Thursday, January 10, 2013

The annual fly-out thread

If you're prepping for your first fly-outs, you may have questions. Here's some logistical advice from last year:

The campus visit is a strange beast, a two-day (more or less) gauntlet of job interviews and social calls, with some harrowing, high pressure philosophy thrown in. You'll meet with various deans, and lots of faculty, and students. You'll be continuously shuttled from one thing to the next, with very little down time in between. You'll be dined (not often wined -- many university budgets don't permit putting alcohol on the tab) more often than you can bear. The worst of the meals is breakfast -- to my mind, if you want to know what kind of colleague someone might be, don't evaluate them before they've had caffeine. (Advice: if your hotel room has a coffee maker, use it, even if it makes lousy coffee, just for the medicinal benefits.) You might give a talk, you might be asked to do a teaching demo. Or both.
 The campus visit is also an opportunity to learn about the school. You can get a sense of the campus culture, and of the department. Don't think like someone who is desperate to get a job, any job, but rather like someone who might be sold on this particular job. Hopefully, the people you're interacting with are of a mind to sell you. Ask questions about the students, about campus life, about what it's like to live there. You will need to exhibit at least minimal chit-chat skills, because you'll be doing lots of it while people are walking you around campus, driving you to the airport or restaurants, etc. A five minute walk becomes much longer when filled with awkward silence. 
Take granola bars and portable snacks, especially if you have dietary restrictions. The days are really long, and being hungry makes you cranky. Have at least two pairs of good pants, especially if you're going to a wintry clime where the odds of getting mud/snow/salt on your pants are high. It's a short trip, so take a carry-on so nothing gets lost in transit. Be polite. Practice a firm but not crushing handshake -- you'll be shaking lots of hands. Be very nice to the department secretary/admin assistant. They know where the bodies are kept.
  • If you require accommodation for particular needs (a lactating mom might need time to go pump, or you might have dietary restrictions, or need time for religious observance, or whatever), you're better off saying something in advance than trying to sneak off secretively. You don't really want to do anything during your visit that will give someone a reason to think you're up to something suspicious. Better to have the awkward conversation ahead of time than to find yourself trying to compensate for unexplained behavior. Obviously, some departments will be more friendly/understanding about special needs than others, but it's worth remembering that if you're hired, you'll be working with these people for a long time, so maybe it's better to know in advance if they don't play well with others.
  • This never came up for me, but I know that some departments ask their candidates to pay for their flight and accommodations and seek reimbursement. I think this is an appalling practice, but if anyone has any suggestions about how to manage this, please jump in.
  • Take small bills so you can grab a drink or something from a vending machine.
  • Take copies of your dossier, including course syllabi, just in case. They might tell you in advance what courses you'd be expected to teach if hired, and you can think about those and work up spec syllabi if you have time.
  • Ask in advance for a detailed schedule of what you'll be doing, when, and with whom. Get as much info as you can about the teaching demo (will it be a class, an audience, will it be in a classroom, will there be tech available), the job talk, etc. 
  • When talking to deans and administrators and such, keep in mind that many of them are really academics, and would like you to know that. I found they often wanted to "talk shop" with me about philosophy, in addition to talking about the nuts and bolts of the school. Which is to say, speak to them as you would speak to potential colleagues.
 Anything else?



Anonymous said...

At some point, someone will say, "the interview part is over." This is always a lie. From the moment you are picked up to the moment you are dropped off, you are being interviewed. The round of drinks at the local pub? Part of the interview. The casual chatting while walking to the restaurant? Part of the interview. The awkward time spent waiting in the department office between appointments? Part of the interview. If you are not alone, you are being interviewed.

Anonymous said...

Ask in advance for a detailed schedule of what you'll be doing, when, and with whom.

But don't freak out if something changes, because something might. I was scheduled to meet a VP at a certain time, but her plane back from wherever was late and we had to reschedule. This caused other changes to my schedule, since the schedule was packed. No big deal, in the end -- just take a deep breath.

Also, I want to second the point about many deans/administrators being academics. The VP I met spent a little time selling me on the school, but we spent most of our time 'discussing' whether philosophy or math should be crowned the true queen of the sciences. Actually a nice chat.

Anonymous said...

