Image: Meet John Doe/Frank Capra/Warner Bros. (1941)
Interviewing for an academic job is a grueling, anxiety-ridden, and all-around intense experience for candidates, and the competition at the campus-interview stage is stiffer than ever. The key to staying in the game is to focus on what you can control and carry on when things don't go your way. Scope out the department and the institution so you know your audience, perfect and tailor your presentations accordingly, and practice discussing your research and teaching in a clear and compelling way. You can't know exactly what a department is looking for, Career Talk columnists Julie Miller Vick and Jennifer S. Furlong say:
"But you can certainly make some inferences. A scientist interviewing at a liberal-arts college, for example, would want to have specific examples of how undergraduates could contribute to the work in his or her lab (and how student research could be funded). Any job candidate who would be involved in developing a new major or minor in the hiring department should bring ideas about that curriculum to the interview. And all job candidates should be able to offer ideas on how to teach some of the basic courses in the field -- and should seem enthusiastic about sharing that responsibility with potential colleagues."
Put forth your most professional you, be ready for anything, and don't be rattled if something unexpected occurs, says Dan Shapiro, chair of the department of humanities at the Penn State College of Medicine. (It almost always does.) How you cope with minor setbacks tells search committees a lot about who you are and whether you're suitable for the job, he says:
"Life is unpredictable. Sometimes a computer that worked fine yesterday decides to go on a holiday today. Sometimes security warnings, projector bulbs, microphones, or storms throw us a curve ball. When the unexpected happens, the applicant needs to smile, offer to do the talk using finger puppets, and get on with it.
"Fragile faculty members are a drain on our system, and more important, on me. If they need a certain temperature in their office (within two degrees), can't function if their mailbox gets moved, and panic if the class times change, then life will be hard on all of us. I need faculty members who can help nourish our fragile students even in tough circumstances, not suck away all the resources because they themselves can't tolerate life's normal insults."
Want more advice? You'll find many more insights -- from Julie, Jennifer, Dan and others -- here, in Vitae's downloadable booklet: Your Second-Round Interview Strategy Guide. Fill out this form and the booklet is yours.