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Advice Requested

23 May, 2005

Advice Requested

So I have a phone interview this week. For what looks like a job that seems most likely (despite a questionable library collection) to help me to become an actual lion cub. And I don’t know if I give good phone. Any suggestions, besides the one about smiling the whole time?

Not necessarily my best interview. Got caught up in the “don’t let there be too much dead air so answer without thinking things through” dilemma. That, and they asked a litmus test question that I don’t know if I answered really well. it was the one on World History. It’s a question I dread, because, while I entirely agree that we should all know more history of everywhere, I am not convinced that World History is a better way of learning than History of the World. For the non-History folk, that’s a whole post that I think I’ll write in a few days, after I know how this went. Part of why I say this is that the very best WH text out there — Bentley-Ziegler, IMHO — presents information on my own areas of expertise in a very superficial and indeed, a misleading (but not necessarily deliberately so) way. if that’s the case for my stuff, is it also true for other areas? I will always wonder. Anyway, while I think I was convincing about having the background to teach WH (I do have experience and a field outside of Europe), I do not think I was convincing about my belief in the field. I am happy to say I was honest, though. We’ll see. I should know about the next step by the end of the week.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. 23 May, 2005 3:47 am

    Write down the questions as they ask them to make sure you’re able to answer it. Else it can be easy to ramble.May even want to have a few “talking points” sitting in front of you that you want to stress and cross them off as you work them in.

  2. 23 May, 2005 3:48 am

    Oh, and if you’re talking to multiple people, write down their names as they intro themselves.If you know who will be on the phone with you, get their bios in advance and have them with you. Ditto info about the department. Use the medium to your advantage!Good luck 🙂

  3. 23 May, 2005 4:44 am

    No idea. Don’t drink during the interview. Um. If you decide you interview best naked, try not to giggle the entire time, and don’t tell them.Best of luck for the interview.

  4. 23 May, 2005 6:23 am

    If you have a good connection, and they have a good speakerphone, I find the phone interview to be very similar to an in-person interview: it goes too fast to think; you can’t keep track of who’s who; you will think of the perfect thing to say in advance and there’ll be no opportunity to say it; you’ll think of the perfect thing to say in context the day after the interview. The difference is that you don’t have to sit up straight, dress up, or go anywhere, so the odds of you actually presenting yourself in the best possible light are pretty strong. Speaking clearly replaces eye contact as the primary technical detail; yeah, you can look up people in advance but I’ve never managed to make any use of that information. I’ve had a few of these, but when it goes well, it’s hard to tell what is technique and what is personality and what is professional standing. You’re a thoughtful and articulate person, which ought to come through really well on the phone.

  5. 23 May, 2005 3:42 pm

    Thanks! I do know who the interviewers are, but it’s such a short interview that I doubt it will come up. I do know I have a 25% chance of making it to the next level (actually, it might be better than that). Lots of prep tonight, and fingers crossed!

  6. 24 May, 2005 2:55 am

    I agree with Jonathan’s assessment.Two other things… if you can manage to get some sort of handless headset for the phone, do. It allows you to take notes easily and helps avoid that numb ear problem.The other thing I used to do was to click and drag the pictures of the interviewers off their department websites and have them open on my desktop. That way I could imagine who I was talking to more easily.Good luck, and have fun!

  7. 24 May, 2005 2:57 am

    Write down a couple of questions that you would like to ask them so you don’t have an awkward silence at the end when they ask you if you have any questions. It’s easier to work your way around this in person, but even a moderate silence really drags in phone interviews.

  8. 24 May, 2005 3:18 am

    I don’t know about other departments, but this is how we conducted our phone interviews. Also, don’t be too chatty – stay on topic. There are few things worse than to listen to a candidate go off topic or speak so long that the committee can’t get a word/question in edge-wise.Have a list of questions for the department handy. Some of the best questions we got were things like: 1. What do you see as the biggest strength of your department? 2. What our your students like? 3. What kind of support is there for research? 4. What is the time table for the rest of the search? (Save this one for last – and ask it. It actually seems weird when candidates don’t inquire.)

  9. 24 May, 2005 3:49 pm

    Thanks, all. Actually, I don’t have to ask many questions — they e-mailed me beforehand and asked me to ask them separately, since this is a short interview. Aargh!

  10. 24 May, 2005 4:32 pm

    Don’t really have anything to add that others didn’t already say, but good luck and be sure to let us know how it goes! I do agree, however, with wolfangel when she says it’s not much different than an in-person interview. That’s been my experience. Oh, and I like to have notes close by.

  11. 24 May, 2005 9:16 pm

    I bet you did better than you think, ADM. I look forward to your thoughts on World History. I’m a sceptic myself…I rather prefer Western Civ…

  12. 24 May, 2005 9:39 pm

    Interestingly, my department has come to the same conclusion about B/Z as you have. I’ve never liked the Asia chapters: I’ve spent way too much time correcting them over the years. And I have a very different sense of what’s important than they do, so my lectures overlap with the text very poorly in places. We’re switching to the Brummett/Edgar/Hackett/Jewsbury/Molony text Civilization: Past and Present. Not sure how good it will be, yet, but the Asia sections were at least written by Barbara Molony, who’s a very good Japanese historian, and they look competent. I would say, though, that World History is a terrible way to learn about any specific history: it’s a way to learn a great deal about the world, though, and about history. I’m looking forward to your comments.

  13. 24 May, 2005 9:47 pm

    I haven’t seen that one — very odd, since I’m usually inundated with textbooks … Please, let me know how you like it!

  14. 24 May, 2005 11:08 pm

    Well, I’ve *still* got all my fingers crossed for you. (Brief uncrossing so I can type this, obviously.) I really hope this turns out well. Phone interviews, weird. Britain is just too small for us to do much of that.

  15. 24 May, 2005 11:14 pm

    Oh well — if I manage to get some publications out, at least I can start applying for lecturer positions there, too! It would make sense, since no US publisher will ever look at my stuff, and everybody in my area seems to be there!

  16. 25 May, 2005 10:44 am

    ADM: Well, the first test of the textbook is that all four of us (Asianist, Pacific Island specialist, Europeanist, Americanist) found nothing winceworthy in our quick runthrough. It’s the same thousand pages (combined volume) that all the other textbooks are, but it seems much more detailed: the Asia chapters include lots of stuff that I normally have to shoehorn in by my lectures. Maybe they cut out lots of Western stuff? I don’t think so, but we’ll see. Another virtue of the text is the associated website, which includes primary source readings that will allow us to eschew a second primary source reader. Again, I tend to like fewer, longer primary sources, and this looks like more, shorter texts, but we’ll see.

  17. 25 May, 2005 2:24 pm

    I’ll bet that you did better at the phone interview than you think. As to the World History litmust test, all you can do in such situations is tell the truth and shame the devil. If it loses you the job, then you probably wouldn’t have wanted it anyway (nor have been able to keep it in the long run). I’ll be very interested in your eventual post on the World History vs. History of the World distinction. Frankly, my own experiences of World History have been largely negative, perhaps because I encountered it in a department where the Americanists were using WH as a tactical ploy to wrest control from the Europeanists. This alerted me to an American-centered bias implicit in many curricula: students must take the American survey and the World survey, with the clear implication that only the entire rest of the world can equal America in importance.

  18. 25 May, 2005 2:31 pm

    Oops, make that ‘litmus test’. I can spell, I just can’t type.

  19. 25 May, 2005 4:49 pm

    Yeah, but “litmust” test is a felicitous typo! I thought it was intentional.

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