Excellent suggestions, Zombie. I had one fly-out last year (which led to a job offer), and was given the following advice from various senior people that I found very helpful: There are lots of moments when you are not "on", i.e. not being interviewed or giving classes or presentations, but you are nevertheless speaking to department and faculty members, for instance, during dinner, or even just the drive from the airport to the department. How you behave in those moments is really important, as it shapes the SC's impressions of what you will be like as a colleague, and also gives you some idea about what they are like. Some rules of thumb
- you can talk shop during those moments, but try to feel whether your conversation partners want to talk research and teaching, or whether the conversation is drifting to other things. Don't in such a case feel the urge to keep a high-level philosophy conversation going (e.g., at 9 PM in the restaurant, where you are the third flyout candidate they have in a row). Remember, they are already convinced you're smart, this is why you got to first round and fly-out. They are now looking for things like compatibility, collegiality, and whether you would remain in the job if offered.
- resist the urge to talk about yourself all the time. Offer opportunities for them to talk about what it's like to live in the area; talk to them about their research (which you ideally know something about). This will also give you some idea about what they are like as potential colleagues.
- do not steer the conversation into minefields like politics and religion. And if they do, try to express any thoughts you have on that subject as diplomatic (and perhaps non-committal) as possible.
- order food that you find easy to eat, and that doesn't have a propensity to spill. Do not get drunk. Coffee is a good idea, as Zombie said, but don't overdo it, as very large amounts of caffeine + nerves might make you look jumpier than you are
- try to get enough sleep prior to flyout. Try to genuinely relax if they allow you downtime (they did for me).
- given that flight risk is always present, even in these times, for small schools, you need to do a genuine effort to express your appreciation for the place (if you have it. If you genuinely feel that this job, location etc are not for you that may be hard). Things to remark about could be how great the students are, how interesting the department is, the town is wonderful etc. You should especially do this effort if it's a small school located in an undesirable area. I've screwed up an interviews during one of the previous job rounds because the SC thought I wasn't interested in the place.

Mr. Zero said...

Weird. I was just sitting down to put up a post about this, and here one is.

My $0.02:

1. As Zombie says, bring snacks. Although there will be meals served, there is no guarantee whatsoever that you will find time to actually eat food at these meals. Granola bars; fig newtons; what have you.

2. The interview starts at the first moment when they pick you up and ends at the last moment when they drop you off. Anytime anyone can see you, hear you, or find out what you were doing, you are being interviewed.

3. Be prepared for anything. No question is too off-topic. Just because you're fielding questions in the Q&A portion of your research presentation doesn't mean questions about your teaching won't come up.

4. Know the department and the job. Know who the people are, what they work on, and what role they're looking for you to play. Know what their needs are (which might or might not be what the ad said they were), and why you're the person who will satisfy those needs.

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in a thread on the scheduling of fly-outs. Is it changing due to the increase in skype and phone interviews? It seems as if some candidates have already been on campus visits and some offers are already out. Is this true? If so, this seems like a pretty significant development.

Anonymous said...

Check beforehand about how the reimbursement is supposed to work. I had one flyout where I was expected to pay for everything, including meals, and would be reimbursed later. They never told me this. Made for an awkward moment at the first dinner where they were expecting me to pitch in and I was expecting not to.

Anonymous said...

Just another point on the "you're always being interviewed" line. If you are not with faculty or grad students, this does not mean that you are not being interviewed. If you are talking to a work-study student, or a secretary, you are being interviewed. If a job candidate is a little snippy with a full professor in my department, this is not disqualifying. If a job candidate is snotty to the secretary, that job candidate will not be hired here. So find the love for everybody you deal with on these visits.

Anonymous said...

If there's supposed to be an event at someone's home, let them know about any pet allergies in advance.

Anonymous said...

It feels obvious to say this, but...

On-campus visits involve information overload. This can make an already exhausted, stressed-out candidate feel even more exhausted.

Learning as much as you can about the department, school, and city can help minimize the effects of information overload.

Anonymous said...

This isn't precisely on-topic, but it's related:

Let's suppose I have this, ummm, 'friend' (yeah, that's it) who was told that she's been designated as an alternate for an on-campus interview.

Is this a common practice? Has anyone heard of someone with this status ultimately being invited to campus? Or ultimately extended a job offer? Is there anything this 'friend' could or should be doing in order to improve her chances?

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:01: I don't think that this is a common practice. The common practice is to not give any information at all to those who are in reality alternates for campus visits, on the stupid assumption that candidates are not grown-ups and can't bear the idea that they could be anything other than a first choice.

