Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Interview ahhhh!!

So since I'm graduating this semester, I'm hoping to secure some type of employment for next year- ideally either an assistant professorship position or a postdoctoral position. I have a good chance on a couple of postdocs, and should be hearing back from those in the near future (fortunately those do not usually require interviews).

I had an interview at a small liberal arts college a few weeks ago that I'm waiting to hear back on, and tomorrow I have an interview at a decent sized state college in a region of the country I have never actually been to before and that is known for having conservative values (hint: it rhymes with "the mouth"). So that should be interesting.

For those of you wondering what an interview for an assistant professorship job looks like, here's a peak into the hell that will be the rest of my week:

Tomorrow: After spending the morning helping out with "graduate student recruitment day" in my program, take an afternoon flight to the area of the school, land at 7:15ish, have dinner with a professor who will pick me up at the airport (thereby forcing me to wear a suit on the plane!), check into a hotel, furiously re-iron all my clothes upon checking into the hotel, and then have a melatonin pill to help me fall asleep while watching the local news (which I like to do when traveling to new places I may potentially move to)

Thursday: Meet a professor for breakfast at 7:45am, then have one-on-one meetings with a bunch of professors and probably the dean and provost over the course of the entire day. Have breakfast, lunch and dinner with professors, so that even when I'm eating, I'm being interviewed (that's the part of the interview where they test out your skills at putting your napkin on your lap when eating, correctly pronouncing the names of obscure foods, ordering wine, and making small talk).

The only time I will be alone from 7:45am to approximately 9pm on Thursday will be when I'm using the bathroom, and that's if I'm lucky- last year I went on an interview where both times I went to the bathroom, a professor was in there who wanted to talk to me whilst I was peeing! I didn't get that job, I wonder if it's because they heard me pee?

Friday: Meet with a professor for breakfast at some ungodly hour in the morning, give an hour-long teaching demonstration in an actual class which is attended by the regular students and most professors in the department, more meetings, give an afternoon presentation on my dissertation research in front of the department faculty and graduate students- it's scheduled to be an hour and a half, I will talk for about 45 minutes and the rest of the time will be spent answering random questions some of which have nothing to do with my research, and some of which will probably be downright hostile because every department has THAT professor. Another meeting with the chair to 'wrap up the interview' followed by a quick dinner followed by a flight home that lands at midnight on Friday night.

Then starts the fun part..anxiously waiting for SOMEONE to offer me a job!


  1. Your comment about the hostile questions made me smile. I guess every department has one of those. My department's hostile professor has been known to ask candidates "Other than to see if you could do it, what was the point of this research?", a question he would know the answer to if he showed up on time and saw the first three slides where the candidate explained the motivation for the research.

    good luck to you!

  2. there's a prof in our department who likes to go on long rants about the state of the field at every job talk, and then expects the applicants to respond to it, even though his rant usually doesn't include an actual question and rarely has anything to do with the applicant's research. :)

  3. I know some very nice people from "the mouth". Good Luck.

  4. Good luck, AE! As an fellow academic, I wish you all the best.

  5. Seemingly off topic questions can be useful to see whether the candidate knows anything about the real world outside of their particular research topic. Though obviously not like the two mentioned here. I remember one candidate who presented on the German stock market, I can't remember exactly what. So we asked how this might apply to NASDAQ. And she just had no clue about how the NASDAQ market operated. This was in the US. We didn't hire her. Though that wasn't the only reason.

    Dinner etc. - if you seem vaguely normal and don't say anything wildly inappropriate you should be OK there. Sometimes it's just a chance for more of the people to meet you in the big departments.

    These US interviews can seem a bit overblown. But if you qualify for tenure in 6 years time, they might be hiring you for your working life as it is hard to get rid of someone if they meet standards - and in the US senior level markets have far fewer openings...


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