnline–no. EconJobMarket — no
(3) Can the service send reference letter to on-line portals in various proprietary systems? Interfolio, yes for $4 a letter. AcademicJobsOnlime – no. EconJobMarket – no.
(4) Ease of use and functionality for applicants of the competing options. Please feel free to comment.
(5) Ease of use and functionality for departments who use the backend product of the competing options. Please feel free to comment.
(6) Dealing with woes that I cannot even imagine about HR departments and incompatible systems.
(7) Whether ASA would sign off. — ASA leadership? What needs to be done to make this happen?
Since I use a nom de plume and you may not all recognize me, I’m writing this in my current position as chair at the department of sociology at Wisconsin-Madison.
At this point, I think the question is whether we should go the direction of the MLA and try to get everyone into Interfolio, go the direction of Math and try to get everyone into AcademicJobsOnline or whatever else comes with it or MathJobs online, or see whether we can get something going with the economists.In the ideal scenario, the price of an ad in the ASA’s employment bulletin includes the application-receipt service (including reference letters and writing samples) an automatically files the materials so they can be read and reviewed.
Terms first: Front-end = the place where applicants post their materials. Back-end = how recruiters download applicant materials. Back end service providers are software suites that automate the process of receiving applications; these are the services that generate the automated email requests for letters of reference.
I had a conversation with John Rush who runs EJM. Turns out their site was founded after the AmEconAssoc refused to have anything to do with it and AEA is now trying to get a competitive site going. Like ASA, the AEA views job ads as a revenue source, not as a service to the profession. EJM’s model is to have an uncompensated faculty board of directors who run the site at cost as a service to the profession. They believe that the front-end applicant portal should be controlled by a non-profit entity to avoid monopoly control over the service that saves people time and that the there should be a competitive market in back-end services. They are trying to get back-end service providers to permit interoperability, that is, to cooperate with providing the hooks in their software so that, for example, letters of reference posted at EJM could be automatically sent to another back-end provider. John says that most back-end providers are not interested in cooperating with these efforts. Interfolio does this — if you have letters on Interfolio, you can get an email address from them to use for letters of reference on other sites. The reason they charge $4 for this service (per John) is that “people in India” are actually sending those letters; the process is not automated. This raises the technical question of how hard it is to actually automate that process, which I don’t know the answer to.
Anyway, EJM would be interested in working with a group of sociologists on morphing their software into a sociology site. This would involve first getting a sociology board of directors and coming up with the start-up costs. As I see it, there are three possible platforms to work with. EJM, Interfolio, and AcademicJobsOnline (which began as MathJobs.org and then branched out). It seems logical if we are going to pursue this also to talk to AJO and Interfolio.
The organizational questions are: (1) is there a critical mass of sociologists willing to do work to make this happen? (2) would this effort be with the cooperation of the ASA infrastructure or in opposition to them? (3) should part of ASA’s mission be facilitating job-finding by sociologists (and perhaps subsidizing employment ads) or should employment ads be viewed primarily as a way to gain revenue for other things the ASA does?
My next step will be an email to specific people at the ASA office and also Council members.
And a Third Update: I’ve been in communication with people at ASA. Yes, as Tina said, they HAVE been working on this issue and have been investigating possible vendors for a general solution. Negotiations are confidential. No solution is in the works in the immediate future, but they are hopeful they may have something in place in time for the 2015 hiring season. I am grateful to know that somebody else is carrying this ball and hope our association can come up with a solution that benefits everyone.