Surviving and thriving and getting that professional archives position.

Welcome. If you're here, you're probably wondering how to get some job--maybe the perfect professional archives position or maybe just something you can use as a springboard--and you're seeking advice on how to do that. From searching for advertisements to writing a resume or cover letter to making it through the interview. And hopefully even beyond.

No guarantees, you probably already know a lot of this, but maybe some help from a lot of people who want to make sure that good candidates get good jobs. If you've got better advice? or need further explanation? Please share in the comments.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Interview part 2: what to expect

What to expect. This was really more of a meta question. Maybe not so advice-oriented, but I was curious. If people conducted in-person interviews, were they willing to bring people in from a distance? What costs would they cover? How long would that in-person interview be? Would they have informal meetings during the course of it? Is having to do a presentation of some sort a given?

At my place we are generally willing to bring in distance candidates, we cover air fare and room and board, and these are all-day interviews which translates to a certain commitment of personnel hours for the search committee and other colleagues. In other words, kind of expensive. So I didn't want to assume that others would always go to that extent. So I asked.

2/3 of respondents were willing to bring in candidates from distant locations. So if they're willing to do this, are they willing to pay? For the most part, yes.

Personal note: I once went on an interview--for a position with a corporation that was not having money problems--and paid my own way. Post interview I did a thank you note, sent in a requested writing sample, and never heard from them again. It taught me a lesson--one I distinctly couldn't afford at the time--and I will never again interview with a place that expects me to spend serious money for an interview. Doing interviews at a conference where the candidate was planning to attend anyhow, that's a different matter. If the candidate offers, that's a different matter. Candidates: Unless you've got a contract in hand that says they'll hire you regardless of the outcome of the visit, think this over, and over again before paying your own way to an interview. A recruiter that parsimonious is either very close to the edge financially (i.e. you may want to keep searching because they're about to go insolvent) or they may not be the most employee-friendly institution to work for. And no, I'm not going to tell you who that corporation is because a) they are still around and still very solvent and can afford very expensive lawyers and b) it was over a decade ago and maybe they've learned their lesson.

Okay, I'm sorry. I've just attacked two of my respondents (non-corporate, by the way) and I'm willing to admit that maybe there's extenuating circumstances and that I'm just a little judgmental because of my own previous experience. One respondent does interviews that are two hours or less which does negate the need for overnights or food, maybe, but how do you justify asking the applicant to cover airfare? So if you're reading this and maybe you're not a respondent but you are from an institution that brings interviewees in from a distance and doesn't help out with the costs of that, help us out. If this investment is going to work out in the candidate's favor in the long-term, please explain it because I'm at a loss here. Is it simply that your definition of "from distant locations" means only a few hours by car? I'm willing to allow that my definition of distant, being in a place that's about 1500 miles by air to the next state, is probably different from that of a Bostonian who probably considers Vermont to be distant. It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it?

Several of the places that don't interview distance candidates still spring for food and such, so kudos to them. I'd also like to add that some of the respondents indicated that they didn't hold in-person interviews for distance candidates precisely because their institution wouldn't pay for travel. And on the paying for distance thing: don't be surprised if the interviewing institution works on a reimbursement basis, at least for the airfare. When I interviewed here over seven years ago, they were still arranging flights for candidates. At some point this policy switched (I keep hearing rumors of an expensive flight that wasn't refundable when the candidate canceled out, but nobody has confirmed) and we do generally ask that candidates make their own flight arrangements and then we reimburse later. This isn't all that unusual. In fact I suspect it's fairly common for people traveling by car since most places I've interviewed at usually pay on a mileage reimbursement basis.

And this is what the interview lengths look like. I didn't do this one as a pie chart, because some institutions conduct more than one type of interview. Of those that conduct multiple day interviews, all were academic. I'd assumed that maybe those were headed for management types of jobs, but they seemed a blend of the options. What was even more interesting to me was the level of position they were hiring into. Again, my assumption would be later career. I have no idea why I'd assume that, and I'm clearly wrong. They're also mixed, leaning toward entry level/early career. (and this is why Arlene is not egotistical enough to assume she speaks for the profession.)

On the other side of things, the shortie interviews, the two-hour-or-less types, are an even mix of job types, mix of institutions, mix of levels. So I guess there's no predicting what you're in for until you get that call arranging the interview. Keep flexible.

The last bits I asked on this question were whether or not candidates were expected to do a presentation and if any of their meetings during the course of the interview were informal. About 30% said they expect a presentation and 43% said they do informal meetings. Both can be things to watch for. Those who hold informal meetings? Heavy on the academic respondents, more so than the general survey population. Those who require presentations? All academic with a couple of them representing both academic and state/local government. Looks like if you're going to be interviewing with a private non-profit or corporate, you're probably going to be doing a more focused q&a type interview rather than the alternatives.

Why watch out for informal meetings? I tend to put them in, mixed throughout the course of the day, partly because I'm going to need a break and I know the candidate will. But I do still watch what happens and I suspect some recruiters may be watching these very closely indeed. In my case, I do want to see if the candidate can handle the more casual moments with a certain amount of professional aplomb while still remaining approachable and casual, but I suspect other recruiters are simply looking to see if you're able to retain your professional mien.  So while you might not be "on" at quite the same level as you would be for a panel interview or presentation, you'll want to be careful not to relax too much.

And I was hoping to cover the clothing thing in this one, but this is already a little long. So next posting, hopefully, will be a short one, just on that topic. Up in a couple of days.

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