I have not heard of anyone hired this way. But it does not seem at all crazy. If a dept brings out three people, and they're very strong candidates, it is surely possible that the dept. could want but fail to get all three. And it frequently happens that a candidate will show him or herself to be not just second or third best, but unhireable, as the result of the visit. So there is no reason to think that there could not be hires resulting from campus visits from an alternate list.

There is nothing your friend can do to improve chances other than to sabotage the on-campus visitors' performances.

Anonymous said...

4:01 and 5:43:

Our department hired an alternate last year. 3 candidates were flown out for campus visits, and the committee was divided between one candidate and none of them, so a 4th was flown out last minute. He was eventually hired despite a less than stellar job talk. He wasn't told that he was an alternate, though.

So alternates *can* be hired.

Anonymous said...

Can any SC members address questions about the scheduling of on-campus interviews? Specifically, will you typically contact all those you want to fly out on the same day or perhaps set the schedules individually (thus contacting them over the course of several days)? I'm sure you can guess that I'm hoping the wiki is either wrong, or that I still have hope to be contacted soon. Thanks!

Arbitrary SC Member said...

I have told candidates that they are not being invited to campus but that they are near the top of our list and that it's possible that they could get a call after we see the candidates we did invite. I've not seen the alternates called, but it's a small sample and still a live possibility.

Arrangements for campus visits, as with arrangements for first-round interviews, can take a few days. Making calls and sending emails have to fit into our otherwise busy schedules. You can set aside an hour for the task, but then a student comes knocking or the dean calls or my kid gets sick or whatever. It can take a little while.

More hopefully: I have been on searches in which we bring one person to campus and then see if we need to bring another. (The provost likes this, since it can lower costs.) So, an on-campus can be scheduled and then another can be scheduled, say, a month later. (That's only been for temporary positions at my university, though.)

Anonymous said...

I was an alternate flyout, and got the job (and took it over other jobs where I was first choice - don't let your ego get in the way of simply taking the best job you get). The short lists of many schools overlap significantly and so there can be a last minute scramble if the top choices go elsewhere (those who turned down my job were also interviewed at many of the other places I was, though we were ranked differently at these schools in the end - I would assume due to things like fit with the department). I assume that the market's downturn will mean that there are fewer overlap situations, as there are fewer jobs, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was still some of this.

Anonymous said...

While I was in grad school, my department hired six or so people (due to retirements and a couple of defections). On one of those occasions, we ended up bringing an alternate to campus and offering him the position. We initially brought three to campus. Best candidate was offered the position, but turned it down. Second best was then offered the position, but also turned it down. Third candidate was not liked after visit, and so alternate was invited to campus. Alternate did well and was offered the job. Alternate turned it down. Search was scrapped for the year and redone the following year.

Anonymous said...

I was an alternate last year and got a flyout at the last minute for a UK job. Didn't get the job, but it led to other opportunities and was a great experience.

Fritz Allhoff said...

Gosh, this seems like a lot of over-thinking to me. A lot of times the choices are (effectively) made before candidates even show up, so it's just not true that the interview starts in the car ride from the airport; some on-campuses are (effectively) non-starters in the first place. Fig newtons? Really? There's often tons of down time at fly-outs, it just depends on the schools that are hosting them and the personalities involved. Fly-outs can be brutal, but they can also be casual and fun. I just worry that the tone here is more neurotic than constructive. If you got the fly-out, I'd say you should look at it more as a fun field trip than something to obsess over; it'll just be more fun that way, and, if it matters, you'll even do better. And, furthermore, the "always on" people are just annoying: they look desperate and overzealous. Best advice I could give from having been on and hosted dozens of these things is: relax and have fun.

Anonymous said...

I think Fritz Allhoff is right. They are already convinced you are smart and interesting. Otherwise they wouldn't have flown you over (of course, you should not all of a sudden become sullen and clueless).
But they are now trying to find out if you would be a good colleague, if you're a good fit, if you could be at least a reasonable (in research schools) or a good teacher (in SLACs), and - importantly - if you seem to like the school, area etc. Responding as if you're "on" all the time makes you appear anxious and hard to read.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to speak up in defense of bringing Fig Newtons (or whatever snacks you like)! Two years ago, I was on the world's worst fly-out: the schedule got messed up to the extent that the time for my talk was reduced from an hour to 30 minutes 15 minutes prior, I barely made my flight out, and no one EVER fed me. I was literally never bought a meal the entire time I was there, because there was no time (as a result of the bungled schedule). I ate a snickers bar on the plane home.

