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Job Candidate

Thanks so much for offering your thoughts and opening this up for further discussion. I will have a few days to pull together some syllabi, though I will not have time to read everything I would plan to teach. The worry is that, if I put something on a syllabus I haven't read fully yet (or haven't read in a while), I will be quizzed on it. I hope that doesn't happen!


A different kind of answer to the question, but...FOOD. Bring dried fruit, granola bars, a couple small things that you can stick in your backpack and shove in your mouth when you have a few minutes alone before your talk or whatever. Flyout days can be long, and search committees are not always good about making sure you get the kinds of breaks that will keep your energy up.

(For "food," also sub in whatever other kinds of medication/personal-care items you need to feel comfortable--e.g., aspirin, travel-size deodorant.)


From my impression - as a faculty member who has been on search committees - it is enough to show that you have thought about the courses. If they want you to teach Introductory philosophy then have some sense of what you would like to cover (topics), how you might grade (essays, in-class tests), whether you have taught it or not. Similarly with other courses listed in the job ad. If it says you must teach ethics to nursing students give some thought to that.
I was once offered a contingent job that required me to teach a particular course. I tried to negotiate with them about it, as it was going to require a lot of prep. The chair made it clear it was not up for negotiation. I agreed to teach it. It was rewarding, but a lot of work. We are all smart people.


I agree... if a committee brings out three people, one needs to take into account that it is-for lack of a more gentle term or idea-a competition and if you don't bring those things and someone else does, it sets up a poor comparison.

I would add two things: first, I think people do much too little research about the schools and departments they are interviewing at. This, again, makes a big difference... being able to say: oh, and this thing (syllabus/research interest/professional activity, etc.) relates to your department 'a goals in this way... powerful.

Second, I appreciate that folks applying are already stretched thin and stressing. No doubt. But for the committee, the view is quite different. What we see is how much work a candidate puts in and that speaks-maybe accurately, maybe not-to how much that person will commit. It certainly might not be fair. No doubt. But if I were strategizing, I would not want to be without being able to show the commitment I have to this job and this department, not just being generally a good candidate.

Marcus Arvan

toomuchcoffeeman: Really good points! People who are interviewing you on campus are not merely interested in how good of a philosopher or teacher you are. Given that in a tenure-track job they may be working with you for decades, they are also likely to be interested in the kind of person you are and colleague you will be--and whether you show up for an on-campus having done research on the institution and people there says a bunch about you. Among other things, it shows that you take preparation seriously and are interested in the institution and people working there--things that matter to people, at least in my experience.

post-doc: also a very good point! One of the most common tips I heard before going on my campus-visits, and an excellent one at that. You do not want to be "hangry" while giving a talk, meeting with administrators, etc.


Re Postdoc: bringing food is excellent. If I might add to your advice: once you put the food in your mouth, proceed to chew it, then swallow. Many people forget these steps! You'd be surprised how many times I've been to a job talk and I can't understand the first five minutes because the candidate (perhaps mistakenly trying to follow to the letter some well intentioned advice like Postdoc's) was struggling to speak around the food that they "shoved in [their] mouth", but that they'd forgotten to actually finish eating!

Why, just last week we had to take someone to the ER after a job talk because a piece of granola had become persistently stuck in her eye. Yes, that's right, granola in the eye. How did it get there, you ask? 'Twas flung from the maw of an overzealous job candidate who'd forgotten to swallow her food before her talk on (as near as I can tell) `Hffm's Feery Ob Ferzebshin'.

Take this case to heart! You don't want to be the job candidate that sends someone in the front row to the ER from a granola-induced eye wound.


Omg Tim, that is the most awesome interview story ever. I hope the granola eater got the job!


The hardest part of on campus visits for me were always the individual meetings with faculty members. If the department is large, you can have 10 or more of these (as I did several times) and they can be *very* different from one another: one faculty member might have reread your writing sample and wants to ask you about a point you make on p 15; another might confess that s/he hasn't really looked at your stuff and so says, "Just tell me a little about your work"; another might want to talk about teaching; another might not want to talk about research or teaching (either because they just don't want to or because they want to give you "a break") and so you're expected to chat amiably for 30 or 45 minutes; another may want to talk about the profession, perhaps about how unnecessarily mean reviewers were to his/her book (as happened to me a couple of times); and another might sit there and ask, unhelpfully, "So what do you want to talk about?" and expect you to set the agenda. So it's good to arrive to the visit ready for any of these kinds of meetings, since the faculty member (and not you) gets to decide what the meetings are about.

If you get a schedule beforehand that tells you who you'll be meeting with, it's a good idea to take a look at a recent publication or two to get a decent sense of what they work on. So long as it's not brought into the conversation in an awkward way, I think most faculty can't help but be flattered to hear that someone is familiar with some of their work, particularly if the faculty members aren't hot shots whose work is read or discussed widely.

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