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On-Campus Interview Tips

On-campus interviews are an essential step in the faculty member, PhD student, or postdoc hiring process. After the first round interview, the search committee will select their top candidates. The finalists will then be individually invited to the campus for a one to two day interview. During this time, the candidate will meet with members of the department or lab. If they’re interviewing for a postdoc or faculty position, the candidate will give a “job talk” lecture on their research to the department followed by a question and answer period. Some campus interviews will also include a teaching demonstration, where the candidate will teach a sample lesson for students. An on-campus interview also includes a tour of campus and meals with members of the faculty and students.

Before the Interview

  • Ask for the schedule- It will help put you at ease during the campus interview if you know what will be happening and when. You should also be able to see from the schedule which faculty members you are going to be meeting one-on-one with. Once you get the schedule, check to see if you will have a break right before your talk. If not, ask if one can be added so you have time to set up and test your presentation.

  • Read up on each interviewer- Research each member of the search committee. Know their research areas, educational background, and any mutual connections you might have. It doesn’t hurt to read their most recent publication as well so you have something to talk about if there’s a lull.

  • Hone your elevator pitch- You are going to be asked dozens of time of the course of the day, “So, what do you research?” Situations like these are why you need an elevator pitch. The idea of an elevator pitch is simple. It’s a short, succinct statement that neatly sums up what you do and why it matters. Having an elevator pitch prepared ensures you don’t draw a blank or ramble on for minutes the next time someone asks what you do.

  • Communicate your needs- If you have any accessibility requirements, dietary restrictions, or allergies, tell the search committee contact person. You are not bothering them by sharing this information. They will want to know and prepare.

  • Know your audience- Ask who the audience will be for your job talk. Are graduate students and undergrads invited? Is the talk open to people from other departments? Knowing your audience will help you tailor your talk to match the audience’s knowledge level.

  • Practice, practice, practice- The job talk often makes or breaks the hiring decision. It is important that you practice your talk many times in front of different audiences. Take questions after to simulate the actual job talk environment. If you’ve presented the research before, think what questions you received last time and how you will answer them this time.

  • Learn everything you can about the university- Pour over the university website, look at the course catalogue, talk to alumni or anyone who can give you insight into the department. Think about how your research interests would complement those of the current faculty and the course offering. What courses could you teach that would fill gaps in their current offerings? How does the way you teach fit with the department teaching philosophy?

  • Prepare some questions- Remember, an interview goes both ways. You have to decide if you want to spend potentially decades working at this university. Prepare some insightful questions to ask the search committee.

During the Interview

  • Carry on only- Don’t take any risks when travelling to your interviews. Travel with only carry on luggage rather than checking a bag. The last thing you need to deal with during your interview is lost luggage. When packing, plan your outfits ahead of time and then pack an extra one in case something gets dirty. Don’t forget all your chargers and adaptors!

  • You are always on- You are not just evaluated on your formal interviews and job talk, every minute of your visit counts towards the final hiring decision. From the person who picks you up at the airport to the people you eat with dinner with, everyone could all have a say in whether you get this job. With this in mind, try and remain professional at all times.

  • Show Your Personality- Being professional doesn’t mean all business all the time. Try and show some personality during your interview. If you get hired the search committee will be your colleagues so they need to like you as a person as well as a scholar. When appropriate, it’s fine to talk about books you like, recent movies, and current events

  • Bring snacks- On-campus interview days are jam-packed and you will rarely have a moment to yourself. Even during meals, you will likely be asked a lot of questions. This doesn’t leave you with a lot of time to eat and you can’t be your best self if you’re hungry. Small snacks, like granola bars, can be a lifesaver in these situations.


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