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  1. #1

    Default Job interview in academia

    Posting as an alter for no reason other than the fact that I occasionally log in at work and I'm paranoid.

    I have an interview coming up in academia and this is all new to me (my current position in academia was just a standard job interview). The interview starts the night before with dinner and then day 2 is a full day interview complete with a presentation and QA session, tours, meeting with library staff/department members, committee interviews, lunch, etc.

    I'm preparing my presentation (or at least I should be), but I'm not sure how to prepare otherwise. I've never had a day long interview. I've never had meals as part of an interview (what should I be eating?). They're putting me up at a hotel even though I'm local (I offered to stay over and while they said that would be fine, they emphasized that the hotel was for my convenience and that they'd arrange transportation to and from the hotel so I wouldn't have to worry about being late, parking, getting lost, etc. Basically, they all but said they'd prefer me to stay so that there's no chance I'll be late).

    Also, I've only been in my current position for a year. I love the work, but my supervisor makes everyone's life miserable (micromanager to the nth degree) and our director is in a position she's not qualified for so lets my supervisor run the show). If asked why I'm looking, how do I respond? I was thinking that while I enjoy my job, I'm looking for a position with more opportunities and potential for growth (current job/library leaves me with the maximum possibility of 4 promotions IF I get a PhD (not happening) or 3 without while opportunities in new job are endless). They know my current employer and the lack of opportunities (I'd stay as state employee if I got new position). Potential position is also closer to home/where I want to live (currently commuting 1+ hr 1 way).

    Any advice/suggestions? I wasn't nervous, but now I am. In the long run, if I don't get it, I still have a job so that should help my nerves, but still... I want OUT of my current job! The stress is extreme.



  2. #2
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    I've been to a day-long interview before, although it wasn't for an academic position. I also help interview candidates now, so I've been "on the other side of the table". My tips:

    1. Be yourself -- you don't want to look nervous all day long. They are really taking the time to get to know you, so they are looking for a culture fit as well as a position fit. Just be calm and confident and friendly and you'll do fine.

    2. For your meals, if you end up at a restaurant, generally the host will order first and you can take cues from them. However, just pick something that's middle-of-the-road price-wise, and will be easy for you to eat (especially if you have to answer questions between bites). Also stay away from strong flavors (garlic, etc) that will linger on your breath after the meal. Make sure you pack some good breath mints in your purse (NOT GUM.) Breathsavers are my favorite for strong mints that zap bad breath.

    3. If asked why you are looking, just respond saying what you have here. You're looking for more opportunity for advancement and a closer commute to home. That's legitimate. Don't complain about management at the other place--that will raise red flags.

    4. Make sure to wear something that's classy and comfortable. You can't go wrong with a nice suit in a flattering color. My interview suit is grey and I wear it with a navy shirt. I don't like black for interview suits -- too severe. Brown is also nice.



  3. #3
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    Thanks for the advice!

    Quote Originally Posted by ArabDiva View Post
    3. If asked why you are looking, just respond saying what you have here. You're looking for more opportunity for advancement and a closer commute to home. That's legitimate. Don't complain about management at the other place--that will raise red flags.
    Of course. No way would I make any comments about the current management.

    They checked my references before they offered me the interview. The person checking made a comment to one of my references that she assumed I was looking for a position with more opportunities so I'll just go with that (which is true).



  4. #4
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    If you have a list of the names of those who will be interviewing you, look up their recent publications and citations so you know what work they are doing and can ask about that. I think a key part of any job interview is showing a keen interest in what others do and how you might fit in, how you might LEARN something and what you might have that you can bring.

    Appear open and eager to learn more be part, temper the "what do I need to advance" but do show that you are eager to learn and improve.

    At dinner be ready to be social about things other than work. It is one thing to discuss horses in a general way, but take care to to riff on something like HSUS or PITA or the current Carriage horse issues unless to are strong on the feelings of the others.

    Agree that you don't talk about the negative of your current situation. If someone asks you what you work style is, be truthful about that. They are looking less at your answer and more about how you are tactful and can communicate what you need.

