Job interview in academia

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Sarah, Nov 25, 2011.

  1. Sarah

    Sarah Active Member

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    I don't post much here, but I'm hoping there are people familiar with academia that can over advice about day and a half long job interviews.

    I have an interview coming up in academia and this is all new to me (my current position in academia was just a standard job interview). The interview starts the night before with dinner and then day 2 is a full day interview complete with a presentation and QA session, tours, meeting with library staff/department members, committee interviews, lunch, etc.

    I'm preparing my presentation (or at least I should be), but I'm not sure how to prepare otherwise. I've never had a day long interview. I've never had meals as part of an interview (what should I be eating?). They're putting me up at a hotel even though I'm local (I offered to stay over and while they said that would be fine, they emphasized that the hotel was for my convenience and that they'd arrange transportation to and from the hotel so I wouldn't have to worry about being late, parking, getting lost, etc. Basically, they all but said they'd prefer me to stay so that there's no chance I'll be late--if I don't stay and hit traffic, that will be held against me).

    Also, I've only been in my current position for a year. I love the work, but my supervisor makes everyone's life miserable (micromanager to the nth degree) and our director is in a position she's not qualified for so lets my supervisor run the show). If asked why I'm looking, how do I respond? I was thinking that while I enjoy my job, I'm looking for a position with more opportunities and potential for growth (current job/library leaves me with the maximum possibility of 4 promotions IF I get a PhD (not happening) or 3 without while opportunities in new job are endless). They know my current employer and the lack of opportunities (I'd stay as state employee if I got new position). Potential position is also closer to home/where I want to live (currently commuting 1+ hr 1 way).

    Any advice/suggestions? I wasn't nervous, but now I am. In the long run, if I don't get it, I still have a job so that should help my nerves, but still... I want OUT of my current job! The stress is extreme.
  2. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

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  3. Sarah

    Sarah Active Member

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    Thanks! I definitely read that thread. Of course, these meals are more get to know you meals, rather than formal interview lunches (I'm meeting with all these people at different times) so I don't know if advice is different? Of course, the basic tips are probably similar.

    Ahh! I'm just nervous. Hopefully by Sunday I'll at least have my basic presentation down.
  4. sk8pics

    sk8pics Well-Known Member

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    Don't assume you're not being evaluated during the lunches. When we interviewed people recently, after the formal interview they got a tour of our facilities. Lots of them assumed the interview was over, but the tour guides actually reported back to the selection committee about their impressions of the candidates, too.
  5. Sarah

    Sarah Active Member

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    Oh yes. I'm assuming constant evaluation, but a different kind of evaluation than the Q&A evaluation, if that makes sense?

    The stress! I really need to get working on that presentation...
  6. Civic

    Civic New Member

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    Day long or even 2 day interviews are common in academia for faculty or administrative positions. You definitely want to spend some time preparing your presentation. Based on my experience, they'll be judging your ability to communicate effectively as well as your grasp of the subject during the presentation. If they're assigning you a topic, make sure you stick to that topic. You should assume that some of the people who sit in on your presentation will ask you questions about it and/or the assigned topic. As another poster pointed out, the search committee will probably welcome feedback from *everyone* you come in contact with during your interview. This includes clerical staff, graduate assistants, and any student groups you're introduced to.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2011
  7. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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    Having been through this a couple of times:
    - Be nice to everybody, and I mean everybody. Because as civic says, pretty much everyone you come in contact with can be asked for their opinion on you, and it might have nothing to do with the quality of your presentation or your academic strengths.
    - Don't diss your former or current employer. It's a small world. Be tactful about them and why you're looking for something else.
    - Pace yourself, because this is going to be a very tiring process. Don't underestimate how bagged you're going to be by the middle of the second day.
    - Be prepared for anything. E.g. in a couple of presentations I witnessed, the candidate's work was verbally attacked by someone who really didn't have a dispute with the work, but just wanted to show off how much he knew (or, more accurately, what he thought he knew). If people start arguing with each other, let them go at it and stay out of it. Think about situations like that and how you will handle them if they arise.
  8. Prancer

    Prancer Ray Chill Staff Member

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    You are always on. There is never a time when you aren't under scrutiny. It is absolutely exhausting.

