You’ve put in countless hours studying and researching en route to seeking your first faculty position. But your education probably didn’t cover this: how to stand out in an interview.
Having a solid handle on the hiring process (don’t worry, no written or oral exams required) can make you shine with the search committee amid a competitive field of candidates. The following do’s and don’ts of the hiring process, along with a few group interview tips, can help set you up for success. And if you’re trying to move up internally, we have a few specific tips for you, too.
One strategy for how to stand out in an interview is to confidently share your vision of the job and the qualifications the ideal candidate should have.
Do sell your vision of the job
Members of the search committee may have different ideas from the hiring administrator’s listed responsibilities and qualifications in the position announcement. One strategy for how to stand out in an interview is to confidently share your vision of the job and the qualifications the ideal candidate should have. 1
Don’t assume the search committee remembers your background
Yes, the search committee has reviewed your resume, but no, they don’t remember a lot of it when they meet with you. Be sure to highlight your experiences and abilities throughout the interview process. For example, say, “Based on my experience doing ABC, I understand the dynamics of XYZ at this institution.”1
Do maintain a positive attitude
The interview process can be draining, with meeting after meeting and presentation after presentation. But remaining polite and keeping your game face on will get you noticed by the search committee. Smile, be energetic, and don’t act put out when you are asked the same question by 12 different people.1
Do express your admiration
If you admire the institution and like the community, be sure to say so. The search committee wants you to want the position.1
Don’t offer to fix the institution
Put yourself in the shoes of the search committee: How would you feel if an outsider came in and told you about all that was wrong with your department? This can embarrass the committee and make you look presumptuous, even if a fix is needed. Instead, ask questions about trouble spots and share your desire to work together to improve these areas.1
Don’t keep the employment needs of your spouse or partner a secret until the end
While you wouldn’t bring it up during the first rounds of interviews, once it becomes clear that you are a strong contender, it’s reasonable then to mention your spouse’s or partner’s career needs. The committee could even help in the effort to identify opportunities in the community for your partner. 1
Do look for signs to bow out
The hiring process can be long and tiring. Sometimes the hiring administrator has a candidate in mind for the position and will form a committee only because it is expected or required. As a result, you may sense apathy in the search committee’s communications. If you suspect you’re not a serious contender, consider bowing out so you can put your time and energy into searching elsewhere.1
If you’ve studied or worked at the institution where you’re applying, here are a few special things to keep in mind:
Do expect more to be expected of you
Search committees are more likely to advance you in the process, but at the same time hold you to a higher standard. Since they are already familiar with you, but may not realize everything you have to offer, look for a way to reintroduce yourself. And as with any job you’re seeking, emphasize your accomplishments and qualifications and how they position you well for the job.2
Don’t settle if you’re selected
Don’t feel you have less bargaining power for salary, benefits and responsibilities than an outside candidate would. You’ve been selected as the best candidate and should be confident in negotiating in good faith for the appropriate compensation.2
And one final tip if you don’t happen to get the job …
Do know that the search committee doesn’t have the final say
If you’re not selected, it doesn’t mean you weren’t the search committee’s first choice. The search committee serves as an adviser, and the hiring authority may like someone else. Feel free to ask for interview feedback and other advice from the search committee to see what they liked and where they think you can improve.1
It’s a competitive job market, so stay positive if you didn’t get the job. And keep using these hiring and group interview tips in the future to help you stand out.
Hewlett, S. A. (2013). Forget a mentor, find a sponsor the new way to fast-track your career. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.