Post Academic

Interviews You Don’t Want to Have #3: You Need an Entrance Strategy

Posted in First Person by Arnold Pan on November 30, 2010
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This installment of “Interviews You Don’t Want to Have” actually recalls one of the best interviews I’ve had at MLA.  I thought I hit my marks, got my dissertation spiel off as cleanly as possible, and received compliments on the nice bright pink tie I wore.  I really did my best, but, contrary to what they say, my best just wasn’t good enough.

So why am I writing up this relatively positive experience as an “Interview You Don’t Want to Have”?  Well, it began as a comedy of errors which may have thrown me off my game without me even knowing it — after all, I couldn’t exactly judge how well I did, could I?  Take it from me, you need an entrance strategy to your MLA interview.

You can kinda see the Philadelphia Museum of Art from the Embassy Suites, aka the site of the IYDWTH #3 ("Philadelphia Museum of Art" by su1droot, Creative Commons license)

Don’t get there too late — or too early: I’m chronic worrier about time, especially when it comes to making it to appointments.  First, I worry about whether I actually got the date, time, and place right, after one of my friends from grad school actually missed one of her MLA interviews because she missed transcribed the info.  Second, I hate uncertainty when it comes to directions, so going to a city I don’t know and having to be at a place I’ve never been always puts me on edge.  As a result, I tend to overestimate how much time it takes to get to the hotel where an interview is taking place.  The one thing I’m not is cheap about these things, so I always take a cab to get me where I’m going — which also means there’s less of a chance that the nice bright pink tie will be bird-pooped on or my suit will get messed up by whatever.

The problem is that getting to the MLA interview hotel early isn’t exactly the most relaxing thing in the world.  While you might think that having a little extra time before the interview to unwind might help, it doesn’t when it comes to any MLA hotel lobby, since there’s a bunch more more nervous people stressing themselves — and you — out.  What’s even more nervewracking is running into people you know, either the dept gossip who wants quid pro quo about interviews or someone in your field who may or may not be interviewing for the same positions.  At this particular MLA, 2006 in Philly, the situation was particularly bad, because the Embassy Suites was pretty much the only hotel with suites and was housing most of the interviews.  So the concentration of nervous nerds was even denser than typical.

More about the structural problems of the Philly Embassy Suites, after the jump…