At first, I thought I would submit this post anonymously. I am glad that I am not doing so. I want other military spouses who stumble upon it to be able to reach out and commiserate 🙂
Here are a few questions that made me very uncomfortable, not because they’re bad questions, or because they resulted in me not getting a job, but because they pry into my identity as a military spouse. Being military-friendly is one thing, but taking a gamble on someone whose resume has a lot of moves and who might not stick around forever is something else entirely. I understand this. But, my identity as a military spouse is part of who I am and the gifts and skills I bring to the table. In some environments, the details of my husband’s job bring all sorts of stereotypes and create a bias. Sometimes, I’ve gone so far as to not wear any rings to an interview to avoid outing myself.
More often than not, I’ve been asked something to the effect of “What brings you to this area?” This is probably something casual we all ask to break the ice, but as a military spouse, it’s extremely difficult to dance around the question and, more important, I don’t see what value it provides the committee. One time I answered with “my husband’s job” and had to stumble through the follow up questions.
“He’s an engineer.” Not a lie, he has two degrees in engineering.
“He works at the base.” Not that he’s stationed there which gives away the temporary nature of our living in the area.
Next time, instead of asking how a candidate found you, ask how he likes it so far or maybe give recommendations for the best local food.
One committee member connected the dots and said during a break “This isn’t part of the interview, but do you have some sort of military connection?” I was not prepared for that. I stammered something about really enjoying working with military students. Again, this was not a lie; they’re my favorite population. But, I was so ashamed of myself for not sharing that both of my grandfathers served, my cousin served, and I’m so proud of my husband for the work he does! If you do notice a trend like that, ask instead how that experience will inform their work at your institution.
Another search committee knew right away I was a military spouse and asked how long we’d be in the area. I could make up a time frame but how is that helpful to anyone? The number of variables that go into how long we’re in any one location is staggering and the factors are constantly changing. I wish I had a recommendation for how to make this one less awkward.
The best question I’ve ever been asked is, “What will you bring to our regular potluck meals?” As a candidate, I learned that the ritual was important to the department, and my answer let the committee know that I take baking pretty seriously.
So, hiring committees, think about the questions you’re asking. What are you really trying to figure out? How do those questions relate to the priorities of your department?
This post is part of the month long series #SACandidEx, a series looking to highlight stories of the on-campus interview: the good and the bad. We will feature posts from various points of view to better understand what we can learn from in this important process in a SA pro’s career. Check out the intro post written by Monica Fochtman for more information. If you are interested in contributing to this series, please email Monica at email@example.com or find her on twitter @monicamfochtman.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Chris Conzen on Community Colleges