August 27, 2018
By: Jeffrey L. Buller, PhD
We tend to think of interviews as processes that select suitable candidates for different jobs. But in many ways the purpose of interviews is more accurately to reject unsuitable candidates. After all, by the time a search reaches the stage of meeting a few finalists on campus, the institution has largely been satisfied that everyone being interviewed is qualified for the job. The candidate’s résumé has been examined, references have been contacted, and the candidate has already answered a number of questions appropriately during a phone interview or an off-site at a conference. The critical question now is, Which of these finalists is the best fit for the program and the institution? Seen in this way, interviews are often less about demonstrating the qualities you possess in order to convince the committee that you deserve the position than they are about not demonstrating the qualities that might rule you out from further consideration. It is not uncommon for search committees to discover that a candidate who has all the right qualifications “on paper” acts so inappropriately that one begins to wonder, “Is this person actively trying not to be offered the job?” In fact, this experience occurs often enough that, as a public service, we would like to provide tips on how to talk your way out of a job during an interview. Follow these simple guidelines, and you’ll significantly increase the likelihood that the position will be offered to someone else.