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« What do professors expect from grad students? | Main | Beyond Academia Conference »

02/15/2023

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Bill Vanderburgh

I'd say, "Be yourself." That's what search committees want to see anyway, the real you they are going to hire.

Make it your best self, of course. It is much easier for me to imagine someone who is too flat rather than someone who is too excited. You have to make sense, of course. If you are passionate about the ideas, present them in a clear way that shows why you find them so interesting, and engage with your audience, you'll be doing great.

I had a professor who got so excited he leapt from idea to idea. I swear he never finished a sentence in a whole class period. Don't do that. Focus on the experience for your audience, not yourself.

Whatever else you do, practice your job talk in front of a small audience of peers and professors. Ask them to give you feedback about what you can do better. If it doesn't go well, practice it again.

Getting good at presenting is a key part of the job: People will take it as an indication of both your philosophical acumen and your teaching ability. Take every opportunity you can to present. That could be in classes, teaching, reading groups, conferences. You can even organize an in-house informal conference so that you and others can get that practice. If you want to really get serious about it, join a local Toastmasters club.

Assistant professor

I'm sorry not to be more helpful, but I do not think there is a general rule here. There are many ways to skin a car. Some people give great talks that are calm and measured, others give great talks whilst breathlessly and energetically involving the audience. The line between calm and measured and tedious/unexcited, or the line between energetic and obnoxious/unserious, are thin. The only thing to do, in my view, is to practice the talk and get feedback from people about your presentation style. But poll widely, as opinions will vary a lot on this, since people in our profession don't always understand that there are many ways to skin a cat.

There is such a thing as a good Machiavellian

Based on my experience of search committee discussions:

(1) Excitement is very important. Even seeming very nervous because you really want the job is better than seeming cooly indifferent. Excitement about your work is good, but excitement about the department and what you would do there is paramount.

(2) Focus on your research questions, not the details of your contributions. This has three advantages. Firstly, it will help keep what you say at an introductory level. Secondly, it will help interviewers see why your work is interesting. Thirdly, it makes you come across as intellectually curious, rather than a bore who is only interested in their own corner of philosophy.

(3) For the love of all that is holy, be as genuine as possible. For example, don't say "That's a good question" unless you genuinely mean it. When you are nervous, as in a job interview, you become a poorer liar, and it's probably very easy for search committees through such deceptive tactics. It won't flatter them, it will make them feel uncomfortable and make you come across as Machiavellian (and not in a good way).

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