In the “Get a job, Ken!” series, I’ve so far retold my experience coming up with research ideas, writing the ideas down as formal research proposals, assembling the different pieces of the faculty job application, and submitting everythi...
In the “Get a job, Ken!” series, I’ve so far retold my experience coming up with research ideas, writing the ideas down as formal research proposals, assembling the different pieces of the faculty job application, and submitting everything. In this post, I move beyond the waiting, waiting, and waiting that happens after submitting to the next step: interviews.
After the submission deadline, most interview offers are extended sometime between October and February. They begin with a phone call or email from a department or search committee chair and conclude with a scheduled phone interview or in-person interview. The waiting period—between the submission deadline and receiving an interview—can be daunting. Every single unknown number on my cell phone screen prompted sudden excitement and then, most of the time, disappointment. I’ve never hated telemarketers more.
Eventually, I did receive my first call–a thrilling experience–and by the end of my job search I had one phone interview and several on-site interviews. Below I describe my experience and share my (and others) advice on the interview process.
Not every University holds phone interviews, but those that do use it as a preliminary screening method. It’s a strategy for interviewing a greater number of candidates and testing “fit” before extending offers for an on-campus interview. Think of it as a asking someone out on a quick coffee date before committing to a full evening together. An on-campus interview is a lot of time/effort/money to commit to someone and it’s reasonable to take measures to test “fit” prior to jumping in.
The good news for job candidates offered a phone interview is that, by reaching this stage, they can be assured that the search committee has looked through his or her application and feel confident about the viability of their research proposals. The interview stage—whether by phone or on-campus—is more about assessing a candidate’s speaking skills, ability to run a research program, and departmental “fit.” Between my experience with phone interviews and the anecdotes I’ve heard from others, here’s a short list of example phone interview questions:
Who would be your primary funding sources?
What major pieces of equipment will you need and how much do they cost?
Do you have a project that you would bring with you from your time as a post doc?
Where do you see your research program in 5 years? 10 years?
Who from our department/university might you be interested in collaborating with?
When would you be available to begin work?
Are there any factors that we have not spoken about that would be important in your decision to come to X if we were to make an offer?
How do you feel about teaching general chemistry?
Do you have any questions for us?
The last question was especially important. Nothing says, “I’ve done my homework on your university/department” like asking one or two insightful questions. For example, I’d usually prepare a question about the department’s facilities, asking something like: “The department has a solar cell testing station. Would I be able to add electrochemical impedance capabilities to the system?” It helped show my seriousness about the job and genuine interest in the department while also suggesting something I could contribute.
It’s a good idea to start thinking about possible answers for interview questions as well as questions to ask the committee early. While most phone interviews are scheduled ahead of time, I’ve heard stories of people surprised with an on-the-spot phone interview.
If the phone interview ends favorably then—congratulations—the next step is an on-site interview. On-site interviews are intensive. To help me organize the story of my on-site interview experiences, I’ll break the process down into five sections: a rough timeline, food, meetings with faculty, meetings with students, and post-interview follow-up.
A Rough Timeline
Many people tried to p
about 14 hours ago