Search Committee Ramblings:Interview Questions

Although some folks complain about the mechanical nature of asking every single interview candidate the exact same questions, in the same order, asked by the same search committee members, the process is meant to provide some consistency with which to evaluate our top candidates.  (All the candidates also are asked to give a 1-hour teaching demo using the same general topic, though we hope it’s a topic that also allows for individual creativity, but let’s save the teaching demo for a latter posting).

So this week, as we prepare for our first interview, we are haggling over those interview questions.  Usually, the questions are passed down from the previous search committee, and like any relic from the past, the questions reflect the particular concerns of that committee, as well as departmental politics, at that time.  Thus the need to revise the questions.  For example, I noticed that many of the questions from the previous search were framed to weed out any dogmatic Rhetoric/Composition experts who believe that their PhD makes them experts in teaching composition despite, say, only a few actual composition classes taught under their belts.  This approach was in response to, you guessed it, conflict between Lit-trained profs of 20 years experience vs. newborn RhetComp-trained profs with less practical experience.

But that was then, and this is now. Our concerns have evolved. Now we want to know how the candidate will handle conflict (due to the increase in the number of students with issues, moreso than with colleagues with issues); we want to know how the candidate will help us update our Humanities offerings; we want to know if candidates can articulate to us and to the non academic community (including students) why the Humanities are a vital part of a general education program; and we want to find out if candidates are willing to do more than just teach and go home: will they help us, especially the overworked volunteers on the search committee, do the department work, be engaged with shared governance, and be committed to ongoing professional development?

And yes, we want to know if the candidate believes that writing CAN be taught, and how they approach what is effectively 75% of our teaching load.

Thus, we continue to add, delete, revise, and wordsmith our 10 questions up to the day of our first interview, in an attempt to find out all we so desperately want to know, while at the same time, not sounding desperate. 

Let the blind dates begin!

6 responses to “Search Committee Ramblings:Interview Questions

  1. Good: I don’t want there to be any utterly surprising questions (there was one on the last committee’s list that I instantly vetoed: not only was it a horribly written 5-part question, the only possible answers I could imagine being given on the spot would mostly damn a candidate, not help them show themselves at their best).

  2. I am so happy I decided to enter the blogging world this year and “see” this behind the scenes footage from search committees. This will be so incredibly helpful for when I’m on the job market in (hopefully) two years. Can’t wait to see what happens in your hunt!

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