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More Interview Questions


First, I just want to say thank you for all the great comments and feedback on the vasectomy post! There’s no immediate rush to make a decision TODAY, so I think we’re going to take a little time still, but its been great to hear your experiences and thoughts on the matter!

I know you’re all probably getting really sick of hearing about my interview again and again.

If you’re new or need a refresher to jog your memory, check out this post first so you have some context of what I’m talking about….

So my interview (the “real” interview) is Monday.

I’m about 90% ready at this point. Got my interview outfit mostly ready to go (I say “mostly” because we have a safe that has some of my jewelry in it – I rarely wear anything aside from my wedding band – but I really want to wear pearls for the interview and I CANNOT FOR THE LIFE OF ME REMEMBER THE SAFE COMBINATION!!! ARGH!!! I’m going to work on figuring that out this weekend.)

My presentations are mostly done. I’ll be giving two presentations: A longer one that serves as a teaching demonstration, and a shorter one on “My Vision of Teaching in Higher Education.”

In reference to the second one, I have a question to throw out there…

During the presentation, should I be keeping things more general (e.g., “I see education moving toward increasing online options, hybrid classrooms, etc.) or should I also include more personal things about my actual experience and education (e.g., “I can do this better than other candidates because I possess [X knowledge] that will help with the transition as more classes move toward an online format.”)  I put these sentences in quotes, but I likely wouldn’t state things so bluntly….

I guess my real question is do I keep the talk specifically about teaching in higher education??? OR do I talk about how I will be the most effective instructor for the changing student and university needs?

Basically, do I reference my “competition” or not (by saying I’d be the best, it’s implying “better than the other candidates”)?

I’ll be meeting with people all day long, so I could certainly keep the talk more general about teaching in higher education and slip in the personal experiences bit in my individual meetings. Just wanted to see what you all think about it.

AND, I’ve been in talks with the “not a real interview” university. They’re flying me out in late March – paying for the flights, a hotel, and a rental car, as well meals while I’m in town.

I still feel super weird about it. The most recent email, the search chair’s last sentence was (quote): “We’re really excited this is going to work, Ashley!”

What does that even mean?? Excited WHAT is going to “work out”???

We’ve established that there’s not currently a position available (see the whole post I wrote about that here). It could be that one is opening up soon, or this is just good HR to make a connection for when a position does come available. I’m going to see this out until it reaches a natural conclusion, as one reader suggested. But my HOPE is that I get the “real interview” job, and if that’s the case, then this whole trip feels a little moot. It would certainly be conflicting IF I were to land a position here in Arizona, get started, get situated, and then end up being offered a position at the “not a real interview” university the following year (my guess is it would be a full year later, since academic positions usually start in August….though not always).

Anyway, I just wanted to give you all an update about that. So my interview outfit will get worn at least twice this year, lol. Speaking of, remember how I used my birthday money to purchase the suit? I was hoping I’d end up with some money leftover to throw at debt, but it didn’t work out that way. I really, really wanted to get a nice suit. There were several options I saw that would have been “okay” and in a much cheaper range (some as low as $60 for the coat + pants) but it was cheaper material, no inner lining on the coat, etc. I wanted something a bit nicer than that. In the end I purchased a $300 suit from Ann Taylor online, taking a leap of faith and hoping the fit would be okay. I was really pleasantly surprised with how nice it is and I think it looks really sharp. But between the suit + my hair cut/color, I wasn’t left with any money leftover for an additional debt payment. To be clear, I still made our normal monthly debt payment, but just not an extra one.

So that’s it for now. I’ve gotta wrap up my presentation (so suggestions on that would be awesome!). Hope you all have a great Friday as we head into the weekend!


  • Reply Amy |

    Hi there! I’ve never commented on your blog before but I have to put in my two cents on your interview. My boyfriend of 3 years is also in academia and as chair of his dept he’s had to hire two of the three years I’ve known him. What I have learned is that it always boils down to who they like best. Of course they expect you to give a good interview, job talk, teaching demonstration or whatever but they are also closely observing who’s going “fit in” and get along with everybody. I don’t know if this is across the board or if they just have a particularly close department, but I thought I’d throw that out there. Definitely nail all the professional stuff, but don’t forget that they are evaluating you as a person and your chemistry with the department as well. Good luck!!!

