So my interview was this past Monday and I think it went really well.
I was SUPER nervous driving into campus, but from the beginning of my very first meeting all the way through the evening’s dinner appointment, the committee completely set me at ease! Everyone was so friendly and welcoming and I had some really candid conversations with faculty about various departmental policies/politics/etc. On my drive home that night I was feeling really good about my odds of nailing this job…..
….until I got home, that is. I have a friend and former labmate who has since moved on to take a postdoctoral position at another university. Even so, he’s very “tapped into” what’s going on at the interview university. He texted me in the evening to ask how things went and I told him well. And then he dropped a bomb (or what felt like one to me, anyway)….apparently one of the other applicants currently works as an adjunct for the university already. This means they already know her, she’s probably chummy with many of the faculty, and she literally has an office right next to them. With the big academic culture of “it matters who you know,” this felt like a huge blow. So now I’m really unsure of my odds (there were 4 interviews total, so I’m “competing” against 3 others).
So yeah. I think it’s a good thing that I discovered this tidbit of info AFTER my interview because it didn’t impact me during the process and yet it is now forcing me to really buoy myself so that I won’t be as caught off-guard if I end up not landing the position (I was really confident there for awhile!).
And aside from that, I also learned a few valuable little nuggets of information that I think will help me with future interviews (or even with the “not an interview” university).
Things I Learned at My Interview:
- Be “real”, but don’t let your guard down. I think they purposely try to make you feel at ease so you’ll really open up and they’ll see the “real” you. This is why you have luncheons and dinners and such, right? Sure, some of it is just learning how you fit with the faculty, but I think this is where people are probably most likely to say something inappropriate because they don’t feel like they’re really being interviewed at a casual lunch thing. But you are. The FULL DAY is an interview, every part of it.
- Every committee member has their own pet project. From meeting with people throughout the day I learned what everyone’s cause is that they’re trying to champion. One might be pushing for funding for travel abroad, another for expanding online technologies, and another for increased research and internship opportunities for undergrads. Every person wants you to be excited about THEIR cause and to show you’d really be on board with it (i.e., fight for it in faculty meetings, etc.) Of course it makes sense that everyone has their own “thing”, but it also caught me by surprise just how forthcoming everyone was when talking about their pet project, while simultaneously studying my face for enthusiasm and excitement with them.
- They want you to say specific things. Whether its interests for the future or experience you’ve had in the past, I found that there were certain, specific things the committee members wanted to hear from me. They’d ask semi-vague, but leading questions to see if I would respond in the “right” way. You could always tell if you did because you’d get a real, genuine smile and a head nod. I knew if I answered wrong, too, because the smile was fake – more posed. And they turn to jot down a note about you (ouch!). But, generally, I could correct these “wrong” responses throughout the day by figuring out what they wanted to hear (largely related to “pet projects”, above) and work in that tidbit to conversation later.
- During your teaching presentation, explain everything. This was a little uncomfortable because you’re in a room with people who are all either equals or more senior, and you feel like explaining little things (e.g., what a word means) is patronizing and rude. BUT IT’S NOT!!!! Remember, it’s a TEACHING demonstration! I had such a hard time with this in practice because teaching is so, so different than presenting somewhere else (like at a conference). But usually you get to build a rapport with students first. They know you, so they laugh at your dumb jokes and respond to your questions, etc. That’s not always true in a presentation with a bunch of random strangers. But I met with the department head immediately after my presentation and she actually let a comment slip that directly compared me to the previous applicant….she mentioned how she liked that I explained a certain term, and that the previous applicant had used the same term but never explained what it was. Without going into content (what the term was), the department head said she knew most undergrads would NOT know the term, so she liked that I had explained it. Points for me!!! : )
So that’s really it. This is my first and only in-person interview so far, so I have no idea how applicable these nuggets of information would be to other places, but I’m glad I learned them. Even though my “not a real interview” place is not officially hiring for a set position, I think this experience will help me with them.
Also, in a worst case scenario world (where I get no job offers at all), I did come out of my interview with one solid job lead. A graduate student told me about another place that is hiring like crazy for online instructors and is really in need of people in my field. I jumped online that night and saw multiple classes that I’d be qualified to teach that are in need of instructors. The person told me that pay was “competitive” (I didn’t ask for specifics and none are listed on the website), but I’ve already put in an application. If there’s one area of expertise that I can really claim, it’s the online teaching field. So fingers crossed that if nothing in-person works out I’ll at least be able to add another class or two online. Here’s to hoping for an increased salary in the coming months!!!
Have you learned any really valuable lessons from the interview process? What have you learned? Did you find that the lessons applied to other job/positions as well?