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Finding Faculty Through Creative Interviewing

Finding Faculty Through Creative Interviewing

by Karin A. Polifko, PhD, RN, NEA-BC
July 28, 2016

Sometimes being the interviewer is almost as nerve-wracking as being the interviewee. There are the typical questions that are not only expected to be asked, such as “tell me about your last position,” “why are you interviewing for this position,” “what are your strengths and weaknesses,” and “what is your desired salary?” Answers to other unasked questions, probably yielding the more intriguing answers, will most likely be volunteered if the interviewer is skilled at asking probing yet non-direct questions. An experienced interviewer will also elicit insight as to the real reason the person is sitting across from your desk. An eager candidate often offers the real reasons why he or she left their last position, what was actually accomplished (or not) and what he or she really thought of the boss’ decisions. After many years of interviewing candidates in the health care and higher education industries, while the jobs may be quite varied in their scope and practice areas, the questions are the same in the attempt to seek the “best-fit” for the position. 


Creative Interviewing

The well-written job announcement should offer numerous clues as to what the guiding questions will be, and yet it never fails to amaze when a candidate stumbles over a question and answers without specificity, dates or examples, or as if they heard the statement of expectations for the first time. These are the obviously easy questions that should be anticipated being asked as part of the screening process. When the questions that require more insight, more thoughtfulness and more creativity are presented, many times a candidate is tripped up more due to unpreparedness than not having an answer.

Finding Faculty - Determine Communication Style

The first characteristic that is inherently sought is just how communicative the candidate is, both in verbal and nonverbal actions. Is he or she talkative or shy, giggly or sour, making eye contact or fiddling with their hands, answering in full sentences or monosyllables? I am seeking someone who appears accessible, who can carry on a conversation and maybe even show a sense of (appropriate) humor. I look carefully at how someone carries herself: does she appear approachable, making me want to know more about her, or does she have a “Princess” persona? I much prefer a low-maintenance personality than someone who is a ticking time bomb ready to explode at the first, misinterpreted slight. Inclusionary is a winner over someone who values excluding those with different perspectives and problem-solving techniques. Also keep in mind the area in which the person is being hired; if it is a face to face classroom, what type of physical presentation does the candidate make? If it is an online position, what is the communication style? Is there clarity and directedness in the candidate’s writing? If the role is a supervisory position, how easily does the candidate survey the situation and what questions are probed before coming to a conclusion?

Creative Interviewing for Teaching Method

How someone views counseling and discipline is critical, especially in a face to face or clinical experience. I try to give a scenario or two that require decision-making regarding plagiarism, cheating, or falsifying records; some of the more egregious situations that students can get into, along with case examples. I ask how the prospective faculty member would address the issue (ignoring if first infraction versus failing if first infraction) so that it leads the discussion into the discipline philosophy at the college. This topic then leads into student expectations, how these are best communicated and how a student is not achieving good grades or is struggling being an English as Second Language learner, a slower reader or any other challenge will achieve success under their teaching. Any candidate can say they believe in teaching to the various learning styles (kinesthetic, visual, auditory), but not everyone can clearly articulate how to change a lesson plan to meet a failing student’s needs. This depth gives the creative interviewer a better understanding of how the candidate would react in a classroom situation and how perceptive he or she is to a student’s challenge. Flexibility is a vital and needed characteristic when dealing with students of various abilities, and needs to be teased out as an answer. Asking questions through the framework of case scenarios is an excellent method to use to ascertain how the interviewee thinks on his or her feet, as they talk through their processing with the interviewer verbally.

Creative Questioning that Reveals Temperament

Ever wonder what someone will say about the last place he or she worked, about co-workers, about the workload and even, about the boss? Through careful questioning, I always try to get a candidate to open up about the last place of employment, telling me what was positive and not-so-positive. I inquire about students, co-workers and staff, listening to how each are discussed with a complete stranger, and of course, am most curious about the relationship between the candidate and their last supervisor. By hearing how they present the last place of employment may give me a hint as to how we would be discussed on the outside if this hire were made. It never fails to amaze me how some candidates are so blunt and unable to just remain unemotional if they feel they have had a less than stellar experience at their old place of employment. Needless to say, these comments can be a deal-breaker, depending on the severity of the comments.

Finding Faculty with the Correct Fit

Finding a faculty member that meets the needs of the college, the department, the students, the staff and the supervisor is not an easy task due to all the moving parts and expectations of the various communities of interest. While many faculty candidates are taken through several layers of interviews, including peers, administrators and sometimes students, these settings are generally fairly consistent in the questions that are asked, such as “please give an example of when you did X, Y and Z.” It is when the candidate gets to the interview with the prospective supervisor that the more challenging questions can be asked, tailored as each previous one is answered. The interviewer needs to carefully listen for any objections raised, or strange, out of the ordinary questions, that need to be answered thoughtfully rather than glibly. It is critical that the candidate carefully and thoroughly reads the job description and expectations, so that even the basic questions are answered in anticipation and with ease. Unexpected questions that are asked range from “how did you handle this situation” all the way to “tell me about some of your last supervisor’s expectations that you had trouble meeting consistently” are sometimes asked to evaluate the candidate’s candor and yet his or her ability to be politically correct. It is up to the successful faculty candidate to make sure that not only is he or she prepared for the usual interview questions, but to also think creatively as to what other possible questions may be presented in an attempt to get to really appraise the “correct fit” for the position.