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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Interviews

The candidate who shot up to the top of the list of interviewees was the one who answered the question of “Why are you interested in this position?” with an honest “Because I need a job, and the job market is horrible.”

It was so refreshing to hear an honest answer and to see a glimpse of humanity in the candidate. Mostly, people answer with “Because I’m dedicated to teaching and I fully agree with the core mission of your university which is [cue a long verbatim quote from the university website]” or “Because I’m dedicated to teaching and I’m excited about using the language lab at your department which [cue a long verbatim quote from our departmental website.] 

Yes, you are totally willing to relocate to Illinois from California because you are so excited about our language lab. That’s so believable.

I understand that people are anxious but nobody at the committee could even remember the person we interviewed on Thursday because his robotic answers faded from our memories in two minutes. 

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16 thoughts on “Interviews

  1. Sounds like you should stop asking this question, or reword it so that you’re asking a question that yields helpful answers. Some interviewers would react pretty strongly against this answer – it could be seen as tactless and disrespectful to the college – and as a candidate you have no idea which ones would like it and which would hate it.

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    • Spiderbaby on said:

      Yeah, such frankness is not always appreciated, I think it’s actually frowned upon more often than not.
      Job seekers are advised to express the utmost interest in the company/university/whatever place they whish to work for, show that they have done their research on it and convince the recruiters that they want so, so much to work for them especially. All of this, of course, without sounding insencere.
      (At least, that’s people tell you in my country).

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      • “Yeah, such frankness is not always appreciated, I think it’s actually frowned upon more often than not.”

        • It’s not true. Sincerity is always the best.

        “Job seekers are advised to express the utmost interest in the company/university/whatever place they whish to work for, show that they have done their research on it and convince the recruiters that they want so, so much to work for them especially. ”

        • This is bad advice. It might work on some HR dunces in a huge corporation. But we are academics. We are intelligent people and trying to fool us with a trick meant for a dumb HR person can only be counterproductive.

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    • “Some interviewers would react pretty strongly against this answer – it could be seen as tactless and disrespectful to the college”

      • If the college is Harvard, then yes. But if the college is the State University of Northern Podunk in Barberville (like mine), then anybody who tells us that they are desperate to move here from New York or LA and work for us because they like our mission statement sounds like they are mocking us.

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      • I agree that parroting your mission statement is not a good answer to this question.

        If I were advising someone applying to a job at the State University of Northern Podunk in Barberville, I would recommend that they hunt for something that could conceivably be spun as an advantage of the area. The much lower cost of living compared to NYC or LA could be a legitimate reason to want to move there given the fact that academic salaries are pretty bad everywhere. A person in LA could conceivably be interested in a place with four seasons. (True story – I had a student from San Diego in one of my courses and she told me chose my upper-Midwestern university because she had never experienced a winter and wanted to after reading so many beautiful descriptions of winter in novels.)

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        • One refreshingly honest person said: “My wife has a great-paying job in St Louis and I want to be near and employed.” That made a lot of sense.

          Or they could say, “I hate the darn coastal elites and am dying to move to Trump country.”

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  2. I agree that it’s not a very good question. It sets the candidate up for a bad answer.

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    • Why is it a bad question? It’s the most important question we have and all we are looking for is an honest answer. Everybody has a reason to apply. Why not reveal it?

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      • Because in the majority of cases the answer is going to be, “I need a job, and it’s very unlikely I’m going to have a choice about where that job is.” But most people will be too nervous to give that as an answer for fear of insulting you so they’ll just make up ridiculous sounding reasons. I think after spending some time with the candidate it will become more or less clear whether they’d be ok with taking this job and moving to your region.

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        • We can’t spend any time with the candidate because we are not allowed to bring anybody in for a campus visit. We have to go solely by this single Skype interview and a CV.

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          • Skype interview, my dream! 😍😍

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          • Seriously?! I take back what I said. I’m sorry.

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            • No, it’s not your fault. This is the insane situation that is caused by the LAZY ASS FUCK RAUNER. Fuck him. We can’t even have a campus visit for two people because there is no budget in the state.

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              • Foode on said:

                That really is so stupid. It would cost a few thousand at most to bring two people– a drop in the bucket for the state budget. And in the long run it saves money because it gives you an opportunity to really vet people, and just as importantly, for candidates to see whether they can see themselves living in your area for the long term.

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              • Absolutely! It is very hard to hire for a teaching position without seeing the actual teaching.

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