Does anyone have advice for how much to prepare for in-person interviews by reviewing the research interests and publications of the faculty who will be interviewing you? Sometimes this can be 20 people…it doesn't seem possible to really review (and remember) their work in much detail. From a search committee perspective, how much familiarity with the faculty's work is appreciated?
Date: 22 Nov 2014 01:49
Number of posts: 12
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This is a question that I have been wondering about as well. I am prepping for interviews and am feeling overwhelmed about knowing everyone's research interests.
Just pay attentions to those close to your area. Other than that, no worries. I fact, not all of them will meet with you. If they choose to meet with you, most likely that they are interested in your research due to similar background. Also, besides the search committee themselves, other faculty usually have very limited meeting time(30 minutes).
What has worked for some: Sit down with your itinerary and do a quick search for the folks you will be meeting with. Print out a few abstracts for each person. Then read those on the plane. You are not expected to know everything about everyone but having just a bit of background can be helpful to you and will flatter those you interact with and send the message that you have done your homework and are interested in the job. Also, know that many of those you'll meet who are not in the area may be interested in discussing more about their general impressions of the department, answering your questions, etc.
At the top tier SLAC where I work, we had a candidate who appeared to know nothing about any of our research. This was not looked on favorably later on. The trick with a SLAC is that they are likely hiring you to fill a hole in terms of their course offerings - so you will by necessity probably not have much in common in terms of research with anyone. We have 8 full time people all working in different sub-fields of psych, and during a search, candidates meet one on one with each of us (we don't get a choice). The whole meeting will not be about research, but it is a good idea to know a little something about each person to get the conversation rolling. For instance: "Oh, you're the person who is studying learning in aging rats, right?" Or "I saw you published something with a former [undergraduate] student last year - are the students usually up for that kind of work?" Read the abstracts of a recent paper or two for each person, and you're good to go. We do our best to get the candidates a copy of the schedule ahead of time so you can prepare.
I have interviewed at places before where the norm was that most of the faculty met with all of the job candidates. Honestly, other than those who you might collaborate with and/or have shared research interests with, you don't need to know much more than maybe their general area of research (no need to read abstracts). With those who you share interests, you will be talking research. Everyone else will be more keen to answer your questions and ask you if there is anything you want to know from them. In these cases, I found it useful to also note some faculty members' administrative roles so that I would know who to ask what types of questions (e.g., ask the undergrad program director about undergrads, the grad program director about the grad students and program, etc.). Either way, make sure you have LOTS of questions prepared. Otherwise, you will find yourself asking the same question over and over again and that won't benefit you and will also get boring really quickly.
Could we get a thread going of questions that should be asked in this interview situation? Eg ask department head x and y. Ask dean about z. Ask full prof, this and ask associate prof, that. What do people forget to ask at the interview that would have been important to know?
I would recommend reading the "Compleat Academic" which has a chapter on the interview process, including lists of questions to ask based on the person's role (and just campus interview questions worth asking in general).
This is one of those times that I really wish the Wiki had a "Like" feature. This thread has been incredibly helpful, so thank you to all who have contributed!
Others have shared great insight, but I'll add a comment from a SLAC perspective with a smaller psychology department. It wasn't a big deal if our candidates knew or did not know our search committee members' research background. What was a greater factor in our decision was 1. did the candidate have clear, well-planned ideas for how undergraduates could be readily involved in the research and 2. would the candidate's research plans allow for some possible collaboration with other department members and faculty in other disciplines?
Regardless of a SLAC or R1 (or something in between) interview, though, there are many questions I would ask faculty. These include
- How does the department set-up the class schedule? Do faculty get to have a say in how their courses are scheduled?
- Are there department policies in place regarding office hours (number and when scheduled)?
- What funding exists to support research/conference travel at a department level? At a college/university level?
- Are there any competitive internal grant programs?
- How does the participant/subject pool work? (Assuming there is one.)
- What service work do faculty typically engage in?
- What would you share with a junior faculty member seeking to start a career here?
- Tell me about a typical work day for you?
The last question is insightful into workload and even work/life balance. I'd definitely ask this of every faculty member I interview with. Hope these help! The others might be best presented to the department chair (e.g. the first five), but sometimes it's useful to ask the same question to different faculty just to see if any inconsistencies show up.