Friday, December 21, 2012

How to do Interviews...

I'm a little late with this post this year, but here's the annual "APA Interview Prep" post. Last year, Zombie wrote the following: 

This is advice from an historian, but it's quite useful and applicable to APA: http://edgeofthewest.wordpress.com/2008/12/02/aha-interviews-redux/ 
This from last year's week of dread Smoker [Which is a compendium of advice going back to the early years of the Old Job Market Blog]:
http://philosophysmoker.blogspot.com/2010/11/interview-rehash-3.html 
Mary Sies' extremely useful article at IHE:
http://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2009/12/02/sies 
And this thread from LR:
http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2008/04/how-to-best-pre.html 
What worked for me: create a master list of questions, and write a response. For me, knowing the answer makes it far easier to extemporise on the spot. (I do the same thing prepping for class. I write extensive notes, but only glance at them for prompts.) You can't take your notes with you to an in-person interview (one of the fringes of a phone interview is that you can have all your notes and papers in front of you), so you have to know what you're going to say. 
Mundane advice: When you get the call (or email), you will likely be asked to choose among several interview times. It's easier to handle this question by email, but if by phone, you'll need to have your calendar handy to write down the appointment (and to make sure you don't have any scheduling conflicts). This seems obvious, but the first time I got "the call," I had already concluded that I was not getting any interviews, and was completely unprepared and had to run around my house trying to get it together. This is much harder to do when your head is buzzing loudly from that massive adrenaline rush you just experienced. You may be asked if you have any questions. One question you should ask is "Who will I be meeting with?" Get their names. (Later, look them up. Read something they've written that's of interest to you. You'll have time on the plane ride to DC). Ask who you can contact on the SC if you have any questions prior to the interview. Get contact information in case something happens that prevents you from getting to the show on time. 
APA is a mob scene. It's stressful. The wi-fi can be really sucky, so don't count on it working. Take snacks (the food is expensive in the hotels). Try to have fun. Silently judge the other philosophers based on irrelevant factors like hair and shoes. Don't get drunk. Few people are as charming as they think they are when drunk. 
Take your intervew clothes in your carry-on bag.
A while back, in comments somewhere, Carolyn Dicey-Jennings posted a link to this helpful website.(So long ago, in fact, that I have no idea where this happened, and I'm only 80% that my memory that it was CD-J is accurate.)

Further suggestions are appreciated, as always. I hope things are going better for you than they are for me. So far I'm drawing a fat goose egg. I've been following the recent discussion on Leiter about "degree staleness" with a mixture of deep and familiar anxiety, horror, worry, and more anxiety. But for those of you who will be in Atlanta, knock 'em dead. (But not all of them, because then nobody will be left alive to hire you.)

--Mr. Zero

11 comments:

zombie said...

Dang, Mr. Zero. I am sorry to hear you got a big fat nothing (so far).

Further suggestions: Re-read your writing sample(s), since the SC may want to talk about that. I was surprised that in my third year, one SC still wanted to talk about my dissertation (and only my dissertation), which I hadn't thought much about for a while.
Be prepared for an ambush in the form of an on-the-spot interview if you go to the smoker. The APA frowns on smoker interviews, but they happen. Two years ago, I was at the table of one of the schools that interviewed me, and the dept chair (who was not on the SC) "just happened" to be there, and had a bunch of questions about how I could contribute to the dept, including specific classes I would teach, etc. I wasn't really in formal interview mode at the time, and didn't have a brilliant answer ready.

Anonymous said...

An interview question that I was asked recently in a Skype interview was what I thought about MOOCs. I've thought a bit about online teaching pedagogy and I've been following the news about Coursera in the CHE and Inside HigherEd. Nevertheless I was surprised slightly by the question, which was framed in terms of trends in academia and social policies. I hadn't thought to organize my thoughts on MOOCs as part of my interview prep.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

Re. big fat goose egg:

I love this blog, and am very grateful to you for it. But it must take an enormous amount of time, especially at the peak of job hunting season. Maybe it's the problem? Maybe you should stop "taking one for the team", at least until you land?

Anonymous said...

I was hoping someone might say something about what to expect at the reception ("smoker"). How should one approach attending? What are the costs of not attending?

Also, is there only one, or is there one each night?

First time noob here.

zombie said...

The smoker is a big, disorganized reception in one of the hotel ballrooms. Some schools will have tables set up, with the SC members attending. You can go there to schmooz if you are so inclined. It's also a chance to size up the competition, since they'll also be there.
The Smoker is more fun if you know other people there, with whom you can hang out and commiserate.
I did not attend the smoker my first year going to APA. I went to NYC for one interview and went home. My next APA I did attend, and went to the tables to chat with the SCs. Beware the unofficial-official interview (see my post above). Since I never got a fly-out or job offer from any school I interviewed with at APA, I can't speak to the value of going to the smoker. I never got anything tangible out of it, but YMMV.
In the past, drinks were free on the first night. Don't get drunk.

