Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Job Search: What I'd Like Our Candidates to Know

As we're figuring out stuff about our next steps and preparing for those steps, I thought I'd take a moment to tell potential candidates what I really want them to know.

First, when we say "thank you" for talking to us, we mean it.  We all know you're under a lot of stress, busy, and that you've put effort into preparing to interview with us.  Thank you for that.  Our thank you isn't perfunctory or empty.

Second, when we offer to answer questions you have about the job, we really do appreciate your questions.* 

Third, if you could see our notes as we prepare to talk with you, you would know that we take the process seriously, too.  (You'd also realize that we probably don't google your name, because we just don't have time.  It's enough to reread your letter and writing sample, to look again at your letters of recommendation, and to think about what to listen especially for in our interview.)  We know we're working towards a decision that will make a difference in your lives, but we also know the decision will affect our lives.  At least here, when we hire someone, we're committed to helping them succeed, and, if all goes as it should, get tenure.  We're thinking in terms of hiring a colleague for the long term.

Fourth, if we seem to like each other during the interview or visit, it's because we pretty much do.  We may be up in the icy north, but we're a pretty decent, humane bunch.

And finally, whether or not we think you're well qualified for our job or a good fit, or whether we even ask you to talk to us, we pretty much think our pool of candidates is amazing, and every single one of them worthy of having a great job.  We still only get to hire one person.

So, shared wisdom of the internets, what would you like to communicate, either to candidates, or to search committees?

* When I was in the Peace Corps, the local missionaries had a little tale about some potential missionary.  (As a background, you have to know that the town I lived in didn't have any paved streets then.  They were all either cobbled or dirt.  There was basically a single block that was the town center, and that was it, and from there, one road led to a town to the north, one road to a town to the west, and a couple others out some miles to where they simply stopped and became tracks in the rain forest.)  So, the tale went that this potential missionary had written about a position, and asked for something that wouldn't be too far from the subway.  Another version had the missionary wanting to be not too far from the Sears.

Please don't ask about our subway, okay?  Or our Whole Foods.


  1. Candidates: ask about stuff. Go beyond the personal and professional. Ask about things that will affect your own decision, should you be the lucky one that gets an offer.

    Committees: have good answers. The committees on which I have served never get good answers on what the position would pay (annoying for all), but have been able to talk about service requirements and expectations, departmental culture, promotion/tenure expectations, etc..

  2. I think what I'd say is that your questions tell us about you. Don't ask simple questions for which you can find answers on the web. (for Bardiacs missionary, Whole Foods is about 50 miles, Trader Joe's 40, and yes, we survive.) But if you have done some research, and say "I see X, what about it, that's great. Also, do ask about our students, pedagogical culture, town/ gown stuff, or campus culture questions. Many of us have fingers in various pots on campus or in town.

    Belle is right. There should be people who meet with candidates who talk about pay, though that may not be the committee. (Easy on a public campus like mine - it's all published.)

    My Wv is dequest! And now I'm off for a day when we have two job candidates (for different jobs)....

  3. I love your advice here, Bardiac, as well as Belle's & Susan's additions. I would just echo Susan's point that your questions will give insight into you as a colleague.

    Here's a helpful tip: people love to talk about themselves, and when you're a job candidate, you're talking about yourself all of the time. But this gets tiresome, and difficult especially during meals, so give yourself a break: ask your interviewers how they think about their careers. How did they manage to crank out a second book on Russian history while teaching at Tinytown College? What are their strategies for continuing to be engaged scholars? Have they ever shifted the focus of their research & teaching, and if so, why?

    You might learn something. You will charm your interviewers. And you will at the very least let yourself eat that tuna wrap finally and get on with your interview day.