    I've heard stories that sometimes, someone will even go through the trash in your room to see what you get up to when you are alone.

    Most faculty interviews I have been involved with have involved two presentations--one in which you present about the way you teach or typical assignments or whatever, and one in which you actually teach a class to people in the department, although that one is often a second interview presentation. The first is usually more informal and people do ask a lot of questions.

    Now having said that, think about some of the faculty you have known over the years. There are some real freaks in that mix, yes? Yet they managed to get through the interview process and so will you. :)
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  9. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    I've known people to lose academic jobs over lunch by a couple off-hand remarks they made, so yes, you are *always* on. Also, don't say you are applying for the position because of the geographical location. That tends to result in an automatic no-hire. Make an argument for why this institution is unique and special, and what you will contribute to it. Make sure you are familiar with the work of the faculty members, and place what you do in conversation with their work. Under no circumstances should you express discontent with your current place of employment. Say this institution would be a perfect fit because of how well your research interests dovetail with the work they are doing in x,y, and z.

    The following will sound silly, but don't drink and don't watch porn in the hotel. The school will get a report of the latter, and you don't want to do something stupid because of the former.

    Good luck!
  10. Sarah

    Sarah Active Member

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    Thanks everyone! I really appreciate the help/advice!

    A little more details. This is a subject specific reference librarian position. I believe, like my current position, it's technically faculty in terms of classification (head count), but non-tenure track and no voting privileges. So the presentation I'm giving is a 15 minute database presentation on designated subject area to a freshman class. I was told 50-60 people typically attend. The class is basically a condensed version of what I currently teach at my current position (basic subject specific information literacy class, just this time, focusing on a single database for only 15 minutes). I'm choosing a database that while I like the least (I'm more comfortable with 2 others, but they are less suited for freshman), but it's the database we always refer freshman to--the others are more complex/less intuitive. Great for research, not so great for freshmen.

    Also, in terms of the presentation, I was thinking to go part powerpoint and part live demonstration. With the powerpoint, I was just going to do a basic overview (how to find full text, what to do if the library doesn't own article (ILL), how to find database, etc.) and then I was going to jump to the database for live search examples. Or, should I just stick to all live? I was also planning to do a full powerpoint coverage to have just in case the network is down and I can't access the internet. Not likely, but considering that those things only happen when you're unprepared with plan B, I'd like to consider it insurance.

    Certainly will not express any discontent about current position. They likely know some of the issues, but that neither here nor there. I do need to remember to breathe!

    The one issue I have is qualification. They'd like a second subject specific masters that I don't have, but it's not required. I gather from others (and our recent searches) that they had 60+ applicants and it sounds like they've narrowed it down to 4 so that can't have set me back too far. And while I don't have the subject specific degree, I am the subject specialist in that area in my current position, so hopefully that helps. I'd consider a second masters in that subject area in the future, but it's something I haven't yet pursued. If asked, how do I respond?

    Any other suggestions?
  11. Prancer

    Prancer Ray Chill Staff Member

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    Academic Search Complete? :blah:

    Having a Plan B is a great idea. If you have one, you won't need one. If you don't have one, you will. It's the Presentation Corollary to Murphy's Law.

    I think "I'd consider a second masters in that subject area in the future, but it's something I haven't yet pursued," would do nicely.
  12. Sarah

    Sarah Active Member

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    CINHAL (I love PubMed and OVID, but neither are freshmen friendly)--Ebsco databases are easy to use even though I don't love them.


    Exactly my thinking

    Great. I'll go with that if asked.
  13. Prancer

    Prancer Ray Chill Staff Member

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    Ah, yes, you did say subject specific :eek:.

    ITA about EBSCO, although I mostly don't love them because freshmen always think EBSCO is the name of a database, no matter how many times the librarians and I explain.

