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Should one disclose his/her family information (i.e. whether he/she is married and have children) in an academic job interview, including postdoc interviews and interviews for PhD, if any? In what situations would disclosing family information in such interviews be considered advantageous or necessary for the candidate? If not appropriate during interviews, then when would be the best time for one to disclose his/her family information?

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This may actually depend upon the country one is interviewing in. Such questions may even be illegal in some countries, as it may lead to discrimination. –  Dave Clarke Apr 21 at 19:55
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... whereas in other countries family status is usually visible in the CV... –  cbeleites Apr 21 at 21:17
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@DaveClarke: It may be illegal for the interviewer to ask, but the interviewee could still disclose voluntarily. –  Nate Eldredge Apr 22 at 2:50

4 Answers 4

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I have been part of several hiring committees in a New Zealand university and:

  1. We are instructed to never ask about a candidate's family situation, religion, sexual orientation, etc.
  2. Personally, I do not want to know about your family situation to avoid any perceived bias in the hiring process.
  3. Any mention of the situation on your part (like 'we are a bundle') could be perceived as making the hiring more complicated. Unless your application is miles ahead of the rest (unlikely) why would a committee want the extra complication?

The only situation where I could see an advantage is when you family situation would suggest higher chances of success. For example, you are applying to a job in the middle of nowhere (and potentially candidates would feel isolated) and your family happens to be from there.

I would wait to say 'we are a bundle' (if that's what you have in mind) to when you are offered the position. Ideally, you would never have to disclose your family situation until the university is willing to pay for your moving costs.

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It's probably best not to bring up family information at all during an interview. The committee wants to focus on your professional qualifications. They've probably been given strict instructions from HR not to take into account things like the applicant's sex or age, which are not professional qualifications. Different people may have different expectations about how formal a job interview should be, but in general it's not a casual get-together where we get to know each other.

Often a committee will want to understand why you are leaving your current position. Basically they want to make sure you didn't leave your current position because you did a bad job there and got fired. This becomes particularly relevant if the job you're applying for is at a professional level less than or equal to the level of the job you're leaving. In this context, it may be OK to mention your family if they're the reason you wanted to change jobs. E.g., you needed to move from Indiana back home to California in order to care for your father, who is old and unable to live independently anymore.

Another common situation would be the "two-body problem," where you and your partner are trying to find jobs in the same city. I would not bring this up at the interview stage. It's not relevant at that stage, because they haven't even offered you the job yet.

If you have young children, I wouldn't mention that at all. Many people in academia have very old-fashioned expectations about the academic lifestyle, e.g., that a high-powered academic must not be distracted by child-rearing, or must have a "faculty wife."

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It is your last paragraph that I am most interested about. If many people in academia have that expectations, should one then continue to hide the fact that he/she has children? –  adipro Apr 21 at 20:07
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I suspect the last paragraph is country-dependent. In Sweden, this is nonsense, I would say. Swedish society is more tolerant to child-rearing. Indeed, it is actually viewed upon favourably that you've taken 6 months off to look after children (even as a man). –  Dave Clarke Apr 21 at 20:38
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I think the "two-body" situation is more complicated than what this answer suggests. It takes some time for the school to try to see if they can open a second line, so in some situations it can be advantageous to let the chair know before the offer stage. –  Noah Snyder Apr 21 at 21:08
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I'd strongly disagree with the paragraph in US/CS. Anyone who actually expressed such a view would be laughed out of a faculty meeting (and I'd do the laughing). Moreover, I suspect it would be legally questionable to do so. –  Suresh Apr 21 at 23:59
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"in general it's not a casual get-together where we get to know each other". Sometimes it is just that (though I have only had one interview for a postdoc position so far, this was precisely what it was, possibly apart from the talk I had to give). –  Tobias Kildetoft Apr 22 at 7:37

I heard the following advice from several people; I have not been involved enough in hiring to know if it is right, but it sounded right to me:

If you would not accept a job offer unless the university can find a position for your spouse, then you might as well disclose that information early. The universities who do not make offers to you because of your disclosure would not have made offers to your spouse had you kept it silent and revealed later.

If you do want to follow this advice, you will have to bring it up, since HR should have told interviewers not to raise the matter.

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Are you referring to the case where one's spouse also works in the academia? –  adipro Apr 21 at 21:29
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In academia loosely defined: For example, my wife works in medical research administration, so universities are major employers for her (as are hospitals or pharmaceutical companies) but she is not an academic in the sense of someone in the standard tenure track. –  David Speyer Apr 21 at 21:31

One situation in which I have seen this work to a candidate's advantage is where the candidate has an extraordinarily strong record. Schools knew going in that solving the two-body problem was important for this candidate, and the university that was fortunate enough to make the hire did precisely that.

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