Thursday, February 19, 2015

Blog CLXXI (171): Job Hunting Tips: The Interview(s)

What "dos" and "don'ts" would you pass on to a new scholar going out on the job market.  That is a question I asked a number of friends and colleagues.  The response was overwhelming.  Dozens and dozens of people replied.  These comments come from scholars working at community colleges (Lorain County Community College), small liberal arts colleges (Concordia University Wisconsin), regional state schools (Humboldt State University and Texas A&M University—Commerce), and research universities both public (Ohio State and North Carolina) and private (Brigham Young and Vanderbilt).  They are mostly historians working in academic departments, but some teach in professional programs (U.S. Naval War College and the Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University).  Click here to see Part 1 entitled "Before Hand." Click here to see Part 2 entitled "The Application."  Click here to see Part 3 entitled "Know Yourself."  Click here to see Part 4 entitled "Be Prepared." Here is part 5 entitled: "The Interview(s)":
  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before the interview. The interview is going to be exhausting as is and you do not want to put yourself at a disadvantage with less than adequate rest.—Nicholas Evan Sarantakes, Department of Strategy and Policy, U.S. Naval War College
  • At the end of the day of your interview you will be taken to dinner and wined and dined. Be yourself and relax, but don't think for a second that the interview has concluded.—Thomas D. Mays, Department of History, Humboldt State University
  • And don’t for a second think about taking that second glass of wine!—Jeffrey Engel, Department of History, Southern Methodist University
  • Check and double check and then check again the time and location of your interview. Keep a paper record and keep it with you. Make sure the interviewers have a way of contacting you if something goes wrong and that you have a way of contacting them if you have a car accident or your plane is delayed, etc.—Nicholas Evan Sarantakes, Department of Strategy and Policy, U.S. Naval War College
  • Prepare for an interview like you're preparing for a dissertation defense. Learn as much about the school as possible. Have an overall "command" message about yourself and your fit for the job with two or three key supporting ideas. Be able to give a 60 second "elevator pitch" of the same. Shine your shoes (I did and someone DID notice.)—Brad Carter, College of Distance Education, U.S. Naval War College
  • If you are traveling to do the interview, remember this a professional, business trip. You are traveling to do the interview and only the interview. Do not try to add on a visit to family or friends or take a side trip to an archive or a resort. Although these might be efficient uses of your time, they take away from your ability to focus on the main reason you are there—to interview for a job. If something goes wrong and you miss a flight or are delayed in some other way, it can hurt you in the interview process. Do you really want to be a day late? Many committees schedule the interviews to take place during a set period of time and unnecessary complications do nothing to help.—Nicholas Evan Sarantakes, Department of Strategy and Policy, U.S. Naval War College
  • Based on my experiences on both sides of the job application process, I'd say that the most important things that a candidate needs to do—at least in the job talk—are (a) to present a clear and succinct argument, and (b) to demonstrate why the argument, and the research project more broadly, should interest historians outside of the sub-field.  To put it more bluntly: know why you want to say, and tell your audience why they should care.—Michael Morgan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • I would say always be yourself and never talk badly about your current or previous employer. In fact, one should avoid negative comments in general. Also, let your interviewer do most of the talking. It will make him or her feel great, witty, sociable, intelligent, etc.—George Satterfield, Department of Strategy and Policy, U.S. Naval War College
  • Don’t yammer on and on about yourself. Express genuine interest in the teaching and scholarship of the interviewers, without being intrusive and flattering.—T. Michael Parrish, Department of History, Baylor University
  • AHA interviews and other opportunities to interview face-to-face are not opportunities to talk as much about yourself as possible. Recognize that committees have questions they want answered. Your ability to take a question and answer it in a succinct yet meaningful way indicates a lot about how you would be in the classroom or a faculty meeting.—Craig Friend, Department of History, North Carolina State University
  • DO ask questions. Lots of them. The more specific, the better. It shows us you have been thinking about the position.—Mitch Lerner, Department of History, The Ohio State University
  • Do ask questions, otherwise the committee might think you are uninterested in the position. Questions that suggest serious intent include those dealing with: library holdings, housing, tenure requirements, and getting a new course on the books.—Michael Creswell, Department of History, Florida State University
  • Ask questions and make statements showing that you will contribute strongly and consistently to the department, university, and community, that you can be a good colleague, succeed, and be happy.—T. Michael Parrish, Department of History, Baylor University
  • DO be yourself. We can smell a phony a mile away.—Mitch Lerner, Department of History, The Ohio State University
  • Be yourself. This one sounds so easy too, but is so hard. Job interviews (conference ones, Skype ones, campus ones) are all false constructs. Being at ease in them is key. Being overly nervous, overly formal, overly informal—all can be off putting. Just be yourself.—Andrew Wiest, Department of History, University of Southern Mississippi
  • DON’T be modest. Your competition is all very good. Tell us why you are better.—Mitch Lerner, Department of History, The Ohio State University
  • Never, ever trash your home institution (or people in it) when interviewing for a job—even if people encourage you to "dish" on what you don't like about it. Take the high road; stay positive; etc.—Kathryn J. Burns, Department of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • DON’T badmouth anyone. Not your previous employer, not your grad school profs, not historians with different methodological approaches. No one.—Mitch Lerner, Department of History, The Ohio State University
  • Don't be too casual. Surprisingly, some candidates get too informal after a day of interviews. Using profanity or talking about discomfiting topics is inappropriate.—Clea Hupp, Department of History, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
  • Don't read your talk. Be able to speak from notes on power point rather than reading a script.—Hal Brands, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University
  • Never use this phrase, if asked a question, "Why in God's name would I want to do that?!" (I was a post-doc years ago at an institution when a candidate for a job at that university blew his interview with that response to a question if he would be willing, as a Soviet expert, to perhaps teach, if necessary, a second year east Europe survey class).—Galen Perras, Department of History, University of Ottawa
  • DO be flexible. If you are asked about your interest in teaching/administering/advising something that seems outside of your comfort zone, don't reject it out of hand: negotiate. Ask for more information. Ask how the committee thinks that thing meshes with the position. Ask about accommodations that can be made in regard to time, support, or funding to allow that something to be done well.—Judy Ford, Department of History, Texas A&M University—Commerce
  • Somewhere during the course of the interview someone may ask you "why do you want to join our faculty?" Answers like "I need a job" or "this is the twenty-seventh place I am applying to" are the kiss of death. Do some homework about the department's strengths and perhaps weaknesses (as well as taking a good look at the institutional mission of the place). Explain to them that you are familiar with their accomplishments and that you can enhance or be a valuable addition to the department. Someone has looked at your resume and decided that you are bringing aboard an area or areas in which they are weak. Also too, remember to tell them somewhere during the interview that you are committed to student success and of course, student retention.—George Vourlojianis, Lorain County Community College
  • Whenever possible, situate what you are writing/studying/contemplating within a context your listeners will be more familiar and comfortable with. People who would be interested in State and Society might tune out a disquisition exclusively on the Royal Dockyards.—James Levy, Department of History, Hofstra University
  • Don't assume that a school wants to know first and foremost about your teaching experience just because it's a teaching-intensive position. A lot of places have very accomplished faculty and will appraise you above on the basis of your scholarship.—Mark Lawrence, Department of History, University of Texas

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