Bloggers who tell too much

Bloggers may sabotage their search for a university job, a professor writes in Chronicle of Higher Education.

A candidate’s blog is more accessible to the search committee than most forms of scholarly output. 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. Several members of our search committee found the sheer volume of blog entries daunting enough to quit after reading a few. Others persisted into what turned out, in some cases, to be the dank, dark depths of the blogger’s tormented soul; in other cases, the far limits of techno-geekdom; and in one case, a cat better off left in the bag.

The blogger-professors who applied to Quaint Old College revealed personal characteristics and quirks best left concealed, the prof writes.

Via Discriminations. Go here for comments from academics.

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Comments

  1. This is why I blog as “the Unknown Professor”. An uber-geek sould probably track me down pretty easily, but most search committees wouldn’t know (and I plan on using a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy).

    p.s. The last few times I’ve tried to trackback your blog, I get an error message. Is this something I’m doing, or have others had the same problem (I use Haloscan, BTW)?

  2. My Trackback hasn’t worked for months now. I was trying to alter it to prevent Trackback spam and I must have disabled it. I keep hoping I’ll figure out how to get it back.

  3. A couple of thoughts:

    1. Is this also true in other industries/venues? Is everyone who has a blog that’s not 100% anonymous (and no blog really is) in danger of losing / not getting a job? (I know there is one well-publicised case of a blogger who lost her job because of unflattering things she said about work. What about bloggers who, say, blog about woodworking when they are math professors, or bloggers who keep a “family blog” to communicate with family members and share photos, but just happen to keep it unprotected by password? Are they also endangering themselves? [perhaps because not every waking moment of their life is devoted to their job, and so that looks ‘unprofessional’?])

    2. If I were on a search committee, I’d feel kind of oogy about reading someone’s personal blog for clues about them, unless they specifically told me to…I know blogs are public and all but using cyber-search skills to track down and check up on applicants would feel too much like going through someone’s trash, or having someone followed by a P.I.

    3. That said, isn’t there some amount of value in knowing if a person is a Giant Ego Case or has some other kind of impossible personality quirk before you hire them?

    I mean, that USUALLY comes out in interviews, but there are a few people out there who are truly good at covering up their inner diva/jerk/sexist/cruel person for a day or two just to get a job. (And yes, I know that tenure review can weed out the “uncollegial” ones, but that means sometimes the person’s fellow faculty members have to go through several years of hell first…). And there are sociopaths out there who can be charming as hell when they want to, and can be absolutely unbelievably difficult when they want to….and you can’t always tell those people in advance.

  4. As I see it, there are only two safe choices for job applicants:

    1. Say absolutely nothing online anywhere except in private, non-mailing list e-mail.

    2. Be professional 100.0% of the time online: not just on blogs but in blog comments, mailing lists, etc. Make every single post, comment, etc. a mini-ad for your skills. Be nothing less than absolutely positive. Negativity is the only thing you must be negative about. And be sure not to go overboard, lest prospective employers think you are wasting too much time online.

    If I were hiring, (1) would not hurt and (2) would impress me. I would be happy to hire someone so devoted to their field that they couldn’t stop talking about it (their *field*, NOT their job, co-workers, etc.) at *home* (NOT on company time).

    ricki: “I know blogs are public and all but using cyber-search skills to track down and check up on applicants would feel too much like going through someone’s trash, or having someone followed by a P.I.”

    I don’t think there’s much shame because I imagine that most blogs are found accidentally.

    If one dares to say anything negative or non-job related online, be sure it is something one really believes in, something worth the risk of offending others. Otherwise, don’t say it.

  5. Richard Nieporent says:

    but there are a few people out there who are truly good at covering up their inner diva/jerk/sexist/cruel person for a day or two just to get a job

    Ricki, this is a university we are talking about. A person like that would fit right in with the rest of the professors.

  6. Independent George says:

    …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…

    Wait a minute… Isn’t this an asset? Why wouldn’t this be considered a plus in hiring – in the private sector, I would kill to have a cube-mate who was an amateur systems engineer.

  7. “Isn’t this an asset?”

    If it’s not directly relevant to the requirements of the job, no. Combining your technical and academic background to promote yourself as being in the cyber.learning vanguard is one thing; being passionate about “the minutiae of software systems, server hardware, and other tech exotica” is another.

    Moreover, in my experience in the humanities, not a lot of professors are into technology. So such a display of extensive knowledge may intimidate and even repulse them.

    “in the private sector”

    But this isn’t the private sector. Which begs the question: why isn’t a person like that applying for a private sector job? Why apply for a job that doesn’t involve their passion? I guess they’re just covering all their bases. We don’t know if that person was simultaneously applying for both academic and non-academic jobs.

  8. Mike in Texas says:

    I face this dilemma with my own blog, especially in light of the fact that I know my supt has read mine to see my comments about the ongoing mess with funding in Texas public schools.