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Interview Aftermath + Lessons I Learned

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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?

Ashley

Texan at heart; Arizonan on paper. Lover of running, cheese, camping, and family (fur-family included!). Blogger, motivated to get out of debt YESTERDAY! Follow along with my journey!

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12 Comments

  • Reply Joe |

    Fingers crossed!
    I think any interview experience is good experience. That’s why I think your visit to the “not a job” place is also a fantastic opportunity that you shouldn’t look down on no matter how strange it may seem.

    Hang in there, and try not to get affected by the turbulence! If you focus on and stay passionate about what you do well, I’m sure something good will work out!

  • Reply Ms. Mintly @ MintlyBlog |

    Just to give you a little boost, the institution where I work seems to always interview their adjuncts, but will often choose an outsider for their full-time positions (which does lead to some ill-will, as you might expect…). I understand your concerns, but I couldn’t help commenting with a “well, you never know!” 🙂

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks for the boost! That’s what my friend said, too. Apparently the last time they filled a full-time position they had passed over an adjunct in favor of someone else, so it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibilities.

  • Reply C@thesingledollar |

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned about academic job interviews, it’s that, at the campus visit stage, almost everything is completely out of your control (assuming a baseline of you being a decent and non-rude person). You have extremely limited insight into the department’s politics and the search committee’s views (which are often highly conflicting anyway) and all you can do is be yourself and then shrug. There’s not much rhyme or reason to it. I have a history of close calls where I really *almost* got the job and just lost out to someone else, and the people I’ve lost out to have been more insiders, more outsiders, from fancier schools, from less fancy schools, much older and better published, a bit younger and just finishing their dissertations…. At this point, again, you’ve shown you’re a viable candidate, and all you can do is hope that the people who like you the best will win over the people that like some other guy the best. This is depressing, because lack of control, but also kind of comforting, because if you do lose the job, it’s very unlikely to be because of anything you did/didn’t do. Good luck, anyway!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks for the good luck! And I appreciate the sentiment. I’ve done the best I can do and now it’s up to luck or fate or both! : )

  • Reply Messina Craig |

    In 3 years of following BAD, this is the first time I have commented! Thanks so much for the update. It drove me crazy all week wondering how the interview went! I even said to my husband, “I wonder how Ashley’s interview went?”. He said, “Who’s Ashley?” So then I explained the whole situation to him. LOL I will keep my fingers crossed for you!

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thank you for the comment!! I feel the same way about blogs that I read – like you really get to know the person! And I’ve been pretty open here, so I feel like you all (readers) are my friends, too! Thanks for the good luck. Apparently the committee is going to make a recommendation to the dean this coming week (the final interview is on Monday). The dean makes the actual job offer and they expect that the dean will move quickly (but, of course, no one knows for sure). So I assume that I’ll know one way or another fairly soon. As you said, fingers crossed!

  • Reply revdrmd |

    Ashley, Sounds like it went well. Glad for you. I am an online instructor as well and love it.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I do too! I could be teaching adjunct for the community college (I used to do this, and can still go back whenever I want because I have a good relationship with the department head), but it simply wasn’t enough money to justify the work once childcare expenses are considered. Online teaching has given me so much more freedom and flexibility. I do miss the face-to-face interactions and would love a full-time position somewhere, but even if it doesn’t work out, I wouldn’t mind simply bolstering my online teaching repertoire. I can always go back to in-person adjunct teaching when the girls are in full time public school (for free!) : )

  • Reply Heidi |

    Last year our department went through the search process and offered the job to an outside candidate, NOT the fixed term that was currently occupying the position. So don’t automatically assume the adjunct will get the job. As you stated all department members have their “pet projects” and chances are the adjunct has rubbed at least a few of them the wrong way.

  • Reply Mary |

    I am glad to hear your interview went well. I was wondering all week and looking forward to an update.

    Regarding interviews in general, here are my tips. First, I always love it when I can have an interview before the “big one” or the job I wanted. It always puts me in super interview mode and works well for me. Kind of like a warm up so to speak (and yes, I prepare really well). Second, I prepare ruthlessly for interviews-I do the normal background stuff, review their financials, strategic plans and just about anything else I can do. I keep a folder of interview questions plus I’ll write out questions and answers for that particular company and review them so on the day of my interview, I am flawless. I like to have really good questions prepared for them as well. I like to think of my interviewing as leaving no stone unturned. I put out my best possible self and do the preparation and then that’s really all I can do. If I don’t get the job, well, then I know I did everything I could do. I try not to worry about other candidates or things I can’t control, if that makes any sense. It can be very competitive in any industry today. As for internal candidates, as a general rule, I find they are hard, but not impossible to beat, it just depends like another commenter mentioned. In my experience, networking is king; those candidates are much harder to beat. Overall, it sounds like you did great. I still think your other interview is quite promising.

So, what do you think ?