The Patience of a Saint

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, August 18, 2011



As mentioned in the last post, I spent last weekend in San Antonio at the Academy of Management meetings.  I left the cozy confines of my cushy desk in my ivory academic tower to enter the rough and tumble world of professor recruiting.  In one of the conference hotels, some 15 rooms were set up with an array of 12 tables in each.  Candidates waited out in the hall, as if it were some casting director's dream, and it was not uncommon to have candidates with whom you just interviewed return to the room a few minutes later to interview with another college or university.   So, after interviewing some 30 candidates, what lessons were learned over the course of three days?

1.  Interviewing is exhausting
After interviewing 12 candidates a day for two days straight with little to no break between candidates, major kudos must go to those who interview candidates regularly.   Keeping up the energy and positivity toward the end of the day took major effort (and a few sips of 5-hour energy)

2.  Fit, Fit, Fit is everything
We saw candidates ranging from full professors looking for their last destination to green PhD students working on their final sections of their dissertation.   However, we probably ended up spending more time talking about our school and its unique aspects than learning about the candidate him or herself.  Why?  Given the high number of candidates finishing up grad school, often from some top tier research institutions, we had to counter their advisor admonitions of the importance of high quality research as a criterion.   Given our emphasis on quality undergraduate education over "A"-level journal publication, our message had to be made clear, and the hope is we found a few candidates who realize the direction our school is going.

3.  Two heads are better than one
It was considerably easier to have two representatives from our institution doing the interview than a lone individual.  Not only was it helpful to keep one fresh, and fill in gaps about the job/organization that the other person might have failed to bring up or forgotten, but it also demonstrated the collegiality and camaraderie that we share at our place at work...which leads to....

4.  As always, you are the face of the organization
Given the importance that we place on collegial service that we stress not only in our mission, but in our tenure and promotion processes as well, this notion cannot be captured by a single one-on-one interview.   I believe the "chemistry" (for lack of a better word) that my colleague and I conveyed certainly left a much more positive view of our school (which was probably unfamiliar to those outside of Wisconsin or the Midwest) with those who interviewed with us, than those candidates who met with a single representative from another school.  Further, I believe we were the only table where laughter was heard on a regular basis.   Even if some candidates were looking at us as the equivalent of a "safety school," they have much more positive regard for us than before they entered the interview.   However, this was not necessarily the case for other schools, which leads to....

5.  Social Comparison Theory is alive and well....
Several cohorts of candidates participated and bonded in doctoral consortiums prior to the interviews taking place, so it was not uncommon to see them out in the hall huddled together discussing their interview experiences.  We had an opportunity to ask some of them about how the process was going for them, and they were more than willing to share some of their horror stories, including one common thread about one school where the interviewer was consistently demeaning the quality of her/his employer and engaging in epic acts of self-promotion.   The candidates were almost of the point of waiting outside that room just to hear from other candidates what outrageous things were said in that particular round.  Talk about bad brand management (and I hypothesize that when that school is unable to find any suitable candidates to hire, they will blame the low "quality" of the applicants).

6. ....but is competition?
One of the better parts of the process was hearing candidates talk up their fellow colleagues from the same school or group.  More than once we heard a candidate say that if you do not choose me, you should choose candidate X.  Very refreshing.

So, it is off to review the applications and on to the meet with the committee to determine second interviews.

One comment

Along with the usual questions, ask them

1. which book or movie affected them the most when they were a child, adolescent, and recently, and why.

2. what they would be doing from early morning to evening each day for a week ten years after 2011.

3. what teacher/professor they encountered through their education most affected them and why.

4. What are they spending and being spent for?
What commands and receives their best time, their best energy? What causes, dreams, goals or institutions are they pouring out life for?
As they live their life, what power or powers do they fear or dread? What powers do they rely on and trust? To what or who are they committed in life? In death? With whom or what group do they share their most sacred and private hopes for their life and for the lives of those they love? What are those most sacred hopes, those most compelling goals and purposes in their life?

Assuming you could or would ask such questions would their answers influence hiring one of them?

by Anonymous on August 19, 2011 at 4:17 PM. #

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