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The anonymous reader should realize that this person will be her colleague were she to take the job. I say this just a reminder. It is the people (as odd as they are) on that side of the table who are making the decisions and then will be the colleagues of the lucky job candidate. You have to be able to navigate a career with them. I have colleagues who, quite frankly, I find taxing. Once you take the job, I can give some advice, but if you are getting scared now, that is a sign you probably do not want THAT job.


I have problems with these sort of people in life, not just interviews. But it is particularly bad during interviews. I have also found that doing faculty/institutional research is a double-edged sword. Sometimes it works. And sometimes the faculty member looks at you like you are trying to be a kiss-ass and answers with the one or two words illustrated above. After reading some faculty accounts on this as well, some faculty don't like it and seem to think you are just sucking up. What's worked best for me is a willingness to switch topics. I start with research and teaching, but if that doesn't work I move on to non-academic things like Starbucks, Trump (pretty damn safe bet an academic isn't happy), sports, or youtube cat videos. Some faculty are much more willing to talk about the latter iteration, and I think what matters most in those conversations is that they start to like you as a person.


Dear BWarned: unfortunately, I just don't think anyone on today's market has the luxury of taking your advice. Ideally, yes, it would be great to be able to say "you know what, this person's going to make an awful colleague; gonna go ahead and not take this job." But for most people on the market that decision amounts to saying "you know what, this person's going to make an awful colleague; gonna go ahead and not be a professional philosopher ever in my life." While making the first decision makes sense in the abstract, making the second doesn't.


I have to agree with Tim. I questioned earlier whether there is EVER good cause in this market to turn down a TT job. I think there might be in some cases, but the downside of the job would have to be much worse than "I have a colleague who is uncomfortable and socially awkward." Not only might one never be offered another TT job, but the chance of finding a philosophy department WITHOUT that sort of philosopher surely approaches 0.

Martin Shuster

Silence is also OK. You don't have to fill every moment with speech. Just because this person doesn't want to talk to you or is awkward in this way with everyone, doesn't mean they're a horrible person or a horrible colleague. It just means they don't want to talk a lot. That's OK. You can't talk to everyone about everything.

Elisa Freschi

Perhaps it might help to think that although it is *your* big day the other people on campus are human beings as well. They might have a really hard time at home or in their professional life and it is OK for them to be unable to engage in meaningful conversations. You do not need to take it as something personal. Sip a cup of tea, enjoy the sun (or the cloudy sky) and relax for some minutes!

Philosophy Adjunct

It is possible that their reticence is aimed at their colleagues rather than at you. They may not feel that they are in a position where they can voice certain opinions about the department or the institution, or they do not wish to share this with others. In such cases it might seem like no answer is the most honest policy. Indeed, they might be trying to give you subtle warnings, rather than to be unpleasant.

The gregarious and welcoming members of a search committee can also turn out to be difficult and unpleasant colleagues, e.g. they might be trying to recruit you to their side of some departmental conflict should you end up taking the job, or it excites their vanity to "take you under their wing" for which you are expected to be a loyal minion.

I have encountered this, and it helped me to keep in mind that committees and members of committees all have their own agendas, as well as personal motives, which will influence how they behave. Reminding myself that I can't control these things, or even know about them, helped lessen some of the post-interview anxiety, even if it did not mitigate the awkwardness of the actual encounter.

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