Title

Catching the Golden Snitch

Preparing for the Job Interview

September 13, 2016
 

The last two times I had a job interview for a tenure-track job or academic administrator position I was successful. I had spent 2/3 of my academic career as a contingent faculty member and felt like I had caught the golden snitch. Now that I am several years past the job interview, I am thinking more about the process. It is that time of year as people eagerly await academic job postings.

I have some points to share based on my experience as the job candidate and sitting on numerous hiring committees at a few universities. You can never be over-prepared. Do your research about the university and the department. You need to speak to the classes you can teach and how you can add to the teaching, learning, research, and overall community in the department. Practice your job talk and teaching talks with friends who can offer you advice about your presentation and "working" the room. Choose what you're going to wear for the trip with special care. Be prepared for a jam-packed day or days at the campus. You will be scheduled from dusk to dawn to meet everyone on campus.

You will likely meet with students in the department. Make sure that you give them the attention that they deserve. They might not have a vote on your position, but these are the students who you might work with come the next term. Have questions for the students. Some of the students are really invested in who you are and are likely interested in who will join the department.

When you are done with the process, send the department chair a thank you note for the opportunity. Be gracious with the department staff, too.

Odd things that happened to me during my last interview process:

  1. A student came up to me and let me know that he supported my candidacy, but the student course union did not. I smiled and reminded him that the course union does not have a vote. However, I will say this. That the student leaders sat with their arms closed during my talk was something that I remembered for the next school year, and then let go. When some of them later approached me for letters of reference, I was surprised.
  2. Hiring brings out the best and worst in the hiring committee and you have little control over this. There are often different factions in a department and this is not about you, but perhaps your supervisor or old arguments in the department.
  3. If you work at the campus where you're interviewing, you will see the other candidates getting escorted around campus, at lunch, and elsewhere. Roll with it.
  4. If someone falls asleep during your job talk, do not take it personally. I have seen this happen and was surprised, and felt terrible for the job candidate. If you do something silly, recover. I recall one job applicant coughing out his mint. He recovered well. I don't remember his name, but I remember how smooth he was with the issue.
  5. Be prepared for things you cannot control, people coming to your presentation late, texting during your presentation, and making sour faces after you answer a question. While this behavior is uncollegial, at times it is really not about you.

Related to the five brief points: be gracious. If you get an interview, you will feel like you won the lottery. Do not lose the ticket, and prepare for the interview.

Good Luck!

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