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SLAC tenured professor & chair

post-Skype interview notes:

I take these to be polite and wish everyone in society would do things like this more generally. That said, they make no difference to me in terms of you getting the job or not.

Number Three

I usually send a thank you note to the search chair to thank them "on behalf of" the entire search committee. Is that cool, or should I send personal emails to everyone who interviewed me?


Number three sending a note to each search committee member seems a bit over the top to me, but I'd be interested to hear from others. What do you think Marcus?

Marcus Arvan

Hi Amanda: I just wrote up a reply to your question, but then it occurred to me that since I'm currently on a search committee for a non-TT position, it might not be a good idea to say anything. It's rather unclear to me what is appropriate to say or not say publicly while one is in the process of a search... :/


Oh okay. I will have to live in suspense!

With a job

I think people are missing a major issue here. At some USA colleges HR departments have taken control of the hiring process - or been given control. And faculty are not permitted to communicate information about the searches. Colleges are afraid of litigation. So they are putting protections in place. This is one downside of American culture. In the last search I was involved in, even after the search was over, the chair of search committee would not give any applicant information about the search (out of fear). I was not going to override her decision.


The bureaucracy is even worse in Europe. But anyhow, maybe fear is the reason. But then I guess things must vary a lot by institution, because there is a fair number of colleges that do update candidates and treat them with respect, so it can be done at least at some places. Also, I am suspicious that a tenured professor would have much to fear by sending a polite email.


It looks like a non-trivial number of schools are going straight to flyouts this year, skipping first round interviews. There are many possible explanations (target of opportunity hires, people not updating the wiki earlier, only the most elite schools are doing it, etc.), but I'm wondering if the explanation is that some departments are abandoning first round interviews because they're skeptical of their efficacy. If so, I hope that's an emerging trend. Skype interviews are in some ways an improvement over APA interviews, but they're still a bad practice. Marcus has done a nice job in the past of summarizing the social science on interview effects here. I'll just add that I've had multiple Skype interviews marred by technical problems despite taking all precautions to avoid them. And coming across well over Skype introduces even more skills irrelevant to whether you'd be good at the actual job. The first round interview can't die fast enough as far as I'm concerned.

There's a discussion about this already on the metaforum, but it's going the way things often go there.


Going straight to flyouts might be the right choice. But one downside is it leaves less room to assess how you are doing as a candidate. For instance, if you had 8 first round interviews, this would suggest you are doing something right to appeal to search committees. It would provide information that the way you changed your cover letter (or whatever) worked.


Amanda, you're right about that. I've heard people say they would have given up had they not at least been getting first round interviews in years before finally landing a job. But there are other ways departments might provide news value to candidates (asking for additional materials, notifying them they made the short/longlist, etc.).

First round interviews also send confusing signals. If I get 10 skype interviews and one flyout, does that mean I botched the other 9, or that I just barely made the first round list at a lot of places? Sure, you can ask how you did, but that's awkward, and you'll never get the full story. And of course there are many other sources of evidence that you are on the right track, professionally. I think the news value of getting first round interviews for candidates does not outweigh the costs of introducing further irrationality into the interview process, let alone the cost of everyone having to go through these ordeals.

I wish our discipline would take a closer look at the mechanics of our hiring practices. They're little more than cruel wastes of time for everyone involved.


I disagree. Think about how normal businesses operate. You send in your resume. You get a call if they're interested. Otherwise, nothing. Sure there are exceptions, but the exceptions are just that -- exceptions.

Academics live and are groomed in a pampered world. They expect to be treated like they are in on the process just because they've submitted an application letter. They expect updates, reports, feel-good rejection letters. Come on.

The world is not your playground.


When is a reasonable time to stop expecting interviews for applications due in the (late) fall? I’d rather not rely wholly on the wiki.


Sorry if this sounds harsh, but I think you can stop expecting interviews now.

Source: I've had about a dozen interviews in the past three years for applications that were due in the Fall. Only one of the interview invitations came after New Year's (first half of January), and this was for a place that went straight to on-campus interviews.


Peter: I was notified of 4 first round TT interviews last year after 1/9. One of those applications was due after the first of the year, though. Some schools will probably always be delayed until after their semester starts before extending invitations.

On the other hand, at least in my areas, there are not many jobs left this cycle that have not scheduled interviews yet.

Some unsolicited advice: you will be happier if you set expectations low to begin with. Forget about jobs the second after you submit your application.


I had 5 interviews after today's date a year ago. And each year seems to be getting later, so my guess is there is still more interviews to come.


Like James and Amanda suggest, I think the job market is elongating; last year at this time, I had not yet had 4 of the 5 interviews I ultimately had. This year, I had more interviews early on, but I was just notified of another one (a job with a mid-November deadline) this week. So I don't think it's done yet!


So suppose you have an interview and someone says "tell me about yourself." What, on earth, are you supposed to say in response to this question?

SLAC tenured professor & chair

"So suppose you have an interview and someone says "tell me about yourself." What, on earth, are you supposed to say in response to this question? "

You'd surprised how many people are incredibly boring when answering this. If I ask something like that, I just aim to see if the candidate is passionate about life/anything. In short, I would recommend being honest and being passionate about what you enjoy to do.

I've had people say "oh, I don't do much you know". As if I'd like to spend the rest of my career with them as a colleague. I don't care if you like football or fidget spinners, as long as you like something and are passionate about it.

Marcus Arvan

SLAC tenured Professor & chair: I appreciate you sharing what you look for in an answer to that question. However, on whether questions like these should be asked at all, see my comments and empirical literature on questions like this.

While one might think a candidate's answer to a question like that may be predictive of how they will actually be as a colleague, the science is clear: it simply isn’t predictive. The person someone appears to be answering questions like these is often poorly reflective of who they really are on a day-to-day basis. For example, I can be awkward and withdrawn with people I don’t know well, and am not particularly fond of talking about myself (blog posts notwithstanding!). I’m just shy and find it difficult to “act natural” and “be myself” in contrived situations with strangers. Nevertheless, I’m passionate about a great many things—music, politics, physics, etc.—and have been complimented on how clearly my passions come across in my daily professional life by students and colleagues. Conversely, there are people who “talk a good game” in interviews and cocktail parties who nevertheless aren’t very good people you’d actually want to be a colleague with (and who, for all you know, may be vastly overstating their passions simply to impress in an interview!).

Worse still, evaluators’ ratings of answers to questions like these are known to be more predictive of evaluators’ personal and demographic biases than they are predictive of anything having to do with candidates. The science here is unequivocal: questions like these are a problematic hiring practice. I’m going to post a podcast by my spouse (who specializes on the science here) in the next day or two.

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