Thursday, January 10, 2013

An Update and A Question from Al From Alpaca Falls.

Thank you everyone for all the comments and pointers on my original post. I have an interview scheduled shortly and wanted to ask the CM community what type of questions I might expect.

I am preparing carefully for the interview, treating it as if I am a stranger trying to make a great first impression. My wife tells that that I interview very well (we used to work at the same place) and that I think fast on my feet. I sure hope so! Thank you in advance.


  1. First: I hate to say it, but the Chronicle of Higher Ed job forums are fantastic for this. There is a ton of great advice there.

    Second: The questions you get will depend on the field and the school you are at. Some committees only have a scripted list they work from, with a few of their own questions and a few mandatory questions from HR boobs. Other committees have a general list of questions but will throw in their own, making it more like a conversation.

    But, expect questions about you, your teaching, how you interact with students and your research. I also expect one absolutely dumb-ass question that's completely out of left field. Sometimes these are on purpose to see how the applicant handles it, but other times it's a question from said HR boobs.

    Try to have talking points, but not sound scripted, be earnest and enthusiastic. Do not belabor and do not argue with the committee.

    That's about all I got.

  2. Oh and one more point, I hate fucking phone interviews because I hate talking on the phone. I'd rather get a cavity filled.

  3. Also, prepare a canned answer for an HR-required canned "your experience with diverse student populations" question.

  4. Have some questions for them... this shows that you've taken a little time to familiarize yourself with their mission and circumstances. It shows you are interested in them.

  5. They will say that the lunch part of the interview isn't really part of the interview. This is a lie. It's the part of the interview where you show that you are not freaky nuts, obnoxiously rude, or disgusting. Eat with a fork, say please and thank you to the waiter, and do not discuss politics, religion, or sex. Drink water.

  6. Yeah, that reminds me. Whenever one of the committee members says, "Ok, now you can ask the really honest questions." or "This is off the record." Remember that those are also lies. Things will always make it back to the SC. Blow smoke up assholes until the interview is over and you are back home. Save the honesty for College Misery or your significant other.

  7. Keep in mind that the search committee may have already decided who'll get the job long before your meeting. If that's the case, the reason you're brought in is to satisfy internal rules that say that all potentially "suitable" candidates have to be interviewed. I've been to sessions in which I jumped through all the hoops, gave honest and proper answers to all the questions, and was turned down soon after that.

    By the way, don't be surprised if, after the interview is over, you never hear from that place again. I've had that happen to me when I applied for jobs in industry (many of those employers were "just about to call" when I got in touch with them to check--yeah, right). What astounded me, however, was a college I had an interview with and it said absolutely nothing to me after the session was finished.

  8. Do not bad mouth a previous employer. If you do, you're just as likely to bad mouth them. So if they ask you why you left a previous position, have a diplomatic explanation.

  9. Maybe you don't want to hear from me, since I teach at a community college and all our questions relate to teaching. I know that some folk here feel we JUCO's take up too much space on this blog. But here are some questions we ask:

    "Describe a difficult interaction you had with a student and how you handled it."

    "What is your target audience in the classroom?" (I can't remember the wording for this one----what I am asking is----do you teach to the smarties, the dummies or the middle? It's a trick question----you want to show how you reach them all in some miraculous way.

    How do you stay on top of new teaching techniques? How do you incorporate them into your teaching strategies every semester? (When we ask this, we are hoping to hear something realistic but hopeful----like we know and you know that you are overwhelmed and that it is sometimes easier to keep doing what you've been doing, but how do you keep trying new things anyway?

    Assessment is a hot topic around these parts-----How do you collect and incorporate student assessment into your work? What we want to know is---do you have some way to get student feedback that does not suck like the student evals suck? Do you get anything useful out of it? We will steal your ideas.

    Keeping on with the assessment theme----how do you assess that you met your goals for the course? What types of checks and balances have you participated in to make sure that your stated outcomes are being met? Does your department do anything you've participated in? Do you do anything like this on your own? An example would be if you have a final portfolio in a writing class----you could take five of the most important outcomes and holistically rate them for those skills they were supposed to acquire. How well did your students acquire the stated outcome skills? What did you do about the skills that were clearly not being met?

    You might be asked to correct an essay if you are a writing instructor (sorry I cannot remember your field). You will be pressed for time and yet want to do a super job. To this end, spend some time thinking about the most common student errors in an essay and your best brief comments that address those errors.

    If you are asked if you have any questions----don't ask how long it takes to get to nearby cool places, especially if the place you are interviewing for is in a kind of sucky place that is day trippable to one or three cool places. (LOL) Since you are already familiar with the school and the area, you might ask about their most acute needs in terms of administrative duties. In other words----you might ask what they are going to dump on you if you get hired? But do it in way that makes it seem like you cannot wait to help them with all their shit.

    1. With regard to the last item----you might use your insider status to find out what the acute needs are and then to ask questions about those needs that show how great you'd be at taking those right on. Our last time hiring someone, we did not take the wonderful insider because she was outshined in exactly this way by someone who knew all about what we needed and showed enthusiasm for jumping right in and taking care of those areas. She was from far away and definitely did not know anyone----so what she had done was research the hell out of our little podunk place, finding out what was going on and what we probably would need people to get involved in.

      I greatly regret not hiring the insider though. She was just too relaxed about her interview, but she would have been the better hire and I argued like hell for her.