Two interviews, two departments, same university
December 2, 2016 11:06 PM   Subscribe

I am on the academic job market this year (assistant prof level), and I have an upcoming onsite interview at State University in one department for a faculty position, during which I will be giving a public job talk. I also have a Skype interview scheduled two weeks before that with a separate department for a different faculty position that has some overlap with the first one. What now?

During the Skype interview, I assume that I should notify the search committee that I am going to be visiting the campus (and for what purpose). Should I make an effort to schedule meetings with members of the 2nd search committee, above and beyond the round of interviews with the 1st search committee? Should I invite them to my talk (which will be focusing on the reasons I should be hired by the first department)? Is there an ideal way to address (with both committees) my reasons for applying to each position without alienating one (or both) of the committees?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total)
If either one of these is a generalist position, that is one thing, but in my experience, if there are two open positions on campus that have significant overlaps, there is some coordination between departments, especially if they are housed under the same division.

Regardless though, you will have absolutely no control over your schedule during your campus visit. If you haven't read the Professor Is In book yet, do so quickly. There is a chapter that outlines the campus visit and it is almost always jammed packed 12 hour days. (I've been on many of these on both sides.) So again, you won't be able to meet with anyone from Skype Department. Even the hour or so break you might get after your last meeting, but before dinner, you'll just want to pee, drink some water, and sit down.
Also don't assume that your job talk is "public"... In my experience, job talks aren't advertised beyond the department list serv (so other candidates don't know the competition). The vibe at a job talk is different from a regular guest speaker. The questions are much different and often tougher. I would find it very odd to see someone from a different department at a job talk.

The only thing that might work out for this though is if they have time scheduled for "interdisciplinary meetings." Half of the time (in my experience), these are set up by the department with no input from the candidate ("She seems to have a health secondary area, so let's have her meet with someone from the school of Public health") and half the time the candidate is asked if there is anyone with whom they would like to meet.
So hypothetically you could reach out to the search chair and politely inquire about the possibly of meeting with Sarah Smith from Skype Department because you envision possible collaborations. EXCEPT since you're also interviewing with them, it is likely to be viewed as a little strange.

Personally if I were you, I'd not make any efforts to see Skype Department during your visit. However, be upfront with both search chairs letting them know the stage you are in with the other department on their campus.
During your campus visit people will be snooping around trying to find out where else you are interviewing. Disclosing this can sometimes be to your advantage. If the school perceives themselves as being a more likely match for you, for example.

Anyway, read the Professor Is In about campus visits. Feel free to memail me if you want to discuss offline.
posted by k8t at 11:31 PM on December 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Here's a blog post on campus visits but the book version is better.
posted by k8t at 11:34 PM on December 2, 2016

I'm an academic and have been on both sides of that table. I would let both departments know the whole story and be generally as open as possible. If you're successful, you're going to be spending the next thirty years with these people. I would think it was weird if a candidate kept something like that secret, since both departments are pretty much guaranteed to find out sooner or later.

It's possible that Skype Department is interviewing you via Skype because they don't have the budget to fly you in, in which case the two departments may decide to extend your visit in order to stack the interviews. (We would never try to hire a faculty member via a Skype interview.)
posted by heatherlogan at 5:40 AM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, you asked how to address your reasons for applying to both positions with the committees. I really suggest picking up the phone on Monday morning and calling your contact (or the chair of the search committee) in each of the two departments. Tell them that you've also been invited to interview [in person/via Skype] with Other Department on [dates]. Then describe briefly how your expertise makes you a good fit for either department. This will cover why you applied to both -- your faculty contact will understand that the faculty job market is always a nightmare and will fully understand your applying to all positions that fit your expertise. In fact, your faculty contact will probably feel secretly pleased that their department's judgment in choosing you for their short-list has been independently validated by the other department. It sounds like the fact that you have potential collaborations with both departments makes you a better fit for either position at that particular university -- you could even play that up a little [assuming it's true] as part of your motivation for applying to that university.
posted by heatherlogan at 5:58 AM on December 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hmm. My experience is very different from k8t's. When we have jobs with significant disciplinary overlap with other departments, we will make sure that the field experts from those departments meet with the candidate and are invited to the talk. I've been included on interviews schedules and invited to talks even for departments in other academic divisions. And in planning hiring, we always touch base with our colleagues in other departments where there might be overlap.

