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01/20/2017

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Job Candidate

It would be great to know what candidates should prepare and bring to on-campus interviews. Is it expected that candidates bring detailed syllabi for classes they would be asked to teach? (In my case, this would mean creating them from scratch for multiple on-campus interviews in addition to preparing a job talk and teaching demo.) What is the difference between being insufficiently prepared, well prepared, and going overboard?

Amanda

It would be nice to know this, since I certainly had no intention of bringing syllabi (any syllabi, let alone, detailed) of classes I would be asked to teach. I assumed I would bring only the notes I would need for my talk and teaching demo, and/or anything else specifically requested. Am I off base?

Marcus Arvan

Job Candidate & Amanda: I will post a thread on this ASAP!

Winslow

I'm wondering when/if it's appropriate to tell a school post-Skype that you have an upcoming fly out to a neighboring university. I interviewed with Eastern State yesterday, and I'm flying out to Western State Feb 6. They are across the country from me so it's a big journey. Should I tell Eastern, which is currently mulling over my first interview, that I'll "be in the neighborhood" in the next couple of weeks? They are about 2 hours apart. On the one hand, it's presumptuous. On the other, it's the truth - just more information that might edge me towards a campus invite...or sink me if they are on the fence. If they want to meet me, I'd save a lot of time doing it when I'm there anyway and not having to miss another 3 days of work. Thoughts?

anonymous

Winslow,
Good for you, having an interview (and the prospects of the second). I would resist telling the second school, unless they gave you an indication that you will be brought to campus. Your move could be misread. You might find it forces their hand, and then someone on the committee says "let him go. We have others to choose from."

Amanda

So I have been asked, "So tell us about your research..." I am never quite sure the scope and depth of this. I don't want to babble on. On the other hand, if I just give an overview, I have been asked to provide arguments in response. In addition, I finished my dissertation and have moved on to new projects. Should I talk both about my dissertation and new projects? Advice appreciated.

anonymous

Amanda
Tell them about the two or three papers that you are working on now. Do not go off about papers that are still really rough. But anything that is not yet published is fair game. You must have a handle on the material, and you should come across as knowing what you are talking, even if your final position on an issue is not resolved.
I am further along in my career (much), and I now discuss three projects I work on, topics on which I have published multiple papers.

Amanda

Thanks Anonymous, that's helpful! I usually gave an overview of my projects, but did not go into specific papers. I felt like I did not have time. Now I am thinking maybe it was okay for me to go a little longer.

Nick

I really don't know how to handle these questions. Almost everyone will tell you to give short, concise, elevator talk answers. And then you hope they will follow up with if they have more specific questions. After all interviews are super short, people on the committee are usually not in your area, etc. Why can't they just ask precise questions about your research? A general one/two-minute answer won't tell them more than they could find in the cover letter, let alone the research statement, or your website. It's very tricky, probably department dependent, and as with most things we wish departments could be clear about their expectations.

Amanda

Yes that's how I feel Nick. When I answer I usually am just repeating stuff in my cover letter and research statement, which seems weird. But then again you are not supposed to assume the search committees have read your work.

anonymous

Amanda and Nick,

I know it seems that committees should have read the stuff beforehand, but the reality is they have often read too much stuff and they are interviewing candidates back to back with little time to review the file with care. They rely on notes, and they count on you prompting their memories to which candidate you are.

Nick

Fair enough. All I mean is the degree of generality vs specificity that is expected is anyone's guess. Same for teaching questions. Anything that is not a precise question is likely to create a gap between the committee's actual expectations and the candidate's interpretation. For instance, I once had an interview where I'd been told in advance they would ask me questions about my writing sample and my research plans. So when they ask you: Can you tell about your research?, isn't safe to assume they know who you are? In that case it was, although no questions were asked about my research after the short spiel I gave. Why not just give more concrete cues? If they have questions about the sample they should be able to ask questions about the research, at least after hearing a very short spiel. Otherwise it just adds randomness to a process that's already so random. As for teaching, How would you teach A, B, or C, is likewise a ridiculous thing to answer in this format. That's something to be discussed calmly on campus, or by way or specific questions such as: What textbook would you use? What authors would you read? What assignment would you give? etc. If that's what they want you to say, then ask the freaking question. Judge candidates not by how they guess what you're secretely expecting them to say; judge them by how they answer your precise questions.