So yes, bring snacks, especially if you are the kind of person who gets out of sorts easily when you are hungry.

zombie said...

By "on" I don't think anyone means that you should be performing, as you might during a talk, interview, etc. That's certainly not what I mean by it. But any time you are with others, they are supposed to be interacting with you, and paying attention to what you do or say. These are people you are just getting to know, not people you already know enough to get super casual with. Philosophers are not necessarily known for their social acumen. One should simply be mindful that a fly-out is more than a formal job interview. It is intended to give the department a more holistic view of the candidate, and vice versa, and that means you are always "on."

And absolutely bring snacks! The fly-outs I've been on have involved very little down time or alone time where I could refuel and recharge, from dawn to dusk. Maybe Fritz had easier fly-outs. They are not always so.

Mr. Zero said...

I gotta say, I'm a little surprised to be getting any pushback about the fig newtons. I thought that the importance of food would be pretty widely recognized and acknowledged. I get grouchy and easily distracted when I'm hungry, but if you don't need food, I guess you shouldn't bother bringing any fig newtons.

Apart from that, if Prof. Allhoff's advice is to be interpreted as something like, relax and have fun; the interview will go better if you seem like your'e relaxed and enjoying yourself, then I don't disagree. That seems to me to be exactly right.

But f the advice is something more like, relax and have fun; on-campus interviews are like a "field trip"--it's no big deal and you have nothing to worry about, then I think the advice is pretty silly and unreal and not helpful. It's a job interview, not a trip to a museum. It's not "neurotic" to worry about how to perform well in a job interview. But it must be awfully nice to be in a position in which it's possible to think that way.

Anonymous said...

Fritz Allhoff, I think you're completely missing the point.

Of course one should try to relax and have fun during an on-campus interview. But few of us mere mortals can relax and have fun while suffering an allergic reaction (see 6:53 PM), or after forgetting to take it easy with coffee or alcohol (see 8:48 AM), or if one forgot to do one's homework about the department and the logistics of the visit (see 12:18 PM and 12:33 PM), and so on and so forth.

It's very exciting to earn an on-campus interview, and stressful to execute one well -- so exciting and stressful that many of us forget to take care of ourselves in minor, typically obvious ways. It's precisely the point of worrying about them that one might be the sharp, functional, charming individual one normally is, albeit in an unfamiliar and challenging environment.

So I say keep 'em coming. It's really welcome, selfless way for us to help each other out a bit.

Anonymous said...

I've gotta say I'm torn about the fig newtons. They are tasty, but--at least for me--they are best had with a beverage. May I suggest chili cheese fritos instead?

zombie said...

12:17: I don't know how common nonAPA interviews are these days, but you're right that they can change the timing of flyouts. Likewise schools that skip first round interviews and go straight to flyouts. I've had schools call me well after APA to schedule phone interviews (good news for those of you who are empty handed so far this year). One school called me to schedule a fly-out after I already had an offer. I ended up withdrawing from their search when they took too long to get their act together. At this point, with interviews being conducted in different ways, we can expect there to be some chaos. But it's also true that there have always been a few schools that didn't follow the typical schedule.

zombie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Asstro said...

Here's the best additional bit of advice I can give:

1) Practice your job talk, even if you're completely and utterly confident in it. Run through the whole thing, at least once, without stopping, the morning or the night before you are about to give it. You will not regret doing so.

2) Prep yourself for bizarre and fucked-up questions. Expect that some of them will come from the periphery of the discipline. Have decent, polite, cogent, and strong answers. More than once I've seen candidates hand-wave their way through the questions only to have this come up during the SC meetings as a strike against the candidate.

3) Bring Fig Newtons (or whatever you can slam down your face in under a minute). Allhoff is wrong about this. In some cases you won't have a single moment to yourself. I once had a committee member follow me into the bathroom and continue conversation while I tried to catch my breath. Unfortunately I really needed to use the bathroom and I just couldn't.

4) Dress well. (Yes, this comes up every year, but for chrissakes, go find the best-dressed person you know and get them to assist you in picking out clothes.) Make sure your clothes fit. If you look like Messy Marvin wearing Grampa Sloppybritches's inherited Searsucker, this will not count in your favor.

