Thursday, February 05, 2009

On the Other Side of the Job Market Campus Visit

I think I've mentioned being involved in a search over in Underwater Basketweaving, right? So, campus visits coming up. As a member of the committee, even a fairly tangential member, I'm one of the "hosts" for things.

The visit is basically two days, and here's what my part of the schedule looks like, according to the email I got:

First 24 hours: 9+ hours in candidate's presence, or responsible for candidate getting from one place to another, etc.

Second 24 hours: 4+ hours of responsibility.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it. And I'm NOT the chair! I haven't been responsible for making the arrangements (other than one thing), for making sure everyone in whatever office or department is up on things. Nope, I'm the outsider.

I also feel sorry for the candidate, because the idea of being in MY presence for 9 hours in 24 pretty much makes me want to run out of the room. (Though actually, I counted in times when the candidate will be meeting with someone else and I've walked them over or will need to walk them back, because things are confusing on campus, and having a candidate get lost might not make them want to come work here.)

Of course, on campus visits are pretty much an endurance hell test, and we all know it, and I hope we all try to be kind about it. Remember, candidates must be fed regularly and given an opportunity to drink and use the restroom with reasonable frequency!

And underwater basketweaving, I must confess, is something that doesn't spark my interest to quite the extent that, say, Shakespeare does. Or poetry. Or a host of other good stuff. It's not bad or boring in and of itself, but my ability to really focus on a job talk about isn't going to be what it could be for Shakespeare. Still and all, there's a nice possibility that we'll hire an outstanding colleague for UB, and that will benefit us across campus!

We could take bets on how quickly I'll put my foot in my mouth and ask about something that reveals my total naivety about underwater basketweaving. You know, I'll ask if they can use tule or something, and the whole room will stop to gasp and stare. Or I'll say something I shouldn't about how much I hate the weather, and the candidate will decide that s/he can't bear the idea of such a whiny colleague. And the the basketweaver types will be mad at me, and wonder why they asked me of all the idiots available to be on their search.


It's 6:53pm according to my computer, and I'm wondering if I can be in bed and by 7:15, and if I do, is it even minimally possible that I'll wake up in time to finish grading some papers for tomorrow morning's class?


  1. Speaking as someone who has oh-so-recently been a candidate, I never objected to being dropped off at the library and allowed to explore for an hour or so, or to being taken to the local bookstore, or given quiet time before the teaching demo. In fact, one of the nicest things about my campus visit at Misnomer U. was that I had plenty of down time to walk around the campus and a chance to check my e-mail at the library. So ducking one or two of those nine hours of responsibility may be the happiest and sanest thing for all, and it's definitely not something you should feel guilty about if you find that you need to do it.

  2. Nine hours in one day is way too much. When we have campus visits, we make sure to block in some peaceful time for the candidate away from any department member (we find them an office that's free for an hour or so). They also get an abbreviated campus tour with a student guide from Liaison, the library tour with the librarians and a meeting with the dean/VP that's giving them some other people to see.

    Getting yourself out of there for a bit of that time would be doing both the candidate and yourself a favour. And remember to hang on with desperation to the chance to ask the more generic question at interview time!

  3. I sincerely hope you're not spending nine hours in the presence of Dr. Boring, who nearly drove our entire department to suicide a few years ago. Even Dr. Arrogant Prick would be better than Dr. Boring, because Dr. Prick inspires witty repartee (most of it unrepeatable) while Dr. Boring merely puts you to sleep.

  4. Anonymous6:26 AM

    What is so hard about having the person the candidate just met with walk him to the next meeting? That makes it so much easier on the "host" if people can just, you know, be responsible and chip in a bit.

  5. Good points, folks. Thank you. Some of my responsibility time included hanging out grading while the candidate was meeting with someone important. We have a weird campus layout, and don't want someone feeling lost on a visit, especially the first time they're on campus. And deans, vice-head masters and so forth aren't going to walk the candidate across campus.

    The time also includes formal presentations, dinner, reception, and so forth. It's a lot. Indeed, campus visits are always an endurance test.

    But we do build in "down time" and time to check email, prep talk, walk around campus with a student, and so forth.

  6. Lots of times, departments will schedule a 30-minute visit to our office (the teaching center). We tell the candidate that this is NOT part of their interview and they're welcome to ask all the questions they can't ask anywhere else. Sometimes they actually do! They always seem pleased that we exist.

    But I will say I was taken aback to receive a call from one dept, asking me if we could "keep the candidate occupied" from 12-1 pm one day. Uh, sure, I can give hir the same pb&j's I'm having...

  7. I think any candidate has to realize that not everyone on the search committee is a total expert in their subfield--but part of what they need to do is figure out how to fit into a department. One of the biggest transitions in moving out of grad school is losing your cohort of grad student friends in the same subfield. It's hard! But there are other ways to relate to the search committee (and the candidate, from the other side)--the candidate can look to you for info/questions about how careers unfold on your campus.

    Campus visits are exhausting, though--I hope you don't have to shepherd all the candidates around like that!