When a candidate is invited to come on campus for a tour and interview, almost certainly after a telephone interview, the experience should go something like what follows. Colleges of all sorts are tending to become more careless of people, backing off from quite so genuine a mutual introduction, but you should still expect proper treatment, something like this.
The college foots the bill for travel, lodging and meals, reimbursing you after they have completed hiring. The one condition when they will not pay you occurs if they offer you a position and you turn it down.
Someone from the college, probably from the search committee who participated in the phone interview, picks you up at the airport. Either they or you have reserved a room for you at a great hotel, and on the way there you get a tour of the area. Anything you want to see? You might ask to drive through some of the neighborhoods where their students come from, by one or two of the major employers of your students, by the high school, by student housing.
Alternatively, I would rent a car and drive myself. It will be on your dime, and you should get the tour anyway, but I like the idea of poking around the town. Stop at the library and read a couple editions of the local paper; check the employment ads, the cost of housing, the police blotter. Ideally, arrive one day and interview the next. Someone from the committee spends breakfast with you and gives you a tour of the campus. Anything you want to see? You might ask to look at the library, a student computer lab, the classroom technology available, student study space, the health center, the student union. Probably you have been forewarned to prepare for a presentation so they can see your skills. It might be the sort of presentation you would give at a conference, or you might teach a sample class. It’s a performance and they can tell a lot from it. Probably new faculty and interested parties show up and stay after to chat it out. Along the way there are other meetings.
The president of the college wants to spend 20 or 30 minutes with you, or perhaps to take you to lunch. Topic of conversation is likely to be anything he or she associates with English professors: recent good reads, English as the nation’s official language, student writers increasingly unprepared for college, anything you have recently published. The academic dean probably wants to see you, too, and may have the same topics or something off your resume. The rest of the English department wants to meet you, perhaps just after your presentation, and so will other interested faculty. It might go like this:
- The Disabilities Services Coordinator wants to know how you handle learning disabled students in the writing classroom.
- The Writing Center Director wonders whether you would help train tutors and drop in regularly.
- Continuing Education people want to know what non-credit instructional efforts you have attempted.
- Librarians ask about your support for electronic research capabilities in your classes.
- The Coordinator of Developmental Education tries to see if you’re too elitist to teach basic writers.
- The Coordinator of the Honors Program tries to find out if your standards are high enough to support honors classes.
- Professors with twenty year old dissertations trot them out to see how impressed you are.
If the college has extension sites or branch campuses that you may be asked to teach on, you should visit them, too. Look for differences in the culture there, different attitudes, different student demographics.
Also look for an interview that lasts more than one day. Feel free to ask for open time to walk the campuses and get a feel for the place. Talk to some students. Get introduced to an administrative assistant or two. Meet some of the staff. Ideally, you want the college to know you are giving them an unhurried look as part of deciding if you will choose this college. Ideally, the college will want an unhurried chance to get to know you as part of their choice.