AWP Panel – Hired!: Landing the Elusive Tenure Track Job

February 7, 2011 — 2 Comments

At the AWP this weekend I was on this panel:

Hired!: Landing the Elusive Tenure Track Job
Caitlin Horrocks, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Darrin Doyle, Nick Kowalczyk, Forrest Anderson, Kelcey Parker
Six recent tenure-track hires in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction discuss their diverse experiences and offer advice and guidance on the search for a teaching position. They’ll discuss every stage of the job search, from researching positions to writing cover letters, to the interview and the campus visit, providing insight into what you can control, what you can’t, and what you should do to prepare. Ample time will be provided for questions.

My portion of the presentation was the INTERVIEW. At the interview, you will be asked variants of the following questions. But there are questions lurking beneath these questions. The questions you will be asked are the “text,” but there is of course a subtext to all of the questions. Here are the types of questions interviewers will ask you, followed by the questions they can’t ask but are really trying to get answers to.

Hired!: Landing the Elusive Tenure-Track Job
Interview Questions
repared by Kelcey Parker

The three pillars of a tenure-track position are: Research/Creative Activity, Teaching, and Service. So the questions typically hone in on these three areas.

Here are the kinds of questions we’ll ask you

About your writing:

1. We really enjoyed your writing sample. Can you tell us a bit more about how you came to this topic/style, and about how it fits in with a larger project (thesis/dissertation)?

2. What theorists, authors, traditions, schools, and/or political issues inform your writing, and what does your work have to offer?

3. Tell us about your next project.

About your teaching:

4. Tell us about your teaching experience. What sorts of classroom obstacles have you had to overcome, and how have you handled them? (Have some specific anecdotes prepared in advance.)

5. How would you teach our Intro to Creative Writing course, which includes fiction and poetry and is required for Education majors?

6. How would you teach an advanced course in your specialty genre? What texts and assignments might you include? How would differentiate between beginner and advanced courses, or between graduate and undergraduate courses?

7. What is your approach to grading creative writing? or mentoring students? or directing theses?

8. How would you teach Composition? (Or a graduate course? Or a special topics course? Online? Your dream course?)

About your service:

9. What experience do you have with running a reading series, editing a literary journal, advising a student journal, etc.?

10. You list a number of service contributions on your CV. Tell us which is most important to you and why it’s important.

11. What service opportunities at our university are you most interested in being a part of?

About your preparation and interest:

12. What interests you about our school? What questions do you have for us?

Here are the questions we’re actually trying to get answers to

We can’t ask you these questions directly. But you can help us get the answers.

About your writing:

1. Do you have a sense of who you are or who you want to be as a writer? Would we like to keep talking with you even after the interview? Do you offer us – and our students – a new way of thinking about literature and writing?

2. Are you going to have a successful future with publishing your work? (per our tenure guidelines)

3. Can you articulate you ideas confidently and coherently? Especially if we bring you to campus to meet the students, the department chair, the dean, the president?

About your teaching:

4. Would you be a fit for our student body? Would you both challenge and connect to our students?

5. Are you thoughtful and reflective about your strengths and weaknesses? Do you offer interesting pedagogical approaches we hadn’t thought about? Would we like to chat with you more about your teaching experiences and ideas?

6. Will you be effective at mentoring, advising, and promoting our students? Are you better with technology than we are?

7. Will you have success as a teacher? (per our tenure guidelines: awards, good evaluations, records of mentorship and student success in publishing, presenting, and grad school)

About your service:

8. How will you – and your experience and networks – contribute to our thriving but budget-restricted creative writing program? Will you bring new ideas we hadn’t thought of – and the energy to implement them?

9. Will you show up (on time) for our meetings and actively participate in the growth of the department? Will you participate in university service demands – like budget committees?

About your preparation and interest:

10. We’ve let you know we’re serious about you. After all, you’re one of a dozen people we’re interviewing out of a hundred or more applications. How serious are you about us? Have you looked at our web site, checked out the faculty bios, previewed the basic curriculum, and found us on a map? How do you think you might fit in at our school?

11.  Would you live in our flyover town that seems crappy but isn’t so bad once you settle in and meet all the great people here? Do you have a partner or kids, and would they live in the town?

[Let me know if you have additional suggestions for this list, or questions.]

2 responses to AWP Panel – Hired!: Landing the Elusive Tenure Track Job


    Man, I’m glad I left academics.


    Ha! I know. It’s all so ridiculous. But it’s not only in academia…

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