Phone Interviews [From the Hey Jane Archives]

April 29, 2009 at 1:09 am | Posted in Hey Jane Column, Job Market | Leave a comment


“I am on the job market and have been asked to participate in a phone interview. My department has prepared me well for the on-campus interview, but I am less confident in my phone interviewing skills. Help!”


Phone interviews are a very important part of the interview process.  Search committees often use phone interviews to narrow down a short list of 10-12 people to the 2-3 people that they will invite for campus interviews.  Phone interviews are tricky because non-verbal communication is completely absent.  However, there are many things you can do to prepare for your phone interview.

General Tips for Phone Interviews:

  • Usually, the phone interview will be scheduled ahead of time.  However, if someone calls and wants to interview on the spot, it is perfectly okay to ask to schedule the interview at a time that is better for you.
  • Be prepared.  This is not just a casual chat, but is often a very serious stage of the interviewing process. Just as you would prepare for a face-to-face interview, during a phone interview, you should know something about the organization, department, and people who will be interviewing you.  You should be prepared to answer questions about your research, teaching and service and to ask questions about the position, the department and the university.
  • Practice!!  Many departments give graduate students the opportunity to do “practice job talks” but may not provide an opportunity for practice phone interviews.  Ask your mentor or your friends to practice a phone interview with you.  This is especially important for conference call phone interviews (which I will discuss more a little later).
  • If possible avoid taking other calls or potentially stressful meetings just prior to the call.  One time (before caller-ID) I answered the phone about the time the interview was scheduled and it was my mother.  Before I could say “can I call you back, I have a phone interview any minute now,” she blurted out that her neighbor (someone I was close to) had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  While I tried to clear my head and get ready for the call that came about two minutes later, I know I was not at the top of my game that day. Needless to say, I was not invited for a campus interview.
  • Make sure you have a quiet environment.  If at all possible, leave the kids and the pets in another room (you might even consider hiring a babysitter).  Make sure that background noise such as televisions, washing machines, etc. are eliminated.  Turn off the ringers on any cell phones that might be in the room.  You might also consider turning off the call waiting function on your phone if possible.
  • Know your equipment.  Many people recommend using a landline phone with a cord rather than a cell phone or a cordless phone that might lose power or in some ways be less reliable.  If you plan to use a mute button or a speaker phone function, make sure you know beforehand where they are and exactly what they sound like on the other end.
  • Dress nicely.  Even if you normally wear pajamas when you work from home, it’s a good idea to dress for the phone interview as you would for a face-to-face interview.  It puts you in the mind frame of a professional meeting.  However, if you normally wear earrings, you might take them out for a phone interview as they could clatter against the phone or just be uncomfortable while talking on the phone.
  • You might consider standing up while participating in the interview. This will keep you “on your toes.”  And SMILE!!  It will come through in your voice.
  • Keep your CV and any notes you have about the department handy.  You may want to post large notes on the wall, this will keep them at your fingertips, but let you avoid the sound of rustling papers.  Also make sure you have paper, pen and calendar close by.  It’s unlikely that a campus interview would be scheduled right away, but it is possible.
  • Don’t eat, drink, smoke, chew gum, etc. while participating in the interview.  However, you might remember to have some water handy in case your mouth gets dry.
  • Remember that they can’t see your non-verbal cues.  If you need a minute to think about an answer, say “That’s a great question, I need to take a minute to think about it.” Or let them know when there might be an unexpected silence or unexpected noise –  “Excuse me while I take a sip of water.”
  • Don’t ramble to fill the silence.  Finish your answers with a note of finality.  You want to avoid yes or know answers, but keep your answers succinct and with a clear ending.

A Note about Conference Call Phone Interviews: Continue Reading Phone Interviews [From the Hey Jane Archives]…


Preparing for Your 3rd Year Review [From the Hey Jane Archives]

April 27, 2009 at 1:07 am | Posted in Hey Jane Column, New Faculty, Teaching & Mentoring, Tenure | Leave a comment

I am preparing for my 3rd year review and am wondering how to best address negative student course  evaluations in my statement. I’m particularly concerned that some comments seem to be a reflection of  the student’s perception of my personal characteristics and feminist teaching style rather than a reflection  of how much they have learned during the semester.  Help!

The first and most important piece of advice is: don’t be defensive in the framing of your teaching evaluations.  Instead, think of this as an opportunity to outline how you plan to improve.  Hopefully there will be at least one item or aspect of teaching for which you have scored well.  Start by pointing that out. Then, for items where your scores were not as high as you would have liked, be prepared to outline a specific plan for improving those scores.  Your plan might involve visiting your institution’s teaching resource center, subscribing to a teaching journal, or attending a teaching workshop at an ASA or SWS meeting. Your plan might be even more concrete, such that you propose a curriculum change or altering a current classroom practice.  By outlining your plan for improvement, when it’s time for your next review, hopefully you’ll be able to narrate a success story.  For a specific example, the excerpt below comes from my 4th year review statement:

On the overall evaluation item, the range of my scores changed from 3.4-3.9 for my 2nd year review to 3.6-4.6 with 4 out of 9 classes being above a 4 since the last review.  In the past I have been concerned with the evaluation items that purport to measure “points of view other than own,” “encouraged and responded to questions” and “respect for students.”  I have always done very well in these areas.  The last two years, I have focused on improving my evaluations on the items that claim to measure “lectures consistent with objectives,” “exam questions correspond with class material,” “unbiased grading,” and “informed class of grading criteria.”  Since I have been focusing on these items, my scores have been consistently high, ranging from 3.7 to 5.0 with most falling above a 4.0.  In the spirit of encouraging students to “claim their education,” rather than passively receive it, I have started asking introductory students at the beginning of the semester to articulate what expectations they have of their professors.  This usually leads to lively discussion.  In addition to helping the students formulate and articulate their expectations, this exercise helps me know what their expectations are at the beginning of class rather than waiting until the end of the course to see if I’ve lived up to those silent expectations.

It can also be useful to give some context to the evaluations.  One of my evaluators put it nicely by writing:

The committee notes that “Jane” teaches courses on deviance, crime, gender and health – courses that tackle issues of contemporary moral and political concern and in doing so raise the hackles of some students.  One of Professor “Jane’s” goals is to present students with a wide range of views on course topics.  Her success in meeting this goal may be seen in some comments written by students.  For example, Professor “Jane” is simultaneously too much of a feminist and not enough of a feminist.  Course content has a liberal spin and is even handed.  The committee reads these assessments as an indication that “Jane” is doing a good job of presenting a reasonably balanced perspective on topics covered in her courses. Continue Reading Preparing for Your 3rd Year Review [From the Hey Jane Archives]…

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