Looking Beyond the Interview

Motivated by a twitter conversation with @stacyloliver yesterday and a taunt tweet from @joshskillman the other day…. I write this post.

This post is mostly for the candidate embarking on the oncampus interview.  The quick background on me, this current job search is not my first.  The on campus interviews that I will be going on over the next few weeks are exciting, but also not my first.  I know who I am and what I’m looking for.  What I’m actually going to talk about is the idea of looking beyond the interview.  Look to the area & the town.

1) How much is milk?
Seriously, if you are going to live in the town, you need to know what the going price of your favorite groceries are.  Not all locations are priced the same.  If you get a chance to sneak out to a grocery store, go look at your favorite items and look at the prices.  Write them down and keep track of these prices on your tracking sheet.  (just pick two or three favorite items)

2) Transportation? or How much is gas?
True, you can just go to gasbuddy.com and research the gas prices.  But, really look around.  Is this a town where everyone drives? Is parking crazy? Do people drive big cars or small cars or all pickup trucks? (I was in a town over the summer where everyone drove 1970’s Dodge trucks and cars – it was a bit different…) Or are students all on bikes? Is there a culture of using public transportation? Is the public transportation adequate for the needs of the town/campus?  How do these factors relate to your style?  Are you the person who must have your car with you always? or are you the type who wants to walk to and from work?

3) Social scene?
Some of us are the type who will want to meet all of our co-workers & hang out with them every day.  Some of us are the type to go out and join the local swing dance community and become completely absorbed.  Some of us just want a public library and to read lots of books.  Perhaps you are one for the wild nightlife? Or maybe you just need fantastic places to shop?  For others, a particular faith organization is crucial.  It is totally acceptable for you to open the yellow pages (or use our friend ‘google’) and look up some of these types of organizations in the place you are interviewing at and call them to ask about their services.  It is also ok to try and visit some of these places before or after your interview.

4) What is it that you want to be doing outside of work?
I am looking for a pretty good (and affordable) place to have breakfast on Saturday morning with my partner — this place must have good bacon (for me) & have real maple syrup (for partner).  We’re also looking for an area where we can explore nature but, we don’t need to be out in the backwood to do that.  But, that’s just us!  Perhaps you are looking to get involved with a non-profit, do they have an office in that town? Is it an active office?

5) Weather & Climate?
Did you know that it rains more (in terms of inches) in New York City than Seattle?  How do you feel about humidity? How do you like the snow? Take a moment or two to check out the ‘tourism’ sites that relate to the places you are looking at visiting – read through the weather & climate sections.  Ask yourself how you feel about those aspects.  While at the campus visit, look for the visuals — do they have tunnels between buildings (to avoid going out in the snow) or do they have ‘exterior hallways’ because it is so warm all the time?  Do the buildings have insulation? (maybe not, because it is so warm all the time) what about A/C? (because it is too cold all the time)…

It could also be that you looked at my five questions here and said “uh, Brian, I have no idea what I want.”  That’s ok too!

I have moved every 3 years all my life (since turning 8).  I have lived coast to coast & even in Europe!  Based on these experience, I can tell you that each area has its own awesome ‘things.’  Who knew that Indianapolis (where I am currently) has more statues & war monuments/memorials outside of Washington D.C. than any other town/city in the entire country! Who knew!

So, my advice:
Take pictures of each school – like 5-10 shots.  Try to get photos of the ‘same things’ – so, the front office, the dining area, maybe the strip mall?
Take notes about the area, beyond just who the people are and your ‘work related’ questions.  Also look to see what folks are wearing & write that down too.
Do your homework beyond the job.   And prep that stuff before you leave home.  Look at the campus map, the city map, search for your favorite types of restaurants – use yelp.com or other such services to see what’s around.  Then feel free to ask about these places!  One of my questions (on my sheet) is ‘what’s the best place in town for breakfast?’ – I’m going to see if the two places I found online match what folks say in person!
Smell the air & drink the water.  Simple, but you’ll be doing this every day once you get the job.  Do you like how the air smells or how the water tastes?
Call your best friend & talk through what you see. Your best friend won’t care or know what the difference between job a and b really are (in terms of duties, $, student populations, developmental approaches, CAS reviews….) but, your best friend will care about your happiness.  You can talk openly with this person about the location.

Hope these ideas help! Please post other ideas/concerns & things to look for in the comments! (you all know how much I love comments…)

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2 responses to “Looking Beyond the Interview

  1. Great advice.. Sometimes we focus so much on the interview that we forget to look into the area:)

  2. Thanks for writing this post. It has been some 20 years since I have looked for a job beyond the institution where I am currently. I have moved towns exactly 3 times. I know that soon (meaning when I complete my doctorate in the next 3 years) I will be likely looking for a new job in a new city. I hope I remember and go back the advice here. I know I will be able to make a more informed decision on all of the many things that make up what makes a place a good fit.

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