The Assertive Candidate

Many skilled and knowledgeable individuals are competing for higher education jobs.  It is easy for those who are invited to interview to display eagerness for the position in an overly assertive manner.

For example, following are behaviors that might be considered overly assertive and not well-received by interviewers for university employment:

  1. Phone stalking.   In some circles continually calling to check on the status of a position is viewed positively, but from my perspective as an employer, it is pushy and possibly an indication that the applicant will not follow protocol or instructions.  This is especially if the application process is being coordinated by a human resources office and not the department.
  2. Name dropping.  Professional networking is encouraged, but hopefully it is not the only job requirement.  Do not tell, unless you are asked.  If there is an opportunity during the interview to interject the name of a professional associate, this might be acceptable.  Please be cautious.
  3. Familiarity breeds contempt. Thinking that you know everything (i.e., the needs, challenges) about the organization to which you are applying.   It is not likely that anyone other than those on the inside of an organization will know details of its operations.  An interviewee who states otherwise is showing immaturity and naiveté.
  4. Solutions hydrant.  Presenting solutions for every perceived problem or challenge.    This includes presenting a series of sample documents that you think the employer should have but does not.   Demonstrating resourcefulness is admirable, but might communicate that that the interviewee feels that the institution or office has not performed effectively.

Finding an effective balance of credentials, references, and cautious assertion is essential for establishing academic careers.    Competition is intense, which means that employers are reviewing credentials more intently and critically.   Overly assertive, which is usually not on the interview evaluation form, should not be the factor that dismantles your candidacy.

Debra A. Buchanan, EdD, is a 30-year university administrator in the southeast United States.

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