Monday, January 1, 2007

Interviewing Advice, Tips and Experiences


Anonymous said...

Do schools actually use the notification board at the convention? I have heard that this used to be a common way to get additional interviews, but is quite rare now. Has anybody heard anything, or have first-hand experience on this?

Anonymous said...

In my experience (5 years' worth), no. Every year I usually pick up one interview at the APA I hadn't been notified about beforehand, but it's always been in my packet by the opening evening of the convention. And I have only once had to make more than one trip to the Placement Service office for interview scheduling. I have never heard of anyone getting an interview from the notification board.

Anonymous said...

Since schools can contact candidates by email, or even via cell-phone, what is the purpose of the big-board at the conference? It seems like an unnecessary stress-inducing artifact that can be dispensed with. Same goes with the slips themselves. I think one year they were pink. Was that supposed to be ironic? Not that we have anything to complain about when compared to the poor philosophers. That is a truly hateful process.

archimedes said...

Go check out the comments section on the PhilosophyJobMarket blog (it is linked here somewhere), under the post entitled "King Volcano..." interesting stuff. Hopefully not completely relevant to our market, though!

Anonymous said...

Schools do use the notification board -- a friend of mine got a note in Montreal asking her to have 'an informal chat' about the position -- and she hadn't even applied there -- they saw her CV in the placement book and were interested. She also had a message on the board asking her back for a second interview, after she had completed the first, 'officially-scheduled' one. I don't think this is terribly common, but I think it does happen, more towards the latter half of the conference, if schools aren't terribly impressed with the candidates they have interviewed.

Jennifer said...

One thing I noticed in my daily treks to the notification board was that lots of other candidates' numbers were on there, although never mine. So while I don't have personal experience with it, I'll still be heading to the Placement Service HQ daily, just on the off-chance.

Anonymous said...

I just got offered an interview at the AHA on Thursday afternoon (Jan 3rd) in DC. I presume it's crazy to think of flying to DC on Wednesday night and then flying to Chicago Thursday night to be there for the rest of the APA?

Darn simultaneous conferences. It's like they don't even want us to be interdisciplinary.

Anonymous said...

This is sort of a random question. Do the various department-hosted parties at the APA matter for networking and possible jobs? I've always presumed they were invite-only and never gone; should I work harder to finagle an invitation or are they pointless?

Anonymous said...

Flying to Washington?

First, congratulations on the interview offer! Great news!

Second, silly you for trying to bridge disciplines. :-) Just kidding, of course. The whole AHA/APA thing is soooooo annoying.

This is tough. Did you apply through the AHA, and did you make any mention of being at either APA or AHA in your cover letter? I assume this must be a history department opening, but perhaps they will have classics colleagues going to the APA who could interview you there? If the school is high on your list, then try your best to make arrangements, though. No sense in doing something to turn the committee off.

Perhaps ask one of the faculty at your school who is an ancient historian. The AAH really needs to come up with a way to deal with this. Don't worry, something will work out, and congratulations on landing the interview!

Anonymous said...

I always go to the parties and never worry about the invitation. I think they are supposed to be open to all. But if I have been gatecrashing I'm not losing sleep over it. When I was on the market I didn't try to network but instead hung out with my friends and just tried to relax. It is possible just doing that is a good thing, as the hiring faculty will see you in another context, and figure out that you know how to have fun even in the middle of stressful situations. A good skill to have in this business!

Anonymous said...

Re: APA and AHA.

I've had several friends in the same situation. They have all attended the APA and done the AHA interview by phone. Which may be a disadvantage (or not), but suggests that the AHA schools know about the problem and are willing to compromise.

minerva said...

This is a question for female candidates. What do you wear to interviews? Skirts or suits? I don't feel totally comfortable in either. I'd kind of like to go with suit pants, but the suit jacket really bothers me. Any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

I tend to wear either a pantsuit or a long skirt (ankle-length), jacket, and blouse. My main problem with suit jackets is that they don't always look as good on women while sitting down, particularly in a chair with nothing in front of it (at least for those of us with substantial cleavage). Likewise, I tend to avoid shorter skirts for APA interviews because I'm never as sure what to do with my legs when sitting in that sort of context for 30 minutes.

