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Friday, October 26, 2007

Reflections on Interviewing at The FMA Meeting

Now that I've been back from the FMAs for about a week, I finally have time to put some thoughts together about the experience. Although I've been in the job candidate's seat a number of times, this was my first time being on the "hiring committee" side of the interviewing table, and it was an interesting experience, to say the least. Here are a few thoughts, in no particular order (like many of my thoughts, but let's not go there):
  1. There was a huge (and noticeable) variation in the amount of preparation candidates had done on my school. If they didn't know anything about the school other than the location, it signalled a general lack of interest on their part (and resulted in a lack of interest on ours).
  2. A surprising number of candidates did a very poor job of what I call "setting the table" for their research. By that, I mean the anecdotal part of showing me why I should give a rat's hiney about their topic. As an example, consider a candidate researching the effect of syndicate composition on the outcome of an IPO: A bad candidate would jump right into their model and/or hypotheses, while a good candidate might first talk about a recent underwriting syndicate put together by Goldman, and what some of the salient facts illustrated about their topic.
  3. It's impressive when you can site literature to buttress your arguments and do it smoothly. It shows you have a good grasp on your literature. It's even better when you can bring it back to the big picture.
  4. I found out that I really like asking questions about factors that the candidate hadn't considered in their tests (for example, if they were examining some aspect of merger bid premiums, I'd ask how the composition of the institutions (transient vs. indexers) holding target shares might affect their analysis). My main interest wouldn't be their specific answer, but rather how they approach the question. Again, if they can link it back to important prior research, all the better.
  5. Here are some f the things that made candidates seem less attractive: not knowing their topic (or not caring) well enough to show me how it fits into things (see above), not taking care in answering questions (See above again), not at least making eye contact with everyone in the room (even if one is the dominant interviewer, we all count), and not having any good questions to ask US - it shows you're interested and know at least a bit about our institution. Make sure tehy're not dumb ones.
  6. We had one or two candidates that were extremely sharp - they were prepared, articulate, passionate, interpersonally gifted, and had great dissertations that they really had a grasp of. Of course, we have NO chance of actually hiring these people (we're a bit under the market salary. But at least they serve as a benchmark.
  7. The process can be stressful for the candidates, and stultifyingly boring for the interviewers. Regardless of which side of the table you're on, if you don't take careful notes, the interviews quickly run together.
  8. One candidate had 35 interviews! I have no idea how they either prepared for all of them or how they survived the stress. On a related note, this candidate was 10 minutes late for OUR interview. So, they had probably gone past the optimal number. And we're not sure we want to get into a "multiple bidder" situation. So, thanks but no thanks.
  9. We've met as a group since coming back, and have a short list of candidates we'd like to call for fly-outs. But before we can invite them, we have to clear the hurdle of our affirmative action office. And they're a picky and verrrry slow group. So, I suspect we'll get some sand thrown in the gears shortly, and we'll have to wait a while longer before the campus visits.
  10. You run into a surprising number of candidates (and their professors) at the cocktail party and at the bar. This is a good place to find out if they're the sort of people you want as colleagues. (the well known "soft" information). If they can loosen up a bit (but not too much), it's a plus. Even better if they've been reading any interesting books lately.
I'll post more on the process as it continues. Stay tuned

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