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Don’t Jinx Me, But…..


Remember when I shared my last interview with you all?

It had gone so well and I was SO SURE I would get offered the position! Well, not only was I not offered a position, I never even heard back from them. (imagine in Full House‘s Stephanie Tanner voice:  How Rude!) I emailed them a week after the interview to ask if a hiring decision had been made and was told they expected a decision by the end of the week. The week came and went and…..(crickets)….nothing.

So I was almost reluctant to share this with you guys, but I’m sure you’ll be pulling for me and I’m not superstitious so here goes….

I’ve scored my first interview of the season.

What’s better?

It’s a campus visit interview. 


I’ve had a couple of phone interviews before (for jobs from last year’s academic hiring season) and had a couple places request additional information from me (e.g., additional writing samples or teaching/research statements that weren’t part of the original application packet), but this will be my FIRST campus visit interview!

I am so excited! And nervous! And excited!

I have absolutely no idea what to expect! Luckily, I’ve got some time to figure it all out. Generally when places do campus visit interviews its pretty short notice (e.g., “Can you be on a plane by this Wednesday?”) but this place is a little different. They’re hiring for two positions:  a full professor position and an assistant professor position. The interviews for the full professor position are going to be in November/December, and the interviews for the assistant professor position will be in February/March. As a new graduate, I had applied to the assistant professor position, so my campus visit won’t be for a few months.

When I last spoke with the committee chair, he seemed very excited. Like, almost unnatural-excited to have me come visit. He sounded genuinely upset that the visit wouldn’t be until February/March because he was worried I’d already be scooped up by another university and he relayed that the committee was very impressed with my stuff and really wants to meet me.

What the heck?

As a graduate student I have sat on hiring committees before and NEVER have I EVER seen anyone so excited for an applicant! I mean, even if they are, they don’t make it this obvious when they speak to him/her!

So, naturally, I’m trying not to get my hopes up. I also don’t want to divulge many details right now but I will say that if I land this position it will necessitate an out-of-state move. Lots to think about on that front (e.g., loss of husband’s job, job prospects in new place, cost-of-living versus offered salary, etc.) So many factors that I just have to put out of my mind right now until I know one way or another. All of these issues are moot if I don’t get an offer, so no point in stressing about the unknown.

One positive thing to come from this, though, is that it has really boosted my confidence.

I have to admit that being out of academia for over a year now with no job offers, my confidence has really been shaken. I worry about what happens if I don’t land a job this year. What it means on the long-term for my career. And, of course, the impact it has on our family’s income (not to mention my outrageous student loan debt situation). I’ve had a couple of employment-related hits in the past few months:  rejected manuscripts, no job offer, reduced contractor pay, etc.  There’s something about someone fawning all over you that really makes you feel better about yourself. Not in a big-headed I’m-so-awesome way, but more in an I-am-worthy-and-I-deserve-this way.

I know a few of you have experiences in academia – any tips on preparing for a campus visit interview (Even if you’re not in academia, if you have some advice or suggestions feel free to chime in!)


  • Reply Walnut |

    Do you have something to wear??? If not, I would immediately run out and find a suit. Find one that you like and then pull at your phone and find a coupon for it. Banana Republic used to run lots of midweek 40% off coupons or at least buy one get one 50% off.

    If you have time on your side, you might do well to shop at some nice consignment shops. I know I have sent lots of really nice suits to Goodwill.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Oh man, I was so focused on the actual interviews I didn’t even think about the clothing! Yikes! Luckily, I do have time on my side so I can take advantage of a little searching (and hopefully score an awesome deal) instead of having to rush out and buy something full priced!

      • Reply Walnut |

        Good deal. The last thing you want during an interview is to be fretting about clothes. Hopefully the tide is turning and you’ll get a lot of mileage out of whatever you buy!

      • Reply Jen From Boston |

        I think the winter dress clothes will be going on clearance soon (nutty, I know, but that’s how retail works), so you might be able to find some very good buys.

    • Reply adam |

      While Walnut usually gives the most perfect spot on advice, i have a bit of a nit-pick with this one. If your interview isn’t until February/March, you may wait a little while to buy your interview clothes.

