Friday, December 5, 2008

Job market advice: first, read the literature

Here is what you do not want if you are a graduate student on the market: you do not want a faculty member at a department you are applying for to open your job market paper, figure out the topic, look at the references and then immediately notice that you have not cited a recent, published paper that does what your does.

That is what happened when I opened [CANDIDATE'S] job market paper, which reminded me of [THIS PAPER] (gated) by my friend [THE ECONOMIST -TE], who is a full professor at the University of [CITY]. The job market candidate does not cite [TE'S] paper, even though it is published in a journal, [JOURNAL NAME], that is not particularly obscure, even though it was published three years ago and even though, if you happen to google, say, "[THREE OBVIOUS WORDS]" (roughly the topic of both papers) [TE'S] paper is the sixth entry on the first page.

To be clear, I am sure the omission was not deliberate, in the sense that I am sure that the candidate does not know about the paper. I suspect he just got enmeshed in the heat of research and neglected to do a thorough scouring of the literature (though, as noted, you don't have to scour very hard to find [TE'S] paper). I am also not saying that the job candidate has been scooped. His paper goes well beyond what [TE] does on several dimensions. I am just saying he was sloppy, and that is not the first impression that you want to make, especially in a year when a lot of schools are not hiring.

Addendum: someone with impeccable judgement convinced me over dinner last night that this post, though not all that very tough, was perhaps too tough, so I have anonymized it.