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Monday, January 09, 2006

Phone interview

Sigh. Everything that everyone said about phone interviews turned out to be true of this one--which is to say, it was an awkward and vexing experience.

First of all, there were SEVEN people on the other end of the line. I'd had prior contact with only two individuals, and, for various reasons, I expected the entire committee to consist of only three or four people. So: seven people to try to keep track of, a bad speakerphone connection, and no visual or even really verbal cues as to how what I was saying was going over. GREAT.

The best piece of advice I've read about how to stay collected in an interview emphasizes the importance of sticking to specifics--concrete examples of teaching techniques, illustrative moments from one's research--and I did generally manage to do that. But I found myself flailing around several times, unable to produce a neat and coherent example or anecdote even when I knew perfectly well what I wanted to say. That didn't happen in my in-person interviews, and I'm tempted to put it down to my discomfort with the format itself: not having a face or two to focus on and steady myself.

However, I have to say that the committee didn't seem particularly comfortable with the process, either. This brings me to the best piece of wisdom I've received about the interviewing process, which came, quite recently, from GWB, who's now been on both sides of it: most interviewers are fucking terrible at asking questions. I saw some of this at the MLA (where I'd think, wait, was that actually a question? Which part of it?), but I saw a lot of it today--quite possibly because they, too, weren't getting the cues we all look for in a conversation.

Take this question: "Can you talk about how your work on X Period of literature informs your work in Y Period, and your teaching?" Umm, well--I don't actually do any work in X Period. I do teach parts of it, sometimes, but neither my dissertation nor any of my other research projects engage with that period. At all.

I said as much, albeit more politely, and asked for a clarification, but the questioner essentially repeated exactly the same question. So all I could say was, "well, I really enjoy teaching Author A and Author B from that period, and I hope to do more of that in the future--and there's certainly been work done on, say, the influence of Author A on Pretty Darn Famous Author--but that influence doesn't really seem relevant to the works by PDFA that I investigate--so, I can't really answer your question."

Which wasn't probably my most stunning moment, but I had no idea what he was actually asking. It occurs to me now that he might have wanted to know whether I saw a rigid division between those two periods, artistically and culturally (thus explaining why I work on one and not on the other)--or that perhaps he was asking whether there was any scholarship on the first period that I was familiar with that was relevant to or had influenced my work on the second. But, dude! It's your job to know what you want from me! Not mine to guess it!

Anyway. It's not really a big deal; I'd absolutely love a couple of things about this position, but there's also one gi-normous drawback to it--so, on balance, I'm content to wait and see.

Indeed, that's more or less how I feel about this whole process right now: I'm anxious and rather irritable, but I also feel just profoundly bored by it all. Since I may well wind up with nothing, it doesn't seem like a reasonable use of my energy to get overly invested in any one school.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 3:34 PM |


Blogger Ianqui commented at 4:04 PM~  

Yeah, great. We have to conduct a whole bunch of phone interviews this week for people who didn't come to the conference. They suck, especially for the interviewee (I know, XU interviewed me this way too). I can't believe there were 7 people in the room! At that level, they should do web conferencing (hmmm, maybe we should too). I agree, the worst part is that you get no visual feedback at all.

Blogger academic coach commented at 7:23 PM~  

7 people? OMG I'd freak.

As for the person's weird question -- he was just spacing out, didn't read your materials carefully or that's what he's interested in.

Blogger phd me commented at 12:57 AM~  

But, at least it's over, right?

Blogger Peri commented at 10:54 AM~  

Gosh, you are my new hero. I'm so impressed you aren't getting all wound up about particular schools and jobs. Good for you!

Blogger Dr. Lisa commented at 11:25 AM~  

It sounds like you did fine. As somebody who is on hiring committees and has to sit on the other end of line, we know it's weird and icky for the interviewee, too. I think you're right in your attitude--just have faith that the right job is coming.

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