In our Dispatches series, we crowdsource responses to questions we see about the academic job market and career.
This week, the question is: “Help, my campus visit has switched suddenly online. Advice needed: either from candidates who have survived one, or faculty hosts who can share insights and suggestions.”
Despite shaking the bushes just as hard as we could, we only got three substantive responses, and then–sadly–a whole new set of anxious queries. And if that doesn’t reflect our current moment, I don’t know what does. They are all shared below. Because of time constraints, I’m simply pasting them, without my usual framing and visuals. Things are going nuts here at TPII and I’m triaging a lot at once.
We continue weekly Dispatches From the Front questions for your crowdsource responses. Scroll to the bottom for next week’s question – WHICH IS GOING TO REMAIN THE SAME, AS WE STILL NEED THE ADVICE — and the link to share your wisdom and advice.
And one explanatory note: we ask respondents to provide any personal identifying information in their own words that THEY consider pertinent to contextualize their responses. Some of them go to …. interesting places. We only lightly edit them, and I think it’s worth contemplating what people feel is important to share about their identities.
We made the switch, recommend extra breaks (10 min each hour); and longer breaks, 15 and 30 min in addition (e.g., before talk); we had someone monitoring individual meetings (muted) for keeping people on time; I called candidate afternoon before to go over schedule and plan; make norms explicit to candidate as well as faculty and students (wait till end of talk for Q; write Q in chat box, or raise hand (pick 1); have a couple of facilitators to read out questions to candidate); figure out a way to signal to candidate when they have 10 min and 5 min left (text; chat; something, but they won’t get the visual cues you get in a ftf). Get PPT slides from candidate as a back up; give them your cell phone number; be patient. Recognize that we’re making this up on the fly so a lot of patience, good will, etc. is needed. [60, latina, chair of search committee for senior (full) position]
I’m chairing a TT search now. It’s gonna be wild. But I’d say if you can, get an HD webcam and good quality microphone. Figure out a space you can configure to look like an office or classroom. Job talks are going to be weird but try to find ways to inject some energy and personality. Don’t plan on participation because Zoom doesn’t do too well with lots of voices. Don’t talk about the situation a lot – try to acknowledge and move on. Be as much like you would on campus as possible. Also – if you get an offer, ask if you can visit campus. Don’t want to move somewhere sight unseen if possible. The advice is going to be all over the place. None of us have any clue what we are doing but you’re going to have to pretend like you do. [Tenured,SS; White queer man]
I’ve never served on a search committee, but I have some experience with online job interviews as I’ve had two for positions abroad (in Australia both times). I’m not sure how applicable my advice can be, as neither tried to replicate an American-style campus visit. Both were approximately one-hour long and involved a panel interview and mini research presentation and teaching demos, plus time for my questions. I think the key is to be clear with what you are actually looking for and making that clear to candidates. For example, will they be teaching actual students or will the search committee be serving as students? When it’s the latter, I did a mixture of teaching demo with meta-level discussion of how the lesson is structured. I realize shifting to Zoom or Skype is a massive change for search committee at US institutions but our colleagues abroad seem perfectly satisfied with making long-term hires after these abbreviated processes so it can be done. [NTT Hum, White, female, visiting NTT faculty at an R1 institution]
We are just in the beginning stages of moving our searches online. We have completed initial skype interviews and our next step would have been the campus visit. We have not determined the parameters of the online experience, but it will likely include a job talk and I am hoping it will include a chance for the candidates to meet other members of the faculty. As a member of the search committee, I am looking for the candidate to frame their research in the context of our foundations program. They will be teaching lower level courses and we are looking for an interest in that type of experience as well as a proficiency in the language and tools necessary to teach foundations level visual arts courses. I am advocating for a clear schedule with breaks for candidates in our online visits. What else would make this experience easier for the candidate? [Asst Prof, Arts/Music/Theater; Search committee member, 41 yr old, married white woman working at a small 2 yr Institute (not a community college)]
And the Questions:
Q: I only have questions. I do well in in-person interviews; how do I convey that same energy online? Also, is it reasonable for them to expect me to move my life to a new city without seeing it first? [Tenured, Hum, 40s, white, female, straight, married]
Q: How do I not seem awkward during my pre-recorded talk when 1) I’m awful being recorded and 2) I can’t read the audience? [Grad student, STEM]
Q: Do committees expect me to use a visual aid for a virtual research talk and if so how do I do that? Should I prep to give a normal looking talk- standing at the front of the room w a PowerPoint, or sit at my desk and talk to the camera? [I am a 31yo white, cis, married woman in the communication field. I am a 6th year PhD student and visiting instructor who is on the job market and facing an upcoming campus interview for a trans disciplinary team science Post-doc position that was recently moved online]
Q is: My interview is on campus next week in a COVID hot spot where classes already canceled. I am expected to meet with individuals and groups all day and share many meals. Any thoughts on social distancing? My advice is: Be flexible and gracious. Acknowledge unprecedented situation. [Nonac STEM 39 white female married straight]
Q: Seeking guidance and support. Sorry, I’m not in the position to give advice. This sucks. What should job candidates do if given the choice between in-person (risk) or online interview during COVID19 measures? [Graed student, SS; I’m a PhD Candidate POC, early 30s — im supposed to travel next week for a campus visit. Search Chair expressed they prefer for me to do the interview in person. At first, I thought it would be fine, but I am now increasingly concerned as COVID19 are expected to grow exponentially over the course of the next week. I don’t think its fair the candidates before me got a full chance at an in person interview, but risking my health and the health of others for that chance is not okay. Traveling into large transportation hubs is not wise…]