The invitation to interview

The invitation to interview

Few moments are more exciting for candidates than an invitation to interview. Congratulations! Someone’s interested in you! At this stage, you want to make sure you’re ready to reply to an invitation to interview in a professional, intelligent manner.

Things to Do

  • Be ready. You possibly could be invited to campus soon after you send in your application materials.
  • Decide what you are going to need to know when a department calls and invites you for an interview. Have a list of questions handy; in the excitement of receiving a phone call you don’t want to forget anything important.
  • If there is a special person or place that you would like to see while you are on campus, e.g. the college technology coordinator or the law library, don’t be afraid to ask. However, remember that your campus itinerary is usually very full and that the department may or may not be able to accommodate your request. This is especially true for requests such as meeting with a realtor or visiting local schools. Be sure to ask if you will have an opportunity to spend time with some graduate students – they usually are a very useful source of information about the institution.
  • Don’t be surprised if you get offered a telephone interview instead of a campus interview. Institutions are increasingly using telephone interviews as initial screening techniques to decide whom to invite to campus.
  • Do your best to work into the identified interviewing dates. The committee should not need to (and possibly can’t) work around your schedule.
  • Before the interview, do some homework on the institution and the program area with which you will be interviewing. Visit web sites for the department, college, and university in preparation for your visit. For most institutions you should be able to get information about departmental organization, program offerings, faculty and administrators’ names, etc. Become familiar with the scholarly work of the people within the program by looking up their work in a citation index. Collecting all of the information that you can before your visit shows that you are interested in the institution and allows you to focus on asking good questions while you are there.
  • Find out what type of presentation you will be expected to give to the faculty. Notify the department of any special technology you will need, e.g. a computer projector or Internet access. Ask how many copies of handouts you should bring, inquire about the length and breadth of the presentation, and find out whether your speaking time should include time for questions. If you will be teaching or visiting a class while you are there, get the information that you need about the class in order to make your lesson or visit most effective. Ask if you will have a few minutes before your presentation to get organized, check out the room, set up your equipment, etc. If you are giving an electronic presentation, make sure that the room will contain an ordinary overhead projector and bring backup transparencies in case of equipment failure.
  • If you need additional information before accepting an invitation to interview on campus, ask. Identify any non-negotiable areas that would prevent you from accepting this position if offered and ask for clarification (e.g., salary range). If there are any non-negotiable items that you must have and the inviting institution is unwilling to address, then it’s better to bail out at this point and not waste anyone’s time and expense. A note of caution: although you don’t want to waste your time or theirs, inquiring about salary too early will turn off many search committees.
  • Ask if you will receive an interview itinerary prior to arriving.
  • If flying to the interview, be sure to determine how you will be picked up at the airport. If driving to the interview, be sure to get detailed directions.
  • Inquire whether the institution will be making travel reservations for you. If you will be making them yourself, ask what documentation the search committee needs so that you can be reimbursed for your expenses. If the institution requires you to bear the expenses of your campus visit, it may be time to reconsider how much you want that position.
  • Let your professors know where and when you are interviewing. If your professors know faculty members in the department, don’t be surprised if they make an informal call to their colleagues either before or after your visit.

Things to Avoid

  • Only accept an invitation to interview on campus if you are seriously considering the position. It’s a tremendous waste of time and money if you’re not, for both you and the institution.
  • Don’t keep the faculty waiting on your decision regarding whether or not to interview. They are on a tight schedule and need to contact alternates if you are not interested in the position.