Some may argue that academic positions are unique so the results of research do not apply to them. I would argue against that. The process of the interview is to identify key characteristics needed for a position, and then ask questions to assess those characteristics. The research out there has been applied to a vast range of job types, a number of which have very similar key characteristics to faculty positions.I guess I would agree with this. I suspect that there is nothing especially special about philosophy interviews that would make them immune to the larger body of research surrounding interviews. (I don't know who's been saying there is.) I also think it's an absolutely terrific idea to consult the research in a deep way, correspond with people who study this sort of thing, and try to get to the bottom of things. Huffcutt goes on:
What I might suggest is a carefully thought out approach to hiring philosophy faculty. In the job talk, looks for key elements related to presentation. E.g., are they well organized? Do they find ways to make the material interesting and relevant to the students? Do they deliberately bring people into the presentation (e.g., ask them questions) or just stand there and lecture the whole time? Do they handle questions well?Interesting thing about several of these key elements: they are not normally elements of a philosophy job talk. (I distinguish the job talk from the teaching demonstration.) I've seen some successful job talks that would have been incomprehensible to students. While I don't recommend deliberately disengaging from your audience, it would be weird to pause in the middle of a job talk to ask them a question.
And suppose the candidate was disengaged, over the heads of the undergraduates, and handled the questions poorly during her job talk. What would that prove? Maybe she had a bad day. Maybe she doesn't handle high-pressure, whole-future-is-riding-on-the-outcome interview situations that well. None of that is evidence that she's a bad philosopher or that she'd make a bad colleague. None of it would outweigh the evidence in her dossier that she would be a good philosopher.
Gilbert Harman makes a point in the PEA Soup thread that bears repeating. Suppose you are told that your candidate has really effed up her interview at some other school but did okay at yours. It wouldn't affect your opinion of her--you'd ignore it. But if she effed up yours but did okay at some other school, you'd never hire her. This makes no sense, and illustrates why these sorts of interviews have been called vivid noise. They introduce unreliable, distracting information that seems to be neither unreliable nor distracting.
During the interview, look for key elements pertaining to social interactions. For instance, using the behavior description format, you could ask them to describe a time when they had to handle a difficult student, a time when they went out of their way to help a student, etc. Same for their interaction with other faculty.This is maybe a little better. I think it's worth it to try to find out what kinds of questions will elicit useful information. But I still don't see how this addresses the Harman point. Suppose the person fumbles the "difficult student" question, but you've got a bunch of evidence from her dossier that she's a dedicated and talented teacher. What does that tell you? How would you react if you learned that she fumbled somebody else's "difficult student" question but aced yours? How would you react if she aced yours but fumbled somebody else's?
Holton ties it together:
discussing someone's paper, which is what many APA interviews and on-campus talks consist in, is rather like a mix of a behavioral descriptive interview and a situational interview; you spend much of it finding out how the candidate responded to various philosophical problems (BDI), and then you find out how they would respond if someone said something like what you then say (SI).While I appreciate the effort and admire the empirical approach to what is clearly an empirical question, I guess I just don't see why I should think that this sort of thing is likely to yield useful knowledge. What is the useful Behavioral Descriptive Information supposed to be? And how is it useful to know how the candidate would respond if someone said something like what you then say? And what distinguishes the BDI from the SI in this situation? Maybe I'm dense, but I just don't see how that would result in helpful information about the candidate that would be more reliable that what's already in the her dossier.