Thursday, January 24, 2013

Driving Around

I have a question for folks who've done or are doing searches, and for folks who are searching for jobs, and maybe visiting campuses.

At most campuses I've visited (not a lot, admittedly), there's a thing where someone drives the candidate around the community a bit.

And I want to know, what do we want a candidate to get out of that?

And potential candidates, what do you want to get out of a drive around the community?

Thanks, intertubes!

17 comments:

  1. We don't drive candidates around (unless we pick them up for dinner at their hotel and drive them to the restaurant). We do assume, however, that candidates will drive around themselves while they are visiting. In fact, it's always a little odd when a candidate doesn't stay for an extra day to do so, if they have never been here before (we are relatively isolated): usually, such candidates are not really interested in the position, we've discovered, and are just using us for practice.

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  2. I stayed for a few extra days at each of my on-campus interviews, to see the area. I wanted to know where the campus was situated vis-a-vis the surrounding area, where faculty tended to live, where you'd go for restaurants and shopping, etc. It's also an opportunity for the committee to tell the candidate things that might be useful but about which you can't legally ask: for example, driving past the school, you can mention its reputation, other schools in the area, etc. without asking whether your candidate has kids.

    Stacey: I never drove to my interviews: I flew to the closest airport and then took a shuttle to my hotel. That meant that I couldn't drive around. The last thing I wanted to do while on a campus interview was figure out how to navigate in an unfamiliar area; the process is tense enough as it is. Plus, shuttle drivers are often great sources of local knowledge.

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  3. Oh yeah: we definitely do this.

    The idea is to give the candidate a sense of the community and its resources and opportunities--basically, to let him or her start to envision what living here might actually be like. So we talk up the very affordable housing market, describe the different residential choices that faculty have made (living 30 min away in the city, living right in town, living out in an old farmhouse), and the pros and cons.

    It's also just a chance to chat with the candidate one-on-one, and let him or her direct the conversation. So, I'll talk about the stuff that is appealing to ME about the community (and things I know other colleagues with different tastes and lifestyles value), but the candidate can also steer.

    I really enjoy doing this, and I've enjoyed going on the couple I went on myself. It's really a chance to envision life in a particular place--life beyond the job, that is. So what I'm trying to sell when I give a tour is the quality of life here, and (secondarily, by implication) the happiness of our existing faculty with our lives.

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  4. Ours get a full real estate tour from a real estate agent. Look what you can get for 150K! We may be in the middle of nowhere but look! You can buy a McMansion!

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  5. For us, it's mostly a real estate tour, and to demonstrate there is more culture here than people often assume (look! three major museums within ten blocks of campus!) If I were a candidate, I'd just want to get a feel for physical/natural environment, which matters to me as much as anything about a job.

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  6. It's an effort in futility. If you want to know about "the community" drive around yourself at night and on the weekends. During the day, you won't get a feel for the real community. Especially if someone else is driving you on the official tour. They'll show only what they want you to see. HA! I remember one such tour. They took me around to all the nice community areas. Little did they know I had come in the "back way" when I drove to the University and I knew right off I didn't want to work anywhere near there. I bugged out of that interview as quickly as I politely could do so.

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  7. Google maps and online realtors' site give more people some background before they come to town these days. I suggest asking the candidate if they'd like a drive-around to see the [list possibilities here]. You might get someone who wants to check out the bike trails or public schools or see how walkable that downtown really is. . . .

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  8. Yeah, Google street view can show a lot more now of the "feel" of a place ... I liked to get shown places where there was a good social or hangout spot, especially if it didn't really show up as that from the internet or a map (ie this little coffeeplace you will see everyone, this place is warm and friendly and does local readings, all the faculty love to take their families here for dinner, etc etc etc.)

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  9. We don't do a full tour, but we do a leisurely drive to campus, which allows us to show a range of neighborhoods -- a swing through our (tiny) downtown, a scenic area, and then the drive to campus. I usually point out neighborhoods where many faculty live. As we get closer to campus, I also talk about the projected growth of the campus...

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  10. Anonymous7:21 AM

    I'd like to caution members of search committees to not conclude much of anything from a lack of staying extra days to check out a community. I'm going on 4 campus interviews in 2 weeks; there is no way to spend extra time beyond the interview days even if I wanted to, and also I have a family at home and don't want to spend more time away from them than necessary.

    I appreciate getting a bit of a feel for the physical layout of a place, and the chance to find out more about neighborhoods, dining, typical commutes, schools, etc, in a way that is casual. That said, on my last trip I was really just eager to get to dinner because it had been 7 hours since they'd had me go to lunch, so I was starving!

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  11. (this is the other Susan, btw): People do have some background from the internet and online maps, but an area tour is a nice way to get an idiosyncratic version of what lived experience is like. I don't look at it as a part of the campus visit that should generate a lot of information about the candidate (although sometimes it communicates enthusiasm for the area), but candidates here seem to appreciate the chance to hear stories about how people experience different aspects of the community. And it's a relaxed opportunity to ask about the area.

    P.S. Thanks for the postcard!

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  12. I've never seen a candidate spend extra time in an area around a job visit, actually (and I wouldn't ever have been able to afford it myself).

    I just mentioned this post to the candidate we have visiting at the moment (I'm hearing laughter from hir lunch with students next door as I type, in fact). Zie said that the driving around town tour this morning helped hir imagine life in this physical space and provided the most concrete experience of the community--and it allowed hir to find out some information about neighborhoods that the rest of hir family is eager to know. Zie thought it a really important part of the visit, from the candidate perspective.

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  13. Thanks for your input, all.

    I can't imagine expecting candidates to drive around, either. For one thing, most fly and then take a shuttle to get here, and we pick them up and drop them off places. For another, they're usually working and taking time out for the visit, and packing a lot in anyway, so they're probably too exhausted.

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  14. Pilgrim/Heretic's bit about the museums cracked me up, though. Here, we'd have to take the candidate to the museum of the upper midwestern mythic figures for kids. I doubt they'd be greatly impressed, somehow.

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  15. Anonymous11:29 AM

    I think it's important to show candidates the place they're going to be thinking about living - for all the rhetoric about how academics have to be willing to live anywhere, it's important for a candidate to realize that something as deal-breaking as the place the job is located won't work. As an anecdote, I'd always thought I could live anywhere, and in some ways *I* could. But I've learned that my partner can't, and that was invaluable in terms of the part of the on-campus interview in which the candidate is deciding whether or not he or she really wants to work there.

    I've had interviews where a committee member or university employee has driven me around, and also when a real estate agent with ties to the school (usually an alum of some stripe) has. I don't have a huge sample size, but I preferred the realtor - I got a better sense of what was available and what characters the different areas of a place had, especially when combined with some internet research.

    I'll also add that in my current position, a real estate agent drove me around during the interview, and then when we moved here s/he also helped us find an apartment. Since we were moving a long distance and we don't have family in our current area, this help was invaluable.

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  16. I love quirky museums--the museum of the mythical figure would have totally sold me on your area, Bardiac!

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  17. Susan, You should come visit! I'll take you there, and you can "skate" in the big fake frying pan.

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