The first thing to remember is that interview occur DURING the academic year. In my field, the most busy period for interviews is December, January, and February, though sometimes we extend into March if we get a late start. So, even before the candidate shows up, there is a scramble to book a room for the research talk if it isn't a normal seminar day. No matter when this talk is, some people will be teaching if it isn't a normal seminar day. Depending on the timing (like is it exam period?) it may also be hard to fill all of the one-on-one slots (typically 30 min) for the candidate. All of the search committee members sign up (they get first shot at the schedule), but in a typical interview, we have 10-12 slots per day to fill up over two days, and we have 35ish faculty members (some of whom are on leaves of various kinds), which means we need to coordinate the schedules of 30-35 busy people to fit a schedule that will not run on time anyway. Worse if it is during finals, the first two weeks of the semester, or during midterms. So, as the interviewee, if it seems like your schedule is constantly being updated, this is why.
The second thing to keep in mind is that you are one of 4-5 people who will be brought into ProdigalU in rapid succession for 2 days each. If multiple searches are going on (not too unusual at ProdigalU right now, since many of the Boomer profs are going emeritus/leaving in other ways), you might be one of 10-15 people brought to the department in rapid succession. Most people take TT searches pretty seriously, since one of the unusual features of academia is that you get to pick your future colleagues with whom you might be working for 30+ years. But even so, some interview fatigue sets in. As the interviewee, you are on an adrenaline rush, experiencing what might be one of the most important days of your life thus far. The people interviewing you are trying to cram your visit into an already busy schedule AND they might be doing interview related stuff 2-3 times a week or more for two months. Your interviewers are definitely interested in learning more about you, and want to hear about what you can bring to the department. But, they are being pulled in many directions at once, whereas you (hopefully) have a laser-beam focus on your interview. The more you can keep your interest level up and your intensity high, the better.
On top of that, almost no one in academia is actually trained in interview techniques, so most people are going to default to the same kind of talk about their science that they do when meeting seminar speakers from outside their field. This is your chance! If you want to discuss something, ask questions about it! Ask about facilities, how things work at InterviewU, their science, interactions with other departments, the students, etc. People are happy to talk about things they know you will find interesting.
So, what does a typical interview day look like for me when I am on the search committee:
- 8:30ish Arrive in office and caffeinate, emails, prep for lecture
- 9:30 Teach class
- 10:30 Office hours
- 11:30 Email catch up
- 12:00 Lunch with candidate
- 1:30 Candidate seminar
- 3:00 Meeting with one of my grad students
- 3:30 One on one with candidate
- 4:00 Escort candidate to next meeting, stop by main office for administrative stuff
- 4:30 Email catch up
- 5:00ish Head off to pickup the ProdigalKids