Now that we have covered the preparation and practice of your interviewing ‘seminar’ and the chalk talk- we can spend a few minutes on the interview itself. Usually the inviting department will prepare a schedule for your visit- hopefully you will get a copy of this schedule a few days before you are to travel. Make sure you get a copy in advance… if necessary, ask nicely.
These things are usually two day affairs- with a seminar given the first day and possibly a chalk talk the second day- but again, these things vary from place to place (are you detecting a theme here?). During the day when you are not giving your presentation you will have a packed schedule of meeting with many members of the department, the search committee members and possibly one or two faculty that you have requested to meet, and there will probably be a couple of dinners with faculty as well. Some places schedule you for one-on-one meetings with faculty, while other places schedule meeting with faculty in large groups…it just depends on the place.
You will have to have the endurance of a marathoner… because these visits are long and grueling, so be prepared. Before you go, do some homework on each faculty member on your schedule- read (or skim) a couple of papers, read a couple of abstracts, look up funded projects on CRISP and read their abstracts. Come up with a couple of questions about each person’s work. If your area of work overlaps with anyone in the department- be prepared to talk about this with the person during your visit.
Do a little homework on the local area, the institution etc. There will be times when you need to make small talk- and if you are not completely comfortable doing this it is useful to give yourself a little knowledge about a couple of topics that you can use to break the ice or keep conversation going. This is especially true during dinners…where the conversation will veer away from science from time to time.
Should you talk about spouse and family during your interviewing stay? I am SURE that there will be discussion in the comments to this post about this. The faculty are not allowed to ask you first about your private life (whether you are married, whether you have children are pregnant etc.) but if YOU bring it up- then these topics can be discussed. This past summer I was at a meeting that had a session on women in science featuring several prominent senior women faculty as panelists- and they all said that you should NOT talk about your family during an interview. I guess I don’t feel so strongly about this as they did- there are lots of small-talk moments where the topic of family might come up and that’s ok- BUT DON’T OVERDO IT. A natural question in the minds of the faculty trying to recruit you will be what possibilities are available within the institution or immediate area for your spouse.
There is one (that I can think of at this minute) important circumstance where you SHOULD talk about your spouse, but you are going to have to do this under a particular set of circumstances. If you are part of a two-academic-science career couple, and you feel the interview is going very well- you should find the opportunity to mention your spouse, his/her position, and his/her field. This should be done with discreetly- perhaps during the final debriefing with the department chair, or in a meeting with a faculty member that you have pegged as in your corner. The reason to mention this now is that it takes TIME to find academic positions appropriate to hire the spouse… chairs have to talk to other chairs, positions and money have to be extracted from deans… and these things are not as straight forward as you think. ***Something very important I neglected to mention when I posted this initially- take a printed copy of your also-seeking-academic-position-spouse’s CV with you on your interview… this comes in handy during your talk with the chairperson… if they ask you for this you are prepared…)***
Helpful hints for the visit itself- once you have prepared yourself well, the rest is pretty basic, your mum could probably come up with these. In fact I kind of feel like your mother saying them but nevertheless:
1. Good manners (please, thanks and respect for EVERYONE), remember you are a guest!
2. Be on your best behavior at ALL TIMES.
3. Absolutely no trash talking anyone…this is VERBOTEN. Do not let anyone get you involved in negative talk about anyone else. It’s just bad manners, and you would be shocked how things you say travel…
4. Two rules, no talking politics no talking religion. Just stay away from these topics for 48 hours.
5. Proper professional clothing- the HHMI book (Making the Right Moves) defines this as neither too casual nor too dressy- so as not to make your host feel uncomfortable. I myself prefer to err on the side of too formal… but that’s just me.
6. Get a good night of sleep- use sleep inducing drugs if you must- you want to be at the top of your game during the interview and making sure you sleep is really important- even if chemistry is required!
7. Eat eggs for breakfast. I know you think I’m joking but I’m not. A little protein will take you a long way. You may be giving your seminar at noon … and you don’t want to give your seminar with your stomach growling…
8. Caffeine after lunch. If you don’t have a coffee after lunch- have a caffeinated soda in your bag… this way when you reach 3 pm and feel like yawning… you have the antidote.
Ok, I think I have said quite enough- now get yourself a good haircut and a professional outfit and go knock em’ dead!
You will be exhausted when it’s done. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.