In our newest “how can we help you?” thread, a reader asks:
My partner, a non-academic who has seen me suffer through the ups and downs of the market for a few years now, made what I thought to be an excellent observation this morning after we debriefed about another intense interview.
She noted that academic job interviewers (you, search committee member!) seem to expect perfection from their interviewees. She elaborated: ‘In a lot of other jobs, you can slip-up in interviews, not say the perfect thing, and it’s not like they won’t hire you, because there is so much on the job learning, and they know that’. My immediate reaction to this was that she is absolutely right. It seems that philosophy search committee members in fact expect perfection in interviews, when that is just completely unrealistic. It also struck me that she was right to think academia does not encourage on the job learning of the sort implied by thoughts like: ‘Well, they didn’t show in the interview that they had that down, but that is ok, we can teach them; they’ll learn’. Instead, we get: ‘Well, they flubbed that question; they must be incompetent: they’re out’.
Now to my questions: Are you expecting us to be perfect, because it feels that way? If so, why are you expecting perfection from us? And can you stop please? It is completely unrealistic, and just another instance of academic standards being utterly out-of-touch with how things ought humanely to go.
Interesting questions, and I’m curious to hear from readers. One reader submitted the following reply:
In the searches I have been involved with, we do not expect candidates to be perfect. In fact, usually, if the search has gone well, the department would be happy with hiring any of the finalists – even after their interviews. What the committee does is balance their needs with what each candidate has to offer. And small things can make a difference – because only one candidate can be offered the job. But perfection is not the standard.
This matches my experience in hiring. I don’t think search committees expect perfection. Few (if any) interviews are perfect. When a candidate “knocks an interview out of the park”, it can make a difference–but, even then, my experience is that committees tend to make decisions holistically, not just on interview performance but on the basis of the rest of their dossier. And, even when candidates don’t give perfect interviews, they can still be at the top of a committee’s list. We all recognize that people can flub a question or two, or even have a bad day interviewing. This is my experience, at any rate.
Are any other search committee members able and willing to weigh in? It might also be good to hear from job-candidates too, as when I was a job candidate sometimes I got flyouts after interviews that I thought went poorly, but didn’t get flyouts for interviews that seemed to go well!
Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More