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.