Friday, December 14, 2007

And so why are you interviewing me, exactly?

--is the question that I would have liked to ask about midway through last night's phone interview.

So this was my seventh academic first-interview ever (the other six were last year, ranging from MLA to eleventh-hour phone interviews for one-years), and it was by far, BY FAR, the worst. All the other ones seemed fine, actually, although five of them yielded nothing.

The Interview of Despair basically comprised a series of extremely detailed questions about how I would put together courses I've never taught before. A couple of the courses they wanted to hear about were entirely reasonable, and I was prepared for them. But then we went off down a Dark and Dangerous Path that actually crosses the Terrain of Another Field Entirely, Terrain that I in no way, ever, anywhere, implied that I knew anything about. I was able to wing the first question or two, but when we got into highly specific theoretical approaches, I had to say that I just didn't know.

In that moment, I smiled to myself and thought, Well, they can only keep me on the phone for another 10 minutes or so, right? And then I thought about the bourbon awaiting me in the kitchen.

I was also a little disappointed that I'd spent all afternoon rehearsing my research and teaching answers, thinking about difficult teaching situations I've been in and how I elicit discussion from recalcitrant students, and didn't get to mention any of that. No! It was all course planning. Very specific course planning. As in, Why isn't Author X on this syllabus? What is this book that you said you'd use about? Weird.

Oh well. I just wonder why they even bothered to call me--they can't possibly think that I do the stuff that they evidently want someone to teach, can they? Whatever.


Fretful Porpentine said...

Ouch. I've had at least one Interview Of Despair in both of my previous seasons on the market, and I keep waiting for the one this year, but that's a very special sort of bizarre. I wonder if they'll find anyone they like?

On the bright side, the school that conducted my rock-bottom worst-ever interview ended up hiring the former New SLAC faculty member that I'm replacing right now, and I'd much rather have this job than that job, so sometimes things work out for the best in unexpected ways!

New Kid on the Hallway said...

You know, I think I know someone else who had this same interview yesterday. Some schools are incomprehensible! Anyway, I agree with Fretful Porpentine that things work out for the best.

What Now? said...

Bummer -- I'm glad there was a bourbon treat waiting for you at the end of it. At least with bizarre interviews like this, you can truthfully say to yourself, "It wasn't me, it was them!"

Dr. Virago said...

Oh man, I've had that interview, only mine was at MLA in the prettiest hotel room I'd ever seen. Didn't make up for the awkward interview. They kept grilling me on why I hadn't taught the research paper in my comp. classes, even *after* I told them that that was a skill taught in Comp. II and that grad students didn't teach Comp. II. Then they wanted to know why the system was set up that way. I think I actually answered, "I don't know -- perhaps you should ask a Writing Programs administrator." Needless to say I didn't get that job, but after that interview I didn't want it! In fact, I'm still mad at myself for not getting up and walking out.

Belle said...

Eek. Sounds nasty. At least you had a drink on the other side, and never have to deal with that person again.

medieval woman said...

Grr - you should have started drinking during the interview. What would they have said if you'd excused yourself for a few seconds to think about their obnoxious questions and pour yourself 3 fingers of bourbon?? :)

btw, I tagged thou.

k8 said...

Hi! I just made my way here while following links to delay dissertation writing.

I had this exact feeling last week during a phone interview. I wasn't even sure why I was being interviewed since I don't really do the things the job seems to entail (they sent a more complete description before the phone interview). And mine had unexpected questions, too.

Anyway, hi!

Bardiac said...


I had a couple nightmare interviews, one with a really strange guy. (And then got my first job about 15 miles away, at the rival school to his. So, yeah, we met socially. Awkward!)

heu mihi said...

Thanks for the reassuring words, everyone (and hi, k8)! This was very obviously Not My Job: I wouldn't have felt terribly comfortable teaching the courses that it turns out they want the new hire to teach. So okay, no big deal. I wouldn't have fared very well if they'd been asking me questions about mulitvariable calculus, either. (Not that the questions they were asking me were *that* far out of my range--many people in my field do study the things that they were asking about--just not *me*, and I didn't try to represent myself as a Studier Of These Things in my application.)