As you regular readers know, we get letters. As an almost-Ph.D. interviewing this year for the first time (not in History, nor any of the humanities), Freddie from Ft. Lauderdale has asked for equal time here at Historiann.com to balance out those posts a few months ago that mocked job candidates (like this one, this one, oh, and that one, too.) Freddie has some (unfortunately) hard-won advice for hiring departments and search committees who may want to hire some new blood eventually. So, take it away, Freddie!
I recently went on a campus interview that left me with a sour feeling toward the search committee in particular and the university in general. It only took a couple of hours for me to determine that there was no way I would accept a job offer from the department that interviewed me: the entire visit felt like a bad blind date. I tried to smile and to put my best foot forward, but I knew that if she/he went in for a kiss, I would deflect it by turning my head and redirecting it into a completely fake hug. (You know, the kind with lots of insincere back-patting.) Since you seem to be big on throwing around advice to job candidates over here, I decided to put together a list of “dos and don’ts” for hiring departments and search committees in case they may actually want to hire someone someday:
- When you meet a candidate at the airport and she/he is carrying a briefcase, carry-on bag, and jacket, do not hand out a revised itinerary to read through while walking to the car. (Tips for toads: perhaps revising the itinerary the day of the visit should be avoided altogether? Just sayin’.)
- Do not stop by Taco Bell on the way to campus (I guess that was “lunch” on the slapped-together “itinerary”) and proceed to ask your candidate about her/his plan for the next five years while slurping up your Mountain Dew and downing your bean burrito.
- As the search chair, do not leave the candidate to find scheduled locations and introduce herself/himself to others because you have scheduled other meetings for yourself.
- For a 5:30 dinner, do not drop the candidate off at the hotel at 5:20 and have her/him walk across a highway without pedestrian access (à la Frogger) to find you and the rest of the committee already sitting down and enjoying cool beverages at the restaurant.
- If you have asked the job candidate teach a class, do not send him or her to a locked classroom half an hour early with nothing to do but sit in the hall and wait.
- If your department has a national reputation for being expert in something, do not ask the candidate, who has little to no experience in that special something, to state the top 3 or 4 people who have influenced her/him in the something and how it will influence his/her teaching. (Hint: this seems like a really pathetic attempt at fishing.)
- Regardless of campus size, the campus tour should include more than a drive around the perimeter of the campus. “Tours” like that are, quite literally, the least you can do. Try to step it up a bit, if only to practice for a candidate you really like.
- As a department chair, dean, or director, don’t tell the candidate about all the turmoil within the department/school/college and then ask how she/he thinks she/he would fit in. (Again-see previous comment about fishing.)
- If the candidate is expected to collaborate a great deal with another school or department (if just for instance-the position you’re searching will possibly be a joint appointment), allow the candidate to meet at least one faculty member from that other school or department.
- When you are dropping off your candidate after a day and a half of interviewing and are less than a mile away from the airport, don’t ask, “How has diversity has been important to you and how do you see incorporating your past experiences into your teaching…with examples?” That’s unfair to the job candidate, and to the question itself. Care much about diversity, or are you just checking a box? I think we all know the answer to that one.
- Last, but not least, you should offer to reimburse the candidate for parking, tolls, or other expenses directly related to the interview, even though you never had any intention of hiring her/him.
I know others who have had bad interview experiences. I have also heard stories from faculty on search committees about bad candidate experiences. Perhaps the two are related and members from the search committee of my bad interview are currently writing a list of “do nots” for job candidates. Although I did my best, I’m sure some of my exasperation started to show through near the end. Maybe the people on each side of the process could have a “Nope” button that would immediately terminate the interview. (Ed. note: Can we get a “clicker” app for that?) At least we could save ourselves some time and energy. Well, now I understand why people usually meet blind dates just for coffee instead of a weekend at a Bed and Breakfast.
Freddie, man, that harshed my mellow. I’m really sorry you were treated like that–I’m sure it was nothing personal, but I know how hard it is not to take that kind of carelessness personally. What do you say, readers: can you top this bad interview with a choice morsel from your past? Do tell!