Despite everyone saying that this is a topic that is not to be asked about, on all four of the interviews I had last year at least one faculty member asked me what my spouse did for a living. This wasn't typically in a formal interview, but usually when casually talking at dinner or when walking between meetings. Given that we are a dual career couple, this is a critical topic that I wanted to bring up only when I had a written offer and was in the negotiation stage. So my question is, how does one handle this when it comes up during the interview? It seems weird to lie or make something up, when if I get an offer I will clearly have to correct what I said. On the other hand, if I'm honest, I could legitimately be jeopardizing my chances at an offer. Should I try to say something humorous but not really answer the question? Say he is a psychologist but that we are open to different options and a position for him is not a deal breaker (I was specifically asked if a position for him was a must have)? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
Never say something like that is a "must have" up front. Get the offer first. Then ask for everything you want and need and see if an agreement can be made.
A few people have probably already googled you and seen that you have a spouse even if that's not what they were searching for.
I was upfront about the fact that I had a spouse.
I was upfront about the fact that she was also a university employee.
If it came up, I was somewhat dishonest in saying that she was very excited about living in XXX for XXX reasons. But, she was open to it, so no reason to give them an illegal excuse not to hire on that basis.
If it came up, I emphasized all of the different opportunities in the area for her that she was excited about (obvi she wasn't. See above).
At one place I did try to negotiate for a position for her but it was a no go. But other people have had it work. Some universities have pro-spouse/family hiring policies.
I agree that you don't want/need to force a potential employer's hand before or during your interview, by stating that it is a "deal breaker" if your spouse/partner does not get a job. However, I do somewhat disagree about waiting until a written offer is in hand to "spring the news" on the offering Department.
If you get invited for an interview, you are one of between 1 and 5 people they are bringing to campus, and that means they want you (or you at least have a 20-100% chance of getting a job offer!)! So, they would be much more willing to try to work with you - if they have the time to think it out….. It would be disappointing for a Department to make an offer to a candidate, only to then find out that there is this insurmountable barrier of having to hire another spouse.
Now, if you were going to take this job no matter what, even if your spouse doesn't get a job, then I can see being a little more guarded - but, if you really need that component in order to take the job, I might be a little bit more upfront about it. It doesn't have to be a demand, but it could be a probing….
Just some thoughts…. Thanks!
Just to clarify, I totally agree and would not use terms like "deal breaker" or "must have." This was how specific questions were worded to me, much to my dismay!
I always told them I had a spouse, usually before it even came up from an awkward question from them.
If a spousal hire is truly a deal-maker/breaker for you, then I suppose you could admit that, because you have nothing to lose… if it counts against you then so be it, you didn't want the job if they weren't going to hire your spouse.
But for most people, it's a huge factor and not a deal-breaker. Here's where you do as AliasAlias did and bend the truth about the willingness/excitedness of your spouse being there without a job, or with some alternate job. I was ALWAYS able to say something positive about my spouse's situation job and location-wise. This is in part because we applied selectively — I ruled out places that were a "no" for the spouse. But it was also because I was even able to convince myself in the moment of the glimmer of positive that was there for my spouse. I never got the sense that talking about my spouse or child/children was a negative in my prospects.
(FWIW my spouse is not in academia so they didn't have to produce a job, their job was always a huge factor, of course.)