Friday, December 19, 2008

Basketweaving Interviews

We've started the Basketweaving interview process, and it's been an education. It's really fascinating to see how different people handle interview questions. Fortunately, we've got some outstanding candidates, and you can tell they've really got a sense of giving good interview.

Here, quickly, then, are some of the things I've really noticed about the best interviews.

1) The best candidates have thought about our job. They've looked at our website and figured out what sort of place we are.

For some, that's harder than others. I gather that if you went to Elite Ivy as an undergrad, and then to SuperStar R1 as a grad student, you may not have much idea about regional, comprehensive universities. And your grad profs probably have just as little clue. I know I had really minimal understanding of SLACs when I first interviewed and then was hired by one; I'd never been to a private school. I'd never heard of "liberal arts education" except in terms of the trivium and quadrivium. But most of the people I knew in grad school had come from that background, as had almost all the profs, so I knew what they'd loved about their experiences, I knew from talking to them what they valued in a SLAC background, and I could draw on having heard about those.

Asking about programs we have here that sound interesting, festivals, our majors, really gives a sense that you're interested and understand what we do.

Asking about our students shows that you're interested in the people we care about.

Asking about opportunities to work with folks in other departments, to contribute in this or that way (that has to do with things our campus does) shows us that you'll be an interested community member.

2) Once you've figured out you're interviewing at a teaching-oriented school (public comprehensive or SLAC), then start thinking about the sorts of things we teach. Be ready for questions about teaching Into to Underwater Basketweaving, Deepwater Basketweaving Safety, and Underwater Basketweaving History. Think about what sort of UB class you'd love to teach, and why it would be really interesting to undergrads.

I've heard about a couple Underwater Basketweaving courses I'd love to take already, both introductory level courses and upper-level courses.

3) Be ready to talk about your research. Yes, we've read your letter, but what we want is to hear you talk about it in ways we can comprehend. Practice a three sentence explanation, a one minute explanation, and a seven minute discussion. Be able to put things into perspective relative to the field and UB in general.

4) If there's an AA/EO statement in the ad, or anything similar, be ready to talk about how you can add to equal opportunity or diversity issues on campus. Maybe you're as white as I am, but you're interested in Underwater Basketweavers of Color classes, and really work to incorporate diverse basketweaving techniques into your classes. Maybe you've done some work on campus with tutoring students from disadvantaged backgrounds. At least think about ways you can contribute.

5) The best of our candidates are already thinking of themselves as potential faculty members; they're thinking beyond the classroom and able to talk about other activities they've participated in, committee service, curricular issues.

6) The best of our candidates were able to give really specific answers to questions; they knew which of the Intro UB texts they really liked and why. They talked specifically about UB concepts they think are important, safety, reed quality, knot tying, whatever.

And importantly, they knew how to finish an answer so that it sounded finished. Maybe for a teaching question they brought things around at the end to a final project or assignment, or the way they see this class working in the curriculum. But in whatever way, they made the answer sound finished.

7) Finally, a quick email note saying thank you to the chair a day or two after is a nice touch.


  1. This is now in my "review before MLA 2009" file. Thanks.

  2. Thanks! What great advice. I have 4 interviews, and I need all the help I can get. One of my friends who is now a TT AP (and has served on a search committee) is going to help with mock interviews, but it's good to have as much insight from the search committee side as possible.

  3. I'll throw my hat into the grateful ring, too. Very useful insight. Thank you.