      Let’s be real – the holidays are coming along with holiday treats and meals. Job searching can be stressful which can affect eating habits and exercise habits in either direction. Cold weather may affect workouts, or you may go through an illness or other event where you lose weight. Lots can happen between now and then….you get the point

      A lot of people have a very consistent clothing size over time. But for me, I’d never, ever buy an interview suit 4 months in advance because in my case it would be too big of a risk that something would change. So if you are one of the lucky ones who stay the same size, then by all means find a sale and exploit it. But if not, maybe wait until 3 or 4 weeks in advance (leaving time for alterations and dry cleaning).

      The goal of the interview clothing is to look professional and put together, but also to eliminate any and all distractions. If you are tempted to buy something super-fitted or trendy or colorful like a Hillary Clinton pant suit, try to avoid the temptation and just get something very traditional, conservative, and well-tailored. You want your interviewers and potential colleagues to have absolutely nothing to say about your clothing or your grooming when they are discussing your candidacy after you leave.

      Although you have a lot of debt, having proper interview attire is an expense that I think is always justified for people in professional careers. You don’t have to buy a thousand dollar outfit. But I do recommend making sure you visit a few places, get measured (by multiple people – they can make mistakes), find one or two brands that fit you well (for example, nordstrom house brand does very well for me), find a sales person you can trust to recommend a few items, and then take your purchase to be altered to fit perfectly. Lots of department stores have recently introduced brands for dress clothes to appeal to young people that are more trendy and affordable, and so you may get excited when you first try on one of these suits, thinking you look like a million bucks. But be wary of these brands because they are often made of lower quality materials and workmanship, and trust me that someone will notice the lower quality or will think you look like a kid. These brands don’t always include enough extra material to provide for alterations if necessary, so be sure to ask the sales person about what’s possible to alter in any given garment.

      I recommend not using the in-house tailor at a department store – they often are not present when you are shopping in the evening or on the weekend, so they have to rely on the measurements and marks that a sales person makes for you, and it is often more expensive. Go to a seamstress/tailor where the person who will be making the alterations is there when you try on the outfit, and they make the marks and place the pins while you are there. Also, if you want a certain fit or taper, you have to tell the tailor/seamstress explicitly. I have short legs so I often have to tell them to taper the legs when I get pants altered, otherwise the bottom can end up being too wide. And remember that these jobs don’t always come back perfectly, so be sure to leave enough time for an emergency alteration if the tailor/seamstress doesn’t get it right.

      All of this can take time, so although you may want to wait a while to buy your interview clothes, don’t cut it too close. You’ll want to be able to focus on preparing in those last couple of weeks, not on running all around town looking for a suit. To be extra safe, I’d allow a week for dry cleaning, 2-3 weeks for alterations (really), and a week or two for shopping so you have the chance to visit several places, and maybe a week for shipping if some store has to have your size delivered.

      All of this from the voice of experience here, maybe some of these things are different with women’s professional attire, but I’m trying to save you from some of my mistakes through the years.

      Sorry for the comment explosion – I get REALLY excited about job/career advice. I should obviously do this for a living.

      • Reply adam |

        oh, i forgot an important point! make sure whatever you buy is COMFORTABLE! Even if it looks great on you, if you aren’t comfortable in it, it will show in your body language, and that will diminish any benefit you get from a great-looking outfit. For me, that means nothing too tight, and it means materials that are breathable like cotton and wool since I tend to run a little hot, and it means wrinkle-resistant materials since I get really self-conscious about wrinkles.

        So before you decide to buy, wear it around the store for a good 10 minutes, walk around, stand up, sit down, identify your triggers for comfort vs. discomfort and make sure your choice is comfortable for you – this is more important than a perfect fit.

        • Reply Walnut |

          I definitely agree with all of the advice. When you shop TOTALLY depends on your typical shopping experience. I have a really difficult time finding clothes that fit properly and have the luxury of fairly consistent sizing. It can take me months of searching to find a suit in my price range that fits close enough that it can be altered without basically custom making the piece. My issue is rarely that something is too long or short, but that is just structurally doesn’t fit (I’m looking at YOU pencil skirts, which tend to be what is available for conservative interview suits). So, Ashley, you’ll want to take your personal experience into consideration when shopping for suits.

