§2. Interviewing for the job
If you are an internal candidate, you probably have less flexibility,
but I suspect there are wide local variations. What has happened in
the past? How large is your current salary relative to your local peers?
If I were a dean and I was discussing salary with a head who was only
going to be in office for 3 years, I would be reluctant to give a big
raise. I think I would favor a fixed stipend that stays with the job
and not the person. (See §11.)
In my own experience (as an external candidate) I took a direct
approach. In both cases where I was offered a headship I was prepared
to divulge my present salary and fringe benefit package and let the
dean make his best offer. But I wasn't asked for this information. In
both cases good financial offers were made, and not much additional
effort was needed to get what I thought appropriate.
If you are an external candidate, before going to the interview
get: copies of the CVs of the faculty, a copy of the most recent exter-
nal review or self-study of the department, catalogues for the graduate
and undergraduate programs, the mission statement for the depart-
ment and the college. Study them. I don't know that you have to
memorize a lot. I didn't. But it helped to see what the departments
and universities thought about themselves. You can also learn about
the faculty and, after you spend a day talking to more people than
you could ever remember, the vitae will help you begin putting names
to faces. (Ah! That's the name of the guy that works in PDEs and
went to Wabash College.)
Before going to the campus try to find out why they are going
outside for a head. Perhaps, if this is possible, you can have an
informal conversation with a friend there to discover some information
that might not surface in any formal undertaking. Are there warring
factions and no one can agree on an internal candidate? Are you being
recruited to referee a bloody war? To stop one? It may just be that
they regard recruiting an outside head as an opportunity to bring a
fresh approach to the life of the department or to recruit an additional
person with good research credentials. But you better figure out why
and decide if you are up to their expectations. I don't think I would
like to come from the outside to act as a referee. You are bound to
get bloodied in the conflict, and there are more important things in
What are they looking for? A god? A czar? A figurehead? A
researcher? How is the Mathematics Department regarded? A strong
research department? A service department? Better to find out before
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