New moments in the job search

[First a warning: MLA folks, put down your razors - I'm not in your field so this doesn't mean that I've heard from places and you haven't. Oh, and stop looking at the Wiki. What an awful use of technology! This part will vanish shortly, I think...]

Having done the job search a few times, I feel like I'm reasonably prepared for the usual rounds of questions that come up. You know, the questions like, "Why this program?" (I always had to bluff before - no one wants to hear that you applied because you applied for everything that was a job that looked remotely like something you could do. This was the first year, now that I've had a job someplace, that I got to be picky) or "What was your most challenging moment in the classroom and how did you handle it?" (It's too good a story and too immediately revealing to be detailed here, but imagine a Ken doll as an example of postmodernism and you're on your way) or even "What's your biggest weakness as a colleague?" (I love these questions because I love to try out bullshit answers).

This year, though, there have been some new questions that have appeared on the scene in the midst of interviews. In part, they've probably happened because I've been tempted to see whether I could fly on the big stage of a Research I or not. But I think they probably also reflect some new realities and, so, might be worth thinking about.

The first one has been some variation on "What ideas do you have on how you would make our program/your courses/your research more interdisciplinary?"

I think there are a few ways to approach this. But the first question that should come to mind is "what do they mean by interdisciplinary?" because so far, every place I've come across the question has used the term differently. Some of them wanted to talk about how I'd cement ties with other departments while others wanted to know how I incorporate (or feel about others incorporating) perspectives from outside the disciplinary mainstream. This seems like a pretty logical question, particularly in light of the funding crisis most schools are going through. But it's also likely a political moment that will allow schools to shore themselves up by (hopefully) short-circuiting infighting in a time of crisis.

The second question has come in two forms, but they seem intertwined: "What potential for outside funding do you see?" and "How do you see your work/teaching/research reaching beyond the university?"

Again, there are a variety of ways to approach this - in fact, I like to reframe the former by answering with the latter. What type of funding can I get is probably problematic at best, but where I can talk about community ties always suggests ways to bring money in, even if I don't know what they are exactly. As above, I think part of this is about universities trying to find ways to cement their roles in a way that will not only help with legitimacy politically.

The benefit of having been answered those questions once was that I was able to bring them up first in later interviews - to ask the department in question how they saw themselves fitting in outside the university and whether they had plans to move in that direction. One thing I've found very useful in strategizing interviews has been finding moments where I can ask them a question they want to ask me first in the course of other, obvious starter questions.

I'm intentionally leaving my discipline out of the discussion for a variety of reasons. But I'm curious what other new questions people are finding themselves facing in interviews?


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