Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How Not to Run A Campus Visit

The recent post about search committees brought up something that I have thought about writing for my professional organization’s monthly publication (not the Chronicle since it’s not widely read in my discipline). I always thought that I’d want to write about how to not to run a campus visit. If you recognize me from my tales please don’t out me and I won’t out you. OK?

Rule 1: It’s not the candidate’s fault that the flight was delayed. Don’t plan a cross department dinner for an hour after the flight is scheduled to get in.

Rule 2: Always take the candidate to his or her hotel after arrival. This will give the candidate time to freshen up and drop his or her bags. Besides you don’t want some hoodlum breaking into your car to get at the candidate’s laptop bag anyway.

Rule 3: Respect time zones. If you happen to live on the Atlantic and you fly someone in from the Pacific don’t drop the candidate off at 10PM and expect that a 7AM pick-up will result in a well-rested and ready to perform candidate. For those of you who can’t do the math, the candidate will likely have to get up at 6AM which will be 3AM body time. If you can’t figure that out you don’t deserve the least qualified candidate in your stack. A similar rule is true if the coasts are switched.

Rule 4: Pay attention when you are driving. You don’t want your candidate to be late because you were in an accident.

Rule 5: If you are in an accident, leave a note. No one really wants to work with a dishonest colleague.

Rule 6: Arrange for some sort of fruit basket or snack to be in the hotel room. An apple costs like 50 cents and could save you candidate from a hunger headache in the night.

Rule 7: Send your candidate a rough schedule ahead of time so that he or she can plan for his or her needs.

Rule 8: Leave several small gaps in the schedule which could serve as bathroom breaks or stretch breaks.

Rule 9: Don’t schedule a 1 hour meeting with HR just because you don’t want to entertain the candidate while you all teach. There is only about 30 minutes of stuff that HR has to say.

Rule 10: Don’t use your candidate to push your agenda with the president/provost/dean.

Rule 11: Feed your candidate at times similar to when they might eat in their time zone or at least provide a snack near those times.

Rule 12: Put your candidate up in a decent hotel. It doesn’t have to be the Ritz but it shouldn’t be a Super 8 (unless that’s the nicest hotel in town).

Rule 13: If the hotel you choose doesn’t have a continental breakfast be sure to feed your candidate before the day begins.

Rule 14: Don’t leave your candidate alone with that creepy colleague.

Rule 15: Small talk is fine but don’t let your candidate in on all the sordid details of your life/family.

Rule 16: Don’t converse about things at dinner that the candidate has no way of contributing to. Talking about your colleague over in carpet weaving would be an example of this.

Rule 17: Enquiring about dietary restrictions beforehand is a good idea and when the candidate volunteers his or her dietary restrictions respect them. Red Lobster isn’t a good place to take someone with a serious shellfish allergy.

Rule 18: We all like going to hip, local restaurants on special occasions. But make sure you know where the restaurant is and you’ve made sure their menu has at least a few “normal” food options. After all, blue cheese crusted sheep’s testicles aren’t up everyone’s alley.

Rule 19: Don’t drink at dinner. Most candidates are advised not to by the infamous “they”. Don’t make your candidate feel pressured to drink or uncomfortable not drinking when the rest of the table is.

Any others I’m leaving out?


  1. I'll augment and/or add with some notes from a recent visit (thankfully not mine!)

    Don't have half the search committee, and the chair, on vacation for the candidate's visit. It's a good clue you don't care about the candidate.

    If you've planned a teaching demo using one of your instructor's classes as guinea pigs, being able to provide information like what they're studying, what book they have, and what material they've read is nice. The instructor noting, upon the candidates arrival, that, "Gee, I should have gotten back to you. Here's the movie I was going to use." is not helpful.

    Airing departmental dirty laundry at dinner is not conducive to convincing people to join your department.

    If your group is drinking at dinner, it would be nice if the candidate's designated ride stays sober.

  2. Perhaps some folks missed this one back in February of this year: Lasse from Louisiana.

  3. All excellent rules. I will add these:

    20. Don't fly your candidate in on United. These days, almost every one of their flights is delayed or canceled.

    21. Supply many bottles of water.

    22. Don't leave anyone unintroduced. It's awkward.

  4. X: Round up some folks to listen to the candidate's job talk / presentation / what have you. Having only a few members of the search committee and maybe one other token guy or gal in the audience is unlikely to send the right message.

  5. More rules:

    24. Don't have the driver/unofficial tour guide be that one grad student who badmouths the town, the school, and the department all while he/she is loading the candidate's luggage into the van at the airport.

    25. If you have to, bribe the janitors to clean out the overflowing garbage cans in the quad, so the place doesn't look like the aftermath of a Mummer's parade.

