Job Center Participants Report Positive Experience

The 2013 Job Center was a positive experience for the large majority of participants, according to 104 job candidates who responded to our annual survey. Over 86 percent reported that they were satisfied or very satisfied with their interviews, while also indicating that in-person interviews are invaluable in the process of finding a job in the history profession.

Many administrations are pressuring departments to conduct their searches over Skype or telephone, but the Job Center participants spoke forcefully about the necessity of meeting future colleagues face to face. Over 63 percent of respondents said that they prefer in-person interviews to those conducted remotely. The annual meeting also allows search committees to personally interview a larger and more diverse group of candidates.

AHA Job Center, 127th Annual Meeting

“The advantages for Skype seem to be entirely financial and in favor of the interviewing institution,” commented one respondent. “If a department is going to hire someone for 30 years and that person is going to commit to their future colleagues, I think a face-to-face interview is essential. It is nearly impossible to read body language, figure out who is talking, and have a meaningful conversation with someone who you have not met before via Skype.”

Another candidate agreed: “I have had two Skype interviews and really dislike them. Maintaining the illusion of eye contact requires staring at the camera, which means you never see the reactions/responses of the committee (the professed benefit of Skype!). The sorting out of technology and fear of tech failure is remarkably stressful.”

The cost of attending the meeting remains a difficult hurdle for many. Although the AHA works hard to keep the registration and hotel rates for candidates low, it is a considerable expense when added to airfare and other travel costs. “If I have one or two interviews, I don’t think it’s worth the money,” a respondent wrote. “At the same time, having an in-person interview is optimal to convey ideas and have a proper discussion. I cannot help but feel that those who interview in person have an advantage.”

Of course, the AHA strongly encourages candidates to participate in other aspects of the annual meeting, which will aid them in the networking and knowledge needed as they join the history profession. In fact, 79 percent of respondents were able to attend sessions, receptions, or other parts of the meeting.

While the Job Center has changed in recent years to make the interview area more comfortable—with curtains around the tables and wider space between rows—there are always some noise and problems with the ballroom itself, as mentioned by several respondents. The hotel took a few days to regulate the temperature this year due to an engineering problem, and there was construction noise that the hotel could not stop due to deadlines before the Super Bowl.

Participants also gave several good suggestions for things the AHA can try to modify in the future, such as brightening the colors of the tablecloths and drapes and making an even greater effort to encourage committees to respond to all who submitted c.v.’s for open positions.

Thanks to all who filled out a survey, either at the meeting or online. If you have any other concerns or suggestions, feel free to contact us.

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  1. Larry Cebula

    “The advantages for Skype seem to be entirely financial and in favor of the interviewing institution,” commented one respondent.

    With all due respect, what self-serving nonsense. How does shifting the costs of candidate travel from the hiring institution to the candidates themselves favor the institution?

    The truth is exactly the opposite. Conference interviews shift a major cost of the hiring process to the job candidates. New PhDs with a mountain of debt and no stable job are supposed to come up with $1500 in the hopes that they might have an interview waiting. My friends on the market tell me that many departments contact candidates for a conference interview a week or less before the conference, so they feel obliged to go even if they have nothing scheduled. This cost comes at a time in their careers when they are least able to afford it.

    The job interview process has become the tail that wags the conference dog, and is bad for candidates and the organization alike. It should be discouraged.

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