    I just sat through a presentation about CINAHL and PubMed, but I can't give you any helpful tips, I'm afraid. I was, um, doing something else and only pretending to be following along :shuffle:.
  14. altai_rose

    altai_rose Well-Known Member

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    Same here... :shuffle:

    How is Pubmed not freshman-friendly?. All you do is type pubmed.org and type in whatever you'd like to search for! Of course, your searches can be better narrowed down to get you the information you want, but that's something you can teach! :)

    Though I have to admit that when I'm researching a topic or looking for new papers in my field, I use google (and google scholar) instead of pubmed. I get lots more information (+ preprints of unpublished articles and meeting abstracts that lend a better insight into whether someone else is working on similar things to what I'm working on...)
  15. Sarah

    Sarah Active Member

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    Maybe it's not so much that PubMed can't be freshman friendly, but rather all the cool elements of it aren't freshman friendly. MeSH headings, fun crazy limits, search alerts, etc. Most of the class would focus on narrowing searches, not the actual database.

    Since most freshmen like the multi-disciplinary databases (ie: academic search premier, wilson, etc.), CINAHL is a good next step. Same ebsco platform. Can limit to full text. Easy to use. I find I can get freshman to use that a lot more than some of the other databases.
  16. Civic

    Civic New Member

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    I strongly suggest you prepare a "canned" demonstration of the database you're covering just in case it is down during your presentation. Rehearse doing both the live demonstration and the canned version. That way you'll be comfortable doing your presentation, no matter what happens.

    About that subject area Master's degree...find out if this university gives faculty tuition waiver or discounts *before* your interview. If they do, you can tell the search committee you would take advantage of this benefit to pursue that second M.A. degree.
  17. Sarah

    Sarah Active Member

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    Definitely. The canned version is my insurance policy. If something goes wrong, I'll have it. But I'll make sure I practice both.

    And there is faculty tuition waivers. 2 classes/semester. I looked at benefits in detail to see how they compared to current job. I was happy to see the tuition waiver. While I have it now (though I could only take advantage of it this past fall), there's nothing I want to study at my school--that makes it harder to pursue another degree.

    Ugh. I'm trying to get this presentation going. I have some screen shots and practice searches and narrowing steps, but obviously I need to get moving and do more.
  18. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    This reminds me of when our postdoc first interviewed with us - he did a presentation and one of the other researchers in our department, who's notorious for being a loud, obnoxious, fear-mongering, hard-headed know-it-all, raised his hand to ask a question. My coworker and I looked at each other with :yikes: expressions, but the postdoc fielded the question wonderfully and the crisis was averted. :lol:
  19. Sarah

    Sarah Active Member

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    Well, wish me luck! Dinner tonight then the full day tomorrow. I'm happy, but not, with my presentation. Oh well, I just need to stop thinking and start breathing!
  20. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    Good luck!!!
  21. Civic

    Civic New Member

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    Good luck Sarah! Let us know how it goes if you're comfortable doing so.
  22. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    Relax, you'll do great! Trust in yourself! :)

    Good luck tonight and tomorrow!
  23. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

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    Good luck, Sarah!
  24. mkats

    mkats New Member

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    Good luck!!! :)
  25. CantALoop

    CantALoop Well-Known Member

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    Wishing you good luck as well!
  26. Sarah

    Sarah Active Member

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    Thanks everyone one. Dinner was fine (other than the fact that the restaurant thought we were going to was closed... That made things interesting.

    I practiced the presentation a bunch yesterday and was feeling good about it. Then I tried to go through it after dinner and started second guessing everything. Since it would be too late to make changes, I just walked away. I have what I have so I'll just have to go for it.
  27. mrr50

    mrr50 Well-Known Member

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    Came to this late. I was on the faculty of a major university for 15 yrs. The information here is on point. I just want to emphasize that no matter how bad your present situation is, don't mention it.
  28. Sarah

    Sarah Active Member

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    Thanks everyone!

    The interview day went really well. I met lots of people and everyone was very nice. Dinner the night before was nice and informal--just a get to know you type of thing--no real questions, just conversation.