    26. If you have to send candidates out to the Artic research station, send them with some spare flamethrowers, a chainsaw, and more fuel.
    Which leads me to rule 27:

    NEVER REMAKE JOHN CARPENTER'S THE THING. That was the best horror movie of the 1980s; the effects have never been topped, the ending was perfectly glum, the tension was unrelenting, the score was wonderfully minimalist. WE DIDN'T NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NORWEGIAN BASE. The ruins in the original and the videotape told the entire story; there was no need to rehash the whole thing in a two hour movie and make it worse at the same time. Thank you.

  6. Don't be too quick to "read" every decision that a candidate makes at dinner, especially when the committee says "it's time to relax." Facing a late flight home and an early class the next morning, I refused wine, coffee, and dessert. The committee then worried that I was a recovering alcoholic and/or a health "freak" who wouldn't "fit it." I only know this because I got the job. How many people aren't that lucky?

  7. Don't follow the candidate into the bathroom.

    Just. Don't.

  8. I agree with all the above, but would add that the candidate who travels without a (small, easily briefcase-concealable) water bottle and some nonperishable source of sustenance (power bar, peanut butter crackers, nuts, dried fruit, whatever) is courting trouble (on United and its compatriots if not in the hotel or on campus).

    Or, to use Strelnikov's metaphor, I try to pack my own flamethrowers, chainsaw, and extra fuel, just in case (and without making it obvious that I'm doing so).

  9. I'd like to endorse numbers 17 through 19; as a non-drinking vegan, I dread the prospect of committee meals. In my past experience as a rep on one such committee, I've also seen the awkwardness this can present for a candidate -- the department pre-ordered meaty meals for all, only to find out that their candidate for the position (in the study of region-where-many-people-are-vegetarian) was (surprise!) vegetarian.

    I also think being mindful of accessibility issues is important, even if the candidate does not openly call attention to any disabilities. Take the elevator wherever possible, not the stairs; you don't know who has a congenital heart condition or old sports injury or recent surgery. Make sure that the vehicle you use to pick up, drive around, and drop off the candidate is also as accessible as possible. (As a fat person, the number of vehicles I encounter with too-short seatbelts is staggering, and embarrassing for all concerned.)

  10. I was once being interviewed by two offices in the same organization. The 1st one left me to eat lunch by myself in the cafeteria and didn't tell the 2d group where I was. That was fun.

  11. Tuba - I *am* a recovering alcoholic and I know it's hurt me in the past. And it pisses me off. Alcoholism is rampant in academia, who do they want? The ones in recovery, or the ones still drinking? It seems that if one were an *active* alcoholic, they'd fare better on the job market.

    I'm not one of these jealous drunks who thinks everyone who has one too many at the department Christmas party is another drunk, either. But there is at least one active drunk in every department I've ever worked for, and I can't understand why my unexplained "just a seltzer please" goes up as a red flag, while these now t-t assholes' "how 'bout one more for the road..." doesn't.

    What I was trying to say, however, was thanks for confirming my suspicion.

  12. Feed your candidate. Do not drop them off at the hotel after a late afternoon flight when the hotel restaurant is already closed without at least offering to take them to McDonalds. They will not have eaten since lunch or breakfast the previous day and will be murderously hungry and feeling kind of ill when the visit begins the next morning.

    On the same note, if you don't feed your candidate or offer to on the night you drop them off, taking them for soup/salad is freaking cruel, especially when the restaurant serves nothing else and only in very small portions.

    Also to add: Be able to answer the candidate's questions. If he/she can answer yours, but you can't answer his/hers, even if you give them an offer they are unlikely to take it. Just sayin'.

  13. The time zone one is brilliant. When I interviewed for a job in Wisconsin, I was living in Anchorage. I was picked up at 7 a.m. central, which was 4 a.m. to my body...this after my flight from Alaska had turned into a 15-hour affair due to a blizzard, so I didn't even arrive at my hotel until 4:00 a.m. I managed to survive the interview from hell, but to this day, I think it was a miracle.

  14. @Wombat of the Copier I'm with you on this issue. I am not a recovering alcohol, but by merely refusing to drink the committee started worrying. It's wrong.

    so advice to job seekers: you are ALWAYS being on no mater what the committee members tell you.

    and to search committees, please be aware of your choices.

  15. Don't schedule a fucking HIKE in the middle of a day bookended with job-talks and interviews. It will not be easy for your candidate to find clothes that are appropriate for professional-looking interview/seminar-wear as well as for walking up a mountain in the rain.

    Or if you absolutely have to do this, don't make it a two-hour hike with only a two-hour time window between job talk and next interview to squash it into.

  16. @StyleyGeek -- Holy crap! I can't imagine a job interview situation which is more marginalizing to those with disabilities or other mobility or exertional limitations than expecting candidates to go on a HIKE! That's got to be illegal or something?

  17. Please don't complain to me (the job candidate) about the other job candidate who was "always leaving to nurse her baby." I'm not sure how you think that nursing thing works there, Silverback Tenured Man, but let me suggest to you it is a biological process that doesn't fit 100% neatly into your insane campus visit schedule. Even though the likelihood of me birthing my own sprogs is quickly approaching zero, your nursing obsession makes you look like a misogynistic ass-hat.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.