The Academic Interview: The Phone Interview

It’s that time of the year. Actually, it’s a little past that time of the year, but at least in anthro, most non-TT positions are interviewing right about now. So I thought I would give you my two cents on phone interviews, and what I think works and what doesn’t. This is based on stuff I have read all over the place, conversations with people who have served on committees and who have been successful candidates, and other fun ethnographic and autoethnographic data (these things work, in other words). Congratulations on your phone interview.

  1. Re-read your application: When you go into your phone interview, it might be a while after you applied for the position. So re-familiarize yourself with the advertisement and your application. Think of things you might want to add. Be prepared to expand on claims you might have made in your application.
  2. Make notes: If you’re on the phone, you have the advantage of being able to look at notes. Use it! Make notes on anything you think might be useful (including your application). Have a copy of your application ready, with important parts highlighted. If you’re on Skype or otherwise videochatting, and you need to use your notes, do so carefully and judiciously.
  3. Dress appropriately: If you’re on Skype, dress like you would for a face-to-face interview (suit). If you’re on the phone, they can’t see you, so it doesn’t matter. However, if you’re in your pajamas and unbathed and unbrushed, you might not be as alert. You know yourself best–do what you need to do to be fully alert.
  4. Know your interviewers: Sometimes the department interviewing you will let you know who is going to be on the call. It might be more than one person. Sometimes, it might be four or five. This can be very confusing if you are on the phone. Begin by looking at the websites of the people interviewing you. Pay attention to their interests and to the classes they teach. File this information away. If you do not know who is going to interview you, it’s a little more sticky, but you can be sure it will be someone from the department. Make notes on all of them. You’re a researcher. Do your research.
  5. Be prepared: There’s some questions you can be almost sure you will be asked, so be prepared to answer them. How would you teach the intro class in your field? Teaching techniques. Research plans/projects. If you are not done writing your dissertation, schedule for completion or defense date. They might ask you about other classes they offer, and if you could teach them. Identify areas they do not cover which you might be able to fill, so make note of those when you trawl their website. Ask if they would be interested in classes in those areas. How would you contribute to the research profile of the institution (if it is a research institution)? Publication plans. If you have won teaching awards, why you think you won them. Scholars you would focus on.
  6. Call back: If your interviewers call you without warning, thank them for calling you and say you’ll call them back. If you’re really busy, be honest (it’s my office hours/I’m just going to teach/I’m on a roller coaster) and tell them you’ll call them back. If you need to use the bathroom or eat something, tell them you’ve got something going (see above) and ask if you can call them right back. Even if you’re not busy, it might be a good idea (if you’re nervous) to ask them if you can call back in just a few minutes. Then take a deep breath, assemble your notes, and call them right back.
  7. Smile: It’s important. You can be a serious interviewee and still show that you have a sense of humor. Be pleasant. Be collegial. Be yourself (unless you’re, you know, unpleasant and uncollegial and crabby :))

I can’t think of anything else right now, but I’ll add them if I do.

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