For those of you following my little blog, you know that General Disarray and I have been contemplating hitting the market this fall. We're pretty picky about where we would go (afterall, no point jumping to an equivalent or worse situation) and finally a couple of jobs have opened up which have caught our attention. Two of these are of the generic "looking for anyone in the fields of ecology and evolution" type. So we're both applying for some of the same jobs. (Having served on two search committees of the 'someone who works on pink spotted (but not red spotted) people-eaters who only eat tall people (but not short people) coming out of Wendy's on Sundays' searches, I cannot imagine how one evaluates that many job packets from so many sub-disciplines. General Disarray and I have joked that they must just weigh each CV for their first cut through the applicant pool...but of course nowadays it's all electronic so maybe it's a byte count...anyway I seriously digress).
So, we dutifully emailed our letter writers, pinky swearing them to secrecy (seems funny to swear them to secrecy and then blog about it, but I guess that's why I'm (hopefully) anonymous). More than one of my letter writers asked if it was okay to mention General Disarray in their letter. I have to admit I was more than a little bafoozled by the question. The argument coming from my letter writers was that they thought it would not hurt, but would help our applications and since we would not leave our current university without jobs for both of us, there was no reason not to be upfront about this. I had to admit that the logic seemed reasonable. Afterall, no point wasting everybody's time and effort if there is no way a department can come up with a second job, right? And, letting them know at the outset would give them maximum time to secure a second job if they wanted, right? Except....have you all seen the Incredibles? There's a scene where Mr Incredible wants a cape for his new superhero suit and Edna (the eccentric superhero fashion designer) says "No cape!" and begins listing all the superheros done in by their cape.
Figure 1. Mr Incredible, Edna, and the 'Hobo Suit'
Well, like Edna, I can list very good academic couples that appeared to suffer on the job market from honesty. Some of these people were frankly superstars, who if on the market independently would have secured interviews at a majority of schools, yet surprisingly received 1 or no interview requests when the fact that they would need a job for their spouse was either in their cover letter or in their letters of recommendation. I suspect that when deciding who to interview, there is overt or subconscious bias against people who have admitted openly they need a second job for their spouse. To really test this, General Disarray and I would randomly choose half of our applications to be sent with cover letters admitting we were an academic couple and half where we did not and see if there was a statistical difference in interview rates....but I strongly suspect that we will not have a large enough sample size to make it meaningful.
On the flip side, I also suspect that General Disarray and I may be outted anyway since we will be opposite gendered people applying from the same university. Furthermore, we know people at these universities, and we know that they know about us. I have no clue how a committee would respond if they knew we were married but we hadn't brought it up. Would the search committee wonder if we thought they were stupid or assume we were getting a divorce?
Anyway, I am opening this question to you, dear readers. I'm working on my job packet this week, so there's plenty of time to incorporate your suggestions! Do we admit up front in our job applications that we're looking for two positions or deal with it if we manage to get an interview/offer?