    • Reply Ashley |

      That actually makes me feel a bit better. I know these people already (I’ve mentioned before, but this is my alma mater). I felt like it was a disadvantage to be from the university because its almost considered “taboo” to hire one of your own (like incestuous or something). But if the “personal” is what matters, then I think I have it nailed. *Fingers crossed* They have been SUPER professional about everything (no “hey, how’s it going” casual/fun talk), but a friend pointed out that could be because if they do select me they want to be able to show that everything has been done 100% by the books, no favoritism. I don’t want to get my hopes up (hard not to), but I really do think I have a good shot at the position.

  • Reply Kili |

    I’d keep it general at first and then definitly get into your personal experience & why you’re awesome. Definitly let them know how they’d benifit by hiring you.
    BUT: I wouldn’t bash other candidates during this presentation (I don’t see a need to say “I can do this better than other candidates because..:”) I would just stick with the “Having worked for this, that and the other in this super-techy way, I’m the gal you’re looking for.
    Good luck!

  • Reply MB |

    I think the good interview suit and the hair cut and color was a great use of your birthday Money. I am sure the gifters would be happy to hear that you spent it on yourself.

    And on the presentation. How about couching thinks in terms of her how I have/will approach education in the future rather than I do it better? Bringing in your personal views rather than keeping it at a high level. How you will or have approached it without mentioning your competitors…

    • Reply Ashley |

      Yes, SUCH a better way to approach it! Someone else mentioned this too. Just so much more classy than cutting down competitors (not that I would be rude about it, but I do think I’m the best). Instead of saying “I’m the best” i really like the approach of explaining how my skills/knowledge is a huge asset to the department. Then the committee can take it from there to fill in the rest of the dots (….BETTER than the other candidates). lol. Gawd, this sounds so cocky and arrogant! I don’t mean it that way, but I do think its good to feel confident, so I’m sticking with it for now : )

  • Reply Anon |

    I agree with the other posters about the phrasing and presentations. I’ve done a lot of hiring and coaching of young professionals and I always warn them against saying things like “I am the best for this position” or the “right one for the job” or things like that even in a cover letter.

    As the person hiring those kind of things make me crazy because you (not you, but the person applying) don’t really know what is best for the position. Instead I like the applicant to show me through concrete examples of past experience what you can do and what you bring to the table, and then let me draw the conclusions about fit for the position.

    Besides that I would say go in with high energy (people want to see that you’re excited and engaged), make sure you have lots of concrete examples that are relevant to your work, have a pen and paper for all of your meetings (I like a zip padfolio) and a professional purse big enough to hold a few essentials (tissues, mints, small bottle of water, business cards if you have them, etc.).

    • Reply Ashley |

      I really appreciate the advice! I didn’t even think of using the professional writing pad! I was going to bring a little notebook I’ve got, but my husband actually has a nice zip padfolio that I could borrow for the day to look a little more professional! I definitely need these tips, keep them coming! : )

  • Reply KLM |

    I would phrase it something like “Education research tells us that higher education options are moving toward modalities such as on-line education (or whatever). As I’ve followed this literature/research, I’ve pursued opportunities to work in these areas. For instance, I’ve taught 2 classes per semester through an online program, and I’ve become very comfortable and adept with using that modality.”

    Generally, I think all of your answers should tell part of your story.

    • Reply Mary |

      Agreed. I think you said it best.

      Glad you went with the more expensive suit; I always think that looks more professional. I am big on details too-nails done but with a professional length and polish color (soft neutral or French on natural nails). And yes, be prepared with a professional bag to hold all of the essentials, paper, a few pens, a bottle of water, tissues, etc. As for the second non-interview, I just wouldn’t count that out. In my own life, it always seems like what appears to be a “Plan B” or the lesser of two options, almost always turned out to be a better offer (better than what I originally thought with more responsibility and more pay) than it appears at first. So I think you just do your best with both and take it from there. You’ll do great. Can’t wait to hear all about it!

So, what do you think ?