This past week I did a handful of “Interview Bootcamp” sessions with clients, and will soon have many more. People are starting to look ahead hopefully to the pain and the glory of conference interviews and campus visits.
And it got me thinking about interviewing. What’s a good interview, and what’s a bad one?
There are many places on the web that you can find lists of potential academic interview questions. Here’s one to start. I may well post my own such list some time in the coming weeks.
But for today, I don’t want to talk about lists of questions, and how to prepare for them. I want to talk about attitude.
Because, in the end, it’s attitude that makes or breaks the interview.
Basically, in a nutshell, confidence sells. And desperation smells. Before any interview, no matter how brief, you must put yourself into the mindset that you ARE worthy of the job.
What does that mean? It means believing, at a core level, that you:
are a first class intellectual
have something important to say
are a major player in your field
are poised to challenge orthodoxies in the discipline
are excited to get your ideas into the public realm
love to share your ideas with students
are equal to any classroom situation
find inspiration in others’ work
believe that you can contribute to a department
believe your discipline brings critical insight to the human enterprise
Yes, the job market is awful. No, there aren’t enough jobs for the candidates who need them. Desperation would be a natural outcome. But desperation will cost you your chance for the job you want. The fact is, self-confidence gets jobs. And self-confidence is displayed by a calm and friendly but firm assertiveness of manner.
You do not apologize, you do not make excuses, you do not pander or flatter or laugh too much or twist your hands. You simply remember that you ARE the expert in your field. You DO know how to teach. Your discipline IS important and fascinating, you ARE qualified to go toe to toe with the very leaders of your scholarly world. Don’t cave, and for God’s sake, call your interviewers by their FIRST NAMES! You belong! You’re one of them!
The most important thing? That you retain your sense of dignity and self-worth. Yes, the job market is awful. But no, you do not therefore have to grovel. You will survive with or without this job. Maybe poorer, maybe sadder. But you’ll survive.
So hold your head up, straighten your shoulders, turn your sense of humor back on, and remember: you ARE good enough, whether you have a tenure track job, or not.