All of which is to say, I'm not really sure. Also, remember it will be cold and windy in Chicago.

aspasia said...

I do both suits and skirts. Have worn knee-length pencil skirt and felt fine about legs -- keep your legs together and crossed at the ankle is what we were taught it etiquette class, so that's what I do. Do other women think skirt length makes a difference? I hope not, but am willing to concede to reality.

As for jackets, I don't really like them. I prefer sweater vests. Are cardigans and sweater sets too frumpy?

Anonymous said...

I tend to think female candidates should wear jackets. Don't we expect men to wear them to interviews--with ties? As far as skirts are concerned: I don't think it's required to wear a maxi length skirt, but it should at least come to the knee.

Anonymous said...

If you haven't received confirmation of an application from a place that has a + next to it on the wiki, should you email them at this point? (There's no email for a dept secretary, just the chair of the dept.) I'm probably being paranoid, but I turn out to have an unreliable local post office. OTOH, I don't want to seem paranoid to them.

Anonymous said...

On the clothing question - yes, I'm always just afraid I will forget to keep legs together and ankles crossed, because I don't wear those sorts of skirts normally.

I'm not anti-jacket on principle; I just want a jacket that looks good on me while sitting down and can stand several days of being pressed into the backs of uncomfortable chairs. Sweater sets are more more durable - although maybe they are frumpy, I don't know.

There's also the question of tailoring the outfit to the university, if possible. Southern universities have a reputation for frowning on dark pantsuits, for instance. I remember walking through a Southern city at one point in my shiny New York style long frock-coat and tailored black pants and getting a lot of stares (and assumptions about my orientation, it seemed.)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry -- as a Southerner, I have to tell you that surprise, surprise, we have seen pantsuits, and we will not trash your application because you have pants on -- many of us have pants on too. We do not like, however, candidates who act like they are doing us a favor by condescending to set foot in our part of the world.

Drusilla said...

Whether to contact department?

A (+) is next to a school you applied to, but you've heard nothing?

Is there any way you can look up the email or phone number of the departmental secretary on the web? Better to talk to them than the search chair, if possible.

I've always been told to never contact a hiring committee after you've applied, but a quick note of inquiry, and explaining the poor mail system in your neck of the woods seems perfectly fine. Better to run that risk than worry yourself to death in the meantime.

Anonymous said...

My apologies, Dr. Southerner. I did not mean to cast aspersions on a region of the country with a lot of terrific universities and people. However, regional fashion mores do differ, if maybe not in academia. (The specific advice was given me in this case by a female lawyer, who had noted bad reactions from Southern judges.)

Similarly, I've had a friend from the Southwest face negative reactions at public health job interviews in the Northeast because of different standards of cut for tops than she was used to.

I apologize if the comment came across as insensitive or discriminatory. The intent was to say, hey, one set of clothes may not fit all institutions, and be aware of how you're presenting yourself and to whom.

Anonymous said...

No problem, 9:44 pm, and sorry if I sounded harsh -- I'm just tired of years of negative comments about my home: "You're from where? Oh, I'm sorry." "That's great. You lost your accent." And my favorite, "You must be DYING to get out of there." But the point is taken -- there are different norms in different parts of the country, some of them quaint, and some of them annoying bordering on offensive.

Similarly, candidates should keep an open mind about potential locations and not say anything that might imply that they consider these places "beneath them" or a hardship or a compromise. E.g., "Is it hard living so far away from a major symphony?" or "Wow. This is it?" or "Oh, don't worry, I can make ANYWHERE work."

minerva said...

