Interviewing for Jobs

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Interviewing for Jobs
Jane Grande-Allen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Bioengineering
Rice University
with grateful acknowledgement of resources
from Rice University ADVANCE program
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Overview
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Application process
Faculty position interviews
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General advice
Expectations and questions
Research presentations
Teaching considerations
Note on industry position interviews
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Your Application Packet for a
Faculty Position
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Cover letter
Research experience and plans
Teaching experience and philosophy
List of referees
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dissertation advisor, postdoc supervisor, others
You may be asked for:
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Reference letters
Representative/best manuscripts
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Process for the Department
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A search committee selects 3-4 candidates from 50-200
applicants.
 May need to get entire faculty to agree.
The search committee chair or department chair calls the
candidates and schedules visits.
An itinerary is constructed for each candidate.
The interview occurs.
The chair and search committee re-evaluate the candidates. A
recommendation to the department is composed.
The department votes to make an offer.
The Dean must sign off.
You get the call.
 It may take some time to get a formal letter with the offer.
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You Got The Call! Now What?
Congratulations! A committee has judged you as a potential good fit.
The interview is your chance to seal the deal.
There are lots of details arranging a visit.
 Have a calendar at hand.
 Visits are usually >1 day
 Being asked to interview first may be a very good sign.
 Are you ready with talks, interview outfits, haircut?
 If you are fortunate enough to be asked by several institutions to
visit, think carefully about conflicts.
 Time frame of highly ranked vs. lower ranked departments
 What if you interview on Jan 8 and get an offer good for two
weeks, and your first choice interview is on Feb 12?
 (You can only say “yes" once.)
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Start Preparing ASAP!
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Putting together your talk is the most important item.
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Gear up for interviews with 10-20 faculty
Anticipate one-on-one interviews with
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Preparation (and practice) are key.
Department chair
Dean of the School
Several senior faculty (and junior faculty)
A selection of graduate students
Read everything you can about the department
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Preparing to Meet with Faculty
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KNOW EVERYBODY ON YOUR SCHEDULE
Focus your attention on the Chair and on key faculty
in your research area.
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The conversation will not just be about your thesis
research.
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Read CVs carefully and thoroughly.
Have relevant questions planned.
How will you complement the department's current work?
What new area(s) of expertise will you offer?
Read several papers by these faculty. You can
suggest possible collaborations. You can ask
probing questions.
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Do Your Homework
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Read about the institution, the department, and the research
group you would belong to
 Are there other local institutions where there could be possible
collaborators?
Ask ahead as many questions as necessary to prepare an
appropriate-level presentation of your research
Ask to meet with people you think will help you evaluate how
good a fit the position is
 Assistant profs in the department
 Potential collaborators in the department and other departments
 Female or minority faculty
 Graduate students
 Human resources staff
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Prepare to Ask Questions
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You do not want to leave after two days uncertain if you would
take the job if offered.
You should ask about the tenure process
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Does the department have a strategic plan?
Teaching expectations (and load)
Research priorities? Publication expectations?
External funding expectations
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How many assistant professors have received tenure?
Opportunities for internal, local, or bridge funding?
Startup benefits (lab, reduced teaching)
Shared equipment? (what are your needs?)
Social / collegial interactions?
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“Interview”
= entire campus visit
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One-on-one meetings
Formal presentation(s)
Informal meetings and interactions
The interview visit starts when host picks you up at
the hotel and ends when host drops you off at the
hotel or airport
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You are on even during dinner on the last day of visit
Bring breath mints!!
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What Should You Expect?
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Some faculty will view their role as educating (“selling") you
about the department, the university, and the town.
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Some faculty will focus on your teaching interests, and
curriculum development.
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Some faculty will probe your understanding of the “big picture."
What directions interest you?
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The Dean or Department Chair may ask you “What do you plan
to undertake in the next five or ten years?”
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Some faculty will ask probing questions about your research.
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Have answers ready! Ask for clarification rather than ramble. It is
OK to say “I don't know," or qualify your answer.
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Describing Your Research
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Prepare to do this in numerous ways
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Elevator version
Past/current research seminar - formal
The research you propose to do – less formal
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“Elevator Speech”
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In the elevator on you way to your next appointment,
you are introduced to Dr. Smith, Associate Dean for
Research. Dr. Smith is not in your area so after
shaking hands he asks: “So, what do you do?”
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must have a short speech that describes your research
interest in a compelling way to someone outside your
area
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Must prepare for this: find someone outside your research area,
practice
Start with the handshake
Remember it is not a very tall building (key: 1-minute but
compelling)
Review: figure out what messages you want to convey
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Past/Current Research
Seminar
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Plan for no more than 45 minutes
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Expect questions, at end or within your talk
Who is your audience? FIND OUT
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Keep track of time and plan for flexibility – have slides
you can skip
Not your professional society meeting, not your lab
meeting
Err on side of being more formal
Omit explanations of common methods
Rule of thirds
Practice your talk before coming to campus
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Your Talk Step By Step
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Good technical presentation:
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Well organized, clear
Outline, Introduction, Main presentation,
Conclusions and Outlook
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Don’t use formulaic outline – be descriptive!
Keep time!
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Consider numbering your slides
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Introduction –10 minutes
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Get the audience interested and excited:
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Why is the topic important?
What is the background and context?
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Main presentation –30 minutes
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What you did:
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Most important results
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Give enough details to make point, show how important
your work is
Keep it simple –OK to leave some details out for clarity
What they mean
Only experts may follow the last 10 minutes of this part
Plan on some flexibility:
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Watch time and be prepared to skip or add slides to keep
time –decide beforehand what to skip or add
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Conclusions and Outlook –10
minutes
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What are the implications?
