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Anonymous Grad

Thanks, Marcus. SOO helpful!!

Lee Walters

I agree with Marcus about 1 and 2 above. But on where to strike the balance I disagree. But I suspect this will just vary from person to person. So my advice would be to make sure you have two good pieces.

A few comments to add to Marcus’s advice from one UK perspective:

For me, giving the same talk as your writing sample is very much a second best option, at least for a research job. It leaves the panel wondering whether this is all you have. I know of cases where this has definitely gone against people.

I for one would not be impressed by a big picture presentation and I know of cases where giving programmatic talks has gone against people. This might partly be a matter of the personality of the selection board but is also partly to do with expectations. In the UK research plans/direction is discussed at interview.

Follow the instructions you are given, or at least check if you plan to deviate. Part of the reason I wouldn’t advise giving a big picture talk in the UK is that this is not what you are asked for.

In the UK, usually the decision on appointments is made by a selection committee of around 4-5 people. The rest of the faculty may provide their opinion to the committee after having attended the job talks, read some of the written work, and looked at CVs, but the decision is not made by them. So the fact that the job talk is the only aspect of you that the majority of the faculty are familiar with is not so important.

The job talk is only one part of the portfolio that the committee look at. Having said that, I think there is some tendency to give disproportionate weight to it. Nonetheless, I know of plenty of cases of people who didn’t give the best talk getting the job.

Marcus Arvan

Anonymous Grad: :)

Lee: Thanks for weighing in. I do think it's a good idea to follow directions/check if you pan to deviate. You're also right that people differ. *I* would be impressed by a programmatic talk, you wouldn't. The question then is: what are the probabilities? Are people more likely to be impressed by a programmatic talk, or a specialized one? I suppose the answers here depend on the field. All I know is that I have seen some ultra-specialized talks first-hand that went way over everyone's heads, and in a way that did not seem to impress many people.


Having served on a R1 SC twice I can relay that it counts against candidates if they present their WS as a job talk, other things equal. This is just because many, myself including, expect that a candidate suitable for eventual tenure at an R1 would be able to come out of grad school with at least two papers that indicate a coherent, promising research agenda. Having only one presentable papers raises worries about productivity and narrowness.

Lee Walters

Hi Marcus,

Yes ultra-specialized talks are bad too. But there is a big sweet-spot between those kind of talks and overview of my research talks. I want to see a thesis and I want to see it defended, and yes I want it framed in such a way that my colleagues and I can understand.

Chike Jeffers

I agree with others in the comments that it should be considered unfortunate if you end up not having anything you feel you can present as a job talk that is different from your writing sample.

The job talk, by the way, should of course be accessible and not ultra-specialized... as compared with the writing sample, which can be more specialized because it shows just how deep you are in your field.


Hello, Marcus.
This artcle is good and very helpful for us. Everywhere, we can get positive and negative comment but we have to follow only positive way. It gives me positive feedback to go achead. Thank you so much for this posts.

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