Interview No. 1 (with pictures!)

Dec 21 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

Say, you've been thinking to yourself, didn't Dr Becca have her first faculty interview last week? I wonder how it went?

Well, wonder no longer, lovely readers--I'm here to spill. Now, in the interest of self-preservation I can't spill too many revealing details, but I'll do what I can.

First, let's back up to last Saturday, when out of nowhere I had a complete and utter meltdown. Suddenly I was positive I knew nothing about my field, about my own research, or, now that you mention it, about neuroscience in general. I felt there was no amount of reading I could do between then and the interview that would allow me to answer even the most basic of questions in an acceptable way.  What if they saw through my ruse? What was I going to talk about with admins and students? And what if I couldn't stay awake?

But because you are all the absolute BOMB, I was feeling great again in under 24 hours. The post received amazing comments, many of which just told me to calm the fuck down, and most of which gave concrete, knowledgable advice for which I'll always be grateful. I heart you guys.

So by the time I was actually on my way, I was feeling pretty good. Of course, there were the 15 minutes I stood on a street corner in the icy cold Brooklyn wind, unable to hail a cab to the airport. That didn't feel too good. And then there was my airplane, perhaps only a category or two above "paper."

You see how I am outside the plane? This, I feel, is a bad sign, when your plane is too small to hook up with a JetWay(tm). Now, I'm sure there are some of you who right about now are all, "Oh please, I've flown in a two-seater" or whatever. Well I have not, and everything is relative, so please STFU.

When I arrived in Interview City, I was picked up by a nice faculty member who explained that he wouldn't be able to come to my interview events the next day, and he thus proceeded to interview me in the car. That was fun. The interview was intermingled with a few tourist attraction acknowledgements, and I was also treated to a campus-drive through. Very impressive, I have to admit.

He then dropped me off at my hotel, where I had about half an hour to freshen up before dinner. The hotel was in this beautiful old Victorian something-or-other, with pretty antiques, old-fashioned window panes, and a four-poster bed larger than some NYC apartments.

You can't see it, but there was smoke coming out of the chimney, there. Impossibly quaint, and I ate it all up.

Dinner was with a mixed group of faculty and students, and though I should have been exhausted, I'd taken a 12-hr decongestant, so I was, in fact, kind of wired. What I seemed to recall from all my advice was that people were there to hear me talk, so I just talked. Dinner conversation was a little about science and a lot about Convince the New Yorker that Interview City Has Cultural Stuff to Do and Delicious Ethnic Food to Eat. It was very charming, really.

The one drawback to my impossibly quaint hotel was that there was no hotel bar in which to have a nightcap. I love hotel bars (and I loooove nightcaps), so this was disappointing, but I settled for a mini-sized wine from reception and settled into my giant bed to go over my talk and to call several of my favorite people for goodnight chats.

Honestly? I got the best sleep I'd had in ages. I was pooped from traveling, I was in this enormous bed, and I'd eaten dinner at 7 o'clock, which is 4-5 hrs earlier than I normally eat dinner. I went to bed early and woke up before my alarm went off, feeling well rested and excited to start the day.

And the day was great! Everyone was super nice and surprisingly candid about the pros and cons of the department, school, and city. I got to see the labs, and have a nice chat with some of the grad students. My talk went incredibly smoothly, and I got so many questions that my host had to cut them off so we could move on to lunch. I remembered Physioprof's sage advice that people like to feel smart, and so I did my best to praise every question I got for its astuteness and insight. And really, I didn't even feel like I got questions I couldn't answer! I had been warned that the department Papa Bear might give me a hard time, and while he did sidle up to me at lunch and pretty much co-opt the entire conversation, I really enjoyed it! Great sciency chat.

I also really enjoyed one of the parts I'd been most nervous about--my meeting with the Dean. He was immensely interesting and easy to talk to, and we got along famously.

In general, I was very pleased with the visit, and how pain-free the whole thing had been. Really, people just want to know who you are, so as long as YOU know who you are and can talk about yourself and your science ad nauseum (and you will), things should go swimmingly. With this first interview under my belt, I'm so looking forward to the next one.

18 responses so far

  • Gerty-Z says:

    w00t! So glad that you had a good first interview experience.

  • w00t! glad to hear it went well!

  • JaySeeDub says:

    Awesome! Sounded like a great first interview.

  • Khalil A. says:

    Nice, nice, nice. If they all go this well, you might have a dilemma on your hands, no? ;)

  • Nice work, now that you've got the first one down, you'll be ready for the others. And fuck flying in prop planes.

  • MRW says:

    "so I did my best to praise every question I got for its astuteness and insight"

    This actually kind of annoys me. We had a job candidate who started almost every answer after her talk with "that's a great question". After a couple times, it comes off as fake. People respond a lot more strongly to you *showing* that you thought the question was great by engaging it seriously and excitedly than they do to being told that you thought it was great. That said, we've offered her the job.

  • scicurious says:

    yay excellent!

  • Dr Becca says:

    People respond a lot more strongly to you *showing* that you thought the question was great by engaging it seriously and excitedly than they do to being told that you thought it was great.

    MRW, of course I did both! And I'd certainly never do over-do it to the point of coming off as disingenuous. There are different ways to say "that's a great question" without using those words exactly. Luckily, most of the time I really did think it was a great question. But also, saying "that's a great question" has the added benefit of giving you an extra second or two to think about your answer, which is always good.

  • Bashir says:

    Convince the New Yorker that Interview City Has Cultural Stuff to Do and Delicious Ethnic Food to Eat.

    This always amuses me greatly. The at times ridiculous talking up of Interview City.

  • tideliar says:

    So very very proud and happy and excited :)

    Vicariously I had an excellent interview for the tenure-track job I'll never get. (<- totally co-opting your glory)

  • Dr. Koshary says:

    What a great report! Sure hope I get to follow in your impressive footsteps soon, Becca!

  • antipodean says:

    Wow that sounds awesome. A bit scary, but I wish we had this sort of culture or mechanism where departments actually want to hire productive researchers for tenure track positions.

    On the small plane note- I was once on a commercial flight where the pilot told me not to touch the pedals near my feet otherwise we would crash. There is a seat in front of 1A and I've sat in it.

  • Sweet. Glad it went well. And poor little New Yorker on a 2-seater... haha, I guess if you're gonna be a professah, it's time to grow a pair!

  • Dr. Cynicism says:

    OMG... such optimism and joy! Does this mean you're not attending Cynicism 101 anymore? lol Great to hear that things went so well! God knows you post docs deserve it - slaving under us professors for so long. Congrats! I hope everything turns out perfectly :-)

  • Awesome! It's smooth sailing once you have one done.

    May I steal your "Well I have not, and everything is relative, so please STFU" line? 'Cause I think I could apply that to many, many situations.

  • proflikesubstance says:

    Not sure how I missed this post, but congrats on getting through the first one. As much as people told me how tiring the experience was supposed to be, I actually found that I enjoyed it and had fun. Other than my voice kinda going by day two, there wasn't much that I found stressful about interviews once things got rolling.

  • Dr. O says:

    Glad to hear it went so well...what a great early Christmas present! ;)

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