Reflections on Interviewing at SBL and Advice

As mentioned in an earlier post, I interviewed for an NT position with the SBL Career Center at the conference.  Prior to the SBL, the college/seminary arranges a time and day to meet with you.  The interview is usually 20-30 minutes; some may last 40-60 minutes if the institution has only a few candidates by the time of SBL.

Tip#1: DO YOUR HOMEWORK – know everything you possibly can about the institution.  You need to know, if possible, in advance who is going to interview you.  Try to read some of their scholarship.  Also, try to find a points of contact between you and the interviewers beforehand – especially mutual friends.

Tip#2: KNOW THE BASIC QUESTIONS YOU WILL BE ASKED: I went to Barnes and Noble on Thursday before SBL and got out all the interviewing books.  They all seem to have the same kinds of questions.  I expected this one and got it: ‘What interests you about this institution?’.  Now, also expect some doctrinal questions if it is a confessional institution (and especially if it is evangelical).  These can get sticky, but if you did your homework, they should not surprise you.

Tip#3: ACT LIKE A PROFESSIONAL: Don’t act like a student.  Talk to your interviewers, not as if this interview is a huge favor, but as if you are peers in the field.  Don’t be cocky and arrogant, but you don’t have to grovel.  Of course, look like a professional (no backpack, wear a tie if you are a man, no jeans).  In questions that relate to teaching, don’t speak in hypothetical scenarios (‘I think I would…’).  Show them you have past experience: ‘When that has happened to me, I have dealt with it in a couple of ways…’.

Tip#4: KEEP ANSWERS SHORT: I was not as good in practicing this as much as in retrospect.  My interview was 18 minutes long.  They have a lot of questions.  Give right-to-the-point answers.  They will ask follow up questions if they want detail.

Tip#5: ASK QUESTIONS: If they say at the end: ‘Do you have any questions for us?’, that is not a cue to begin packing your things up.  You SHOULD have some questions.  Now, don’t ask stupid questions like ‘how many students do you have?’ or ‘where is the school located?’  That just shows you are not taking the job seriously.  But, it is always good to ask questions because it demonstrates that you are serious about the job.  One important question that I asked is: ‘What are the strengths of your department?’  This shows them that, if I have options, I want to be able to make an informed decision.

This is just preliminary thoughts from my one interview.  The important thing is, though, be prepared.

Well, if you are in my shoes, looking for a job, best wishes.

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3 thoughts on “Reflections on Interviewing at SBL and Advice

  1. Good question. My default tendency is to refer to them as Dr. But, I would say if I can estimate that he or she is about five years older than me or younger, I might call them by their first name. I would probably start more ‘professional’ and move towards more casual if I get a second interview.

  2. One thing that helps me on the “professionalism” line is to remember that I’m interviewing them as much as they are interviewing me. Do I really want to work with them? They can tell (and hopefully respect) when you are critically evaluating them. And it’s worth noting that most interviewers I’ve spoken with have considerable difficulty finding appropriate candidates. It may seem from the interviewee’s perspective that the interviewer holds all the cards. But they are hoping you are a good fit just like you are. If you can help clarify that in fact you are (or aren’t….) then you are helping them as a professional colleague.

    Thanks, as always, for the thought provoker, Nijay!

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