The Academic Interview: Visit, Talks, and Politics 

  The last time I had a job interview for a tenure-track job, I was successful and got the job. I had spent 2/3 of my academic career as contingent faculty and felt like I caught the golden snitch. Now, that I am several years past the job interview I am thinking more about the process. I have some points to share based on my experience as the job candidate and sitting on numerous hiring committees between two 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 likely will 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 student 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. 

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. The student leaders with their closed arms 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. Their behavior was rude. 

2. Hiring brings out the best and worst in the hiring committee and you have little control over this. There is 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 it, 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! 

This is the first of a few posts related to the interview process. 

Post for My Students: Looking For Work

I have some points of advice for my current and former students looking for work. I was counting back and realize that I have sat on more than 3 dozen hiring committees in the last 15 years. In that time I have reviewed cover letters, resumes, CVs, and sat in on the interviews. I have also served as a job reference for countless people, and am a MBA Leadership Coach.

1. Proofread your resume or CV

2. Have someone else review your resume or CV. Chances are you are forgetting something about some of your skills or have missed an error with formatting or a typo.

3. Prepare for your interview. Find out information about the employer and the position that you have applied for. You can Google common interview questions and practice formulating your answers.

4. Send an email thank you to the interviewer after the interview. Be concise: thank you for the opportunity, I look forward to hearing from you.

5. If you do not get the job, it is acceptable to contact the interviewer and ask if they can offer feedback. They may respond with some, but do not expect that they will.

6. When you are in the interview, never speak ill of your current employer or any past employers.

7. Do not under any circumstance lie or inflate on your resume.

8. Be prepared for your interview and gracious to the interviewer or interview panel.

9. Be on time to your interview.

10. Dress appropriately for your interview. It is better that you are a bit overdressed, then not dressed up enough.

11. Try to relax and think positively before your interview. You do not want to be that candidate who was extremely nervous and could not answer questions.

12. Review your digital footprint. Update your LinkedIn account and make sure that you have your LinkedIn account information on your resume. 

Do not burn a bridge. If somehow you are not happy with the process, never send an email or make a phone call when frustrated. 

Overall, good luck with your job search! The Spring is busy with students looking for jobs, co-ops, and volunteer opportunities.

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Interviewing

I serve as an instructor and undergrad advisor to many and then to another group I am also a mentor or coach. I have also cultivated relationships with employers locally and outside of the city. I take these relationships seriously and they know that I try to send them strong candidates. Likewise, I try to check in with some of these contacts periodically to keep the connection fresh and to also ask them questions. I want to know  what is the profile of a strong candidate. Who are they looking for? And, they know that when they call to check references, they will get an honest reference about the candidate.

During the last month or so, I have met with some of my contacts and even made some new ones. I’m going to share some points from these conversations. This list is not an exhaustive list of advice, but a start. Now, it’s not uncommon to have an interview with more than one person and I refer to this group as the interview panel.

You got the Interview! Congratulations to you. Now, you need to impress them so that they call your references and then hire you.

Dress to impress. Ignore those articles on Linked In and elsewhere to dress how you are comfortable and don’t worry about impressing. Nope.You need to dress to impress and try to dress appropriately for the employer. If you’re interviewing for a non-profit, government, or conservative business you should dress according to the culture of that workplace.

Prepare for the interview. Google interview questions and review them and your answers in the mirror or hopefully with some trusted friends, mentor or sponsor. Also, do your research about the company. Why do you want to work with the organization? Make sure that you have a question or two for them, too. You do not want to make it painfully obvious that you haven’t taken the time to research the company and what they do. What is their mission statement? Who do they serve? Make sure that you have these basics down pat.

Be humble. You got the interview and you do not want to turn off the interview panel with arrogant responses. None of us are perfect, so think about what you have to learn or work on and how the company can help you grow. I am not suggesting that you downplay your skill set, but remember that you are getting assessed about how you will work with a team of people. I often remind my students about one employer sharing that a candidate was late to the meeting and one person opened the door to an apology asking, “Did you get lost?” The candidate responded with a quick, “No.” Big mistake. She was late to a job interview and needed to apologize for this. She did not and this set the tone for the interview. Remember that you are the short list and anything that you do that makes you look like a less serious candidate can hurt you.

Google yourself and check your digital footprint. The reality is that employers often creep and check you out–especially if they do not have good references or have a gut instinct about a candidate. I have heard from several employers who are honest about doing their research about job candidates. And, reminding you here to Google the company and what they do. This will give you ample information to ask the panel a question or two.

Prepare examples. When answering questions, offer examples from previous employment or volunteer experience that highlights your skills. You must remind the panel that you are more than competent for the job. For instance, if the panel asks you about working under deadlines, you need to refer to a situation that demonstrates your ability to work under a tight deadline and juggle multiple projects. Now, some of you might have a thin resume and could offer that you worked part-time and was enrolled in courses full-time and maintained a good grade point average. The panel will typically ask about working with a difficult situation or person–be prepared to offer a good example that highlights your ability to combine professionalism and team work.

Get a good night’s sleep and show up to the interview 10 minutes early. And, the next day place a thank you card in the mail. Yes, send a thank you card to the panel who interviewed you. Good Luck!