5) Remember, the faculty want to know that you can integrate seamlessly into their universe. If you can't do this, you have to fake it. Be sure to let them know that you are one of them and not one of their grad students.

6) When you meet with students, remember that they are also interviewing you. What you say to them matters. This is even true if you meet with undergrads. Their reaction to you can influence the faculty, particularly if there is an arranged event -- a lunch or a talk involving students.

7) What the SC wants to know is not just whether you will integrate well with them, but whether you are someone who is tenurable at their institution. You'd better know going in what's expected at that school for tenure. More importantly, while you're on campus, be sure to _ask_ what's expected for tenure, even if you already know. Oddly, this may in fact show that you have what it takes to get tenure. Junior faculty in particular love to talk about this shit.

8) Remember the following: you have two, maybe three, enormous hurdles that you must clear to be a professional philosopher. The dissertation, the hire, and tenure. What you are doing on the fly-out is arguably the biggest of the three. At the very least, it is the one in which you're not competing against yourself. Now is not the time to slack off or to "relax." You need to kill this.

Brace yourself. Pump yourself up. And go.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

As best I can tell, every on-campus visit I ever had (in the recent past) included a faculty member who seemed opposed to my getting the job. In at least two instances, this was reflected in what I took to be attempts to scare, intimidate, or otherwise throw me off. Sometimes this happens when they pick you up at the airport.

Maybe that's not normal. But it happened to me.

In any case, I got the best of the jobs for which I was a finalist. And now, on this side of the hiring process, I don't get why a faculty member would be a dick to an on-campus invitee. In principle, every candidate invited to campus is a potential future colleague...

Anonymous said...

Your on-campus visit may not go perfectly, and you may not get the offer. But, in my experience (a tt-job after a number of fly-outs), every on-campus visit you have makes you a stronger candidate in the long run. Do the best you can, and learn as much as you can.

Anonymous said...

I want to reiterate 10:36's #6 with my own anecdote. I had just finished giving my job talk at a SLAC, and the faculty ended up chatting amongst themselves from their seats while I waited for the lunch-with-students to be arranged, leaving me no one to talk to.

I took the opportunity to eavesdrop on two students talking about a reading group they were in, and walked over to begin asking them about it. I was later told that my initiative to socialize with the undergrads and show interest in their philosophical studies and academic life made a good impression of what I would be like as a fellow colleague and advisor; and I think it helped me get hired. I think that spirit of making the most of every open moment like that has stuck with me as very important to keep in mind during the visit.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of the advice offered here thus far. I can't stress enough the importance of being prepared for changes to the schedule, though. My schedule for one visit said I'd have a lot of alone time (a whole evening and a couple hours the next morning) before my teaching demonstration. But then an assistant dean decided to tag along to dinner, and he kept us all there for hours after the meal. I felt too exhausted after that long day to think about my teaching demo, so I just went to sleep and planned to review in the morning. But then the next morning found everyone freaking out over a mildly worrisome weather report. Their reaction was to move up all my appointments, which left me no time to gather my thoughts before heading over to teach. When we arrived at the classroom, we discovered that the door was locked. The course instructor spent 10 minutes trying--and failing--to find someone who could unlock the door, so eventually we started searching for an empty room in a building next door. (We had a train of 80 students following us while we searched.) The room we found had no microphone--and no electronics for ppt presentations, either. I did have handouts to fall back on, luckily, but I didn't--and still don't--have a sufficiently loud voice for such a big crowd in a cavernous room, and that really irked the brassy course instructor. I felt unprepared, exhausted, unsure what the students in the back row were trying to ask, incapable of projecting my voice well enough, ill-informed about what I was supposed to teach and why, and on and on.

Shockingly, I got the job. But it all would have gone much better had I not counted on the evening and morning set aside for alone time in the schedule.

CTS said...

@1/13, 3:06:

I *hope* this is unusual.

At the very least, it shows a disfunctional SC/department. Disputes about the fly-outs should be taken care of before anyone is invited.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is unusual for department members to disagree over exactly which candidates to bring to campus. Last search at my school, we brought three to campus. We all agreed on one, but neither of the other two had unanimous support.

What seems unusual to me is the effort to scare off a candidate. I think this implies that at least one member of the department is a jerk. (Sadly, this is not unusual!) Whether this implies that a department is dysfunctional isn't clear to me.

