What do you think about the scenario of an interviewee being accompanied by a spouse or significant other to an interview for a faculty position?
* I am not talking about situations in which there is a clear need for such an accompanying person, e.g., someone to help with child-care. There are certainly circumstances in which an accompanying person is required or beneficial. *
The question is, what about the situation in which the accompanying person, who is not and will not be considered for a job at the university doing the interviewing, attends interview events: Goes to the interview talk(s)? Comes to ‘social’ events (e.g., dinner with the search committee)?
There may well be circumstances in which this level of involvement is necessary, but unless someone can convince me otherwise, I think that in the absence of extenuating circumstances (e.g., babies; disabilities), it is not appropriate for the accompanying person to participate in interview activities, including quasi-social events like dinner with the search committee.
At search committee-interviewee dinners, the conversation certainly need not be All Science for the entire meal, and it should also not be an extension of some of the more stressful aspects of the interview (Why is your research important? What research will you be doing in 10 years?). However, it should be possible to talk with the candidate about Science and other issues relevant to the interview without their spouse/partner getting upset about being left out of the conversation and/or getting anxious when questions get too interview-like.
Memo to accompanied interviewees and/or to those accompanying interviewees:
- Don’t kiss each other during dinner. Professors, especially those on search committees, cannot handle public displays of affection during meals.
- Don’t feed each other. Professors, especially those on search committees, prefer to think that candidates can feed themselves.
- Don’t tell cute stories about each other, including revealing affectionate nicknames and embarrassing childhood episodes. Professors, especially those on search committees, prefer not to know any of this until after an interviewee becomes an actual colleague. Then we definitely want to know.
- For female accompaniers: don’t single out the women on the search committee for girl-talk about babies and gardens while the guys are talking about Science. In some cases, the men on the search committee may have more to say about babies and gardens.
I am not making these examples up. My observation of behavior like this has led to my negative opinion on the issue of accompanying-persons.
If anyone who is reading this is freaking out because they accompanied their Beloved to some interview events, fed him/her from their own fork, smooched at dinner, and called the interviewee “pookiebear”, all in front of the search committee, fear not. If the search committee thinks the candidate will be a great research and teacher, that’s the most important thing. Even so, it would be best to let the interviewee meet/dine alone with the search committee, however terrifying that may be.
10 months ago