I have always advised doctoral students who have not yet defended to try as hard as they can to finish their degrees (at least having a dissertation defense date on the calendar) prior to taking a tenure-track position. This advice is based on two points: 1. If your work is strong enough to land a position while A.B.D., it will be even stronger after the degree is awarded, and 2. If you land on the tenure track too soon, you run the risk of never earning tenure before the clock runs out.
This story has reminded me of a third point that should be made: Institutions that will hire an A.B.D. in the kind of market we now have are likely to be offering positions that will be backbreakers, the kind that all but guarantee that the dissertation will never be completed.
To some extent, A.B.D.'s on the market need to consider the old Woody Allen joke, “I would never join a club that would have a member like me.” It’s worthwhile to ponder, “Why is this position available to someone who has only two chapters written?” As I have written in this space before, we all need jobs to pay our bills, but not every job is created equal. Just because a position is in the professoriate doesn’t mean that it is worth taking; sometimes other jobs are much more worthwhile, especially until the dissertation is complete.
Would you agree that A.B.D. applicants are at a particular disadvantage this year? Would you advise them to wait and enter the job market full force?