anonymous

Nick,
also, at teaching colleges (rather than R1s), faculty want to know if you can explain difficult concepts to non-specialists and students. If your explanation of your research is opaque, then you are not going to do very well in the classroom.

nescionomen

The opening 'tell us about your research / dissertation / work' question is also seen as an icebreaker, to get you talking and make you more comfortable, as well as a chance for the committee members to gather their thoughts or make their initial question more precise. Remember that the interview is an artificial genre of conversation and more of its conventions might make (some) sense.

Winslow

Here's something a bit weird: I am being flown out for an interview next week and the school has not, as of today, asked for my letters of recommendation. Isn't this weird? I have a sneaking suspicion that there's an inside hire deal at work here. Then again, I've also heard that some programs don't think that letters do much: everybody's perfect the job, etc. Thoughts? Should I drop a line this week that letters are available? Maybe they have just forgotten....

Amanda

So they didn't ask in the application? My guess would be the school is one of the few that just doesn't believe in them. Even if they do have an inside higher, you think they would ask for appearances sake so it is probably something else...

Winslow

I have an on campus interview on Monday on the other side of the country. The committee did not ask for syllabi or my dossier (nor, as I point out above, have they contacted my references). The application process was direct email (letter, CV, transcrips) to the the committee chair: no online stuff at all. I was initially fearful of the inside hire because all of this seems very cursory, but after doing the research on the department I am convinced there is no inside hire. I am planning on printing out three syllabi to distribute to the committee during the interview proper, and thought I would print out my dossier as well (which includes teaching eval summaries, TA evals, teaching philosophy, etc). Again, you'd think they would want all this, but each interview is different. This will be my second on campus: I had one last year. Thoughts on handing out the dossier? Thanks.

anonymous

Winslow:
I would recommend asking the various individual faculty members when you meet with them individually if they want any additional material. (eg. syllabi). But they may be good reasons why they do not want the stuff.

Winslow

Anonymous: I was thinking I'd offer up the additional material during the actual interview with the hiring committee. I've never heard of meeting individually with anyone during an interview (other than the chair) and that certainly never occurred during my last on campus interview (again, other than the chair). Has that happened to you in terms of other faculty?

Marcus Arvan

Winslow: it is very common to meet individually with faculty at flyouts--more common in fact than a full interview with the entire committee. Anyway, I agree with Anonymous. You can mention that you have dossier materials with you. I did this on an interview when a search committee member asked how I would teach a class (to which I said, "I have a syllabus on that course with me if you'd like a copy"). But, if I were you, I would not plan to "distribute" your materials. That seems presumptuous to me. If people want something, they'll ask! But it is always good to have your materials on you in case they do.

Winslow

Marcus: Thanks for the reply. I've only had the one flyout, and the final scheduled item was indeed a full interview with the committee as well as a person from their EEOC office. I assumed this was typical. But I'll have my syllabi with me, and I'll wait until asked. That sounds like good advice.

anonymous

Hi Winslow,
Interviews vary significantly. At some places, like where I teach, we do schedule time with individual faculty. At others they have a more formal interview. At some they have both. You have to be ready for anything. They should give you a schedule ahead of time, but even then be prepared for last minute changes. For example, the Provost or Dean may not be able to meet with you when they were scheduled to, so the whole schedule is shuffled, and you never really know where you are supposed to be. Ideally, they get you there when you need to be there, and you can act fast on your feet. It is fine to offer additional material, but do not overwhelm the committee members. Give them what they need, which you should be able to gauge by the conversations you are having.

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