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?
I have been part of several hiring committees in a New Zealand university and:
- We are instructed to never ask about a candidate's family situation, religion, sexual orientation, etc.
- Personally, I do not want to know about your family situation to avoid any perceived bias in the hiring process.
- 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.
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."
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.
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.