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Phil Osopher

I flipped for the first time in a recent interview (twice, I think, and once during the job-talk). Landed the job and was praised by the panel for my attitude.

But I think the initial commenter has it wrong. Flip little (not often, i.e. DON'T highjack) and flip in the spirit of collaborating with your interviewers (i.e. DON'T go on the offensive). Who wants a colleague who will try to highjack proceedings? Not many. Who wants a colleague who is responsive and interested in what others have to say? More.

Turning interviews into conversations is a good thing, and that was exactly the effect of my couple of flips.


I hate the whole idea of tactics. I just try to be myself. I don't know if that is the most effective strategy though. Probably not. I am often conflicted with how much I can stomach selling myself in order to stay in the philosophy business.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Amanda: I empathize with your view here, and recognize that each of us needs to make our own decisions about what we are willing to sacrifice for a career.

That being said, I believe you may be selling yourself short (no pun intended). When I was younger and more idealistic, I felt much as you do--that "tactics" were below me, and we shouldn't have to sell ourselves. I had many disagreements--with my mother, my spouse, and others--about it. But they eventually convinced me they were right: you do have to "sell yourself" in this world, like it or not.

Perhaps in an ideal world, we wouldn't have to sell ourselves. However, we don't live in that world--and I don't think there is much good in yelling at the proverbial wind (the wind doesn't care). The fact is, for just about every occupation on earth, unless you are ten times better than your competitors, you will need to "sell yourself" if you want to land a job in that occupation--because if you don't, the other person will, and they'll get the job. It's simply a fact of life. If you leave philosophy, you'll have to sell yourself elsewhere.

Anyway, here is the conclusion I came to in my own case. I did not spend nearly a decade of my young life (my entire twenties) learning how to become a philosopher and teacher (and enjoying these things), for it to make any sense to stamp my feet and say I'm not going to try to sell myself to hiring committees. I wanted to be a philosopher for a living, instead of having to sell myself for some other occupation that I might enjoy far less. So, I "sold myself." And I don't think I did it without integrity. For what I did, more than anything, was sell my research, my teaching, my service, and so on--all things that I genuinely care about and believe in. All I did in "selling myself" was try to present these things to committees in a way that might get me hired. And I'm glad I did. My time on the academic job market was hell, but I am thankful the world over that it ended well--and I suspect it might have ended very differently had I not done everything I could to learn from mentors, family members, etc., how to present myself positively in interviews (something which, as a shy and introverted person, do not come at all naturally to me!).

Anyway, this is just my point-of-view, but I wanted to share it. For further discussion of similar issues (an argument why not to "be yourself"), see here: http://theprofessorisin.com/2012/03/20/the-be-yourself-myth-performing-the-academic-self-on-the-job-market/


Hi Marcus,

I largely agree that selling yourself in various ways is necessary. And as much as I dislike it, I have succumbed to doing things, in certain respects, like networking which does not come naturally to me. However for whatever reason I see something different when it comes to face to face conversations. I hate insincerity, and I just try to talk to people as people, which of course might involve asking them about their research, etc. Maybe I should bring myself to go into face to face interviews with a 'game plan'. I haven't gotten their yet. And I am not sure it would go better, since I would be acting awkwardly. Of course, for people who are good at that sort of thing then they are better off. Maybe one day I will be good at it. And yes, I think you are right there are ways to do this without being insincere, but it is a skill to learn, and not an easy one.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Amanda: thanks for your very thoughtful reply. I am wholly sympathetic. I don't like insincerity either, and try to be sincere in everything I do. I'm also not naturally the most personable individual. I can be shy, introverted, and awkward. But the hard lesson I think I learned (mostly from my spouse) is that it is indeed possible to learn skills to come off better without being insincere. In my experience, you are absolutely right. These are not easy skills to learn, and they take a ton of practice. I practiced more interviews with my spouse than I can remember--but it was worth it. Practicing interviews with someone who knows you well can help you learn how to come off well while at the same time doing it sincerely. I didn't have a "game plan" myself for a number of years, but my last two years on the market I swallowed my pride, accepted my spouse's help and the help of a consultant, and fared better on the market!


Thanks Marcus! Now I just have to find that helpful spouse....

Marcus Arvan

Amanda: well, it took me a long while to find one myself--but in the meantime a friend, colleague, or family member might do! ;)



job seeker

Marcus: Who is the consultant you used, if you don't mind sharing? Did you (or anyone else here) work with Karen Kelsky?

Marcus Arvan

job seeker: yes, I used Kelsky. A few of my friends did as well. Here's a quick recap of my experience: http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2015/04/job-market-boot-camp-part-6-should-you-hire-a-job-market-consultant.html


Marcus: I'm curious about the type of feedback you received and how well you felt it worked for a variety of types of jobs (not just R1 jobs). This year is my first year on the market, and while I still am in the running for a TT job, I'm preparing myself for the likely possibility I will be on the market next year. I've been lucky to get a lot of advice from people who have recently hired and also those who have recently been on the job market, but all of it has been from people who have spent all their time at R1 schools, and so particularly the advice about questions I would be asked in first-round interviews has been totally different than what I was told to expect. Given this, I wonder whether the advice I would receive from a consultant would be similarly focused, just better, or whether the advice is helpful across a variety of types of schools.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Lauren: My memory is not very good (I was last on the market several years ago now), but I recall the interview advice I received to be very good. One helpful tip I received was to look at the faculty roster of small departments at teaching schools. Basically, I was advised that if the department only has a few senior, tenured people then it is likely that the department either (A) lost a recent hire to another job, or (B) is doing their first new hire in ages--and that in both cases it would likely be very important to the hiring committee to have a successful hire: a person who will not only accept their eventual offer but also be likely to stay (rather than jump ship). The advice then was to try to convey in some subtle way during the interview that I would indeed accept the job and stay if I got it. Having actually worked in a small department at a teaching school for a number of years, this now seems to me to have been wise advice indeed. At the same time, although I got share of fly-outs, my interview conversion rate (to fly-outs) wasn't all that great--so it is really hard to gauge how much the advice helped. What I can say more confidently is that the dossier assistance I received from the consultant (on my cover letter, teaching statement, and research statement) was *tremendously* helpful, and followed by very positive results (i.e. far more first-round interviews than I previously had). Anyway, I think your query raises really good issues! Like you, just about all of my early-career mentors were people from R1's--and I don't think they were at all keyed into what search committees at teaching institutions care about, or the kinds of questions likely to be asked in those interviews. So, how about a few new threads on these issues? Perhaps we could collect sample interview questions and search committee tips for different types of schools! How does that sound? Perhaps I could do a thread on R1s, a thread on SLACs, a thread on CCs, etc.

Filippo Contesi

I personally would find a list of recurring job interview questions very useful!

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