Making a good impression during the final stage of the interview process is often what makes or breaks your academic job search. Here are a few on-campus interview tips to help you ensure a successful campus visit and, hopefully, a job offer.
The campus visit is an extended interview. It can last up to three days, including travel, though the substance of the visit is typically contained within a single day filled with various one-on-one meetings and presentations. You generally arrive the evening before your scheduled meetings begin and leave the morning after.
Tip: You should treat all interactions that occur during the visit as an interview. This includes travel to and from the airport and all meals. This does not mean you cannot have a personality; you just need to acknowledge the entire visit can factor into the job offer decision.
The schedule for the campus visit is usually set before you arrive. Your schedule may change based on many factors, including the schedules of those you are meeting with, travel going according to plan, and even the weather.
Tip: You should know exactly when you’ll be presenting and who you’ll be meeting, but be flexible and prepared for change. Play it safe by having your materials ready to present the moment you step off the plane, and be prepared to meet with anyone on your schedule at any time.
If you’re planning on flying by plan, a faculty member will likely provide you transport from the airport to your hotel.
This part of the visit is not formal and you shouldn’t treat it as such. However, in the spirit of treating the entire visit as an interview, you don’t want to come across as careless either. You want your potential future colleagues to see you as a productive and professional academic. You also want them to see you as someone that would be enjoyable to work with. In the very least, you don’t want to be seen as a pain. While your CV signals your quality as an academic, the informal conversations you hold signal your personal compatibility with your prospective colleagues.
Tip: If this is the case, you should plan on traveling in your suit, and be prepared be prepared to hold a steady conversation the person who picks you up from the airport (you’ll likely know who it is in advance). This is your chance to ask the individual more detailed questions about the area and signal your interest in living there if the opportunity presented itself.
Campus visits often occur usually occur during flu season. Combine this with the general fatigue you experience from the job market and germs you come across while traveling, and you have a significant chance of becoming ill. Campus visits are exhausting in their own right, and it would be substantially more difficult to maintain your focus for a full day of meetings and presentations if you were ill.
Tip: Take care of yourself, and always be sure to bring vitamins and hand sanitizer with you.
You’ll usually know who you are meeting with before you arrive on campus. If you read my previous blog post discussing initial interviews, you’ll be better prepared for faculty interviews. Each individual interview you have during your campus visit will be short. You should be familiar with their research and teaching interests, even if they are completely unrelated to yours. If nothing else, this allows you to ask them questions if the conversation begins to falter.
Preparing for individual interviews with administrators is slightly different than preparing for interviews with faculty. While it is likely they will still want to discuss your research and teaching interests, the focus will be different. You’ll want to emphasize how you can contribute to broader goals regarding the college or university. As with faculty members, you can familiarize yourself with each administrator. This allows you to focus on the aspects of your work that are relevant to that administrator’s specific role.
Tip: Understand the purpose behind each individual interview, and read up about your interviewers in advance.
You’ll almost certainly know what style of presentation you’ll be expected to give: research, teaching, or both. You should know if the audience will consist of faculty, students, or a mix of both. Your research presentation should be substantially different depending on the audience. In fact, there could be an entire blog post concerning presentation style differences for faculty-only audiences versus student audiences. I’ll only note here that if there are students present for your research talk, you should spend less time explaining the methodological nuances of your approach and more time discussing the intuition behind your research question.
Regardless of the audience, your research presentation should be well-rehearsed. You should know every detail of the paper you are presenting and be prepared to answer questions. If you’ve presented the paper in the past, you should be aware of common questions that come up and have thoughtful answers for these. The best way to prepare for answering questions you aren’t anticipating is to present.
Tip: Present your work every chance you get. Presenting is a skill, and you can only improve upon this skill through practice.
Similarly, the only way to prepare for teaching presentations is through the act of teaching. The faculty will most likely be judging the teaching based on your ability to connect with students in the classroom, rather than the actual content you are presenting. This is something you learn by doing.
Tip: If you have any opportunity to teach in your graduate career, take it.
Campus visits represent your final step in your long job market journey. They are busy and can be stressful; however, it is important to try to remain as relaxed as possible.
This is an exciting time. You get to explore new places and meet many new people. With these campus interview tips, you’ll be well prepared for a successful visit. Even if you don’t end up working at the school you’re visiting, you may end up with new collaborators or friends. Enjoy it as much as you can.