Anyway, I had an on-campus a few years ago. I had a passing acquaintance with one of the faculty members. As soon as I arrived, he told me that somebody was really opposed to me. My acquaintance wanted me to get the job, so he suggested that I avoid certain topics during my visit.

The guy opposed to me wasn't a jerk, but he seemed a bit cold to me during the visit. Had I not known of his opposition, though, I would have assumed he was simply reserved. Anyway, I didn't get that job.

Anonymous said...

Someone above mentioned that you should ask about tenure requirements while on a fly-out. What do others think about this? I'm getting ready for my first ever, and I guess that I had thought that asking about this might make me look at if I was worried that I couldn't meet them.

Anonymous said...

I would not ask about tenure requirements, because many places don't want to give a firm answer to that question. Some places can be dodgy, or vague. Better, ask about the details of the last failed tenure application.

zombie said...

The quest for tenure begins the minute you sign the contract. I suspect a lot of new faculty don't realize that.

But it is a reasonable question to ask about tenure -- as reasonable as asking about teaching loads, service, etc.

Anonymous said...

What's the recommended attire for a single day fly-out?

CTS said...

Re attire:

I think something professional is best. There can be a wide range of interpretation, here, but I strongly recommend against wearing what you 'usually' wear, even when teaching. You don't know the norms at the place you are interviewing, you don't know if the Dean/Provost/etc have different expectations (or wish their philosophers were better dressed).

Further, even if they do not expect you to dress up once you are in place, they will be surprised that you didn't think you should make an extra effort for the on-site.

At the very least, try to be neat and put-together.

Anonymous said...

"I would not ask about tenure requirements, because many places don't want to give a firm answer to that question. Some places can be dodgy, or vague. Better, ask about the details of the last failed tenure application."

I'm hoping that this is a joke and not malicious advice. At the risk of responding seriously to a humorous suggestion: this is terrible advice. The hiring committee (or the dean) should be prepared at least to say something boilerplate in response to a reasonable query re tenure expectations. Of course, it's on the candidate's mind. A strong candidate with multiple offers (and you should think of yourself as in that position whenever you get an offer or even just a campus visit) might even reasonably wonder whether to take a job at a less-highly-ranked institution in order to be more confident about achieving tenure. Yes, you can expect some vague answers. Keep expecting them all the way through the tenure process. At this point in the process, just smile and thank them for the info.

In contrast, asking about their last failed tenure case is sure to evoke terrible memories for all involved, in-fighting among department members who differed in opinions on the case, conflicts between the department and the dean, etc. They might volunteer such information, and maybe you can get some of the inside scoop after you've been hired, but do not prod for it on your campus visit!

OK, I hope that's all obvious and pedantic.

Anonymous said...

Here's my question.

I have two fly-outs so far, and I wouldn't be surprised with getting another. However, the latter is behind the schedule of the other two. Should I kick the tires and ask them if they're going to be moving forward soon, because my schedule is filling up rather quickly.

Moreover, there are some jobs that still haven't even moved to first-round interviews where I know that the SC is interested in me (their deadlines were either late Dec or early/mid Jan). Should I contact them and ask something similar? There's at least one job in this group that I would really, really like, so it would be a shame to get an offer from the first set of fly-outs before even having a chance to interview at the places in the second set.

I know it's a "good problem to have," but it's still a problem.



zombie said...

4:16: You can inquire of any of the SCs as to when they might be scheduling their interviews, although I wouldn't assume you'll get a reply.

Look, having multiple interviews to schedule is really NOT a problem you should be pestering an SC about. It is assumed that any of the candidates they are considering could have the same "problem." And it's not as if having 3 flyouts creates an insurmountable scheduling problem. If they are at the point of asking you to campus, they are sufficiently interested in you to work around the schedule.

If/when you have an actual job offer in hand, and that dream job of yours still has not contacted you, you can inquire, because then you'll actually have a significant reason to want to know. I did that in one case (although I had already had a first round interview with them), and got a vague and unhelpful answer about how I was still under consideration (but they had already scheduled flyouts, so I was not in their first tier group, obviously). It turned out that my dream job never hired anyone that year, and I was better off taking the job I was offered.

Anonymous said...


I should have clarified. When I asked about a failed tenure case, I asked the dean. Not the SC.

I got very useful information, and the discussion was productive.

I also got the job, and still have a good relationship with the dean.

Anonymous said...