    The interview day started off with a brief meeting to discuss benefits then a tour. After that, I met with the interview committee for the "formal" part of the interview. That part went really well. I liked how I answered the questions and no question made me struggle. Then I had 15 minutes to prepare for my presentation and then the actual presentation.

    I mentioned that I decided to present the database CINHAL which turned out to be a great choice. Everyone kept mentioning that they're much more familiar with PubMed so I'm glad I went with CINHAL. Many people told me they learned a lot, didn't know many of the abilities of the database, etc. My actual presentation went really well. Much better than some of my run throughs. People seemed surprised and then impressed that I did a live demonstration rather than a powerpoint (I get the idea that most candidates do powerpoints because then nothing can go wrong). First they seemed really surprised that I was doing a live demonstration but afterwards all seemed to think it was a great decision. So, if nothing else, I was VERY happy with how everything went.

    After the presentation, more meeting. I met with the entire reference staff (AHH! small room, lots of people, lots of questions being fired left and right), but I survived and it went pretty well. Another meeting then lunch.

    They chose 5 people from different areas to take me to lunch. Went to a place that basically served salads, pastas, and sandwiches! All items you typically want to avoid. I ordered last and since 1 person ordered pasta and the rest ordered paninis, I followed suit and got a panini though we all ended up eating with a knife and fork which cut out the mess possibilities.

    A few more meeting after lunch then a final meeting with the search committee where some final questions were asked and I could ask anything else I wanted or ask, or share anything I didn't get to say during the day. Finally, 1 more meeting with the assistant director where briefly addressed salary. The only negative on the day. He didn't have the numbers in front of him but what he guessed at was a good $8,000 to $12,000 less than I'm making now :yikes: THis is a state-related university with lots of money. I work for a state school with next to no money and few raises, etc. How am I making THAT MUCH MORE? People I mentioned this to who know both systems (a couple family members/close family friends) don't understand that either.

    So the director mentioned this, I stayed indifferent. Let me get the position and find the actual pay before I make decisions. But, if it's where he thinks, I'll be turning down the position. Short commute and better scheduling are great, but not worth a pay cut of $10,000--I have too many bills/expenses. Director also indicated there was 1 more candidate coming the end of next week and they already interviewed 1 person. From what he said, I'm in line to either get the job or have them wish they have 2 spots based on how person 3 does.

    Oh well, we'll see how things go. I don't know what/if I'll have any salary negotiation power--if I do, it likely won't be too much. A second masters bumps the salary, but only by $1000 which doesn't make much difference.

    I just wish every job listed a salary scale/range. I've skipped jobs applying because of this and if I knew up front hat the salary would be low, I'd not have applied nor wasted 2 vacation days for the interview.
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  29. mrr50

    mrr50 Well-Known Member

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    Just regard the interview as practice for the big one. There also an option of discussing the salary when they call to hire, usually the person who hires has some leeway.
  30. TygerLily

    TygerLily Well-Known Member

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    I'm happy it went well! Whatever happens with the offer or salary, it sounds like it's been a good interview experience. And what mrr50 said about practice.
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  31. Prancer

    Prancer Ray Chill Staff Member

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    Glad that it went well! I hope they make you an offer, even if you decide not to take it.
  32. JasperBoy

    JasperBoy Well-Known Member

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    Coming in late on this, but it is an interesting discussion.

    If you get an offer, and the salary is low, but not ridiculously low, I suggest leave a bit of dead air for awhile. Let the person making the offer wait for your reply, then say something like "Unfortunately, I would be taking a significant pay cut to accept this offer".

    I think that, if you take your time, and let them do the talking, there could be an increase in the offer. You might have to take a small step back in pay in order to have room for advancement in the future, Besides, what is the price of having a pleasant work environment, or getting away from a poisonous environment?

    Best of luck.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2011
  33. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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    It's truly uncommon in academic jobs (IME anyway) to accept the first salary that is offered. The person making the offer would probably be very surprised if there *wasn't* some discussion and negotiation.

    And even if the person who hires doesn't have some leeway themselves in making salary offers, they usually also have someone higher up they can go to and ask for more money.