    Anyway, since you are in the same town, it is likely someone in the group already knows the dynamics of your current situation. The world is small and people talk.



  5. #5
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    Hahahaha, I just had one of these three day interviews at a vet school in October. They even had a realtor meet me and show me around town.

    The key thing is to relax and be who you are. They really are looking for someone that they can get along with and who 'brings something to the table'. You've demonstrated by your application that you meet at least their minimum qualifications so be confident that you have some qualities that they want. Now they want to see how you fit in the university 'culture'. It's also important to remember that you want to make sure you want to be in that environment - each university is different and changing roles brings a new perspective to how you fit in.

    I think your answer for why you are looking for a new position is fine. There will always be personality conflicts in any workplace, how you cope with them is what they are looking for.

    In the interview, I was asked a number of behavioral questions. You might want to bone up on these, i.e.

    "What do you consider your greatest success?"
    "Give an example of a conflict in a work situation and how you resolved it"
    "Give an example of a time when two of your employees had a conflict and how you resolved it"

    In my situation, they ended up not hiring anyone! So onward to more applications I go...



  6. #6
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    have fun and be prepared to be exhausted!

    You have received some good advice here. What I can offer: the best thing you can do is learn something about the hosting institution!! I have served on a number of academic search committees and am sometimes shocked that candidates arrive and ask the most fundamental questions about us that could be answered by scanning our website for 30 seconds. Know something about the committee members - their research areas, etc. -- not so you can flatter them, but so you can have a meaningful conversation about how you feel you can fit in to the organization and collaborate with them. They have reviewed your CV so know your skills and accomplishments; now it's about convincing them how you would fulfill their particular needs.

    (It's not like I constantly need my ego stroked, but it's so nice when I meet a candidate and they say "Oh yes! You work on xyz! Nice to meet you!" vs. "So, what do YOU do?".)

    Dress well. (Sounds ridiculous, but I have seen some very odd interview garb..)

    We have a job search going on in our dept right now, and the pool of qualified candidates is just outstanding -- everyone we have shortlisted has an impressive list of accomplishments and outstanding letters of recommendations. The choice will come down to who we see as the best "fit" to our current and future complement.

    Just be pleasant, cheerful, go with the flow and you will be fine! Good luck



  7. #7
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    Yeah, what fargaloo said - I was exhausted! Not just because of the time change but also it's just intense being 'on' all the time.

    A couple of my friends have commented that some interviews they go on seem like drinkfests.

    Fargaloo - your comment about how all the candidates appear outstanding worries me - my current contract ends in May so I'm working on a bunch of applications right now. I know so many unemployed PhDs that it's scary. I keep trying to up my game but I'm afraid it's not going to be enough!



  8. #8
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    You've gotten great advice. I had a grueling 2-day interview before I was hired at Univ. of MD. The only other piece of advice I would offer is, "Have FUN" or at least try. It will make you far less nervous.
    Erin
    Dodon Farm - Home of Salute The Truth, Thoroughbred Stallion and on Facebook
    The Retired Racehorse Project, a 501(c)3 Non profit organization.



  9. #9
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    Ellebeaux -- I really feel for you; it's a tough market out there I don't know if this is relevant to your field, but one other tip on my mind (because it came up in our current search): if you are working on a large, collaborative project, make sure you clearly identify your role in it. One of our candidates gave a great research talk about a huge and exciting project, but we all came away wondering what her exact role in the project was, and whether she would excel out of that project.
    good luck to you!



  10. #10
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    Oh that does help! I have a couple collaborations going on, both that I initiated and I'll remember to use that word in my cover letters

    My big goal for 2012 is to write my first NSF grant. I think I finally have an idea that has a chance of being funded so I'm in the process of approaching potential collaborators. It's been kicking around in my head for a couple years so I think I've got it streamlined to a solid approach and outcomes.