I have been on many SCs. At your campus interview, don't ask about tenure. Don't ask anything that makes it seem like you are interviewing them or grilling them, unless you are extremely sure you will get the offer.

On a campus visit, you are trying to impress people. That is your objective. It is a performance, not a fact-finding mission. At the campus interview, ask questions that let your hosts showcase their department or their school. Do research about the place to find out what sorts of questions these might be.

It is a naive mistake to ask about anything potentially unpleasant or difficult. You are not grilling your hosts at this stage, you are trying to make them enthusiastic about what a wonderful colleague you'd be. If you get the offer, you can ask the chair about benefits, tenure, etc. And you can visit again and get recruited, and do your fact-finding while you are being wined and dined.

4:33 said...

"I have been on many SCs. At your campus interview, don't ask about tenure. Don't ask anything that makes it seem like you are interviewing them or grilling them, unless you are extremely sure you will get the offer...It is a naive mistake to ask about anything potentially unpleasant or difficult."

I've been on a couple of SCs, not many. Still.

Departments and admins are ready and willing to answer polite questions, like, "What's the tenure process like?" Of course, don't grill them and don't push too hard on specifics. It's a reasonable question, not a naive mistake. I agree with the advice not to ask unpleasant or difficult questions; asking what the tenure process is like is neither. (Or, if it is, you're dealing with a terrible place.)

At most schools, a failure to get tenure is a departmental failure. If they hire you, they want you to succeed and get tenure and they'll want you to be as well informed as possible in advance.

And this bit about a second visit to campus for these questions after the offer but before you've signed on? I don't think that's common at all.

Asstro said...


I don't know what goes on at your school, but where I am, it's pretty much expected that we'll at least discuss the expectations of the job; which is to say, what it will take to get tenure. One can ask these questions without seeming like they're grilling the search committee. "Grilling the search committee" falls under the "don't be a dick" rule of thumb. "Asking about tenure," falls under the "how can I best succeed here?" line of questioning.

To put this a little differently: if I'm meeting with a candidate, I will often ask them what they've been publishing and what they plan to publish. I'll ask what's in their pipeline. I want to know this because I want to know if they'll get tenure. If they answer that they don't have very much in the pipeline, or that they don't really have a cohesive project, I'll tell them that we have some pretty heavy-duty research requirements at my school (a PhD-granting R1) and then I'll tell them about tenure. I will also take this as a flag that they may not be able to get tenure at my school, so I will pursue this line of questioning until I feel like I have an answer to my question.

It would be far, far better for the candidate if she knew going in what was expected for tenure and then could show me that she'd meet those standards. Asking about tenure permits the candidate to finesse the "tenure-potential" question by getting me to state what she needs to do for tenure and opening the door for her to show me that she can meet those standards.

Sure, candidates can blow it, but they blow it by asking in the wrong way or answering in the wrong way; by being a jerk, by aggressively seeking fine-grained specifics on the tenure process, by suggesting that someone on the faculty doesn't deserve tenure, etc. But again, that's mostly because they're being stupid about those questions, not because the questions oughtn't to be asked.

zombie said...

If you're up for a TT job, one of the requisite qualifications is that you have the potential to get tenure. No dept wants to hire someone who will fail to get tenure. But different schools/depts have different tenure requirements. In a research school, you'll need to get published, or possibly even secure grant money. In a CC, your teaching will matter more. Asking about the tenure requirements is one way to find out if the job is really for you, and a way for the dept to get a sense of whether you're the right person for the job.

You, as a job candidate, do not want to get a job where you cannot get tenure. That's potentially career suicide.

Anonymous said...

I have an on-campus with a large department >25 faculty. Is it standard for VAPs to be involved in the hiring process? I'm just wondering if I need to expect to have a one-on-one with any VAPs.

Anonymous said...

In my limited experience, VAP's have not been involved in hiring or interviews. I have never heard of one-on-one interviews with them either. But I did have an on-campus once where a VAP inserted himself into several events and discussions, to the annoyance of one or two tenure-stream people. I didn't worry too much about it, though, because he seemed nice enough otherwise, and wasn't a candidate for the position I sought.

Anonymous said...

6:47 AM,

Please don't take offense, but...that's kind of a bizarre question. Why would it matter whether there's a VAP involved in the hiring process?

(Of course, one way it could matter is that (s)he is vying for the same position. But if that were the case, then the answer to your question should be obvious: no.)

Anonymous said...

