Faculty interviewing typically includes a screening interview (at a conference or via phone/video calls), followed by at least one on-campus interview. Success at all stages is determined by professionalism, collegiality, and ability to present one’s qualifications effectively to a wide range of stakeholders.
Many disciplines schedule screening interviews at large national conferences as an opportunity to learn firsthand about a multitude of applicants. These interviews are a good opportunity for search committees to evaluate your potential "fit" into the campus and departmental climate.
Conference interviews typically last about half an hour and are held in meeting rooms, hotel rooms, or suites. Also consider that:
- A portion of the search committee may be absent.
- While interviews are commonly scheduled in advance, in some cases, lists of departments recruiting candidates and interview time slots are posted when you arrive at the conference, and you select your interviews there.
- Expenses of the preliminary conference interview are your responsibility.
When scheduling interviews, allow plenty of time between interviews and other conference events, taking travel time into consideration. Take care that you determine the site of your interview well in advance of the actual event.
Be aware that you may have the opportunity to meet other representatives from the interviewing college or university at other conference events, so be professional throughout the entire event.
Preparing appropriately for a phone or video call is very important. These screening interviews are a cost-effective method for academic departments to determine which candidates to invite on campus. You might receive a phone call from a search committee member at any time, either to talk with you independently for a few minutes or to arrange a time for a more prolonged interview with other members of the search committee. Make an effort to be prepared for this phone call—it will help you make a positive first impression.
In the final stage of most academic job searches, the top three to four applicants are brought to campus for a one- or two-day series of interviews. Campus visits generally consist of a job talk, multiple interviews, and meals with search committee members. Some departments will also have candidates teach an undergraduate level course. Candidates are carefully scrutinized and assessed for their fit with the department and university culture.
Travel and Logistics
The institution will reimburse you for all necessary travel and lodging expenses for campus interviews, unless otherwise indicated. Be responsible with your travel expenses:
- Look for the lowest-priced economy class airline ticket that will reasonably suit your schedule.
- Your hosts will likely make your hotel reservations, but you will probably be expected to pay the bill at the hotel.
- Save all receipts (airfare, hotel, taxis, etc.) for reimbursement later, and carry a credit card and plenty of cash for unexpected expenses.
Usually candidates are expected to arrive on the evening before the interview and depart after 5:00 p.m. on the last day. In general, the host department will assume responsibility for escorting you about campus during your visit. Request a copy of your itinerary in advance and prepare accordingly.
- Confirm any arrangements for picking up or dropping off at airport.
- Dress professionally for the flight if they are picking you up at the airport.
- When flying, carry on anything that is absolutely essential to your visit, particularly your laptop, slides, presentation, and lecture notes.
The Day of the Interview
The campus visit is the most important part of the job search process. You will have very few solitary moments when you are alone and not being evaluated during the interview trip. Your interview may include a series of meetings with administrators, faculty, and students; meals with faculty and/or students; job talk presentation; teaching demonstration; and campus tour.
Throughout your visit, one or several people may serve as your host, escorting you from place to place. Remember that you are always being evaluated and present a professional, collegial demeanor during all interactions.
Meetings with Administrators and Other Faculty
You will meet with a variety of stakeholders in the hiring process, and the structure and content of these meetings will vary. Expect to meet with experts in your field as well as those who may be trained in a different field. Be prepared to explain your dissertation research to these disparate audiences. Be certain that all versions—even the high-level explanation for a lay person—conveys what your research did, why it is important, why it is interesting, and how it relates to other work or might lead to future exploration. Expect to be asked about your plans for future research and sources of potential funding.
The job talk, also called a "seminar," "colloquium," "paper," or "presentation," is a critical component. It is your opportunity to share your knowledge and research with a captive audience. Some tips for success:
- Prepare by rehearsing your talk in front of an audience.
- Request any necessary audiovisual equipment prior to arriving on campus.
- Ask for several minutes of quiet time before the seminar to prepare, familiarize yourself with the room, and double check the equipment setup. Bring a backup of your presentation.
- Have a bottle of water in case your throat gets dry.
While preparing your job talk, think about the audience. You should request information about the audience from your host if it is not provided. It is likely that the audience will include faculty, with varying degrees of knowledge of your specialty. Be aware that the audience may also include students and perhaps administrators with training in another discipline. Your presentation should be interesting and accessible to the disparate members of your audience and emphasize the significance and results of your research. Anticipate and prepare for questions from this audience. Consider how you will address a confrontational audience member—you may need to direct the discussion to a new question or agree to disagree.
In order to engage a diverse audience, Engineering professor Jonathan Dantzig recommends the following structure for the job talk:
- Time: 15 minutes
- Target audience: Everyone present
- Detail level/purpose: Your parents would understand it
- Time: 10 minutes
- Target audience: People in related fields
- Detail level/purpose: Show you know the field
- Time: 10 minutes
- Target audience: People who work in your field
- Detail level/purpose: Show that you are the world expert on something
- Time: 10 minutes
- Target audience: Everyone in the room
- Detail level/purpose: Relate you results to the big picture
You may or may not be asked to teach an actual class or give a teaching demonstration. This practice is more common at smaller institutions and within some disciplines. As with job talks, understand who is in the audience to whom you will be presenting. Commonly, you will teach a session of an undergraduate class, with members of the faculty in observance. If this is the case, consider the scope of the course and previously studied material when preparing your discussion. Prepare your class as you normally would—be sure to request audiovisual equipment in advance—and present in the style most comfortable to you.