Ph.D. Job Searches: Conference Interviews

A crucial part of obtaining a job is the conference interview.  These usually last about 30 minutes and in most cases, several faculty members from an institution meet with candidates to ask them questions and discuss the position.

Because these interviews are such important opportunities, the Professionalization Committee will arrange “mock” or practice interviews for job candidates.  We will design them in relation to particular jobs: thus we will request a copy of an ad you applied for and the application materials you submitted.    

Here are some tips:

  • An interview is not an exam.  Candidates are no longer students, but potential colleagues discussing a position and an area of intellectual inquiry with interviewers.  Topics can be redirected in ways that follow your interests.
  • Prepare two coherent narratives: one for your research, and one for your teaching.  Descriptions of dissertations should have a beginning, middle, and end.  Descriptions of teaching should be detailed and anecdotal.
  • Prepare to be succinct. An interview is only around 30 minutes.  Be sure to mention everything that makes you a strong candidate.  If something you feel is necessary to strengthen your candidacy has not been brought up, you can address it when interviewers ask for questions. For instance, when asked, “Do you have any questions of us?” a candidate can respond: “I really found teaching drama in my ‘Growing Up In America’ class to be helpful in getting students to understand the rhetorical force of poetry---Will there be an opportunity to teach drama in Introductory Service Course 260?” or “Before my questions, I’d like to mention my participation in a production of Waiting for Godot [etc].”
  • Bring any writings, syllabi, and other materials that support your candidacy to the interview.
  • Be prepared with projected syllabi for courses that you have not yet taught but that are relevant to the advertised position.  Include in your preparation answers to questions of what particular courses you would like to teach.
  • Be prepared to answer the question: Where do you hope to be professionally, in five years? Or: How will you pursue the work of your dissertation in your future research?
  • Be sure to ask about when the department plans to inform candidates about on-campus visits.  Too many candidates spend needless days in high anxiety after the MLA interviews, when many department faculties have not even reconvened for the spring semester.