On the issue of clothing, what about a dressy sweater/shirt with, say, a silk scarf? On top of either a skirt or pants. Yes, we expect men to wear jackets (some do wear sweaters and ties), but since there are generally more options for women's clothing business-wise, why look like a black pantsuit clone?

Anonymous said...

The clothing issue is a tricky one for women, precisely because there are so many variations. It's also the case that nobody wants the search committee to be focusing on their outfit instead of what they are saying. I think the aim is to find a look that is adult, professional, and unremarkable. When you walk out of the room, you want the search committee to remember what you said, not what you were wearing. You want to feel comfortable and confident, but an APA interview is probably the one place where it's a good idea for a woman to be a black suit clone (or, maybe, a nicely cut pinstripe suit). Use a pair of interesting earrings or a nice scarf to add a touch of originality.

aspasia said...

I'm with Minerva. Women have more business dress options, so go with it. Maybe not shine with all the personality you have, but something so that they will remember you. Clothing, if done right, says confident, and that's probably the best thing you can communicate in an interview. And if you hate wearing a suit, as a lot of us seem to, or if you're just not used to wearing a suit, then your body language might be sending the wrong signals.

Anonymous said...

Sigh. Of course, two hours after I took Drusilla's advice and emailed the dept secretary to ask if my app had gotten lost in the mail, the AA card showed up. Thanks anyway, though!

Now I don't know whether to write again and tell her not to bother or just stay below the radar.

Stupid post office. Would you believe that it turns out there's a whole web page of complaints about my post office? But who thinks to do checks on the reliability of a particular local post office? OK, maybe you all do and I just have too much faith in the government.

Anonymous said...

Shadow candidates? More like smart cookies!

I've got to take issue with your analysis of the job market on

I was never anything less than openly and fully on the market, but I never placed my CV in the Placement Book.

Why not? Because I felt that APA/AIA CV book was a complete waste of time and money - the deadline for CV submission is early, it doesn't get you an advantage for schools to which you have already applied, an extra page is an extra $10; and it limits your ability to adapt your CV where appropriate (special fields, for example) to the jobs described.

I'd argue that the reason why "almost all the CVs in the book are of newly minted PhD, ABD or VAP applicants" is because they haven't yet figured out that there is little point to putting your CV in the book unless you are willing to be approached by institutions to which you have not applied.

Anonymous said...

On clothing for women, and parties.


Wear some.

Beyond that:

Wear what makes you comfortable, within reason. If you can pull off a suit with a jacket, then do it. Unbutton the jacket when you sit down, as men do. so it doesn't bunch. It looks fine.

If you don't want to wear a button up beneath it, you can always wear a fine-knit turtleneck sweater.

A fine-knit turtleneck sweater with nice slacks (no jacket) is also fine. So too a t-neck sweater with a simple skirt. Skirts should reach the knees or 2" above; no shorter. You can certainly wear longer, but don't do it to impress us: we've seen knees.

Cross your legs. It's ok if you have to switch sides. Just don't pull a Fatal Attraction, and everyone's cool.

Don't, please, worry about "interesting earrings" or a "fancy scarf." We don't remember you based on these things: we've read your file: we know you. Don't distract us with anything flashy or ethnic. If it's something you ALWAYS wear, and it's totally comfortable, then cool. Otherwise, don't do it.

Do NOT try to make impressions on SCs based on your clothes. If we remember your clothes, you've already lost points.

On the parties:

I think crashing is a bit crass—but if you crash with an invited friend, that's different. Trust me: if you crash and you weren't invited and didn't come with an invitee, you may be noticed, and not in the good way.

It's fine to finagle an invite or hook up with someone who is going. But I'd advise against cruising the halls peeking into the Harvard or P-ton parties, seeing if you might sneek in. If you don't have people there you already know, you'll feel weird and stand out.

Hang out at the bar and talk to people. Invites comes.

42 said...

This seems like a good place to start generating a "list of questions you have been asked in interviews," especially classics/archaeology specific ones, as there are good general lists over on the Chronicle Forums.