    It is a tough market right now and I am grateful every day to have a job



  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by ellebeaux View Post
    The key thing is to relax and be who you are. They really are looking for someone that they can get along with and who 'brings something to the table'. You've demonstrated by your application that you meet at least their minimum qualifications so be confident that you have some qualities that they want. Now they want to see how you fit in the university 'culture'. It's also important to remember that you want to make sure you want to be in that environment - each university is different and changing roles brings a new perspective to how you fit in.
    This, this and this! Be yourself and let people get to know you a little bit. Relax, be open and engage as many people as you can. Remember, you are interviewing them as well. You want to know if it seems a group you would get on well with in the long run.



  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by sketcher View Post
    This, this and this! Be yourself and let people get to know you a little bit. Relax, be open and engage as many people as you can. Remember, you are interviewing them as well. You want to know if it seems a group you would get on well with in the long run.

    The relaxing is the hard part! It's right up there in terms of difficulty with breathing! I just have to figure out how to do that! Maybe reminding myself that I have a job will help. I'd like this job (if pay is right/equal and I won't know that unless I actually get it), but if I don't get it, who cares? I'm still employed. This is the first time I'm interviewing while I'm working. Hopefully that'll make a difference.



  13. #13
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    OP
    All have given great advice. I would emphasize the importance of "connecting" with each person you interview with. They should provide you with a list of persons in advance, so request the itinerary several days before. Then, be prepared to talk to each person about their role/contributions/publications/interests. Nothing fans excitement among interviewers than to learn that the interviewee is interested in THEM! Also, having a list of questions shows you are very interested, and I advise every candidate to project that they are VERY interested in a position -even if they aren't quite sure. People like to be wanted. Ask individuals why they chose that institution for their career. Ask them what they enjoy most about their position. Ask them what they would change if they had the opportunity. Ask how they see this position interacting with their position. Ask your potential supervisor how your performance will be judged/measured. Ask her/him how - after the first year - they will know they've hired the right person for the job (that get's out what they are really looking for). Ask if this is a new position or if you are replacing an individual and if so where did that person go (leave town, up the ladder?). Dinners are usually social events - little work related - to see how you fit their culture. No matter how much wine goes round, limit yourself to one glass (they can refill, but let the second glass sit). Good luck!
    pace, path, balance, impulsion and ??

    Don't panic! Ralph Leroy Hill



  14. #14
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    GrayCatFarm gave you great advice (well, she would know!). Also remember - you never know for certain in this kind of position whether you are a "real" candidate or a sop to someone on the committee (ie, if in a Biology department, are they looking to fill an eco or a cell/mo bio position, but they have to throw a bone to the other side)? I was often the token model system/female candidate - and you can tell the minute you step off the plane. Enjoy yourself, look at it as a way to possibly establish new collaborations - you never know who ends up reviewing your grants/papers.

    I was asked at one point why I did not have a letter from a post doc advisor, who was, in reality, a major f***up. And so I offered that I would gladly give him the contact info, but that he wasn't always the most timely of responders, and since I was applying for so many positions, I felt it would be a burden to him. And they laughed and said, "We know what he's like. We just wanted to see how you'd handle this." WHEW!
    www.specialhorses.org
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  15. #15
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    I once had an interview somewhat like what you're facing. As so many have said, it was more to see how I'd fit in and if I could think on my feet than anything. I'd already had four interviews with different people in the company before I had to run the gauntlet of a weekend "visit".

    Just a word of caution about the dinner and more social aspects of your visit. If you drink with dinner, only have one and don't finish it. Seriously. After I got the job I heard stories of two other candidates who had wrongly assumed it was a social event and had loosened up too much and had blown the whole thing. Believe it or not, they want to see if you can keep it together in that setting.



  16. #16
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    Getting a good academic job is all about "fit": for you (do YOU fit in well with their program, what they value/do, etc.?) and for them (will your skills help THEM build a better program?). If fit isn't there, it's not going to be a fun job. That includes, btw, personalities, just as it does in your current job.

    The BEST thing you can do is to know everything you can about their program, the personalities involved (including what they've published, taught, presented, etc.), and the university's/college's goals/mission. Situate YOUR work within this context, talking about how your work fits.

    Good luck!
    --Becky in TX
    Clinic Blogs and Rolex Blogs
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