    In this case, I think the university knows that its salaries are below standard, if the very first meeting of the day was to talk about benefits (reasoning being, perhaps, that if the candidate learns about our great benefits first, later on they won't be so :eek: when they hear about the salary).

    JasperBoy's advice about responding to the salary offer is excellent.
  34. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    Congrats on a great job talk!

    My guess would be if you are coming from a smaller school, they may be assuming your pay scale is lower than theirs. That may explain why they put forward a low salary. If you get an offer, then you talk shop about wanting them to meet or exceed your present salary. I'm sure you know this already, but public institutions have a salary scale they are rather bound by. That said, they have an off-scale bonus range they can use to boost an offer within a particular pay scale. That off-scale bonus can be quite significant. They won't offer that up front unless they know you are already above their posted pay scales. But for many faculty positions they do have that flexibility to raise the salary during negotiations.

    They can also bump you up a step in the pay grade (depending on the state), so that would give you more salary potential.

    Anyhow, I wouldn't worry about the salary just yet.

    Good luck, and hope it works out!!!
  35. milanessa

    milanessa engaged to dupa

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    Sounds like it went really well, Sarah. Even if this doesn't lead to a position you'd accept, you've gotten some great experience. :)
  36. Sarah

    Sarah Active Member

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    Thanks everybody! I'll keep you all updated. If I am offered the position, regardless of salary, I'll definitely take time to thing and negotiate--in other words, no immediate response. If I don't get the job, then I'll keep looking and make the best of where I am.

    A small pay cut would be manageable (shorter commute = much less gas), but beyond that... We'll see if it even comes to that.

    But overall, I'm really happy with how the interview went. I was told after I interviewed for an internship during grad school (despite this, I got the internship--the positives of no other applicants!) that I interview terribly. I just get too nervous. It's nice to see how far I've come. There is no way even a year ago I could have managed this interview, or at least as well, so all in all, success!
  37. Sarah

    Sarah Active Member

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    So I got the job! Unfortunately, the pay is lower and there is no room for negotiation. The pay is slightly higher than what I expected after the interview, but it's still just over $5000 less than what I'm making now. Gas and less wear and tear on my car will make a difference, but at the end of the day, I don't know if I can manage a pay cut. Benefits are comparable.

    So, I'm stressing and giving myself headaches (after coming off a week of migraines, I really DON'T need stress). I hate my job now and this is so much closer to home. The people are nice, the environment is nice, and the university is far more prestigious than my current university. I actually have classes I want to take there.

    All in all, I don't know. On the negatives, beyond salary, there is no managerial element in this position whereas my current position I supervise 2 staff members. This could hold me back in the future for future position, but at the same time, I at least have some managerial experience.

    If I can find a way to cut expenses down (I have 3 horses and mentioned to my landlord that I might move them from their property to somewhere cheaper if I take the job... I might need to say that to her husband to see if he can cut me a break) or pick up some additional work somewhere/sometime, I could make it work. But...

    Anyway, they want an answer ASAP. I found out yesterday (Friday) and they'd like my answer Monday, though they agreed to Tuesday or early Wednesday if necessary. If I don't accept, they do have other qualified candidates...

    I think this part is harder than the interview. Any advice?
  38. JasperBoy

    JasperBoy Well-Known Member

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    Money isn't everything. That's all I have to say.
  39. Civic

    Civic New Member

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    I'm sure you love your horses but do you really need all three of them? I don't mean to be callous but aren't horses very expensive to maintain? At the end of the day what is more important to you?


  40. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    If you think you wouldn't be happy in the position over the long-term, or would be interested in moving to something more prestigious a few years later, I would hesitate. If you think this is a place you would like to work over the long haul, then I would take it.

    Some people are very upwardly mobile and view each job as a stepping stone to the next. If that somewhat describes you, this would be a bit of a step down, and would make future job negotiations more difficult. OTOH, there are others looking to settle down in one place and aren't looking to move several times. If so, this definitely sounds like an improvement over where you are.

    I think it comes down to who you are and what you want long-term.

    Congrats on the job offer!!!