So this is probably a cultural thing, depending on field and institution.

I agree that your best route is to be open as possible and to leave the scheduling/inviting to the department that's hosting you. Also, as a job candidate it is almost always to your advantage if a department interested in you perceives you to be in high demand.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:56 AM on December 3, 2016

Speaking as an academic administrator (department chair, and former college personnel committee chair), one thing you should keep in mind is that the second department (the one that is doing the Skype interview) is under an obligation to treat all candidates for their job as equally as possible at each stage of the hiring process. If the Skype interview is a preliminary interview, for instance, it might be inappropriate for them to meet with you on campus, because that could be perceived by other candidates (and rightly so) as an advantage you got that they did not get to meet face to face. For that reason, they may need to keep you at arm's length. A courtesy note that you will be on campus for department 1 would be a good idea (especially if anyone in department 2 is likely to be informed of department 1's job talks), but not necessarily for the reason that you think. I would be inclined to write simply that you will be on campus for an interview with department 1, and that you wanted them to hear it from you, not through the grapevine, and then say nothing more. If they want to do more, let it be their decision, not your offer.
posted by brianogilvie at 5:23 PM on December 3, 2016

This is a situation that is tricky: there are ways it could work strongly to your advantage, other ways it might work against you. I would tell both chairs the situation and let them decide how to handle it based on their legal, procedural, and normative obligations within their contexts. They know the situation, you can't guess what it is from your position.

One thing to be clear about: you should treat both visits as if it is a visit for either/both positions. Don't try to tailor yourself for each position in turn; be honest about who you are for both. You have no idea who has a joint appointment, who is best friends with who, etc. Don't try to cut any corners, don't try to spin anyone.

I hope it works out and you wind up with a position in one or the other, or even a joint appointment in both (it does happen). Good luck!
posted by gerryblog at 5:52 PM on December 3, 2016

My experience differs quite strongly from what other people have said, and what you should take from that is probably that there is serious variation with these concerns between fields and between universities. I should note that my own field, political science, sits at the juncture of several other disciplines. This means that especially for new phd hires, candidates we're looking at might also be applying to econ departments, or sociology, or communications, or psych.

And in all of the departments that I've been associated with as a faculty member or grad student, we would not care in the slightest about that, at least not unless they were going to help pay for the line. Whether or not the econ department in the same university is also interviewing a candidate is just irrelevant, again unless they're going to be paying for the line. And contrary to mr_roboto's experience, departments I've been associated with wouldn't particularly coordinate with other departments that weren't paying for the line. Invite people to talks, sure, and maaaybe try to get someone "appropriate" as a Required Outside Person, but nothing more formal than that.

My reactions would be quite different than heatherlogan's, which is only to say that reactions vary. I wouldn't find it weird not to bring up an interview with Other_Field. It's tough out there so of course candidates applied to lots of other jobs, and for some kinds of jobs it makes sense that people might also have applied to the econ job in my school in addition to the polisci jobs at Statename State University and Regional Mini Ivy. And just like I wouldn't expect candidates to reveal their other candidacies, unless and until they got an offer, I wouldn't expect you to tell me about the other one. I mean, not unless I asked about it, but I shouldn't. Likewise, I would honestly react negatively to you telling me that you'd be a good hire for some other department too. I don't see potential collaboration with people in, say, psych as a plus. Interdisciplinary work can be a real problem, especially when the new assistant insists on it, because then they end up with half their publications in another field, unread by the people evaluating their tenure case (until they get the file), and not influencing or taking part in the conversations going on in the reviewers' discipline.

Anyway, my advice would be to treat each interview as separate. Treat them as if they were in different schools in the same city. And when you're dealing with one department, focus on that department. If you hired me, I'd expect to teach courses A, B, and C in your department, and I'd be trying to publish in Journal of Department and Departmental Studies Quarterly. Which is true; if Department A hires you should be meeting their teaching needs and publishing in that field; likewise if Department B hires you that should be your focus.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:44 PM on December 3, 2016

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