Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Milton in the Mountains with a Tale of Two Interviews.

So I have an okay job, but it's not entirely in my field. So I applied to about a dozen jobs this year in English, and had 2 MLA interviews last week in Boston.

The first was with a medium sized state uni. 5 nice, quiet, people in a hotel suite. They each had a piece of paper in front of them and they asked me very generic questions about teaching in the field. After each answer they just nodded to the next person and another generic question came my way.

There was never once any conversation or give and take. Some made notes; some sat placidly. One gent at the end I swear was asleep until it was his turn. "What sort of undergrad students give you the most difficulty?" he asked, then nodded off again.

When I finished the last answer, we all stood up. Everyone was pleasant, handshakes all around, and it was over in 25 minutes.

I went across town to another hotel for the second, for a similarly sized school right in the Boston area.

The four people asked questions about me, my work, my scholarship. After I answered, they took up the point as a conversation. These chats went far afield and looped back around. In a dead spot, someone would ask something else, but always quite specifically about me. Two questions were to ask for me to go on a bit about things in my letter.

It was an hour long and at the end I felt as if I really knew something about them, the school, their students. They talked as much as I did, and I wanted to join them in their department in September. Before I left the room, the search chair gave me his cell phone number and said that if I had any questions about things not covered, that I should feel free to call her anytime over the next month to "continue this chat."

As I flew back home Saturday night, I could barely recall a thing about the first interview. It may be a great place. It might be the job of my dreams, but I fear I'll never know.


  1. This is interesting. The State U might have a more paranoid HR person who scared the search committee into believing they could not do one single thing differently from one interview to the next. We had one like that, and she make it seem like we could not be chatty or the school might get sued for showing favoritism (ie- what if we asked one candidate something we did not ask another---that would give one of them an advantage and that would not be fair!). It was frightening to listen to her and it made us very boring in interviews. Just a thought. I hope you get the second one! But the first one might not be as bad as it seemed.

    1. Bella, I logged on to say the exact same thing. We are told we have to treat everyone the same, so we stick to the script. It makes the interview a very boring exchange for both parties.

    2. Also, it might be that the committee itself (or the search chair) feels the need for it-- one (or more. . .) of the committee members might be one of those loose cannons who's itching to ask, oh, something obnoxious/illegal. Think of the most obnoxious committee member you've dealt with and the uncomfortable shifting about in seats and furtive anxious glances between the others.

    3. We do the same - stick to the script, ask each candidate the exact same set of questions...

  2. At least you know where you DON'T want to teach... or be on a hiring committee...

    Good luck with your search. I hope you hear back from at least one of these interviews. So disheartening to be out there trying so darned hard to make a good impression and to be met with such a lack of enthusiasm from the first interview.

  3. I know that the first interview style happens, but isn't it a bloody fucking shame? It hurts the college, confuses the candidates, and nearly insures that anyone with any sense will look elsewhere.

  4. Watch out for both of them (speaking from being on both sides of the table). The first one they either knew they wanted you and were going through the motions or they knew they didn't want you and were going through the motions. My guess is the latter. I've seen companies that "interview" for jobs that technically exist but are (probably) only there so the company can get tax breaks for "hiring".

    The second one...I've had interviews go phenomenally well only to be rejected only to be given another offer 3 months later. Don't think that because it went well that it's a done deal because you'll be devastated when you get rejected.

    Don't know about on an academic level, but industry wise we did have a packet of questions that we would ask from. Mostly it was just to have a standardized baseline for all candidates when asking technical questions. Beyond that we could ask whatever we wanted as long as it wasn't on the "don't say this" list.