      • Reply Ashley |

        Loved this quote: ” You want your interviewers and potential colleagues to have absolutely nothing to say about your clothing or your grooming when they are discussing your candidacy after you leave.”
        As for the rest of your comment, my reply is: GOOD GOD!!! Now you have me freaking out!! Do you and Emily want to take me shopping if I come to town over the holidays? (j/k I know you guys go to visit family!) Seriously, though, way to make me nervous!!!

  • Reply Judi |

    Awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My only advice which I’ve said many times is read papers. Check out the department you’re interviewing in and make sure to try and read one paper from each faculty member and a few more from the department chairs. This makes it easy to talk to them, and think of a few points where your research expertise could further their research goals. Most people in departments love collaborations with colleagues that are leaders or up and comings in their field.

    Also, keep your chin up. My husband graduated law school in 2010 when the legal market was at a low, it was so hard to see him struggle to find a job since I knew he was an exceptional candidate. It took him a year but he was able to land a coveted position as a university attorney by plugging away with work, improving his resume, and networking for the year. However I still remember the sad times during that year of interviews that didn’t pan out and resumes that went unanswered. Good luck, and great job keeping up the positive attitude in this tough time.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks, and thanks for the tip, too! I really am so grateful I’ve got a couple months before the interview so I can really have a chance to dig into the faculty and learn about their research/interests! Much easier to show I would “fit” with them when I know what they all do! : )

      • Reply Juhli |

        Have you talked to your advisor and other professors regarding what to expect and how to prepare? They should be able to add to the excellent suggestions above. You might also want to practice interviewing and presenting before you go.

        • Reply Ashley |

          I have. I have a couple of mentors still that I talk to and work with pretty regularly and they have offered to give me tips/suggestions on my job talk when I get to that point. I’m not ready with that just yet though.

  • Reply Ms. Mintly |

    Congrats! Especially exciting that it’s an out-of-state interview (since they aren’t just asking you to come to fill an interview slot so that they can hire someone else they already have in mind)!

    I agree with the previous poster about finding their publications and reading up on them – it’s interesting that the committee member was so excited to have you come, and you might find a connection if you look into his LinkedIn profile (previous institutions? hometown? similar research interests?) and read his publications. Since the whole committee is excited, though, it’s fair to say that they’re truly interested in you!

    Maybe this will be the start of hearing back about a number of positions, and then you won’t know which one to choose! 🙂

  • Reply adam |

    I don’t know anything about academia jobs but in business, I always recommend the CAR method for answering interview questions – Context, Action, Result. It helps make interview answers crisp, with a focus on what you contributed and how it helped.

    “The company needed to become relevant in the new market. I designed a new product and launched it. Because of my work, the company now makes 70 bajillion dollars per year.”

    I’m sure with some study and thought, you can adapt this to academia interviews. “Department evaluations averaged 1.5 out of 5, I was brought in to teach XYZ course. Student evaluations went up to 3 out of 5. 10% more students enrolled in this field as their major. Also I published like a rock star and got elevendy billion dollars in grant money for the department”

  • Reply Jill |

    Hi Ashley
    A couple of things to remember. Make sure you remember you are on the interview from the moment you are picked up from the airport until you are dropped off at the airport. So keep in mind that includes meals and the car rides. Also, even though you will be nervous, remember to be friendly and excited about working at the school, but don’t fake it. I agree with the people that suggest reading publications from the faculty members you are interviewing with. One thing I did during my interview was have a couple of questions I could ask the faculty, usually I asked why they liked best about working at the school. Also if you haven’t done so I would read some the articles at the Chronicle of Higher Education, they have a couple of articles on interviewing and campus visits.

    I have a list my advisor gave me on common interview questions asked by different levels (e.g. dean or chair). It is a long list though so I don’t want to copy it in here. Feel free to email me if you would like a copy of the list.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I’ve actually been pouring over Chronicle of Higher Ed articles this afternoon and jotting down all kinds of notes! I’ve got a whole list of “action steps” to take following the advice!