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“the new technique I developed could be applied
to reinvestigate this decades-old question”
“the long-lasting prediction is confirmed by this
new material I developed”
Where is the field going as a result of your
work?
What direction is your work going to take
from here?
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The Good Slide
(images courtesy of Emilia Morosan)
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The Bad Slide
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Just Plain Ugly!!
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Important Considerations
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Clean slides, no typos, large font
Don’t use crazy animation or slide transitions
Appropriately cite other’s related work,
especially if in the audience
Have backup of your presentation
If possible check out the room and AV
equipment before talk
Beware of “wandering laser pointer”
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More Considerations
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Begin by saying, “Good Morning! It’s such a
pleasure to be here.”
Face the audience as much as possible
Don’t read off slides
At the end, say, “Thank You, I’d be happy to
take any questions.”
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PRACTICE!!
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Practice talk in front of varied audience (if
possible your lab mates, your supervisor,
family or friends outside area, undergraduate
students)
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It may be very helpful (and sometimes painful) to
record your talk and then review
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Practice Answering HARD
Questions / Comments
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Don’t get defensive!
“You acknowledge all these collaborators –what
exactly did you do?”
“This is a project you started working on as a
postdoc in Prof. X’s group. Will you be continuing
this work? How will your work be distinct from that of
your postdoc (or graduate) supervisor?”
“Have you any validation for this model?”
“Why did you not consider the effects of _____?”
“I don’t think that ____ is a good approach.”
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Good Responses to Hard
Questions
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“That’s a really good question...thank you for
asking it.”
“You make a very good point…I have a
couple responses…”
“We’ve discussed this question a lot in our
research group and here’s what I think…”
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Possible: Seminar on Your
Planned Research / Teaching
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Audience is more likely just faculty
Plan a 30 minute talk since you will have
interruptions
What is your big picture goal for your research lab?
Go over 3-4 anticipated research projects
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Have motivation/aims/strategy well defined for 1-2 projects
Think about time frame and personnel to perform this work
Where will you submit these proposals for funding?
Teaching capabilities
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Summarize your teaching experience
What existing courses in the department could you teach?
What courses would you like to create?
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Sample Teaching Lecture
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Rare but a possibility, depends on type of school
You ought to have your choice of topic
Ask questions about expectations
Reasonable to plan for mixture of:
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Motivation for study of selected topic
A fundamental concept behind topic
Historical development of topic
Explanation and evidence for competing theories
Applications – classical and cutting edge
Close with questions people are now pursuing about topic
Someone in audience may know this topic well.
Don’t let this unnerve you. They are not the
students who will be taking the course.
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The Interview is
the Whole Visit
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The interview does not end with interviews and your talk.
Conversations at meals/receptions are just as important.
You probably have been incredibly busy with your research and
writing.
You may have given up reading the newspaper or watching TV
news.
It is not OK to have nothing to offer on current events. You need
a crash course. Pick up a copy of The Economist, TIME, etc.
Be prepared to engage in a conversation about hobbies/activities
you enjoy. The total package: what is your favorite movie?
Have at least a couple of conversation starters ready. Re-use
questions from earlier if needed.
Obviously, don’t bad-mouth anybody.
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Just Plain Illegal to Ask
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The faculty should have been clearly instructed that
it is illegal to ask you about
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Marriage, children, religion, active military service
Age, disability, pregnancy, health issues
Sexual orientation, criminal record
Race, ethnicity, native language
However, if you bring up an issue they are allowed
to answer your questions.
Some bonehead may ask anyway
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Options: answer; decline to answer; answer the intent of
the question as it pertains to the job; ask how question
relates to the job requirements
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Pregnant?
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Not visibly pregnant
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Reveal pregnancy after getting offer
Visibly pregnant
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Best to acknowledge during interview
Do HW ahead of time about family policies
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Express enthusiasm for family-friendly dept, school,
etc.
You may get asked “When would you be
available to take this position?” – legitimate
question for anyone; better to be honest
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As the Interview Ends
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Typically, you will have a final meeting with the
Department Chair
“Do you have any last questions?"
Don't be disappointed if the signals are ambiguous
“We'll be in touch."
It is appropriate to express your appreciation of all
the work and time spent on your interview.
If someone drives you to the airport, keep the
conversation going. “I was very impressed by the
questions the graduate students made..."
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After the Interview
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A thank you note to the Department Chair is a good
idea.
If you promised Professor X a copy of your paper,
be sure to follow through.
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(Keep notes. You will be completely exhausted by the end
and your memory may blur important details.)
Think critically about what you learned during the
interview.
If during a later interview, you realize you did not
cover a particular topic, you can contact the Chair.
Or maybe you should wait for “the phone call."
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More Academic Search Tips
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Tips for a massive academic job search by
Ellen Spertus (Mills College). Highly detailed,
deals with 2-body problem:
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http://people.mills.edu/spertus/job-search/job.html
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Note on Non-Faculty
Interviews
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It is just as important to do your homework ahead of
time, to be “on” the entire time, and to follow up
afterwards
Headed to an “industry” interview?
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Review case studies of relevant products and how they
were developed and marketed.
Become familiar with product regulations.
Dress code for interview – find out from HR.
You may still have to give a seminar, but consider
audience!
Be prepared for psychological interview questions.
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Psychological Question
Examples
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What color best describes your personality?
How do you define success?
What is your dream job?
If you won the lottery, what would you do with
the money?
Mainly intended to see how you think on your
feet.
Reiterate: don’t bad-mouth anybody.
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Stay Healthy!!
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Here’s hoping you have oodles of interviews
Travel takes its toll – prepare your own
emergency kit
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