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The Job Interview

May 6, 2012

It has a been a whirlwind of various graduation ceremonies, celebratory lunches and receptions and farewell parties in my world lately. It is the end of the school year, which means that there is something booked for nearly every breakfast, lunch and dinner leading up to finals. Then as finals slow down, we move into commencement everything. So, as I have spent the past several days celebrating my graduating seniors and graduate students, it reminds me about the next step they face, finding a JOB. As I hear my grad students talk about their search, it just reminds me about how odd we are in higher education. We had a family dinner tonight, and I was reminding the fam of the process I went through when I got out of grad school and everyone agrees that it is special.

What do I mean by “special”? Well, it is not your typical interview. According to most of my friends who do not work in the crazy wonderful world of higher ed, they have job interviews that last about an hour. Sometimes thirty minutes, or if it is really good, MAYBE an hour and a half. Higher ed? We go for the full on day long interview, which sometimes stretches into the evening before. One of my grad students recently had an interview, and her schedule went something like this…


Afternoon- Arrive in location, check into hotel (which is provided by prospective employer)

7pm- Meet with head of search committee and other committee member for dinner

  • This requires you to be “on” and “engaging” during the whole meal. From pick up at hotel through coffee and desserts, and usually quick driving tour of the city or campus. One  must always think about what to eat during these meals… don’t get something in red sauce that can drip on you (which is what would happen to me) and don’t get something that will get stuck in your teeth.


8:30am- Meet with person who would be your boss (in some interviews this first spot is with the head of the search committee and not the potential boss, it just depends on the position and the school)

9am- Meet with the four person office staff you would be working with on a daily basis

10am- Meet with the various members that comprise the search committee

11am- Open forum with any faculty or staff that would like to interview and bombard you with questions. In my experience this can be as small a group as three people around the table to as large as twenty.

Noon- Lunch with students. Please see the note about dinner the night before, the last go around I had with this I ate cottage cheese and a cheese quesadilla with my student lunch… it didn’t make a mess and I could shovel food in my mouth fast enough to still have a conversation.

1:15- Meet with the Vice President, or whoever the very head honcho for that area may be. Must be prepared to talk about any number of things, such as “ do you know so and so” to “ in this budget cycle” or “ what aspect of this development theory plays into your personal philosophy on working with students”

2:30- Campus Tour

3:30- Meet with the staff you would supervise

4:15- Wrap up with the person you started your day with to talk about various items

5:15- Get in car and drive home, after stopping for large caffeinated beverage.

For all of these meetings you have to be prepared for a range of questions, and you have to be prepared with questions to ask each group as well.

There are some variations to this of course. The people change, sometimes the members of the panels change. Sometimes an meeting with HR is tossed into the mix. More often than not the potential employee will need to give a presentation or lecture to display their competency in an area as well as their ability to present and communicate information clearly.

The job search in higher ed is crazy… this portion I described above is what we call the “on-campus”.  They usually bring about three to five candidates to campus for an on campus. These only happen AFTER: you apply through the HR web site, have your app screened, are reviewed by the search committee, the search committee has a phone interview with you…. Sometimes TWO phone interviews before they ask you on campus. They have to narrow the candidates down… I have been a part of search processes where we have had over 50 applicants, you can’t bring all of them on campus, so you develop a list of criteria you are looking for and narrow it down. We even have conferences each spring where giant convention center rooms are used to interview people… imagine a giant room of table after table with two potential employers on one side of the table and a candidate on the other side. This process is sometimes used in place of the phone interview, or added in between the phone interview and the on-campus.

So, why do we have this process? Why is it so long? Well, people tell me it is because we all work together so much in a campus environment, that we all want to have the various stakeholders to have some sort of ownership in the process… it helps build good will among various constituents. Personally, I think it is a test to see if you can handle it or not. I work long hours and it takes a lot of energy and dedication to do what we do… if you can’t make it through the search process, are you really going to be able to handle the demands of the job? I don’t know, that is just my observation. If you think the job interview process is long, don’t even get me started on what our résumés look like! So, what is the process like in your field? Have you heard of something crazier?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Anna permalink
    May 11, 2012 1:55 pm

    It is definitely a crazy process, especially considering the average starting salary is lower than it should be. But hey, working in higher ed is a special thing so it all evens out!

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