Archive for the ‘interview’ Category

NCAA_logo.svgI have recently had the opportunity to serve on the search committee to find our university’s next athletic director.    Following are ten interview questions that we asked each candidate.  Enjoy!

Question 1: Please tell us why you would like to become the athletic director at our university?

Question 2: What are your long term professional goals and how does this position fit into those goals?

Question 3: Please explain your philosophy and approach to external work (i.e., fundraising, corporate alliances and partnerships, marketing and social media) and how you would apply it to our athletic program. In which of these three areas have you had the most experience?

Question 4:  What is your history around recruiting, hiring, promoting and elevating females, ethnic minorities and LGBT staff in your organization?

Question 5: Excellence is one of our guiding principles for selecting a “next tier leader” for our athletic program. Can you provide an example of moving a “good” program, project or initiative from “good to great” and how were you instrumental in leading this change?

Question 6: Please tell us how you have or would be able to assist scholar athletes in establishing a balance between a successful athletic career and their all-important academic pursuits?

Question 7: Please provide us with one or two examples of major successes with regards to revenue generation in which you were directly involved.

Question 8: Where do you see areas for growth and, in this context, what do you feel a next tier leader would be engaged in to take this athletic program to that next level of athletic success?

Question 9: What will you have accomplished in your first year at our university?

Question 10: The NCAA and our athletic conference are highly disciplined organizations that require members to be in compliance with a multitude of regulations. What role do you see the AD playing to make sure our university is compliant and also has a voice to help set regulations?

from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe


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The Magical Department Head!

Is your university or college searching for a new department head?  Following is a series of phone interview questions used in a recent department head search.    I hope that you find these interview questions to be useful.

Question One:  What generated your interest in the department head position at our university?

Question Two:  Key dimensions of the department head position include nurturing undergraduate student learning, supporting faculty development, and developing external relations. Give examples of your leadership experience in each area and indicate how you would prioritize these three areas as the department head.

Question Three: Describe your experience supporting interdisciplinary collaboration across departments and across colleges.

Question Four: Describe your leadership style. What have been your most significant leadership successes and challenges?

Question Five:  The successful candidate for this position must continue their scholarship to remain academically qualified. How might you stay active in publishing scholarly research while serving as department head?

What can we share with you about the department, the college, or our university that would be useful in evaluating your interest in the position?

If we go further, can we contact your references? Can we contact other people in addition to your references?

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe 




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SONY DSCThe ‘airport interview’ is an important step in the academic dean search process.    The airport interview can be defined as a step in the administrator search process whereby the top candidates (anywhere from 4 to 10) are brought to a location near the university’s airport over a one or two day period for 1-1/2 to 2 hour sequentially arranged interviews conducted by the dean search committee.   Following are some insights from Dr. Jeffrey L. Buller in his book The Essential Academic Dean: A Practical Guide to College Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2007):

To be sure, there is an ‘American Idol’-like auditioning aspect the can seem superficial and unworthy of the tasks for which the successful candidate will be called upon to accomplish.   However, it is also true that if you cannot convincingly communicate leadership in a one hour meeting with 10-20 friendly interviewers, it is reasonable to assume you may not be successful as dean.

For the candidate, the (airport) interview is like sudden-death overtime with no regular game beforehand: one cannot really win, but one can lose at any moment, for unlikely reasons.

Fortune favors the mentally nimble candidate who can be informative but concise, conveying a sense of individuality without rampant eccentricity.

My final advice comes from a highly respected academic recruiter.  At the airport interview, be insightful, be concise and be sure to listen.    Show that you have ‘done your homework’ in preparing for the interview.   Demonstrate that you are a good listener.    Finally,  show how you are an effective communicator.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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externalrelationsRecently our college hired an associate dean for external relations.    I recently ran across the interview questions that we used with the candidates.  Here we go:

  1. What has generated your interest in the Associate Dean for External Relations in the college?
  2. Key dimensions of the Associate Dean for External Relations position include: nurturing experiential learning for students; attending to details with multiple on-going tasks; and cultivating relationships with internal and external stakeholders.   Give examples of your leadership experience in each area and indicate how you would prioritize these areas.
  3. Our strategic plan indicates that we need to do a better job at preparing students for internships and employment.  What are your thoughts and ideas of how the college can meet such goals?   Where do you see the college 3-5 years from now?
  4. To successfully organize the undergraduate commencement exercises will require somebody with a specific set of skills, particularly attention to details.   Given an example of an event that you have successfully organized?
  5. Describe your experience with creating and organizing student initiatives and events that engage students.
  6. Describe your leadership style.  What have been your most significant leadership successes and challenges?   Tell us how you resolve conflict and handle stress.
  7. The successful candidate for this position must be able to motivate faculty engagement in experiential learning activities.   How might you accomplish this task?

Our top candidates for the position answered the questions well.   The ultimate selection was based on the dean’s perceptions of fit within the college’s leadership team.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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Pete Carroll-198x300Pete Carroll, football coach for the Seattle Seahawks, in his 2010 book Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play Like a Champion, described in detail a conversation between himself and Jim Valvano, legendary college basketball coach.   The conversation was about Coach Valvano’s insights into the hiring process.   Coach Carroll recalls Valvano’s ‘interviewing tactics’.