So, the basics are generally the same - tell us about your diss, tell us about another article/work and how it relates, tell us about courses you'd like to teach.

Discipline-specific ones I can share:

"Which ancient author would you least like to teach and why?"

"How would you incorporate material culture into a general history/civilization course?"

"What introductory Latin textbook do you use and why?"

"Do you use any new or technology-based pedagogical methods in your language classes?

"How is your work ground-breaking? (Esp. if you work on well-known authors)"

"How do you incorporate the teaching of values into your courses?"

Other questions you all can remember?

42 - who confessed to not really liking Aristotle.

Drusilla said...

What texts would you choose for third and fourth semester Latin?

Who are, in your estimation, the three most important/influential living classical scholars. (This was a deadly one, and I about fainted when given it!)

Would your approach to a Mythology lecture course be text-book or primary-source driven? Why?

We understand that you will be able to teach many things to our students, but what are some of the things you think you might be able to teach us, your potential colleagues?

42 said...

Ye gods, Drusilla, your second one would have made me faint too!

What did you answer?

Huh. I often forget, too, exactly who is living and who is dead...

Mary Beard, Sarah Pomeroy, Paul Zanker? Totally off the top of my head, and looking for provocative discussion.

The Old Oligarch said...

Naw... It's anyone working on Arabic papyri and early manuscripts. Lot's of hidden gems in there that classicists should know about because they come straight from the Greeks, but perhaps 1% of us bother to learn Arabic.

Anonymous said...

re: interview prep

I like that someone has posted interview questions they've received in the past. The 3 most influential classicists would have killed me.

A question: how do people prepare for interviews? I'm hoping for some real world advice. I've heard some say that you should read some of the published works of people you expect to be at the interview, but this seems silly - the interview is about you, not them. I know you're supposed to be able to explain you dissertation (done or not), but what else?

Drusilla said...

I can't remember what I said! It was awful. I think I mumbled something about standing on the shoulders of giants, and then maybe referenced Hinds, Nagy, and Segal? I've suppressed that memory. With good reason. I cried after the interview, and never heard from them again. I swear I will never, ever try and put a candidate on the spot like that.

To answer Anonovemberninth (there, you have a name, use it! ;-)

I think you need to prep for both research and teaching questions, and weight one or the other depending on where you have interviews. Concentrate on which books you will use for which classes. Are they in print? How does your choice of books inform your approach to the class? Keep it direct and real. No vague "teaching philosophy" answers.

Don't bother reading the published works of the interviewers. Complete waste of time. I'd give more weight to teaching issues in general, but as far as research, be prepared to talk about your next project, why you think it is worthy. Think about the mechanics of publishing. With what press do you think your diss. manuscript would be a good fit? Why? Will you spin articles off of current work? How will teaching choices influence your research, and vice versa.

Above all, try and relax and enjoy yourself. Most interviews are actually really interesting. You get a chance to talk to people you might otherwise never meet. 90% of the interviews I've had have actually been great, and even though few led to offers, I'd like to think that I've made some contacts, and gotten a better impression of the field.

42 said...

Regarding prep for interviews:

I agree that you don't need to read your interviewers' works. OTOH, know their specialties! If you sent them a writing sample on Ionic columns, and one of the people on the committee is a Greek architecture expert, expect specific and knowledgeable questions.

Conversely, if you're interviewing for a history position with a bunch of Americanists, be prepared to explain the background of your diss more and don't throw around authors like Xenophon w/o context.

The other best advice I can give is to go back and read the original ad, in detail, and be prepared to demonstrate your fitness with regard to every point on it. If they say they want someone who can teach graduate-level courses in Hellenistic poetry, have that course description and maybe even syllabus prepped. If they mention offhand that strengths in late Antique would be good, and nothing on your C.V. says "late Antique," come up if possible with the article you're looking forward to writing on the fish-markets of Constantinople.

Best of luck. It is slightly odd, writing advice in some sense to the potential competition, but I figure I'm as likely to learn something in the ensuing discussion as anyone else.

