Academics: Campus interview advice

Ok, I’ve finally gotten a campus interview. I’m very interested in both the university and the position, and I really think that I’m a good fit for the job. Hopefully I’ll feel like I’m a good fit with the staff once I meet them as well, but I won’t know that until I meet them.

The interview is next week and I’m a little nervous - not as much yet as I will be once I’m there, but still.

Basically, I’m looking for advice. This does include a presentation, and I’ve done presentations before - but not as part of an interview. Any tips you can give me, or horror (ok, good stories are ok too) stories of interview past would help me calm down, I promise.

Umm, could you whittle down the job category a bit? Universities hire people from janitors to presidents. Whole different types of interviews for those.

What ftg said - is this a staff, faculty or administration position?

Campus interviews are a real marathon. It’s not like a regular job interview, where you talk with a few people for an hour or two and then you are done. You may be interviewing for an entire day or more. From my experience you will have individual interviews with each of the faculty in the department and probably with at least one dean or other administrator as well. Then they will have you give the presentation. This may have an open attendance policy, meaning that students or other people can be part of the audience. You will also likely be given a tour of the campus, and possibly of the surrounding area so you can get an idea of what it would be like to live there. You will be eating all your meals with them, as well, which is also part of the interview process. You may even be taken to a play or other evening event.

Some advice:

  1. Get a good idea of what kind of space/equipment will be available for your presentation. Then have a back-up plan. For example, if you’ll be using Powerpoint, have some hard copies of important slides ready, in case of technical glitches.

  2. Don’t give an overly technical presentation. Not everyone will be an expert in your field. Make sure it is lively and interesting to a broader audience.

  3. Do some background research on each of the faculty, so that you can discuss their work with them during individual interviews. Also, be prepared for a wide variety of skill levels when it comes to interviewers. Some will be very professional, some not so.

  4. Make sure your interview clothes are comfortable, as well as presentable. You may very well be in that suit and those shoes all day.

I’m assuming this is for a teaching position? My post is going to be based on this assumption.

It goes without saying to get there on time. I had an interview for an adjunct position last year, and showed up to the interview and an hour and a half late. Why? Because I got lost. My car’s AC was not working and it was 90 degrees and I was desparately lost. When I finally showed up to the building, I was bathed in sweat, my hair had turned into the wildest afro because of the humidity, and my eyes were red because I had been crying. Also, my foot was bleeding because I hadn’t broken in my shoes yet. (And yet I magically got the position!)

So find the place the night before and get there early, to beat the traffic and handle parking.

I’m assuming the presentation will be for a general audience, both students and faculty? My advice would be not to try to wow everyone with your technical expertise. Last year, I had to sit through about five candidate presentations, and only one was memorable in a good way. The others either put me to sleep or made me feel mentally retarded. The presentation should reflect your teaching abilities as well as your research. Don’t assume everyone knows the words you’re using. Do not use abbreviations without defining them first.

And make sure all figures are clear and uncluttered. There is nothing more intimidating than having a hundred figures thrown at you in rapid fire with someone saying, “As you can see…” Half the room will feel stupid and the other half will think you’re stupid.

If it’s an hour long presentation, make it 50 minutes. Do not do one of those exhaustive talks that includes everything you’ve ever done in your research career. Even if everything is interesting, you will wear everyone out and no one will know what questions to ask you afterwards (which is what you want them to do).

Be personable during the presentation. Do not stand with your arms crossed (especially when you’re answering questions). Sprinkle in humor. Do not do the cutesy “I’m so nervous!” thing at the beginning of your talk, because everyone already knows you’re nervous. No need to emphasis it.

Your interview process will probably involve meeting with a list of people in the department, including graduate students. Try to find out what everyone does beforehand. Be friendly and warm to the grad students. I always liked it when candidates bothered to ask about our research interests and what kinds of classes we wanted to see being taught. We didn’t have a major role in the decision-making process, but our opinions were often sought in the “iffy” cases. I once gave the thumbs-down on a candidate who made an uncomfortable lunch companion. She just sat there with her nose in the air, not asking questions and barely answering the ones we asked her. So make sure you’re enthusiasm and curiousity shines through.

Sorry for my delayed return to the thread - I’ve been gathering the information I need for my presentation and trying to convince myself that I’m not truly nervous yet. Along with helping a friend move - I’d promised my help a while ago, and she was counting on me.
The position is a librarian position, if that makes any difference (but the tips already posted are still valid, and I really appreciate them!). My last real interview was over 4 years ago, and it was a corporate gig, not academic.
I’m going to go not stress some more, ok? But I’ll check back in later.