Part 4: Interviewing and Negotiating for A Position

The Tenure-Track Job Search Process in Science/STEM Education: Advice & Recommendations from Two Recent Job-seekers
Joshua Rosenberg, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Tina Vo, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Hi again everyone, Josh and Tina’s final post!
Having discussed the overall job search process, preparing, and submitting applications in previous posts, we discuss an exciting but also possibly nerve-wracking part of the process, interviewing (and negotiating!) for a position. We discuss the interview process--both the phone or screening interview as well as the campus visit and interview followed by how to decide that the job is a good fit for you--and perhaps the most nerve-wracking and exciting part of all, negotiating the finer points of a job offer.

The Interrogation(s)/ Interview
After you apply, if the search committee is interested in you, they will invite you to a screening interview (not a campus interview)

Screening Interview (10- 60 minutes)
  1. These interviews will be by videoconference or by phone
  2. Preparing is key, both for this process in general and for the specific position
  3. Know the school, know the department, know the programs offered. Have questions ready!
      Plan to take at least 1-2 hours to do this research, and as long as 2-4 for the first one
  1. Practice speaking personably with character, leverage your friends and family to ask you interview questions!
  2. Err on the side of short responses that beg follow-ups and prompt conversation (<2min)
  3. Common questions that you may be asked
      Opener: What about [insert University or solicitation] makes you interested in working here?
      Research: Can you tell us a little about your current and future research?
      Funding: Can you tell us about your experiences writing, receiving, or managing grants?
      Teaching: What is your teaching philosophy?
      Social: How would you deal with interpersonal conflict within a department?
      Weird quirky/tricky questions: What do you see as the biggest problems in the field? What theoretical or conceptual frameworks do you draw on?
  1. Write down the interview questions you remember after you’re finished; these may help you to prepare for other screening interviews
  2. Write a thank you note to the chair
Anywhere from a few days (in one case hours) to a week later, they might contact you to schedule an on campus interview.
On campus (1-3 days)
      Planning the when you go on campus matters - Do you have other interviews? Consider other timelines. While it doesn’t feel like it, you actually have a lot of leverage.
      Be cordial while expressing respect and excitement in communications.
                                               i.     Review the interview questions.
                                                            ii.      Practice the job talk a lot - and this is really important: Be under time!
                                           iii.     Practice the teaching demo- this is also important. Manage your time well, go with the teaching flow and the more engaging, the better, so build in small group discussion and active learning in ways you feel comfortable.
      Dress code
                                               i.     Be the best dressed one there and wear walking shoes.
      Read informational pamphlets, make small talk, do not bust out the phone
                                               i.     So much can be learned from paying attention to the environment. How involved are the student organizations? Are graduate students hanging posters on the wall? 
                                             ii.     What are people's passion projects?
                                           iii.     How much does a department value work/life balance?
      The people
                                               i.     You will speak with a lot of different people during your visit.
                                             ii.     Try to find someone in the department who will talk openly with you and will help you to navigate this process.
1.     They may be able to tell you, for instance, who really wants to hear about your ideas for applying for external funding or your ability to teach a specific class.
2.     Sometimes, but not always, this “ally” will be the search chair, but it may also be a junior member on the search committee, someone who you happen to know, or someone you have a connection with.
                                               i.     You won’t get to eat a lot, it’s true
                                             ii.     Don’t be afraid to direct the conversation
      Write your thank you notes as you go! Or at least take notes on the different conversations you had so you can put something personal in each communication

Overall advice on the interview process: Whether on the phone, Skype, Zoom, or in person, let your personality shine through. When answering questions, try to also give a concrete example, personal anecdotes are really meaningful. Be yourself… just the future, more poised, version of yourself. Be enthusiastic, and remember, they would be just as lucky to have you!

The Decision and Negotiations
  1. Do you want the job?
      If so, then enter negotiations.
      If not, politely decline.
      Contact other universities to tell them that you have been given an offer.
  1. Knowing when negotiations actually begin can be tricky
      Some begin while you’re on the interview- drop hints about what you value and the resources your research needs
      Some begin once they’ve formally offered you the job- multiple phone calls or emails about what you want/need vs. what they can or won’t offer
      Some never start- they have only one package, and you can take it or leave it
  1. Try to get inside knowledge on what’s negotiable, and trust it.
      Lean on your mentors and peers.
  1. A formal offer may take awhile
      Both of our offers took weeks to finish and sign (>1 month after the initial offer).
      After negotiation, it has to go up the administrative flag pole again.
      It is acceptable to contact the person you negotiated with after 2-3 weeks just to see where you are in the processes

Overall advice for deciding and negotiating: Figure out what you would need to be happy and successful.  Don’t let yourself feel too afraid to negotiate. While there are negotiation horror stories, they are few and far between. If you are a reasonable human being, and as long as your future institution is reasonable too, everything will be fine. If they are not reasonable; better to find out now than at the tenure review.
At the conclusion of the process, you may have a job or you may keep looking. Many of our friends and colleagues have had success in post-doctoral or other research- or teaching-related positions, after which you may be back on the market--or be happy with. After the process, (try to) take a break, even though you may still have to defend your dissertation and other parts of your degree program (i.e., completing research and teaching assistantships). It won’t hit you for awhile, but know that whatever stage you are at, job or no, you should be proud of yourself. Your tenacity, your research, your love for science and/or teaching will eventually take you where you need to be.

Good luck, have fun, do good!

P.S. Also, remember to graduate! Most offers have a clause that will limit your contract and pay if you if do not have degree in hand by the start date.