After the Interview

From Inside Higher Ed:

Around the time my long term partner and I were separating, I had dinner with a good friend. Having recently gone through a separation, she spoke about her experience with the feeling I was having, namely, the strong urge to have a ‘post-mortem’ talk with my ex, and cautioned me against it. This urge is about more than two people 'getting on the same page' and agreeing about what the relationship meant; it is about individual reassurance - that I had done everything possible within the context of the relationship. That I was a good person, that I was worthy of love, that it wasn't my fault.

There is a similar urge after an interview for a position you are ultimately not offered. You want to know: could my talk have been clearer? Did I make too many assumptions about what my audience knew? Did I talk too much at dinner? Not enough? You want feedback from the committee (when possible). I want to caution my fellow academic job seekers the same way my friend cautioned me: don't go for the post-mortem.

I am not suggesting that you should not debrief with trusted friends and mentors who can help you prepare in the best way possible for the next interview. But be wary: as with the post-relationship decompression, post-interview stories can also be told from several perspectives.

In the case of job interviews, hiring committees need something to justify the decisions they are making in the cut-throat marketplace. They know, as we all do, that in today’s market, these decisions are arbitrary. With the quality of the applicant pool ever expanding and the pool of available jobs ever shrinking, the current ‘buyers’ market’ means that decisions must be made between qualifications that would have been useless ten, even five, years ago.

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