Monday, January 03, 2011

Good Luck to those with Preliminary Interviews

We could all use a dash of luck right about now.
Since the annual AHA and MLA hiring conventions will be held this coming week/weekend, I wanted to send out positive vibes to all the anxious job candidates out there. It's a truly brutal year to be on the academic job market; and if you're lucky enough to have any interviews at all this month, you should be congratulating yourself for getting this far.

NB: I've got a few upcoming interviews and keep having to remind myself that it's a miracle I made it this far. Not because I'm "unworthy" but just because the entire academic hiring process is a complete and total crap shoot. It's random and unfair. (And, yes, I really do believe this.)

I know having a preliminary interview, or two or three, is a far cry from an actual job offer but it's a necessary first step on the road to tenure-track academic employment, if that is what you are in fact seeking. So what last-minute steps, if any, should you be taking to prepare yourself for these convention interviews? Based on personal experience and wise advice from others, I've got a few tips to offer in no particular order:

1) Dress professionally and tone down the bling/body odor/perfume/piercings.

2) Know where you are going and make sure you get there on time.

3) Be confident and friendly. Smile!

4) Prepare to discuss your research.

4a) Know your dissertation and/or current research project in and out and have 1 and 5 minute spiels roughly memorized. Also know where your research is headed over the next 5 years or so.

4b) Know how you intend to go about revising your dissertation for publication. If you're like me and have already started revising, explain how you've gotten from point A to point B.

4c) Think about answers to commonly asked questions: What's important about this project? What contribution are you making to the field? How did you get interested in X subject? Who are the major players in your field and how is your work different? What's your next project?

5) Prepare to discuss your teaching.

5a) Look over the original job ad and make sure you know how you'd go about teaching the courses mentioned. Design syllabi if need be and pass them out during the interview. Think about why you'd assign certain books. What lessons or skills would you want students to take away from your courses?

5b) Come up with a dream course and be prepared to discuss it. Make sure it's realistic in the context of the department's current curriculum and not already offered by another professor.

5c) Scan departmental offerings and see what courses they've got on the books. What could you reasonably teach right now; what new courses could you bring to the table?

6) Bring a pad and paper so you can take notes throughout the interview.

7) On the same pad write down in advance several questions you have for the search committee. Make sure you have some questions ready!

8) End on a confident and collegial note and avoid talking smack about the university or the search committee to others at the AHA. You never know who could be listening.

9) Also, and this is just a pet peeve of mine, please don't immediately get on the academic jobs wiki and start saying what assholes the SC members were to you, etc. You'll just make yourself look like an A-hole.

10) Enjoy the painfully stressful process and try to be yourself. You may need a job desperately but you're also a professional, right? You know what to do.

Good luck everyone!

FYI: Tenured Radical also has some excellent advice to offer job candidates on their way to the AHA and she has WAY more experience under her belt. Listen to her!


1) I found the following IHE article about the proper attire for an MLA interview a bit over the top; the author's advice is better suited for an on-campus interview, in my opinion:

2) The news about the "serious crisis" in the history job market this year comes as no suprise to me. (I did predict this back in August in my IHE column "A Bleak Market" but apparently the AHA is only just now catching on. Go figure.) Yes, we are in a free fall and things are looking very bad indeed. Even more reason to prep your heart out if you've got an AHA or phone interview lined up.


Anthea said...

Good tips, thank you. Good advice especially since gone are the days when we knew that we'd be hired somewhere when we graduated with a PhD.

Anonymous said...

Tks very much for your post.

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Source: Interview Questions & Answers:

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