Monday, September 1, 2008

Interviewing Advice, Tips and Experiences

Check out the thread of this same name from last year as well. Please don't be bashful about asking questions!

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Maybe if there we start a conversation on an otherwise empty thread, we can have some productive discussion on FV. So: to those of you who have some interviewing experiences, what off-the-wall questions have you had in interviews? We're all ready for the "describe your research" question and the "what textbook would you use" question. But what questions have made you think quick?

Anonymous said...

One of my favorites was when one faculty member in the group (of 6) told me my research was pretty much pointless and asked me why I deserved a job at their department. I just laughed. Not sure if I handled that question the right way. I certainly didn't get a fly back.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorites was when one faculty member in the group (of 6) told me my research was pretty much pointless and asked me why I deserved a job at their department. I just laughed. Not sure if I handled that question the right way. I certainly didn't get a fly back.

Was your research pointless?

Anonymous said...

One thing that threw me a bit was being asked what I would HATE to teach--and it had to be a canonical author. Tricky.

Anonymous said...

Was your research pointless?

The people publishing it didn't think so. But it did have "theory" in it so it could go either way.

Anonymous said...

Did that faculty member have sabre-like teeth?

Anonymous said...

One thing that threw me a bit was being asked what I would HATE to teach--and it had to be a canonical author.

Easy: Propertius, Tibullus, Statius, Callimachus.

With the caveat that I leave them to the people who love them and can do them justice.

Tiger Tree said...

Here's one that I found interesting:

"If you could choose to have a joint-appointment with any department in our college/university, which one would it be and why?"

I was lame and chose English, and babbled on about Milton and Virgil, and tried to talk up Homeric allusions in Cormac McCarthy. It went over like a lead balloon. I blew chunks.

Plus, the department that was interviewing me hated the English department, so that kinda sucked.

Anonymous said...

Plus, the department that was interviewing me hated the English department, so that kinda sucked.

I think most Classics programs dislike their English neighbors--if only because they insist on teaching Homer in their "Intro to English Literature" class. Probably best to say "Econ" or something snazzy like that.

Anonymous said...

That's a tough one - kind of like deciding between laying up or going for the pin. Econ would be laying up since it probably wouldn't hurt or help you. For ancient historians, history is usually safe. For clarchs, anthro and art history are fraught with danger.

Anonymous said...

Since SC members come on here to often lecture us, how about if we turn the tables? PLEASE don't ask questions with obvious solutions that require us to pull answers out of our ass.

One in recent memory was, "How would you advise our clarch students to seek art history positions?" Ahem, switch to an art history program?!

Tiger Tree said...

Econ.... Hmmmmmmm.... Not sure how I could argue for that one. I work on Epic.

Darkness Visible: Reagonomics in Callimachus' Aitia.

The Return of Depression Economics in Ennius.

Nope. Those suck. But, if I could pull it off it would be, well, epic.

I think if it comes up again I will claim fluency in Arabic or Chinese and bullshit my way into a campus visit. It might get ugly when they send me over to Slavic, or the East Asian dept., however. Such stories, though!

Anonymous said...

I think I'd ask for appointments in history, poli sci, anth and sociology just to show off my "inter-disciplinarity."

Anonymous said...

One that threw me: "Which Classicists are being read outside of academia right now, and which ones should be read outside of academia?"

This was several years after WKH and so I sidestepped it. (In retrospect, I realize they probably wanted me to talk about it.) I said Mary Lefkowitz and Anne Carson. As for who should be, I really had no answer. And so I said, "Me." No flyback ensued.

Anonymous said...

The people publishing it didn't think so. But it did have "theory" in it so it could go either way.

You didn't get a callback because of your lemming-sized brain. :)

I got a weird question: "how would you teach your material to non-Christians?". Well, I assume that non-Christians aren't stupid or aliens, so I pretty much figured teaching them in English would be sufficient. That wasn't my answer, but whatever I spouted was obviously not what they wanted (it was a cuddly school and I'm not especially cuddly). Definitely take account of the cttee's vibe, e.g., don't be fuzzy with Harvard, don't be a hard-ass with Bard.

