Campus Interview Mistakes to Avoid

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During faculty recruitment season, candidates trade information about schools’ hiring practices.   Active faculty members trade information on candidates with internal and national colleagues.   Here is some gathered advice for candidates about the campus interview.   Very little of this counsel is new, but much of it remains unheeded.

1.   Contact your recommenders.    When we call your references, it’s not a good sign if they are surprised to hear you are on the job market.

2.   Do Your Homework.   Do some research on the faculty members you will meet during your campus visit.   True, the school cannot always tell you ahead of time; schedules change the day of the interview.   But when you have advance notice and then you ask an established faculty member with over 20 published law review articles, “So, what is your area?” you have not done your homework.      

3. Have Some Theory, Any Theory.   During your job talk, crunching cases is not enough.   There is no need to declare undying loyalty to a particular school of thought (law and economics, feminist legal theory, etc.), but show some awareness of how your work fits into a larger theoretical and methodological  framework.

4. What Not to Say to the Associate Dean.   When meeting with the Dean or the Associate Dean, it is not a good idea to ask, “How many days a week do I have to come to campus?”   Even at a school that very much emphasizes scholarship, this is not the way to start the relationship.   Hold your tongue until get the offer, and even then, keep your eyes and ears open, but your mouth shut.   During your first year of teaching, figure out what well-regarded untenured colleagues do and act accordingly.  

5. Support for Scholarship.   It is completely appropriate to ask about a school’s support for scholarship, but try to get at it in a way that is more creative than, “What kind of support  does the  school provide for scholarship?”  

6.   Course Package.   Do not say that you are willing to teach a course that you really aren’t.   If you get the job, you and your new colleagues shortly will be miserable — you because you are unhappy, your colleagues because your unhappiness will emerge in one form or another.  

7.   Connections.    If you are more than mere acquaintences with a member of the school’s faculty or administration, there is no need to mention it repeatedly during your visit.

8. Geographic Preferences.   If you really, really want to be in the place where the school is, say so.   If you are neutral, don’t gush falsely about your life-long desire to live in that place.  

9.   Why You Want to Teach.   Be careful of the question, “Why do you want to go into law teaching?”   Outside the top tier schools, it is not uncommon for members of a particular school’s faculty to have different views on the relative importance of teaching and scholarship.   If you are talking to someone who has not written an article in  10 years, you may not want to start your answer by describing your yen to think and write in solitude.  

10.   The Students Count.   If a school asks you to meet with students during your campus call-backs, remember that the students may or may not have much interviewing experience.   Be prepared to take up some slack, but don’t drone on about yourself.   Ask the students what they think and like and do.   They are our future colleagues, too.  

-Bridget Crawford

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0 Responses to Campus Interview Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Ann Bartow says:

    May I add: Don’t be a pretentious asshole. You may well think you are too good to teach at a second tier law school, but if that is the case, why are you wasting our time and money by interviewing for a job with us?

  2. Ralph M. Stein says:

    I would add:

    1) Don’t use an insipid Power Point presentation during your Job Talk that adds nothing to the lecture’s substance.
    2) Recognize that some faculty place great emphasis on teaching skills in substantive courses. Whatever your own views, at least be prepared to discuss different modalities of teaching traditional courses.
    3) Don’t be afraid to send follow-up e-mails expanding on questions asked that you couldn’t or didn’t fully answer.
    4) If you sensed that some faculty were very responsive to your candidacy, send them a “thank you” e-mail. Not an insincerrely gushing one but a simple thanks.
    5) Never remark favorably on the luncheon cuisine that accompanies the on-campus Job Talk. Faculty recognize lies when they ear them.