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I am currently travelling for faculty interviews. Some professors and other interviewers have asked me where else I have interviewed. Should I tell interviewers where else I've interviewed?

Intuitively I would like to give them less information, but I also don't want to appear guarded and defensive as a person, either.

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    possible duplicate of Should I be truthful about graduate school rejections? – StrongBad Mar 20 '13 at 18:12
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    I posted it here because it's about academic faculty interviews, and that the userbase here is therefore more familiar with how that sub-population would respond, especially since candidates are relatively visible compared to other interview processes. – Irwin Mar 20 '13 at 18:15
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    @Irwin - Good point, I hadn't thought about how different academic interviews are from "normal" ones. It's a small world in the subdisciplines of Academia :) Thanks for clarifying! – eykanal Mar 20 '13 at 18:22
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    @eykanal I did not vote to close. I do agree with Irwin that this question is different from the question on Workplace SE(see my comment above). I think Academia are different workplaces(I am active on both SEs, they are like two worlds to me.), so my answer there may not be applicable to here. – scaaahu Mar 21 '13 at 1:31
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    @DanielE.Shub: I don't believe this is a duplicate of the "graduate school rejection" question. Interviews for faculty positions are very different from grad school interviews. – Nate Eldredge Mar 21 '13 at 13:30
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I cannot speak for faculty interviews personally and this may be redundant information but I interviewed at multiple "top ranked" schools for PhD admissions and in everyone of them I was asked where else I was interviewing and I told them the truth.

Having said this, nowadays, most job talk notifications are available on the website of the university or college or institution where you are interviewing and it is relatively easy to determine this from a google search of your name. For instance, this year our department is hiring for 2 different job lines and there are quite a few faculty candidates giving talks every week. We always Google their names to find out where else they are interviewing. In the case of one particular candidate it was very useful to find out that that that candidate had put up a list of other institutions where he/she was interviewing this particular season.

I do not think personally that giving them information about where else you are interviewing will add or subtract from your overall job application materials and probabilities.

Best of luck for getting a job !

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    Some departments would actually hold off this information and would not post the announcements publicly, so that their competition is not aware of what's going on. – StasK Mar 20 '13 at 19:37
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    Agreed. However, in the computer science/information science/HCI areas, I have seen that it is common practice to do so. – Shion Mar 20 '13 at 20:00
  • +1 for "...will add or subtract from your overall job application materials and probabilities". – Irwin Mar 21 '13 at 0:09
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Some professors and other interviewers have asked me where else I have interviewed. Should I tell interviewers where else I've interviewed?

Yes, it is very likely in your best interests. If you have other interviews at comparable schools, then you will benefit from saying so. If you don't, then it's not so clear. However, departments will assume your job search is not going well if you are reluctant to address the issue and they haven't heard impressive rumors about your interviews, so avoiding discussing interviews won't really help. Instead of saying something awkward like "I'd rather not talk about that", it's better to be up front and optimistic. "This is my first interview" is better than "This is my only interview so far".

Here are a few reasons why telling about other interviews can help your case:

  1. As a general rule, people want something more if they know other people also want it. Valuing a second opinion is rational behavior.

  2. Even when it doesn't change the outcome, competition can speed things up. If a search committee member is trying to make an offer and still needs some final committee or administrative approval, it's helpful to be able to say "Let's move fast, since she is also interviewing at X, Y, and Z, and we'd like to make a good impression by coming up with the first offer." If it's too late for that, they can say "She already has an offer from X, so we need to act before she decides."

In principle, you could hurt your chances if you list a lot of schools typically considered much more desirable (which could make the school you are currently interviewing at feel they would just be wasting their time trying to compete). However, in this case you are probably already in trouble, since the rumors of your busy interview schedule may already worry the search committee. Instead of trying to cover things up, it's better to acknowledge that you have these other interviews. If you are worried about this risk, you can address it by making your interest clear throughout the interview.

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If you don't want to disclose that, you can simply say: "I'd rather not discuss this", and you can look straight into your interviewer eyes with that. I've seen candidates do that; it may have looked harsh, but there's no obligation on the candidate's side to tell anything beyond the contents of the job talk.

