I've received an invitation for a phone interview for a position. This phone interview will serve to select candidates for a campus visit. I have never had a phone interview for a tenure-track position before and would appreciate advice on what to expect and how to best prepare for it. Thank you in advance for your help!
Date: 09 Feb 2011 00:35
Number of posts: 4
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First of all, congrats! I was surprised after a long period of silence to suddenly start receiving interview invites a couple of weeks ago. I thought for sure that I was done for! :) Here are my two cents on phone interviews…
Disclaimer: I have zero experience with universities, so this is just based on my experience of several phone interviews at SLACs over the years.
1) Very important: Read up on the school! Do this several times, spread out over the course of whatever time you have between now and your interview, so that it lives not on a notepad, but in your memory. You want to have all the important information about them readily accessible in your brain - how big is the department, do you appear to be a new hire or are you replacing someone, what do they want you to teach, how big are they and where are they located?
While you are doing this, review your cover letter and remind yourself of what they know about you (what materials did they ask for?). Spend a bit of time thinking about what aspects of your application make you a particularly good fit for this school in particular - do you have experience teaching the courses they are asking you to teach? Do you have any unusual skills that make you uniquely qualified to perform some aspect of the job's requirements? Some places will ask you outright why you are a particularly good fit for the position or the school, but even if they don't, it's certainly something they want to know! So put together some reasons in advance and be on the lookout for opportunities to throw them out there whenever it's appropriate. Like the details about the school, you want this information to live in your brain, immediately available to you, not on a piece of paper where you will forget to look at it.
2) Think about the distinctive traits of the school (location? really small or really huge? educational philosophy?) and spend some time thinking about how you could demonstrate to them that you are aware of and enthusiastic about those things. For example, if a school is very small, they are going to want to know how you feel about that. The extent to which you can convince them that whatever they ask about is not just fine with you, but exactly what you were looking for, the better.
3) They will likely give you a chance to ask questions, and you want to have a couple on hand. Make sure they're not things that are answered on the school's website. Keep the questions light at this point, like about the nature of the position, e.g. teaching load. Don't ask about things like startup funds or tenure evaluations until you are on-campus (exception: unless you are trying to decide whether or not you would accept an on-campus interview and you really need certain information to make your decision).
4) Lastly, expect that they will ask you at least one thing that you haven't considered AT ALL. Many search committees will ask one uncommon question to see how you think on your feet. Do whatever it takes to keep yourself relaxed and thinking flexibly so that you can pull it off well.
5) Send a brief email follow-up to the search chair after the phone call. Especially given how late things are in the grand scheme of job searches, places that are still at the phone interview stage are going to appreciate some reassurance that you are serious about the position, would come to an on-campus interview if invited, etc.
Best of luck to you, anon!
p.s. In addition to the above suggestions making it easier to perform well on the interview, it will be really, really obvious to the search committee that you have done your homework. This projects the impression that you are a) seriously considering the job (a real concern of several schools I talked to this round due to how late in the game it is) and b) serious about carrying yourself professionally, not going into a situation blind, etc.
p.p.s. Wow, I need sleep or coffee. I went kind of wild on the word "particularly," and said "lastly" on point 4 of 5. Whatever.