I’ve been in a tenure-track faculty position for all of two years now, so my memories of the hellish job market are still fresh. In my time on the job, I’ve served on a department-level hiring search and a school/college-level hiring search. (And my department is preparing for an important tenure-track hire this year.) The vulnerability y’all feel – I know. It’s hard, and I know, and I’m sorry. I have a small offering for you. This is a simple list of what I want to say to folks I’ve interviewed:
(1) I know when you’re lying. Seriously. So don’t.
(2) It isn’t in your control, most of this. What we need, how you fit, the way we understand you, the decisions we make. Most of it isn’t in your hands. It’s not even in ours. I’m sorry. This is the simple truth. Just remember – if we say No, it’s not only on you.
(3) Be positive. Say what you like, what works, what you look forward to. Try not to complain, say what you’re against, etc. You might accidentally offend someone, yes, but mostly it’s hard to know how to interpret negativity. So avoid it.
(4) Please, please know how to answer questions about diversity in the classroom. And please remember #1 when you discuss it.
(5) I might know almost nothing about what you do. How you explain what you do means everything to me. I can picture that in a classroom, in a meeting, on campus. You designing courses, or changing courses, or working with others. That’s what I’m trying to picture, really. You, as my colleague, working with me to do what we do: running a freaking college.
(6) And that’s really the thing I need for you to picture: a career, not a dissertation; cranky students, not experts; colleagues, not classmates. If you’re new on the job market, this is the hardest transition to make. If you’re not, it’s still hard. It doesn’t mean having your life planned out. One of the things it means is being able to think outside of what you’ve done recently or where you are now, and it is – so far – the thing candidates struggle with the most.