Monday, January 31, 2011

On-Campus Interview Report

Sometime in the relatively recent past, I traveled to another part of the country for an on-campus interview. Though it is difficult to be sure, I think that overall, it went very well. All of my interactions with various people--potential colleagues, administrators, administrative staff, etc--were pleasant, and the overall experience was enjoyable. Fun, even.

I was pretty relaxed throughout the day. It didn't really occur to me to be nervous or stressed out. I can imagine only that this helped.

My meetings with the Deany and Provosty types went well. I'm not sure how much influence these people have over the hiring process, but I think I was able to win them over. It had always been my impression that these meetings were supposed to be about the administration trying to sell the candidate on the school, and do not typically involve the administrator trying to "interview" the candidate. However, an anonymous commenter on our recent "what do they ask you on the flyout" thread mentioned that some administrators will want to know why you want to work at this particular school, and that your answer will matter. I owe this commenter a debt of gratitude, because I was asked this question several times throughout the day, and (maybe I'm stupid but) it did not occur to me on my own to generate a good answer to this question.

My impression of the school itself was very positive. It seemed to me that the institution had its head screwed on straight and its priorities in order. I felt like I was on the same wavelength with everyone I met. It seemed like it would be a wonderful place to work.

The talk also went well, I thought. I got good questions that strongly suggested that the audience understood what I was up to, what the "moves" were, and why it was important. I felt good about it.

Dinner was fun, too. And after the whole thing was over, I felt energized, not exhausted.

So, my sense of how it went is that it went well. This is, of course, from my limited perspective. And I have no idea who I am competing with or what my interviewers were really thinking. But they did not seem "poker faced"; they seemed genuinely interested in and impressed with me, because they said so over and over again. And I think I did a good job of presenting myself. As I said a while back, you try to represent yourself in the best possible light, but at a certain point, you just have to say, take it or leave it. But I really liked these people and their school, and I hope they take it.

The bottom line is that I feel really good about my performance, and really lousy about my chances. This has led to a lot of very guarded excitement, followed immediately by guilt, fear, and worry, and also a lot of heavy sighing.

--Mr. Zero


Anonymous said...

going through the same exact thing right now. hope it works out for both of us.

Anonymous said...

At some schools, the search committee can only make a *recommendation* regarding whom to hire. In those cases, the dean (or the provost or the vice president, depending on the school) is typically the one with the authority to extend an offer to the candidate and go before the board of trustees to recommend that candidate for hire. All that to say, yes, you absolutely want to make a good impression with the 'deany and provosty types'!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on a job well done on your campus visit.

One comment: campus visits aren't just vivid and noisy for search committees (and deans), they're also vivid and noisy for you. While I'm not quite sure anyone engaged in outright deception during my campus visit (at the campus I now work at), I do think I came away from my fun, pleasant, energizing visit with a pretty screwed up picture of what things are really like at this campus.

(I remember hearing: The Dean and Provost are really serious about reducing teaching loads to promote research; admissions standards are going up, and the students are getting better; there's a great honors program you can teach in; we have more new philosophy majors than we know what to do with; we have a lot of administrative duties, but we spread them around evenly so junior faculty members still have a chance to develop their research programs during the first few years.... In every case, these remarks turned out to be (perhaps unintentionally) misleading. Teaching loads have gotten worse (larger classes, more classes, more preps). The new admissions standards were super-modest and were abandoned as soon as it looked as though they interfered with recruitment goals. Most of the new majors signed up as part of a recruitment initiative that sold them on philosophy as pre-professional preparation even before they'd taken a philosophy course, and most of them turned out to . . . really hate philosophy. Everybody is swamped, and tenured members of the department (who had it worse in their time) can't quite get on board with sharing the worst duties that were dumped on them when they were juniors, and they certainly don't want to share the access to the honors students.)

I recommend researching the things people said that got you all excited about the job to find out whether they're really true. It might be a great job even if things are worse than they appear--I still like my job, for example. But I might have considered my alternative options differently had I done a better job of researching some of the claims that left me enthusiastic about the job I took.

zombie said...

I just had pretty much the same experience at a fly-out, and left with a far more favorable impression of the place than I had going in.

I was never asked why I wanted to work there, but I was asked repeatedly how I planned to collaborate in a multidisciplinary way with their researchers, and how I would approach teaching their students in the courses I would be expected to create.

Good luck to you, Mr Zero, and everyone else running the gauntlet this season.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

If you don't get it, that's because I know who you are and I dropped an e-mail to the search chair saying that you're a trouble-maker mod on the Smoker. Eventually you'll look for another job because you love being on the job market, so that you can rant about it all day on this blog. Beware.

Your loyal frind,
Post hoc ergo propter hoc

Anonymous said...

11.13 is absolutely right. When I was weighing offers, a little snooping revealed that faculty at the fancy SLAC had misrepresented the conditions of the job in a way that tipped the balance in favor of my current, not so fancy, employer. Its not perfect here, but I'm very glad I did my homework and didn't end up in a very bad situation.

One quick tip for fact checking: call the dean's office and ask to speak with an associate dean. Associate deans are excellent sources of information and have usually not been directly involved in your search.

Asstro said...

Okay, I'll pipe in on 2:30's comment.

This seems like a very bad suggestion to me. I would strongly advise against contacting the associate dean to ask these sorts of questions. The deans in most circumstances can veto a recommendation of the faculty. Associate deans are in close, close communication with the mommy/daddy deans.

Usually a dean won't act against the faculty, but if they don't like you, or if they get the sense that you're angling for something, it may well piss them off enough that they can justify not taking the recommendation of the faculty. Plus, if you do end up being offered and accepting the job, it's a bad foot to start on.

Better to let the chair act as your liaison and try to find out what the politics at the department are just by being friendly and figuring out who is, and who is not, a reliable source. Use your judgment. Don't go crazy by contacting people unfamiliar or unaffiliated with your search.

KateNorlock said...

Hey, congratulations! That's really excellent.

Snoop around on their website if you get an offer, and use their search bar to look for "meeting minutes". Every institution I've worked at has meeting minutes and surprisingly revealing stuff on their open site.

The first TT offer I got, I asked, "When do you need an answer?" The response was "Yesterday." It turns out he was NOT supposed to say this. So if you get a bit of a push, remember that "In normal circumstances a prospective employee should have at least two weeks for consideration of a written offer from a properly authorized administrative officer," acc. to APA statements.

Word verification: ressl

As in: I was so worried about Mr Zero's prospects that I didn't sleep very well, so instead of a good nap I just got a bit of a ressl.

Anonymous said...

Hey, does anyone know anything about this? I like the idea of an online journal that solicits short responses from readers, but the lack of information about who's involved is setting off some alarm bells in my head.

Anonymous said...

Hey, did anyone else get a notice today about American Dialectic? Looks like a new philosophy journal with a new approach... articles were pretty good, too. Bold moves, kudos.

Anonymous said...

Re: American Dialectic--I don't know. I kept looking for something on the site like this one,, you know, one listing an editor or editors, an editorial board. Bupkis.

Anonymous said...

Zero, you have to tell us as soon as you find out about who got the job, either way (preferably even before you tell your parents and wife)! We need you to commit now. We live vicariously through you.

Same for you Zombie, and whomever else.