Mr. Zero said...

Thanks, Z.

I've thought about that, 8:02. I'm really not at all sure what to pin this on, and so I'm not sure that you're wrong. But I've been at this a long time, and I've had pretty decent luck over the past few years--interview-acquisition-wise, if not job-offer-wise. And the hiring season isn't over yet--I've been contacted after the APA for at least one interview for the past several years. Of course, I've also been contacted before the APA during each of those years. IDK. Thanks for your concern, though.

Hi 10:39,

The smoker has changed a lot over the past few years. It used to be a mandatory "informal" phase of the interview, but it seems to be used for that purpose much less often the past few years. Your interviewers might tell you how they intend to approach it, in which case you should do what they say. There are two of them: the "main" one is on the evening of the first full day (right?) and has an open bar; the other one is the next night, and has exorbitantly overpriced drinks.

Search committees reserve tables in the reception room, which are numbered. Standard Operating Procedure is to visit the tables of the departments that interviewed you earlier in the day. It's super shitty. Dress up, but not as dressed-up as you were for the interview. Unless you're staying too far from the conference hotel to go back to your room and change. You can use the opportunity to chat with the committee more informally (but not actually informally), or to follow up on a question from the interview, or to try to do damage control. Mostly, though, try not to fuck it up. Don't get drunk or what have you.

There have been lots of discussions around here over the years; check out the archives.

Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

I have been on multiple search committees. My general view is: nothing good for candidates happens at the smoker. I remember candidates coming off as neutral or bad. I don't remember a candidate helping him or herself at the smoker. And I do not remember noticing when I did not see a particular candidate at the smoker.

Skip it. Get out of the hotel to a bar where the beers are cheaper and better and you can hang with friends.

Anonymous said...

I have been on multiple search committees. My general view is: nothing good for candidates happens at the smoker...I do not remember noticing when I did not see a particular candidate at the smoker.

Skip it. Get out of the hotel to a bar where the beers are cheaper and better and you can hang with friends.


As a recent survivor of the job market with a tt-position, I generally agree with this advice. The only caveat I would make is: go to the Smoker only if 1) you think your perceived interest in the job might be an issue and/or 2) you have reason to believe the hiring department really expects you to be there.

I'm thinking of less prestigious SLACs and state schools who might reasonably be worried about your genuine interest in the job and your willingness to remain there should you get the offer. I've heard too many anecdotes about candidates not advancing because the department inferred lack of interest from the candidate's absence at the Smoker.

Practical advice: When the interview comes to a close and they ask, "Do you have any questions for us?"; politely ask if they'll be at the Smoker.

Anonymous said...

I was on the market last year and felt obligated to go to the smoker. One thing I wasn't prepared for: having to make small talk with other candidates at the table. Often, there are many of you (interviewees) and few of them (interviewers) so you end up in situations where you either sit looking strange or making small talk with another candidate (sometimes involving a member of the search committee, sometimes not). You have to be prepared to make genial conversation with someone you could view as a competitor, which is harder to do than it may seem when you are in 'interview mode.' I'm not sure what to do to prepare for it, but hopefully knowing that's a possibility helps somebody else out.

After all the rumors and whatnot about the smoker I was expecting something atrocious, but it's really just awkward - like a junior high dance with people huddled in cliques, unsure of how to mingle with others. I say go if a committee officially invites you, but even then arrive early and leave as son as you've said hellos. Being there only makes you feel awful.

Anonymous said...

I was interviewing candidates a few years back. After the interview, a couple of them asked if I'd be at the reception. (Note to newbies: it's officially called the reception rather than the smoker and you might be better off using official terminology.) I told those who asked that I would probably be there to see some old friends and if they saw me, they would be free to say 'Hi', of course, but I wouldn't be expecting to see them or in any way continuing the interview at the time. My department didn't have a table, but I was sitting with a couple of friends from grad school when one of my department's candidates approached me, sat down among my friends, and monopolized the conversation (ignoring my friends) for about an hour and a half. When the candidate finally left, one of my friends leaned over to me and said, "Whatever you do, do not hire that person." I agreed, though I probably had already come to that conclusion before the candidate's error.

I don't mean to add confusion or anxiety to those interviewing. It's terribly difficult to keep perspective in that situation. But it might be worth keeping in mind: don't be a jerk. If you can't help yourself, stay away from the reception. (But it is true that some departments expect a visit.)

Anonymous said...

Who thinks that Charles Pigden slammed Leiter on his own blog? Ironically the whole exchange might demonstrate that training at La Trobe is superior to training at the University of Michigan.