At Ohio University we had a professional development meeting recently and I asked the panel (CW, lit and rhet-comp profs who had all sat on various hiring committees) if the CW Phd was, truthfully, any kind of factor on the university job market.
The first answer was that schools such as Iowa or Michigan only hire writers with an established presence. "A book" isn't enough, and the PhD isn't the criteria either. That NYU hired Jonathan Safran Foer, who doesn't even have an MFA, comes to mind.
But---if the goal is a job at a smaller, liberal arts school then a PhD is a plus, because it gives you flexibility in teaching. (And yes, the CW PhD counts here). OU has placed people in this kind of tenure track job. It was also noted that if quality of life is a consideration, a smaller school might be a happier landing than a shark tank program.
Interesting to me, was how the three English Department fields have different criteria for an attractive resume.
For Rhet-Comp, teaching is critical, and demonstrated ability of administrative experience (by this I mean running a conference, not typing and filing. Althooooo. How else does one run a conference?)
For Lit, an established presence as a scholar is the thing. Too many committees, etc. might even count against an applicant, because he/she might be seen as not being serious about their research.
For us, the ability to help out with the lit mag or run the reading series makes everyone perk up. Because nobody wants to do this stuff. Grant writing ability is also a plus. Because writers never have any money.
The final tip was that grads who want a university job can’t leave the ivory tower. Not after the PhD. Grads have to adjunct or post-doc or whatever to remain in the pool.
Except the rules are always different in the arts, because there aren’t rules. Write a best-selling book that’s also a critical darling---and that NYU gig is yours. And who wouldn't rather be the sexy hire than the paper slave?