This is 8:18. My point was not that you cannot ask about tenure, etc., but that this is not the best strategy. Ask away if you must, it is totally appropriate. But it is not savvy. You are trying to maximize your chances of getting hired at this stage, and that is all.

Anonymous said...

To 3:53pm

What counts as "a VAP inserted himself into several events and discussions"? If it's one-on-one, then that's totally weird. If it's during a talk, then that's not weird at all.

Anonymous said...


I have my reasons, and they're very good reasons. Not having to worry about 3+ VAPs will save me considerable prep time.

Anonymous said...


I disagree. Asking about tenure shows that you are interested in tenure. It shows that you want to be there long enough to earn tenure, and that you want to hit the ground running (because your tenure clock starts the moment you get hired).

It's all about *how* you ask about tenure. You can ask about tenure while still being professional. In fact, showing an interest in how you will be expected to keep your job is professional.

Anonymous said...

But I did have an on-campus once where a VAP inserted himself into several events and discussions, to the annoyance of one or two tenure-stream people. I didn't worry too much about it, though, because he seemed nice enough otherwise, and wasn't a candidate for the position I sought.

what a seriously bizarre comment.

a) what do you mean by inserting himself?
b) how could you tell others were annoyed?

Is it possible you're projecting your own views onto the situation?

Anonymous said...

What's with people saying comments/questions are bizarre?

Say it's just after the job talk, and there's a golden period of candidate time before people often head off, and the candidate goes out to dinner. If that time is taken up by the VAP (or, say, a grad student), that could easily piss off some faculty who wanted to ask a question.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible you're projecting your own views onto the situation?

I'm now friends with someone I met during my visit. He told me a bit about how things went during the search, in part because he was pretty unhappy with the way his department conducted it. We've known each other for five years now.

Anonymous said...

The sort of stuff 2:06 mentions. There are plenty of opportunities for interaction between one-on-ones and job talks proper. People have pointed out that you should assume you're being interviewed whenever you're around someone connected to the department. I took this to be obvious, though I guess I was wrong. My mistake.

In my case, VAP invited me to coffee during some scheduled downtime. I declined, but he hung around chatting for a longish bit before leaving.

Why not tell him to buzz off? Some VAP's have been with their departments for quite a while and may have the ear of someone in the department. Where I was a grad student, we had some VAP's like this. Hence my caution around VAP. They didn't get a vote in my department's matters, but they could influence things through their friends who did vote.

Also, VAP tagged along as Dept Chair walked me from one place to another. These walks are good opportunities for chats. So are scheduled library, campus or community tours.

Last, two professors were scheduled to take me to lunch. VAP invited himself along.

VAP was not included in my schedule, with the exception of the job talk, of course. Nevertheless, VAP got involved with my visit beyond the job talk.

One commenter says this is weird. I guess this means my experience is not representative, and so should be discounted. Maybe. YMMV.

How did any of this happen if it bothered some professors (as I was told later)? What bothers some does not necessarily bother all.

Anonymous said...

i just want to say that, having had two interviews, i now know that i will not be getting any fly outs. i can't believe how much time, work, and stress went into this whole process.

but best of luck to those of you still in the running for the positions to which i applied!

Anonymous said...

Off-topic: has anyone heard from Mount Mary, Manhattanville, Warren Wilson, Marian, or Aquinas?

Anonymous said...

Had a first round interview with Manhattanville. Interviewer said we'd hear this week. Been checking the wiki and my email obsessively. Nothing.

Anonymous said...

I'm really shocked that people think you shouldn't ask about the nitty-gritty of the tenure process (and really, anything else involved in the job). Say you have an offer in hand from a different school and you have to compare (possible) offers: it strikes me as obtuse that one wouldn't want to know the details for comparison's sake and any dept. that wouldn't give these details has some issues--they are things you need to know to do a proper comparison. Even if you don't have any other offers, knowing the particulars of the job is important--how could asking about the specifics possibly be gauche?

Anonymous said...

What's a VAP?

zombie said...

VAP = Visiting Assistant Professor. A non-TT position, sometimes renewable indefinitely, sometimes for a specific duration (e.g. sabbatical appointment). Sometimes requires a higher teaching load than TT.

Anonymous said...

The most common distinction between a VAP and a post-doc is that the VAP is primarily (or exclusively) a teaching position and a post-doc is primarily (or exclusively) a research position.