Coach Valvano told me that my goal should be to leave the interview with “no negatives”.  Every comment, every phrase, or story must be positive, and I must be prepared to talk only about things that put me in the best light.  No matter what the topic, it was my job to turn every answer into a response that highlighted my strong points.  Like his point guard, who controlled the court, or my middle linebacker who controlled our defense, I had to control the interview.

Carroll summarized his conversation with Valvano:

He taught me that if they asked a questions I couldn’t answer, then I shouldn’t answer it but instead find a way to turn the question to something I could talk about comfortably, positively and honestly.  ……   He explained the importance of being disciplined in the setting and avoiding any and all negative thoughts.  If I spoke with positivity and confidence, it would be evident that I believed in myself, and that belief was what the interviewer would be looking for.

Actually, there is more to the story.   When Carroll had to apply these lessons when interviewing for the head football coach at the University of Southern California, he consistently responded to questions with answers that reflected a consistent theme about his vision and philosophy.

When it was time for me to present my vision and plan, I stated my intentions in the clearest and boldest way that I could think of. ….. I took them through my philosophical approach, discussing everything from the central theme of competition that would be synonymous with the program, ……   With each statement I gave, I felt more confident.   The more confident I felt, the more excited I became.

As I reflect on academic searches at the President, Provost, Vice-Provost and Dean levels, I certainly buy into Jim Valvano’s tactic of ‘leave the interview with no negatives’ and Pete Carroll’s strategy of ‘consistently responding with answers that reflect your vision and philosophy’.    I have witnessed several successful candidates at our university that were able to leave the interviews with ‘no negatives’.   However, I do not recall any candidates in my twenty years of academic experience who have left the interview process having effectively communicated a consistent vision and philosophy.   I’m still waiting!!!

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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interview_cartoonFollowing are two vignettes from recent candidates for our VP for Research search.  Both vignettes correspond to highly qualified candidates who were ultimately unsuccessful in their search.   I hope that you can learn from the mistakes of others.

Vignette #1 (Bad Behavior):  I met the candidate for VP for Research at breakfast.   At the breakfast he gave me the highlights for his presentation that afternoon.   At the time, I vividly remember him telling me  “I probably shouldn’t spend any time at the presentation talking about research metrics, but I will anyway.”    Sure enough, he spent about 1/4 of his presentation discussing research metrics.   Not unexpectedly, during Q&A he got hammered about research metrics as they apply to a VP for Research.     Take Away: Be self aware.  Trust your gut.   This person was a strong candidate who simply shot himself in the foot by doing what he knew he shouldn’t.   His decision cost him a shot at the job.

Vignette #2 (Bad Behavior):    This candidate for VP of Research was extremely bright and extremely accomplished as an academic.   Unfortunately, he was under the impression that everything that went through his head would be of interest to others.    Some examples, include the following statement during the presentation: “My dean wouldn’t be happy if I told you this, but I will tell you anyway”.   He was right, his dean wouldn’t have been happy!   Another statement made at dinner:   “What really makes me angry is incompetent people”.    Ah you’ve told us that you get angry at others  and you view your university co-workers as incompetent.  Take Away: Don’t be a ‘stream of consciousness’ person.  We don’t need to hear everything going through your head.  As a candidate, you are not under an obligation to fill silence with the your mindless thoughts.   His utterances cost him a shot at the job.

Other stories of mistakes in the academic job-search process can be found here.   Read carefully and good luck with your search!

from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe


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skype-interviewI recently sat through video conference interviews for seven associate dean candidates.   Each candidate had a strong curriculum vitae and an effective cover letter.   Not surprisingly, few were effective with the online interview.    In my opinion, it is important to leave the search committee with a favorable impression by answering questions about strengths, motivations and fit.

Many folks have provided tips for successful video conference or phone interviews.   Here are the areas where I believe associate dean candidates need help with online interviews:

  1. Do not drone on. Academics tend to ramble and over-explain. Keep your answers short and to the point.   Summarize your answer when wrapping up the question.
  2. Use specific examples to validate your answer.   Academics tend to give conceptual answers.   This is okay – but reinforce the conceptual answer with a specific, concrete story.  The story should be memorable and reinforce the point you are trying to make.
  3. Be prepared.    Anticipate the questions.   Make sure that there is congruency between your curriculum vitae and your answers.
  4. Have a strategy.   Highlight what makes you distinctive.   During the phone interview stage, you are trying to separate yourself from ‘the pack’.   Review the job description.  Have a plan to highlight 2-3 characteristics & accomplishments that make you stand out from the rest.

Associate dean candidates, do yourself a favor and plan for the online interview.   Practice responding to the kinds of questions you will be asked.   See my lists of interview questions for the Associate Dean candidate:

  1. Academic Dean – Job Interview Questions
  2. Questions for the Associate Dean
  3. Academic Dean – Job Interview Questions (Part II)
  4. Interview Questions for the Associate Dean (Part III)

If you take the time to prepare, it will not be difficult to present yourself as a leading candidate.

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

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