When I was a kid it seemed like forever between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That span of 30 days dragged on for at least 60, culminating in the delicious rush of Christmas Eve and Christmas, which was then followed by the sweet denoument of the lazy week between Christmas and New Years.
However, once you have kids, there's no such thing as time expanding between holidays -- time compresses until you no longer have 24 hours to yourself to do the shopping, wrapping, cooking, and cleaning necessary for the end of year festivities. And for all of those years (except for a year or two we skipped), my wife and I have also been jumping ship right after Christmas to head on our annual pilgrimage to the festival known as the MLA Conference.
This year in fact is doubly complicated (maybe triply...who knows) by the fact that both my wife and I are on the job market, a most depressing fact hammered home to us by every rejection letter that flutters in. The math is not particularly pretty: let's say an average job opening attracts 200 to 400 applicants (I'm not kidding). About ten will be selected for an interview at the MLA.
So already your chances are somewhere between 5 and 2.5 percent per job.
After the MLA interviews, generally three candidates will be invited to the campus for follow-up interviews. So even if you've made the first cut, the odds are once again against you for making the second cut.
But let's leave the campus visits aside for a time, since at this point I'm just angling for an interview. Just one, perhaps, to validate my 50+ applications. I've got one rejection in so far, but my wife has received around ten. Of course, she's also received one interview, so I think I would gladly take the ten rejections for one interview ratio myself.
The bottom line is that English Departments are incredibly disfunctional places (as any graduate student could probably tell you) where no one wants to do administrative work but where everyone likes to fight over whether administrative work is being done properly. So even if the deadline for the job announcement was November 1, chances are the committee hasn't even met to discuss the stack of applications they've received. Apocryphal stories concerning applicants being notified on Christmas Eve (Dec 24) about interviews at the MLA (beginning Dec 27th) abound, which is annoying for those people who would only go to the MLA if they had an interview.
I'm already going, so I don't care if they come grab me out of a panel to interview me. Just interview me.