From the 127th Annual Meeting column in the December 2012 issue of Perspectives on History
Search Committees: Help Your Candidates
Liz Townsend, December 2012
Imagine you are a job candidate, currently researching overseas. You count yourself fortunate to have a prearranged interview scheduled during the AHA annual meeting. You began your journey to the meeting city before the search committee told you the exact location of the interview, and you don't have a means of communicating with the committee. How can you find out the hotel and room number in time?
Increasingly nervous as the interview time approaches, you rush to the Job Center Information Booth and hope to find the location there. However, the Job Center staff tell you that the search committee has not arranged the interview through the AHA, nor has it told them where the interview will take place. So the nervousness now changes to desperation as you worry that you may miss your chance in a tight job market.
Unfortunately, this scenario is played out many, many times every year at the annual meeting Job Center. Certainly, technology has made communication much easier; once they themselves find out the room number for their interviews, search committees are usually able to provide that information to candidates in time. But there are always a few exceptions, candidates who, for whatever reason, do not get the exact interview location and come to the Job Center in the hopes that they can find it.
AHA staff consider this situation the hardest part of their job at the annual meeting. All we can tell these agitated candidates is to follow whatever clues they might have. But even this proves difficult at times. Some have no idea of the names of search committee members or of which hotel they may be in. Others know the hotel, but do not know the room number. Most hotels will not give out room numbers for their guests, so these candidates often have to resort to using a house phone to call the room, which they fear will give the search committee a negative first impression of them while interrupting someone else's interview.
What can search committees do to prevent this scenario and provide the most professional interviewing experience? Quite simple, really. Let the Job Center staff know where you are interviewing. Providing this information involves no other obligations or responsibilities: we do not collect c.v.'s unless you ask, we do not charge anything for this service, and we make it clear to the candidates that the locations are only to be used when they already have an arranged interview. Interview locations are listed on an electronic display next to the Job Center Information Booth, which for the 2013 meeting is in the Sheraton New Orleans, Napoleon Ballroom, Salon A. Job Center staff will always be available to answer any questions.
To let us know the interview location after you arrive in New Orleans, e-mail Liz Townsend (or text or phone her at 571- 730-8518); or come to the Job Center Information Booth in the Sheraton New Orleans, Napoleon Ballroom, Salon A. You may also give the information to staff members at the Information Desk near Registration in the New Orleans Marriott and they will let us know. All we need to know is your institution name, field of the position, interview days (so we know when to remove it from the list), and hotel and room number.
Please welcome your new colleagues into the history profession by doing all you can to make the process as smooth and painless as possible.Liz Townsend is AHA coordinator, Job Center and professional data. She is also editor of the AHA's print and online Directory of History Departments, Historical Organizations, and Historians. For more information, visit the Job Center web page.