You can also try to convert this into a joke like "Enough to earn me a free roundtrip this year". An American faculty should take that as a hint that you don't want to talk about it. An international faculty may need a more straight answer like the one I gave above. (I am talking about the US here as the largest academic market; in UK, as far as I understand, you won't have more than 30 minutes face time with the faculty of the hiring institution, and they probably have more important things to ask than the # of interviews you have.)

Having said that, you need to weight in the benefits of telling vs. not. For one thing, you may not have all the invitations out yet on your first fly-out, so you really don't know yet what other interviews you might have. On the other hand, by the time you reach your sixth destination (if you are lucky to get that many), the first place may already have told you, "Sorry, we made the offer to somebody else". So nominally you may have interviewed there, but really you won't get an offer from them.

As a bottom line, you need to do what others in your discipline do. You don't want to look like a fool in the environment where everybody keep their secrets by telling left and right about your choosing between Harvard and Stanford (and thus losing a chance to get a far more realistic offer from Alabama); and you don't want to look like a fool hinting at many undisclosed interviews when your adviser had told them that this is the only interview you have when they called him/her, or your other interviews were posted on a job market rumor website.

  • +1 for good practical advice on how to decline. Thank you. – Irwin Mar 21 '13 at 0:10
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    Is getting an upper hand necessarily a good thing? Maybe this has negative effects psychologically. – gerrit Mar 21 '13 at 9:09
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    I would strongly recommend against saying "I don't think this is an appropriate interview question" when asked where else you are interviewing, since this question is completely legal and very standard in the community. It would come across like you are comparing it with questions that raise issues of discrmination (e.g., about children or religion). This could offend the interviewer or make the candidate look out of touch. If you prefer not to discuss something, it's better to say so explicitly or give an answer that otherwise conveys this (e.g., one that is clearly intentionally vague). – Anonymous Mathematician Mar 21 '13 at 13:52
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    "Inappropriate" does not necessarily mean "illegal" -- it is to show that you don't want to discuss this. You can also state it less bluntly as "I don't think this question concerns my research interests or teaching qualifications, does it?". It's good that you personally know what's legal and what's not, but I would not expect every faculty on the hiring committees to be this knowledgeable. With all due respect... – StasK Mar 21 '13 at 14:35
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    Sorry, but my reaction to "I don't think this is an appropriate interview question" would be to write off the candidate as either dangerously ill-informed or a jerk. It's a completely appropriate interview question. And "I'd rather not tell you." is a completely appropriate, and significantly less antagonistic, answer. – JeffE Mar 22 '13 at 2:09
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At least in Germany, interviews for academic positions are more like dating than like normal job interviews. If you are good, the department will worry about being rejected as much as you do. If they offer you the position and then you don't accept, they are losing time - they may not be able to fill the position in time -, and it's also bad for their reputation. Each time someone gets an offer from universities A and B and chooses to accept the offer from A, this contributes to the reputation of A and harms the reputation of B.

Whether it's good for you if the committee at one university know where else you have applied and how you are doing there, depends very much on the relative reputations of these universities and how they are judging you. You want them to think that you are the perfect fit, not that you are overqualified and therefore likely to reject their offer (doing well with an application at a much better university) or underqualified and going to harm their reputation that way (as could happen if they make you an offer and at the same time you are rejected by a university with much lower reputation).

PS: I think I should clarify that all of this applies primarily - perhaps exclusively - to professorships, especially to permanent ones.

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It may depend on your discipline, but I've noticed that faculty candidates for Computer Science that interview at my university tend to list their job talks on their CVs as invited talks.

Therefore, being cagey about where you're interviewing or trying to obfuscate it would be counter-intuitive. You're probably already leaving a pretty obvious trail from your job search, people in your field probably know others in your field and communicate with them, and it wouldn't be difficult information for anyone to find out, so it would seem like being up front and honest about it would be the best path?

  • I did that, but I only updated my CV to include those inited talks after my interviews were all done. – JeffE Mar 22 '13 at 2:11
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I don't know about regulations here. Personally, I think that being open and honest is the best thing (and this is how I handled it). Telling that you have been interviewed for some other positions shows that other committees consider you as a possible candidate which is good for you, especially if you have been interviewed at places with higher prestige. One the other hand, I do not think that a committee will think "Oh this guy has been interviewed there, so we should hire him...", but probably I am wrong.

Moreover, I agree that it does not harm to say that you do not want to disclose your other interviews.

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