Dr. Lohman earned her PhD in Musicology from the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently the Director for Center for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence at Queens University of Charlotte.
In a recent webinar, Laura Lohman, PhD, explained how to prepare for the on-campus interview, an essential part of the academic job search. As with understanding how to prep for first-round phone or Skype interviews, preparation for the on-campus interview is essential. Laura stresses that knowing what to expect and determining the information you need to begin preparing are the first steps you should take. Here are four tips to get you ready for that upcoming on-campus visit.
1. Know what is included in an on-campus visit.
On-campus interviews can vary wildly, in content, duration, and style. The major segments of an on-campus interview could include a research talk, a discussion of future research plans, and a teaching demonstration. You might be asked to complete all three segments, or some but not all. The schedule will depend entirely on the institution, department, or specific position you have applied for. These core segments may be supplemented with additional individual or group faculty interviews, talks with the search committee or department chair, and even administrators (such as the dean of the college). The third step of the campus visit could include meetings (or meals) with grad students or undergraduates, faculty members, human resources personnel, or the faculty affairs representative. Often, a campus tour, or interaction with staff top off an on-campus visit. Laura stresses that the impression that you make during any segment could impact a hiring decision. You should be collegial and professional at all times.
2. Get all the details.
When you begin preparing for your on-campus interview, make sure you have all of the details you’ll need. What basic information from the hiring committee will you need to start preparing a research talk, teaching demonstration, or a talk about your future research? Laura says you’ll need to find out where your presentations will be, what kind of technology is available, and even inquire about the layout of the room – is there room to move, or are the seats and desks fixed? You should also ask about the audience: who is in the audience? How long should your presentation be? Clarifying the parameters of what is expected of you will make practising for your on-campus interview that much easier.
3. Practice, practice, practice!
Practice your talk(s) or teaching demonstration by getting feedback from mentors or faculty members, making the necessary modifications, and even videotaping yourself. As you practice, consider how the hiring committee members might be evaluating you. While the teaching demonstration or research talk is meant to showcase your ability to teach and research, the committee will also be looking for signs that you are a competent presenter and an enthusiastic speaker. Laura also suggests practising two- and five-minute summaries of your research for non-specialists, as well as outlining answers to predictable questions. When you feel comfortable, try setting up a mock interview with supportive friends or mentors, or film yourself answering interview questions. The more often you practice delivering answers, the more comfortable you’ll feel while on campus.
4. Shift your focus…To the hiring committee.
One of the final steps you should take in preparing for your visit should be to shift your attention from yourself to the hiring committee. Try to look into who you’ll be speaking with, as well as the mission of the institution. Use this information to demonstrate that you are truly interested in their job, and connect with the committee members in individual conversations.
Laura – and all of us at Beyond Prof – want to remind you that you are qualified. If you have been invited to an on-campus interview, you know your research and your discipline. From this point on, your on-campus interview is all about how well you are prepared, and how well you connect with the hiring committee. These two aspects of the on-campus interview are interconnected, and it is necessary to strike a balance.