So I have amassed a great amount of information on the interview process, questions I will be asked, to ask, etc. However, all of this was collected from people who interviewed at research focused institutions. I am interviewing at SLACs, primarily. Any thoughts, advice, considerations I should think about in preparing for these interviews?
Date: 19 Jan 2011 20:34
Number of posts: 3
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I spent 3 years in a visiting position at a top SLAC, and also interviewed at several before getting my current t/t job. Some advice:
- working with undergrads: Huge. From freshman to seniors, be able to state how you'll involve them in your research. (e.g., freshman can do lit searches, run participants. seniors/those who've had stats/methods can do basic stats, etc). Mention conference poster presentations and possibly even publications as possible outcomes of working with you. Show interest in mentoring senior honors theses, if those happen at this school. And of course you love to advise them on career/grad school stuff. Check into grant opportunities for research with undergrads - NSF has a funding program for this. You'd impress them if you knew about these options. Also, you can ask if there's funding to pay undergrads for summer research assistant positions, take them to conferences, etc.
- teaching is also probably huge. Have specific ideas about how you like your classes to be run. Educate yourself on the teaching approaches used (e.g., do students read original research or textbooks? Are classes big or small? Do students write a lot, collect data in class, etc.)
- in smaller departments, there's likely to be a greater burden of service, accommodating people on sabbatical by being open to teaching other courses, etc. Be positive and open to all of these responsibilities. Also, willingness/ability to teach "service" courses, like intro and stats/methods would be a nice selling point.
- you might have lunch or individual meetings with undergrads. A couple of them may even be on the search committee! Talk about your research in a way that excites them! Talk about what cool classes you could offer. Show an interest and relate to them on a personal level (You can get a lot of mileage out of questions like, "so what made you come to college here?"). Students' impact can be really important!
SLAC-er - that's some fantastic advice. Allow me to add a couple more points:
- One of the biggest issues is going to be with how you fit into the department, and I don't just mean your research interests and your teaching expertise. SLAC departments are typically smaller than R1 departments, and it can be a real issue when one person won't play nice with everyone else. These people are likely going to want to talk about things other than your publications. Be prepared to be awesome.
- This is especially true for students. I've been doing the SLAC visiting position thing for a couple years, and I've been in meetings where we discussed other visiting candidates. Students typically don't have much background in comparison, so their praise comes in the form of "his/her research sounds interesting," "he/she was really nice," and "I think I would really like to take a class with him/her." Not only may student meetings be on your itinerary, they'll voice their opinions to the other faculty, and they may even have a vote. Make sure to treat them with as much respect as you would treat anyone else. (Note - not saying that anyone would insult students to their faces, but when we're on interviews, we tend to let our guard down when meeting with students.)
- This has been talked about in another thread, but keep in mind, that there is likely no "search committee" at a SLAC. If there is one, its job is simply to make the initial pass through the applications, and identify candidates to bring in for interviews. In the end, the hiring decision won't just be made by a few people - everyone in the department will likely have a vote.
- By all means, ask other faculty members about their research (just like you would at an R1), but you might also ask how they find the time with all of their other teaching, service, etc. We SLAC people *love* to talk about how much time we don't have for writing during the year. Plus, you'll get a sense how easy it is to get some research done at that place, and how many people in the department are still interested in publishing.
- Lastly, I've seen candidates be dismissed because faculty got the idea that the SLAC job was clearly a backup for an R1 position. ("He/she doesn't really want to be here.") People will want to feel as though you actually want to be at a SLAC, you're really interested in teaching and working with undergrads, and this isn't simply somewhere to get a paycheck in an otherwise crummy market.
Best of luck!