We Still Need to Kill the Conference Interview

In my head I’m thinking about some variation of the Eagle’s “Hotel California” here (please kindly ignore that I buggered the number of syllables):

In the conference hotel lobby they are gathered for the feast,

They stab it with blog posts and tweets, but they just can’t kill the beast.

There are a lot of reasons why the conference interview needs to go, and I’m far from the first to write about it. In terms of justice, we’re asking the most financially vulnerable in our profession to shell out big bucks. It’s not just about the candidates, though. One of the most persuasive arguments I’ve read is David Perry’s that the conference interview format is a financially poor decision for colleges and universities. He has some great links in there to read other perspectives on why the conference interview should end.

I’ll be honest that I don’t really have much new to add other than this: a colleague of mine recently received an invitation to interview at the American Historical Association (AHA) next month. The pure joy at receiving an interview invitation quickly receded to dread when my colleague realized the interview was being held at the AHA job center, necessitating conference registration. The colleague holds a non-tenure track teaching position, and thus falls into the “employed” registration category of $220 dollars. My colleague was not planning on registering before (just go do the interview and leave), but now must find the money for this extra expense.

I initially wrote a much longer post about the financials of attending a conference, but I deleted most of it to focus on the question of registering for a conference where you have an interview. Some may say that you should register anyway because that’s what you do. But unless you’re really excited about lots of particular panels (which doesn’t always happen at the big conferences), what’s the point? To get into the exhibit hall? To pay extra to go on a field trip or to attend a luncheon?

Perhaps some readers have a dissenting viewpoint, and I’d like to hear it if they do. I’m willing to be swayed. In my current thinking, however, it seems that having the interview at the AHA’s job center instead of a hotel suite is just transferring some of the cost from the interviewing institution to the interviewees. And that stinks.

Conference interviews really don’t have much to do with the attendant conferences, and taking those interviews is expensive enough already. Why would adding an extra cost ever be a good idea?