Doctor Who said...

As a former and current SC member, my two biggest pieces of advice are these:

Don't ramble.
Don't mumble.

Give us a snappy, concise answer, and if we want to hear more then we will ask.

The more points we can hit during the interview, the better. Conference interviews go by FAST, so nail what you want to say, and keep moving.

Look everybody in the eye, don't stare at the ceiling, or at a point 1000 yards in the distance. Speak slowly, and clearly.

I really do remember how utterly nerve-wracking it can be, but you have to present yourself as a teacher and research-presenter, not as a nervous grad-student.

Good luck to all, and to all a good flight!

Anonymous said...

More interview questions please!

Anonymous said...

From the SC's point of view, how do they approach the interviews? Do they approach each interview with a fresh view of the candidates or do they basically just want elaboration/confirmation of their dossier? How much does an interview "count" vs. the dossier? 20/80? 50/50?

Does the SC independently decide on who gets flybacks or do they decide in consulation with the rest of the faculty?

Of course, I'm looking for general feedback as I'm sure each SC/institution has their own specific peculiarities.

Anonymous said...

@ 12.25.4:06 (or whatever it was)

Count that the SC has read your file, many times. But also count on other faculty there who may have looked at it only once, and maybe quickly. They will still ask questions, and you don't know who is on the cttee, and who isn't, so don't do too much of the "as I said in my letter..." stuff.

Keep in mind also that we may have papers to give, papers to hear, meetings to attend, old friends to grab a drink with—and a stack of, say, 12 to 18 files swimming before us. Plus, we may be hung over. I'm just saying.

Assume people are familiar with your file, so prepare to go beyond that. But if someone asks you about something that is clear from your file, don't get huffy: we have probably just forgotten. Or maybe we want to hear more.

The interview counts a great deal; otherwise we'd just hire based on the dossier.

But we also recognize that really good people can have a really bad interview. So don't shoot yourself in the foot. Just present yourself enthusiastically and honestly. Be confident. But don't be afraid if you aren't sure how to answer something. If someone asks how you'd teach X, it is fine to say "that depends on class size and general preparation: what sorts of students tend to take this class?" or so on. Appearing thoughtful is not a bad thing.

Generally, the SC, in consultation with the faculty who are not SC but attend all interviews, will suggest a flyback group. This is then put before the dept. as a whole—including those who weren't at the meeting—for further discussion.

Generally speaking, by the end of the meeting most of the flybacks—let's say three of a putative four—are pretty much agreed upon by general consensus. But this can change radically and rapidly in the week or so that follows.

Some schools invite flybacks at the APA. But many don't, and I find it poor form to do so. At any rate, just because you hear someone has had a flyback offer at the mtg and you haven't, don't despair. It means nothing—unless, perhaps, you also interviewed for that job.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

We couldn't give a fly back invitation at the meeting if we wanted to because the committee needs to meet to agree on the short list which then has to be reviewed first by the dean who is also conducting mucho other deanly business next week. That review can take a week or so after we return from the meetings. So don't despair. Really.

And if you do find yourself sitting in room with a SC, just be yourself. I know that I will be there looking for someone to spend the next couple of decades working with.

Anonymous said...

Hope everyone is recovering from a good but exhausting weekend.

I've got a question for both men and women. A number of my interviews this year were either all-men or all-women on the search committee, and, as a woman, the conversational dynamics felt very different. The all-female committees seemed much more collegial and welcoming, despite my reluctance to think in such gender stereotypes. Did other people have this impression?

Should search committees be mixed-gender (and mixed-age - it's harder to feel collegial when everyone on the committee could be your parent) whenever possible?

Anonymous said...

The all-female committees seemed much more collegial and welcoming, despite my reluctance to think in such gender stereotypes. Did other people have this impression?

