Back story: I'm currently a postdoc in [Western Europe]. I'm currently applying for faculty positions...
So, when applying for faculty positions, they always ask for 1) CV, 2) cover letter, 3) research proposal, 4) statement of teaching philosophy. Now, all this is fine and to be expected. What bothers me is when they ask for 3 letters of reference - right off the bat. During my first wave of applications, I played along and asked/prodded/poked my references - all of them busy fellows - and got them to send out letters of recommendation. Out of ~15 applications, I had one interview (didn't get it), and the rest... dead silence. Ok, so why did I hassle my references if I most likely didn't make it past the first round?
On my 2nd, current, wave of applications, I'm not going to send out references along with my other documents. They can read my stuff, and If they are interested and want to advance me to a second look, they can contact me (or my references directly - they are on my CV) and I would be more than happy to get letters sent out. Am I putting myself at a disadvantage here? Is this unreasonable? If it is unreasonable on my part, then how do I deal with this without trying the patience of the kind folks who are good enough to be in my corner. And who is responsible for this nonsense - HR?
On an unrelated topic - as I mentioned, I'm a [North American] doing a postdoc in [Western Europe]. I'm applying for positions in North America. Do you think that my geographical location places me at a disadvantage - all other things being equal?I do think that you're putting yourself at a disadvantage by not having your letters with your package. Faculty search committees are probably overwhelmed by applications and would like nothing better than to discard an application because it's "incomplete." I don't think it's unreasonable to ask of your recommenders -- likely, they knew what they were getting into when they agreed to write letters in support of you. They're in your corner, so they'll be willing to cut-and-paste in your favor. [As for who's responsible, it's probably the faculty themselves; I have a difficult time believing that university HR ever gets involved in faculty hiring decisions (at least until the final choice has been made.)]
As for your location in Western Europe, I suspect that it does not particularly matter; it might make interviews a little bit difficult or expensive. As long as you've been publishing in well-recognized journals and the like, you're probably okay.
But the closest I'm ever going to come to the faculty club is cutting the lawn in front of it. Readers, you're a lot more knowledgeable than me. Your thoughts, please.