  • Reply Cecilia@thesingledollar |

    Huh. You got a campus visit invite without a preliminary interview, by phone or at a conference? Is that typical in your field? It strikes me as odd. Nevertheless…congratulations, and my big advice is just to have fun with it. Try to relax and enjoy talking to these people, because if you end up working there, that’s what you’ll be doing. Ask a lot of questions. And if someone asks you “can you teach X,” just say yes. Don’t say “well, it’s not really in my area” or anything else — just say yes. 🙂

    • Reply Ashley |

      It’s totally odd! I’ve never heard of this! It’s a private university (with what seems like a good bit of money), so one of my mentors suggested this might be common practice for them??? Very strange compared to what I’m used to (which typically includes at least 1 phone & perhaps a second Skype interview before campus visits are made)!

  • Reply debthaven |

    I always find I do my best at interviews when I don’t “need” the job. I DO know you very much want it! But, even if you don’t get it, your kids will still eat, and you’ll still have a roof over your heads. I’m pointing this out because I’m hoping it will give you a bit of nonchalance or lightness in your step when you go out there for the interview. Not not seeming “needy” or “desperate” (I do know you aren’t) can only be a good thing, IMO.

    I work in academia but although I’m American, I live and work in Europe now, so I would not feel comfortable giving you advice on the “gory details” in US academia.

    I think you’ve gotten great advice so far.

    Although you are understandably and certainly very impatient, I would greatly encourage you to “keep on keeping on” in your daily life as though you don’t NEED this job. That means continue working to pay your bills, your debt, and some savings.

    I would, however, probably set a bit more aside for your wardrobe than you might have liked to … again, to project the image of a highly confident and qualified academic who would LOVE this job, but not one who needs it to feed her family.

    I agree that you need to do your homework / research. Part of that is to learn what the faculty members are doing, but part of it is to best ascertain how YOU can contribute to the department too.

    All my best!

    • Reply adam |

      This is great advice. I completely agree, 100%. Any time I was at all desperate or trying to prove myself, the interview turned into a disaster. Other times when I was confident in my experience and knew how I could contribute to the job, and didn’t “need” the job, I spoke more assuredly, came across as a stronger candidate, and almost always landed the offer.

      I’m sure it depends on the person but that’s how it always worked for me. Best interviews were always when I was the most confident and comfortable and less concerned with trying to impress.

      So if you can take the intervening time between now and then and get very comfortable with your current situation, maybe land a couple more interviews to open up your options, or make a really good plan B that you feel good about, it will just help you do this interview well.

  • Reply debthaven |

    Also, someone mentioned the “CAR” approach. I’m an adjunct professor at a business school. We use the “STAR” approach, which is basically the same thing. CAR = context, action, result. STAR = Situation, Task, Action, Result.

    We tell our students, before an interview, you should have a STAR approach answer to potential questions about your skills in the following five situations: problem solving, leadership, teamwork, technical skills, or a difficult situation you had to confront.

    • Reply adam |

      i learned the STAR approach in b-school and it has served me very well. wonder which b-school you teach at. I suggested CAR here because it always seemed like “situation, task,” was a bit overkill when “context” covers it pretty well. Maybe I’m forgetting some of what I learned, but what is the benefit of splitting out situation and task? I do think STAR is a little catchier and easier to remember, but in practice i usually end up using a CAR answer.

      For my benefit and for the benefit of the readers here, can you jog my memory on the thinking behind “situation, task,” as opposed to “context”?

      I’m not being adversarial here, just admitting that my memory is murky since I did b-school interview training.

  • Reply debthaven |

    Adam, I teach in Europe, and most of my students aren’t native English speakers. Situation + Task is slightly more explicit than Context, so it makes it easier to explain. I agree, it’s basically the same thing, and native speakers probabyl don’t need as explicit instructions (although some people really have trouble “getting it”).

    I think what’s most important is to come up with answers for the five “situations” that candidates are often asked about.

  • Reply KLM |

    Ask for gift certificates for clothing for Christmas! Some malls have them to any store at that mall, and then you don’t have to be tied to Macy’s or Banana Republic or whatever.

So, what do you think ?