Thursday, May 30, 2013

perhaps I knocked 'em undead

I finished my Skype interview with the Catholic University of Daegu a few minutes ago. Unfortunately, I gave the interviewers a bad impression of me at the beginning when I popped onto Skype five minutes late, but that couldn't be helped: my Mac is a lot slower than it used to be, so it clicked and whirred frustratingly for several minutes while I waited for Skype to boot itself up. In the end, I connected with the CUD folks, but while they could see me on their end, I was unable to see them (a fact for which they kindly apologized).

The interview may have gone well. I'm inclined to think it was somewhat positive overall, but the tenor of some of the questions left me a bit worried. One pointed question was about whether I would, after accepting an offer, abandon CUD if a different university were subsequently to offer me a post. I had to wonder whether something like that had happened to CUD before. I'm not too worried on CUD's behalf, though: I was told that the uni has a foreign faculty of about fifteen people, and that it's planning to hire ten more (the job ad lists ten open English-teaching positions; I guess the campus has money to burn).

Professor Y (a Korean woman) and an English gentleman named Simeon (not his real name) interviewed me. Simeon nailed me with another question: how familiar was I with CUD? I had to admit that I knew little more than what was on the job ad, and what I had learned from a brief visit to the CUD website. I don't think this was a point in my favor. In my defense, I'd say that gaining an encyclopedic knowledge of the twelve places to which I had applied would be asking a bit much. I did, however, competently answer questions relating to student motivation (this must really be an issue with second- and third-tier Korean universities—the question keeps resurfacing), and to my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. There were some questions relating to my cover letter and résumé, which indicated that Professor Y and Simeon had actually taken the time to read those documents. I was asked to elaborate on what I meant by my preference for "task-oriented, student-centered" approaches to language teaching, so I spoke on that issue for a couple minutes. I was also asked to explain why I had left Sookmyung University, so I talked a bit about my trans-American walk project.

All in all, I got the impression that my interlocutors had their poker faces on, so it was hard to read their reactions to my answers. I know for sure that they weren't pleased by my lack of deep familiarity with CUD, but I don't see that a pat answer based on five or ten minutes' Wikipedia research would have reassured them any more than the response I gave them. I fielded their question as honestly as I could, and they'll have to be satisfied with that.

So while I think the overall interview went positively, I'm not sure I knocked 'em dead. Knocked 'em undead, more like: the interviewers weren't left sprawling on the ground, incapacitated, but they may have been left insensate and shambling. In the meantime, I'll say that it felt strange to be fully dressed, in a button-down shirt and necktie (and yes, I did wear pants during the interview, although I seriously considered interviewing naked from the waist down), at 2AM. There's always something a little bit surreal about live US-Korea communication because of the thirteen-hour time difference.

Professor Y, who seemed very crisp and professional (although I couldn't see her), told me that she'd get back to me "in a few days." I hope she gets back with good news; I was sincere about saying "yes" to CUD if CUD comes to me first with a job offer. I have no idea what my chances are; if CUD is looking to hire ten faculty members, I'm going to guess that my chances aren't that bad... which will make it all the more embarrassing if I'm rejected.

We'll see.



  1. That's kind of tough not being able to see the reactions of the interviewers to your responses. Still, everyone interview I conducted while working in Korea was on the telephone, so it cuts both ways.

    It's too bad you had the Skype issues, being late would have cost you a couple of points with me, but not enough to where I'd pick someone less qualified.

    I fully understand the question about whether you'd bail for a better offer. That was my pet peeve when I was hiring. I'd spend lots of time evaluating resumes, narrowing down the field, setting up the interview, etc. Then when I make a pick I'd get "oh well, you know with my son in school it's not a good time for me to move to Korea." I'm like why the fuck did you apply then? Believe it or not, that kinda shit happened about 50% of the time.

    The question regarding your knowledge of CUD is also pretty standard. People want to know how engaged and motivated you are to integrate with their organization. I don't think it's a big deal, again I'd look at that kind of thing as more of a tie breaker between equally qualified candidates.

    In the end, the whole interview process all comes down to human reactions to other humans. Not quite the singles bar scene, but still there's a chemistry thing at work. Personally, I gravitated to candidates who were confident but not arrogant, self-assured about their competence without being a braggart, and articulate without sounding full of BS. BS'ing was the kiss of death with me.

    I wouldn't stress too much about how you did. You gotta be yourself. If they liked you they'll hire you. If they didn't, well, you wouldn't want to work for someone who doesn't like you anyway, right?

    Here's hoping for a good fit!



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