I'm on the job market for tenure-track positions in mathematics in the US this application cycle. I was advised by various people to contact the people in the institutions that I would really like to go to, so I have just contacted 4-5 top institutions that I am planning to apply to.
In the usual job market desperation, I may try to decipher every word in their response (if they respond at all), so I am curious about if there is anything to be deciphered at all. I'm only a postdoc and I have not had emails of this sort, but I can see myself responding in various ways.
For example, for a complete no-name who has no chance in my school, maybe the kindest thing is just to thank them, ignore them, or just tell them that we're not hiring in their area.
Maybe if it's someone that looks like they have a shot, maybe I'd respond telling them that I'll read their applications carefully, or something along those lines. Or maybe I'll volunteer some extra information such as our intended area of hire (because those generally don't appear in job ads) or actually pass on the email to the hiring committee.
Or, do you just have a canned response that you send out to everyone who contacts you?
All of this is speculation, and I'm intentionally doing this before getting any response back, so that I don't go crazy over the responses.
Does what I say above have any similarities with the reality? Even a glimmer of hope from any of the responses will put my mind at ease, so I am hoping for many anecdotal stories from current/past faculty who have had to deal with emails of this sort, which I am sure they receive plenty of.