3 of the 5 committees I met with were all male and I felt they were all very collegial and welcoming. I felt no less welcomed by them than I did the 2 mixed sex committees. Maybe I just got lucky and met with a bunch of really nice people this year. I will note that I seem to get fly backs from all male committees more often (I am a woman and young).

Anonymous said...

I'll second the poster who thought all-female committees are friendlier. I have also found that committees from SLACs or teaching-oriented institutions are especially friendly.

Anonymous said...

I thought the APA as a whole was much more pleasant than anticipated. Excepting the secret CIA interrogation chambers down in the Purple Level, I enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

Based on the new flybacks thread, it appears that a number of institutions do in fact alert people of flybacks during the actual meetings. Just an observation...

Anonymous said...

Schools definitely do inform if they have the authority to do so. A number of my interviewers, though, said it would be 1-2 weeks before they could let people know.

First time SC member said...

Did anyone else find it awkward running into SC members/candidates throughout the weekend? It truly is a small world. Candidates do not want to appear like they're kissing ass and SC members in this day and age want to guard against any signs of favoritism. As a SC member, this was compounded for me as one candidate hailed from my alma mater and I very well couldn't ignore her.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a first-time SC member, but I do have an interesting question. I've had a couple days to think over our interviews, and I have to say that only one candidate stood out strongly. We will not meet for another week, but has anyone ever been in the situation where only one candidate appears viable? There were other good candidates, but they didn't quite fit what we were looking for. Do you just invite the next best candidates regardless of fit? Heck, I wouldn't mind just extending this person an offer and getting it over with.

Anonymous said...

Seeing SC people is always awkward. I always just smile and let them dictate the interaction. I find it hardest to know how to act when they are with someone I can't help but talk to because of an established relationship. But again, I try to let them decide while I just give a polite smile and hello or something and ask the person with them if we can set up coffee or something when we can better talk. So awkward.

brownnoser said...

There were other good candidates, but they didn't quite fit what we were looking for. Do you just invite the next best candidates regardless of fit? Heck, I wouldn't mind just extending this person an offer and getting it over with.

Depends - if I am one of the "other" candidates, yes, you invite them. However, if I am the "one," you forego flybacks and just give me the job. ;-)

Anonymous said...

We've seen institutions skipping initial interviews, but has there been any precedent for institutions deciding to use the APA interviews as their final ones, eschewing flybacks? If so, why? To save money and or time?

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm on a SC for a senior Roman archaeologist and I can tell you that the pickings are slim! This is compounded by direct competition from another institution that has a considerably higher reputation. I could envision this scenario happening to any school regardless of stature, so I wouldn't be surprised if institutions took a competitive market into account when making relatively quick offers, especially if they are fairly certain about a candidate.

Anonymous said...

Lycophron suggested in another post that it might be helpful if someone who did a video interview with Oregon give a little overview of the process and talk about the experience. I did it and I quite enjoyed it.

The interview was 45 minutes instead of the standard APA 30-minute interview. Not too long, not too short. I was able to do it in the comfort of a room in the building where my office is and was able to schedule a time with them that was optimal for me. A video interview allows you to see your interviewers and you them just like in a regular interview. But what I liked best though was that I could do picture-in-picture and see myself. An occasional glance would tell me if I was gesticulating too much or if I looked like a deer caught in the headlights. And, because I wasn't under the stress of a bunch of other interviews or the whole conference atmosphere, I really felt able to relax. There were the standard, post-interview jitters but I didn't feel the urgent need to drink (as some APA interviews occasion).

One thing that could be a potential problem though is having access to a room. As a professor at another university, it was easy for me to schedule the use of the VC room but it may not be as easy for graduate students or for people at small colleges that may only have one or two such rooms.

All in all, it was an enjoyable experience and I'd like to see more schools move to it if possible.

Anonymous said...

Bizarre.... I just got an acknowledgment of my application from Arizona State.... huh?

Anonymous said...

Bizarre.... I just got an acknowledgment of my application from Arizona State.... huh?

Ha ha! Me too!