Yes, we have had about a zillion threads on this.
A one hour phone interview - would that be similar to a one hour conference interview?
Depends. Most conference interviews--in my field--are 30 minutes, not an hour, which suggests something in between a conference interview and a campus interview.
If it were in the humanities, at my previous or current institution, it would work a little differently from the usual job search protocol. For VAPs, we interview 3-4 finalists by telephone--usually in February, although it could be March--and then we invite the top candidate to campus. So, only one candidate comes to campus (unless s/he performs so terribly that we feel forced to regroup).
The hiring calendar - who does campus visits? Do these positions primarily skip the visit?
See above. Most VAPs are hired in the spring, or even early summer, once a given institution knows its needs and has approved the hire. My understanding is that many schools hire VAPs without any campus visit at all, although, as I said, my present and previous school (both selective SLACs) do fly in the top candidate.
Now... what do you look for in a VAP that you do not look for in a TT candidate?
Again, we've had a zillion threads on this. The primary difference for a VAP is that we want someone we can immediately plug into our teaching regimen. Yes, we read your scholarship, and yes, we appreciate any service credentials we see on your CV. But mostly we need a teacher, and we need him or her RIGHT NOW.
Applicants with the threshold level of scholarly performance (varies from school to school) will be evaluated based on what short-term benefits they can bring to the institution. As in: teaching, for the most part.
If you are in a VAP position now, I'd like to hear about it:
How productive have you been able to be with the nomadic lifestyle?
Did you get benefits/research or travel funding/ summer stipend?
I had two VAPs before I landed my current t.t. position. One was at a scary, far-away school whose lack of resources and location severely impeded my progress as a professional and scholar. The other was at a fantastic school that offered me, as a VAP, better benefits (including salary, travel funding, summer stipend, etc.) than most of my friends in t.t. positions.
If you are an SC member with VAP hiring experience:
What knocked your socks off and what foibles have you seen?
I was on a VAP SC two years ago. We were most impressed with candidates who (a) bridged their research interests and achievements with their teaching in their cover letter; (b) described, more or less precisely, how they might teach certain courses our dept. offers; and (c) suggested, with a slight degree of deference (but again with specificity), a course or two they might offer that we do NOT currently offer. It also helped quite a bit if the candidate seemed familiar with our program, either in his or her letter of application or (especially) in the phone interview.
Candidates who did less well were those who emphasized research and publishing at the expense of teaching (or appeared to do so) or whose questions to the SC were all about what the institution could do for them.
Candidates who clearly knew nothing about our program ("Where are you located again?" "Does your school have a dept. X?") also put themselves at a disadvantage, as did those who seemed to condescend to us, as a SLAC. (My favorite: "I just want to make sure I'm not going to jeopardize my future options at top-tier R1's by having your school on my resume." Uh, sure. Next candidate!)