By Richard Bleil
Today I had a second interview for the position of Dean at a two year state college. Now, I’m not an expert at interviewing; I haven’t had training, and don’t have a degree in it. I have done a lot of interviews, experimented with different techniques, and been on both sides of the interview table multiple times. So, I’m going to write about what I did for this interview. I don’t intend for it to be advice, but I hope it gives the reader a few things to consider.
- Yes, I prepared. They didn’t send me a list of things to prepare, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t look into the institution. One of the nice things about higher education is that they often have their accreditation report online, and this report usually includes things like the mission statement, values, and goals for the future. There is no way I could ever memorize these (so it’s a good thing they didn’t ask me to recite them), but I was at least familiar with them. Towards this end, I was sorry that I was not following legislation in the state. They did ask questions on a couple of things that I had either not heard of, or things with which I was not as familiar as I should have been. If I get another such interview, I’ll have to remember to look at state legislative initiatives for education.
- I had a mental “checklist” of words I wanted to drop. See, in my preparations, I noticed several recurring themes in their goals and incentives. For example, “collaboration” showed up several times, especially as it relates to faculty/administration incentives. So, I was careful to bring up collaborations, the importance I place on it and my collaborative successes as we spoke. I didn’t just drop the words in; rather, I waited for opportunities to naturally include them during the course of the interview.
- I visited the campus. Okay, maybe this is a bit extreme, but I showed up a couple of hours in advance so I could walk around the campus, read the campus newspaper, speak with students and employees…just generally get to know the campus. I also made sure I put a copy of the campus newspaper in my folder so it was visible, and dropped a comment or two about the people I had met with.
- I sported the school colors. Maybe it matters, or maybe it’s over the top, but I did buy a tie specifically with the school’s colors to wear to the interview. The idea is to look like I already fit in, even if its on a subconscious level.
- I didn’t hold back. The reality is that, for anybody looking for a new job, there is something wrong. In my case, “something wrong” happened a year and a half ago. So when they ask questions like, “what is the worst decision you’ve made,” I tell them, and always follow it up with what I learned. The final interview was if I ever had to stand up to the upper administration and the result. I told them about how the provost at my previous position recommended against tenure for some of my faculty with reasoning that violated school policy. I told them that I wrote an email, with exact passages from the handbook explaining the problem, and my concern that it put the institution at risk for lawsuits and faculty unease. As for the result, I said it loud and proud; “I was fired.” Then, I followed it up with the statement that I was proud that I was fired. I told them that if I’m going to be fired, I’m glad it was for protecting the institution and my faculty.
- I did NOT ask the timeline. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but I feel like the question “when will you know…” just sounds too desperate.
Now there are two things that are certain (and already in progress). The overly self-critical evaluation of my own performance, and the “woulda-coulda-shoulda”‘s.
There is one more thing I did for this interview. After it was over, I treated myself to supper. It doesn’t sound like much, but the reality is that interviewing is stressful, and I am a big proponent of rewarding oneself, especially for difficult things. I don’t drink (and would not recommend it after a day like today even for those who do because alcohol is a depressant), but I enjoy good food. There is a restaurant here (that I thought was local, but apparently there are others as well) that looks like a very upscale and expensive steakhouse. Without alcohol, I ended up spending a hundred bucks on supper. But, you know what? That’s okay. I think I’ve earned it!