The Value of the Interview Bootcamp

Today’s post is by Kellee Weinhold, who shares her insights after taking over the Interview Bootcamps in November.


After a few weeks of interview bootcamps, I must admit to a bit of academic PTSD. More times than I care to admit, I have flashed back to my first comm theory class: Although I was elated to be acquiring all sorts of new knowledge and feeling damn smart doing it, I couldn’t stop fixating on how I could best apply the theory to my own work. (A fixation that earned me no props with my hail-to-theory-for-theory’s-sake professor.)

In preparing for the first few bootcamps, I found myself once again agitating for an effective application of information: Sure the traffic on the Professor is In blog and Facebook clearly indicates just how desperate you all are for advice on how to succeed, but how successful you would be at applying that information to your own experience?

It didn’t take long for me remember how hard it is to move knowledge from acquired to applied.

Here is one of the first follow-ups I got:

“Before the boot camp, I was focused on formal responses (and these were a little elaborate).  Afterward, I realized that having someone honest who knows academia — but who is encountering a candidate’s style for the first time — listen to and comment on how responses are delivered is invaluable! Coaching helps to convey a message that is clear, lively and concise. And you won’t get the right kind of feedback by prepping your own responses at home or from friends who are at your same stage.”

To put it in blunt TPII terms: It is not enough to just read the blog (graduate student). You have to actually put it into practice (professor).

Again, the point is perhaps better illustrated by a bootcamp survivor:

“I’ve been thinking about our bootcamp session all evening. It was a fantastic experience: thank you for your smart and no bullshit approach. It’s a stark contrast to my mock interviews last year. I have a lot to do now to improve but I am feeling more confident about how to handle interview situations. Thanks again! It was great meeting you.”

Ultimately, it might help to think of the blog posts and Facebook discussions as your theory course. They offer a great foundation for your efforts to move from Ph.D. to professor. (there are subtle variations depending on discipline and job description – but the core values are right there.) But to move from preparing to actually positioning yourself for success, you have to put your application of the theory out there for critique.

“It’s true that most of the info is available on the TPII website, but it doesn’t stick unless you have someone telling you that you’re not prepared in the right way, even if it seems to you that you are! I had descriptions of classes ready for our interview bootcamp, made in the way it is suggested on the website, I thought, but not really! After our talk, I re-did everything, and it came out streamlined, in a way that showed that, yes, I can do this.”

It is for that reason we offer the option of one-on-one feedback. We know that sometimes it is not enough to have access to knowledge. Some of you need an impartial examination of how you have decided to apply that knowledge in order to traverse the treacherous distance between being a person who knows stuff to being a person who knows how to apply that stuff.

One last note. For most of you, the bootcamp experience becomes not so much about whether you get the answers “right” per se, but grappling with and honing how best to present who you are as a scholar and a colleague:

“I found the bootcamp most helpful especially in actually crafting and carving out well-intentioned answers to anticipated questions that arose from Karen’s posts. Or, put another way, I saw the BC as an exercise in making the posts a reality, making them come alive. Creating from them and their wisdom, so they are not just advice but actually doing something for me.”

It is that outcome — crafting a showcase for all that you have to offer — that is truly gratifying about the bootcamp experience (for both Karen and me).

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The Value of the Interview Bootcamp — 7 Comments

  1. These testimonials are great, but they speak only to how prepared participants FELT afterwards, not how well they did in the actual interviews. Any word on that?

    • Most of them haven’t had their real interviews yet—many people do the bootcamp well in advance. But I’ll ask Kellee to post a follow-up when we’ve heard some results.

    • This just came in:

      I got a campus interview with my dream-job SLAC! After a Skype where I had “the Nelson question” 🙂 [this is when you’re challenged on how your work differs from some big-shot scholar’s]. I am so grateful for your [Kellee] and Karen’s help! I didn’t lose my bearing, and I answered in a non-defensive manner, showing that I really know what I’m talking about and even though I have an opposite starting point to the one this big shot scholar has, I am not in the wrong.

      And I am sure the teaching prep we did over our bootcamp helped tremendously. They said something like: you sent a syllabus, but you need to teach 5 classes per year, so, what else can you do? And for the next 10 min I described 4 classes: title, themes, take-away point, readings, conclusion. For some, I remembered to include the “cool assignment”, but for others, I didn’t. It probably didn’t matter: it showed that even if I’m just ABD I could teach these 4 classes tomorrow.

  2. I have not yet had any of my scheduled interviews – but Kellee’s feedback made me feel prepared for my mock. More importantly, they work with the issues of self-advocacy and self-confidence, just like the rest of the TPII site – which will help me regardless of my field of study or future employment.

  3. Dear Karen,

    I was hoping to participate in your web seminar on interviewing but the posted link to register doesn’t seem to be working. It’s there another means by which I can register and participate? Thank you.


    • Once it is past, you can no longer use the link. Please do purchase the RECORDING of the webinar that is available on the Prof Shop page.

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