Why Interviews Matter.

NOTHING!" This is Jane Rosenthal's emphatic reply when asked what she had seen in the earlier work of the Weitz brothers that made them candidates to direct the film version of Nick Hornby's novel "About a Boy," ... Ms. Rosenthal is the president and co-founder (along with Robert De Niro) of TriBeCa Productions, which produced the film with Working Title Pictures, and her exact reply was actually more elaborate. "Nothing! Nothing corresponded whatsoever! My reaction to their interest was: `Who? What?' "
"But then I sat down with Chris and Paul," she said, "and saw that they were articulate and bright, and had such a sense of cinematic history, and such real insight into this material, that it was clear that they were the ones."
"Filmmaking as Family Affair" by Jamie Malanowksi on page 21 of Arts and Leisure Section of Sunday New York Times 15 May 2002.

This quote illustrates that an interview can make a difference. How the Weitz brothers got in the door is not revealed in the article. But if you do get an interview take your best shot.

It is impossible to underrate the two-way "chemistry" of an interview. With some people you will just "click," with others no. Likewise for you, one place will seem great, another not.

Why is this chemistry so important? For any professional hire -- postdoc, research job or faculty position -- more than talent is important. Each place is making an investment -- sometimes as long your professional lifetime. The people already there want to be as sure as they can that the person being considered can be a success both personally and for the institute. What is wanted is a win-win situation.

What can you do to make this happen, since clearly imponderables enter?

You can be prepared as has already been described in the link that brought you here. Knowing the place you are interviewing says you really want the job and think this institution could help you succeed.

You can "psych" yourself to be as upbeat as possible during the visit. Energy level does count. Others pick up on it.

I am not suggesting you present yourself in a misleading light. For example, if you have a slightly cynical joking tone, you shouldn't necessarily hide it. But you should be careful that the person talking to you can pick up on it. If not, restrain yourself with that individual. That is only common sense when dealing with people you are meeting for the first.

In fact, responding to each person you meet is important. Listen to what is said. Respond to it. If you are asked a question, listen to it and answer the question. Failure to do this is probably the greatest mistake you can make. The other person will conclude (perhaps correctly) that you are not interested in being a colleague or that you don't care about the opinions of others or can't be bothered to answer a question you haven't answered before. At the same time if you don't understand the question, you can ask for a clarification. Or start your answer, if I understand you correctly, ....

In summary, those interviewing you are looking for a colleague who will make a difference to the institution and, in many case, to them. The interview is your opportunity to establish you could do that.

Your comments and suggestions are appreciated.

To cite this page:
Why Interviews Matter.
Edited by: wilkins@mps.ohio-state.edu on