Anonymous said...

One of my friends was asked once what non-Classics book he had most recently read that he enjoyed. The only thing he could think of was a biography of Hermann Goering (he's Israeli and fascinated with Nazis). It happened that one of the interviewers was named Goering. He said it was...awkward.

Anonymous said...

got a weird question: "how would you teach your material to non-Christians?".

This is actually a kind of valid question if the interview is at a baptist or fundamentalist school and you are being asked to teach myth or religion. I have had students who were raised to believe that anyone who wasn't a Christian (including people who lived before Christ) were evil. I usually learn this about them in the course of myth class.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I was asked about my faith in Jebus once. I had applied to a school where He was a pretty big deal. I hadn't realized He also had to be a pretty big deal to me. Anyway, I mentioned something about one of my housemates being really big on Jebus, and how I'd never held that against her.

Turns out I wasn't what they were looking for.

Anonymous said...

The question I got was about "non-Christians". And it was at an SLAC of a not particularly Christian bent (hence the question, I suppose). My work just might reasonably have brought up the issue, but I don't really work on Christian texts, so it's not as if they were asking, "How can you make sense of Augustine to non-Christians?". It was more "how can you make sense of these particular religious issues to non-Christians?" Valid, I suppose, but undoubtedly a bit weird since I really didn't see much difference between the constituencies. If anything I expected to be asked "how will you teach this to Christians?". Anyway, just letting you know what kind of thing you might be in for.

Anonymous said...

Asking a question about how your work translates to "non-Christians" is weird indeed. It implies that only a christian would work on or be interested in what you do so it makes an assumption about your religious affiliations and so, perhaps a particular world view. That seems slightly inappropriate.

Anonymous said...

I once got "What is your favorite Latin grammatical term to teach and why?"

I covered myself in glory by NOT saying "ablative absolute."

Anonymous said...

I can see the question "how would you teach your material to non-Christians?" as basically meaning "what do you know about teaching people of different backgrounds?", but asked so as to catch you off guard. With this and other borderline questions it's safer to answer as if you were asked a more neutral version of the question.

Anonymous said...

I haven't gotten the non-Christian question, but in general I hate the teaching to diverse students question, when it's phrased that way. To me it just smacks of condescension towards students who aren't white or middle-class or whatever the norm is - the question implies that somehow they're different and have special needs in instruction. Much better would be a question like, "The students in your classroom face many challenges. What sort of challenges have you encountered and how did you address them?"

Incidentally, if anyone has a good answer for the diversity question, I'd like to hear it, and I bet others would too.

Anonymous said...

In follow-up to "diversity" questions: I was once asked by a women's college how I would teach differently at their school than at a co-ed school. (I'm a male, and a pretty traditional literary person.) A fair question, I suppose, but one that made me very uncomfortable. My immediate sense was that it was a political litmus test.

Anonymous said...

I went to a women's college, and the fact that you got asked that question really annoys me. It's like the non-Christian question; somehow implies that women need special treatment. (Of course, some would say that's the point of women's colleges...)

Anonymous said...

One of my friends was asked once what non-Classics book he had most recently read that he enjoyed. The only thing he could think of was a biography of Hermann Goering (he's Israeli and fascinated with Nazis). It happened that one of the interviewers was named Goering. He said it was...awkward.

Reminds me of a semi-relevant anecdote. A good family friend was a senior executive at IBM a few years back. He told me once that when interviewing job candidates he would ask them which book (other than the Bible) had most influenced them, and if they answered "The Celestine Prophecy" they wouldn't get the job.

Anonymous said...

On the question about teaching differently at a woman's college: maybe turn the question around. "In class discussions I've led at X, you sometimes have to worry about males dominating the discussion, or women thinking it's not coll to look smart. It is true that women speak up more readily at a college like yours, or is there still a worrisome mix of talkative ones or silent ones?"