Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Applying for Jobs: On-Site Interviews

This is the fourth post in a series on applying for faculty positions. It is written by Jeff Phillips, frequent guest blogger, who will be starting as an Assistant Professor at the University of Utah starting Fall 2011.

Today's post is about what do do once you actually get a job interview. I'll try to cover everything except the job talk which will come in the final post.

You will usually be assigned a host. Talk to this person and try to get a feel for what the department is looking for. Perhaps the AI person is retiring and the department is happy to hire an Algorthims person as long as you can also teach AI. Or you would be the only theory person in the department and some of the other faculty are nervous of this, so the more you can talk about real world applications the better. These are very important things to find out.

And if you know other people in the department, by all means, ask them as well. If you get hired, you will need an advocate to make your case. Contact who you think might be an advocate for you. Don't be shy!

Try to figure out who the big shots are in the department. These people may be more senior or outspoken, bring in more money, and most importantly can potentially have way more influence than other people. If you can connect with these people, all the better. Sometimes hiring is done entirely within an area, so then the big shot is relative to the area.

Starting a week to a few days before the interview, try to get a schedule of your visit, even if it is only a draft. Research everyone on your schedule, know about their research areas and what classes they teach. All of this can usually be found on their webpage. Also try to read at least one of their recent papers that has the best probability of have some intersection with your research. And prepare several questions or topics for potential discussion.

Several people may be on your schedule who do research that is not really similar to yours. These people may be on the hiring committee, and should not be ignored. Try to make connection, even if it's not entirely about research. Like if you went to a common school , or know common people.

There is a good chance for last minute changes to your schedule, so research others in the department as well even if they are not on your schedule.

Also prepare answers to he same sort of questions as for phone interviews. If you suggest that you would teach a class, make sure you have many of those details sketched, because you may get asked specific questions about what you will cover.

On the actual visit I always carried a print-out of all of my notes, but never got a chance to look at it. So you'll have to memorize most of he information on there.

It is important to try to make positive connections with as many faculty as you can. Be friendly, outgoing and smile. Make eye contact. Be very excited about what your research. And obviously, don't say anything sexist or racist. Seriously, save the dirty jokes for later.

I've heard you should follow up with a short email with everyone you met, but I did not do this. I only sent something if it was meaningful. Like specific follow-up to a problem we discussed, or replying to a specific question. Usually about 3-5 per visit.


  1. I didn't know academics made dirty jokes - I think I've only heard one over the past two years. Something to do with latex.... guess us graduate students don't ever get to hear those, even if they exist.

  2. If you encourage us, will we not riposte ?



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