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12/02/2019

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Anon

I had a few interviews last year and one this year so far (with another one to come). Overall, my experiences are all positive: interviews were pretty standard - they asked me about research and teaching mostly (once we had a very interesting discussion about my writing sample). Given the nature of the jobs I usually apply for (interdisciplinary, joint appointments with other departments, etc), they ask me a lot about collaboration, and I'm usually well prepared with several names I can collaborate with. Also, don't underestimate the question "why do you want to come here?" - I usually prepare a quite detailed answer, but because I apply only for jobs that I really want, while if you apply for 100 jobs it may be more difficult. If you have an interview for a job at Yale or Stanford they won't probably ask you that question, but in less prestigious places they might do.

Anon TT

I am in my second TT job and had a bunch of Skype interviews. Here are some quick thoughts based on my experience doing these things as a job market candidate and as an interviewer.

1. Embrace the awkward. You will feel it, they will feel it; but Skype interviews are inherently awkward (more so than in person).
2. The set up matters. Have a neutral background (not a bedroom, not band posters); have ethernet and earbuds; write some things you need to remember on sticky notes and put them all around your computer where they are not visible to search committee members (e.g., the themes for a course they might ask you how you will teach); have all material submitted printed out and ready to look at if asked about something specific (this is rare, but it happened to me a few times); wear neutral clothing and glasses have a glare so try to ditch them if you can; don't have light shining in weird places.
3. These things usually last from 30 - 50 minutes in my experience. They will ask you a standard set of questions about research and teaching. Make sure you have courses thought out for all courses listed in the ad, or that you can predict they might ask you how you would teach.
4. One school I interviewed with had NO follow-up questions at all (and I got a fly out); some schools will have follow ups and get off track. The best way to prepare for this is just to get really comfortable talking about your teaching and research in different ways while not rambling.
5. Schools likely have a sense of who they might fly out already. So if an interview went fabulously or poorly, don't read too much into it. However, you can sink yourself if you are arrogant, or a jerk, or someone who comes off as though they are too good for the job.
6. Avoid tangents. Less is more. They will ask follow up questions if they need more info from you; better to be short and pithy than ramble on an on. They might have conducted 5 or so Skype interviews before you are in front of them. Search committee members are tired people and the don't need every single detail about your life.
7. When they ask you what questions you have for them, avoid questions about money and avoid saying anything that can be construed as negative ("I noticed most faculty are junior. How does the service get distributed?") You can sniff out dysfunction and the bad stuff when you are on campus (while, of course, remaining totally positive of course) or in the negotiating stage.

Also just be super kind to yourself! Write notes on how the interview went directly following the interview, noting all of the positive things that happened (and lessons for next time). And then relax and celebrate getting that far in the process.

Trevor Hedberg

I mentioned some of my interview experiences in my recent post titled "118." But here are the two broad formulas for the 20 or so interviews I've had.

Model 1

You'll be asked 4-6 scripted questions followed by 5 minutes for you to ask questions of your own. 1-2 questions will be about your research. 1-2 questions will focus on your teaching and often specifically about courses mentioned in the job ad. 1 question will ask about something department specific: the most common one I've been asked is what I'd do to help recruit majors in a small program, but a close second is what I do to promote diversity in the classroom and/or on campus. Finally, 1 question will be completely random -- probably something you've never been asked before and/or something that is not obviously relevant to the job.

These interviews are usually 25-30 minutes and more common at teaching schools.

Model 2

You'll be asked 3-4 scripted questions and a number of unscripted followups. Usually, a set portion of these interviews will be devoted to teaching, then a separate portion to research, and then a few minutes left for you to ask questions at the end. So a 45-minute interview might have 20 minutes devoted to teaching, 20 minutes devoted to research, and 5 minutes left for you to ask the committee questions. Followup questions will usually pertain to your particular research program or your teaching experience. Because of this dynamic, these interviews have much more variability in their structure and can feel a lot more like a real conversation.

Interviews with this format are usually 40-45 minutes and seem more common at research-focused schools.

S

I have an interview coming up. At the end of the interview I'll have the option of asking questions. What would be some good things to ask? Anything to avoid? Thanks!

Lauren

I agree with a lot of what has been said above, but what I think is most important to emphasize is the variety of interview types. If I had only gotten advice from the professors in my PhD institution, I would have thought that all interviews would follow the format of asking about my dissertation and future research, then how I would teach a class in my AOS, and finish with asking me if I had any questions. I had few interviews that followed that format. My advisor emphasized the importance of a dissertation spiel, which I practiced over and over and got to use in maybe two interviews (most schools didn't ask me about my dissertation directly, even though I was ABD the first year on the market and had just defended the second year). Also, the teaching schools I interviewed at had a lot of interesting, challenging teaching questions, not just "how would teach this class?" I had thought a lot about teaching, so I found those enjoyable, but they were questions designed to suss out who had given thought to teaching generally, not just teaching a particular class.

I genuinely enjoyed many of the interviews (in spite of the terrible awkwardness of Skype interviews generally and how nervous I was), but the logistics of video interviews are awkward and rough; one school had me test their custom platform in advance with their IT person but it still quite working in the middle of the interview. Using Zoom, I accidentally entered someone else's interview because of the way that the school had set up their chats (so awkward for me, and I felt terrible for the person being interviewed). During another interview, I started hearing echoing from my headphones, so I took them out in the middle of answering the question--and that interview subsequently went well enough that I now work at that school. :) (Though it was that interview that made me think I should have invested in a better tech setup for this specifically.) I had two phone interviews, and liked those a lot better (and got flyouts for both of those!)--I felt more confident, I could have notes to consult, and it felt more natural than trying to maintain weird eye contact via video.

S, the kind of question you should ask is, I think, dictated by the type of school and what you want to communicate about your interests. I think you should also feel out how the interviewees present the school in the interview--e.g., if you are interviewing at a liberal arts college with a 4/4 load and the questions are all about teaching, I might not use your question to ask about research support. Basically, you don't want to ask anything that might make the committee embarrassed to answer, or that indicates you are looking for a different kind of school than they are.

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