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October 03, 2011


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Thanks for this advice. Navigating the back-to-back(to-back-to-back)interviews seems incredibly daunting. I worry about being late to interviews, but I guess there's not much that can be done. Hopefully faculty are somewhat understanding about something like that. (Of course, this is a nice problem to have . . . .)

I did have one question that I haven't seen addressed anywhere. Roughly speaking, what's the chance for a call back? And relatedly, how much do these interviews really matter? I was previously at a law firm and we usually had a pretty good sense of who would get a call back before the on-campus interview. If we were interviewing 20, there'd be 8 we were pretty sure we'd call back (they just needed to avoid being really obnoxious), there'd be 8 we were pretty sure we weren't going to call back (only if they did incredibly exceptionally would they get a call back) and the last four could go either way. Is it the same way with schools? This is obviously all very school dependent and hinges on factors like how many the school is looking to hire. But I'd be curious -- and I assume others would be as well -- about how this works.

Tim Zinnecker

You may find some online suggestions that "x" number of interviews yields "y" number of callbacks (which yields "z" number of offers). I cannot speak to the accuracy of such information. At best, it is a generality, riddled with exceptions.

By the time that a committee has completed its interview schedule (but before arriving in DC), members may favor some candidates over others. But this pre-Conference favortism may be driven solely by the FAR Form, c.v., scholarly placements, etc. (written evidence). Speaking only for committees on which I have served, we watched these pre-Conference "favorites" occasionally bomb during an interview, and we watched other candidates (perceived, pre-Conference, as less strong, based on paperwork we had reviewed) increase their value as a result of the interviews. In summary, any pre-Conference ranking of candidates can change as a result of the interviews. Candidates should view these interviews as extremely important. Paper credentials may have landed you an interview. But that's all. Instead of being one of 800 candidates, you've narrowed the competition from 800 to maybe 24-30 (or even fewer, if the school is hiring for multiple positions). You should be congratulated for receiving an interview. But you also should assume that the other candidates being interviewed have similar paper credentials. You've still got some work to do to set yourself apart! And the 30-minute interview is the place for you to do so!

The number of callbacks may vary among schools. A school may only invite one, possibly two, candidates to campus for a particular slot. Another school may want to bring three or more candidates to campus. A school may bring several candidates to campus within a compressed time schedule and make no decision until all have visited campus. Another school may exhaust the hiring process for the first candidate to visit campus before inviting any others to campus. And whether you receive a callback may depend on whether "higher-ranked" callback candidates actually accept the callback.

Assuming that candidates receive a post-Conference update from committees (and, sadly, several schools will never offer the courtesy of any such update), a candidate is likely to be told one of three things: we like you and extend to you a callback; we like you, but we like others better and wish to focus our attention on those candidates for the next few weeks before returning to your candidacy; or we have decided to focus our attention on other candidates for the remainder of our hiring process and wish you the best as you seek an academic appointment.




And one other friendly piece of advice to supplement question 6. Re-read all of your published scholarship (even if it is older) and be prepared for specific questions on point. You may not reach this degree of specificity in all interviews, but there's a likelihood in at least one. Someone has been tasked with reading with your scholarship and they may have a question to tease out.

Jacqui Lipton

Tim, you should write a book on interview technique!

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