What do they ask at APA interviews?

These questions really saved me when I was prepping for the job market in 1999 and 2000. The author, Mary Corbin Sies, is in American Studies, not philosophy, but the academic job market is quite similar in many respects.  I wrote out answers to all of them.  I couldn’t believe how much easier the ballroom interviews were than I expected, hooray!  Every question that floated my way resembled one on Sies’ list.  (The funny, critical bits are good for a laugh.)

8 thoughts on “What do they ask at APA interviews?

  1. I have a question. I’m starting my PhD in Fall. If I’m lucky, I’ll be 34-35 when I finish. I’d like to have children. My question is: if I have a child just after defending my thesis, and take, say, two years off, can I still find a job afterwards? (Let’s suppose I publish during my time off.) If having a child then is surely going to kill my career, what’s the next not so bad moment to do it? Would it be better before defending my dissertation, or after getting some job or other? In sum, is it a suicide to have children before getting tenure?

  2. Oh, Anonymous, you ask such important and difficult questions. If it helps, I have met hundreds of academics who had kids before tenure (at sundry points along the graduate school and tt tracks) and they got tenure; they are eloquent about the wide and deep challenges that resulted, but in my hearing they have not described it as suicide, ever.

    Less optimistically, I would say this: There is no guarantee either that you can have kids or that you can get a job. At every stage of my grad career and lucky TT life I assumed I’d reproduce, and I never did so. Since both of these things are breathtakingly uncertain and only under your control in a few ways, you might want to bear children when it is best for you, on many other dimensions, and not necessarily when it is most conducive to employers. All of the happy scholars I referred to above have also shared anecdotes, at every point along the way, of supervisory professors and colleagues who weighed in on why this was a bad time for them to be pregnant. There’s always somebody about who’ll say now is a bad time.

    In sum, I’d say: The best time is after you’ve gotten tenure at that high paying R1 university with the 2-2 load. But since that laughably describes almost none of us, I cannot resist suggesting that one’s reproductive life is not best planned around our odd profession. I must add that this answer is impossibly biased by my experience as someone who “waited” only to find out that my biological abilities did not admit of “waiting.” Sadly, our best laid plans, you know…

  3. Thanks for your answer, profbigk. I’m sorry that happened to you, it must have been hard.

    Yes, one of the things that makes this decision more difficult is that I know I may not be able to have children if I wait too long (a very close friend almost could not, for waiting too long). Also, I’m seriously considering adopting rather than having biological children, and since I’m not an American and I want to live in the US… Well, everything gets more complicated.

    But it’s really helpful to know a bit more of that variable. In my environment, everybody seems to think that it would be a very bad idea to have children before finishing grad school, and also right after finishing, and also at a TT job… I’m relieved there are many people who did it and got tenure.

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