Friday, February 26, 2010

Job Search Saga: A Phone Interview

My first phone interview did nothing to lessen the pressure of having to decide whether to accept another college's job offer. The interview was with one of the existing faculty in the department (the second would be with someone from a completely unrelated department), and her enthusiasm for all things related to her college was contagious. Her colleagues, her students, the description of how all senior thesis students were taken to a conference to present their work every year...It's impassible to get a real sense of a college from one person's verbal description, but by the time we hung up I found my decision even harder to make, because it seemed like this would be such a cool place to teach.

I also had no sense of whether I had "passed" my phone interview. As with my in-person interview - less than a week before! - I had been told a lot about the position and the college, and asked my own questions, but could remember only a handful of questions that might be used to separate me from the rest of the pack, the half-dozen other people who had been asked to do phone interviews. Most of the questions felt like they were just double-checking my interest before paying for my plane ticket. Why do you want to teach at a liberal arts colleges? What do you think about living in a small town? I found myself repeating a number of things that were in my application packet, although I repeated them with enthusiasm and flair. I suppose it helps colleges save money, but I constantly felt like I must be expected to have more to say than I had said before, and I didn't - I had worked on my application packet that thoroughly.

The only question that seemed like it might actually be evaluating my credentials was the fun one: If you could teach anything, any class, any topic, what would it be? I have two or three classes I dream of putting together, someday in the future when I have tenure and time, so I shared one of those. At least here I had a sense of how I did; "wow, that's interesting" (said with the appropriate tone of voice) is a very encouraging response.

So I left my office after the interview feeling both more conflicted - how am I supposed to decide my own future? - and, after a little thought, more relaxed - there are so many places I could love working and be successful, it'll all turn right in the end. And I convinced myself that there was nothing more I could decide until my next phone interview, so there was no point stressing myself out over the weekend.

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