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Michael Walschots

I'm also curious about this. Is it acceptable to present a work in progress? Or should one really just present something really polished and strong, even if it's already published.

academic migrant

I was told by the placement officer from my home institution to have the best publication as the writing sample, and the most polished work in progress (even if it is under review or even accepted) as the job talk. Basically, the advice I got was that the committee must hear something new from you, something they can't learn from the existing application material.

I think it has some weight as the placement officer also serves on the search committee of my home institution. But I would imagine that things differ a lot from place to place.

TT at an R1

I would advise against using something already published as a job talk. When I've been on committees, someone has brought this up as evidence that the candidate doesn't have any new ideas. I'm not saying it's a fair inference, but it's not one you want to invite the hiring committee to make.


My advice would be to ask the search chair about this, especially if the job is at a SLAC. At small colleges, talk selection can be crucial since your audience will include a number of undergraduates and faculty who are not trained as philosophers. At the point at which you are giving a job talk, the search committee is pulling for you to do well and will have the best advice for the specific institution.

But even at research institutions, if you are genuinely ready and able to give multiple, excellent, talks, I would recommend asking the search chair if they have any preferences. If they don't, I would be inclined to give the most worked out work-in-progress that *isn't* the writing sample (for the reasons given by Academic Migrant).

Perhaps the norms about this vary, but unless a talk is specifically framed as a book talk or something, I expect philosophy talks to present unpublished work. Of course, that's compatible with having the talk draw heavily on previously published work, but I would be disappointed if a talk was nothing more than a summary of previously published work.

both sides now

I think you need to think about the audience. At a five person department you need to give a talk that is more general - there must be more than one person in the room who will be interested in what you are saying - or can even follow what you are saying. Talks can be more specialized at research places ... they probably should be. When I was on the market trying to get my first TT job, I gave papers that I was working on (but were quite finished). Some of these were deemed to be not *really* philosophy - this did not help me on the market. But, for the record, one has gone on to be cited over 250 times.

Bill Vanderburgh

Generally, don't use already published material as your job talk, and definitely not the writing sample.

Perhaps of primary importance is to give a talk that bolsters the case that you are an excellent fit for the job ad. So, something in the AOS is preferable, even if you think your "best" talk is on a different subject. (So, yes, different talks for different jobs.)

In the majority of cases, the audience will be a mixture of philosophers with different backgrounds and interests, undergrads, grad students if there is a grad program, and possibly faculty from other departments. In those cases, the talk needs to be accessible while demonstrating your philosophical chops. One way to find that balance is to define your terms, motivate the problem well, and put the technical stuff and key arguments on a handout for folks to grapple with (or merely marvel at) while they listen. In a high-research department, this is probably less necessary, but I think it is common to take the talk as part of the evidence that someone is a good teacher, so don't neglect accessibility even in that context.

A talk that generates discussion, especially one that allows non-experts an opportunity to think with you, will feel like it is a better talk to the audience.

It used to be common that philosophers read their talks from a script. I think that era has mostly passed. A slide presentation is usually better received, and allows you to be more natural, interact with the audience more, etc. But make sure your slides are well made, not overly crowded with info, and DO NOT just read them to the audience. Check out the book _Presentation Zen_ for advice on that.

Oh, and this is important: Don't let the job talk be the first time you present that material. Practice it in front of an audience first, even if you need to ask your friends from grad school to Zoom with you.

Christopher Hitchcock

Veteran of many search committees here.

I second SLAC Prof's advice to ask the chair of the search committee (or your contact person). Your relationship with this person is cooperative, not adversarial. Their job is easier if candidates show themselves in the best light when on campus.

(Corollary advice for search committees: give your candidates as much guidance as possible ahead of their talks.)

Find out who the audience for you talk will be. Both literally and figuratively. Will there be experts in your subfield? (You will probably know this already from your research into the dept.) Will there be non-philosophers? Students (UG or grad)? To which parts of the audience should the talk be pitched? (Less delicately, who will have a say in the hiring decision?) Will people who aren't on the search committee have read your work beforehand? If so, will they have done a deep dive or only have read the writing sample?

Be prepared to tinker with your standard job talk as needed.

Two pieces of general advice.

1. Make it as clear as possible what your own distinctive contribution. Often when presenting the back and forth of arguments it can be unclear when the exegesis of existing arguments end and when the novel one commences.

2. You will be judged on the Q & A as well as on the talk itself, so choose a topic where you have already heard or anticipated the questions you are most likely to get. You will be nervous so don't just rely on your normally stellar ability to think on your feet.

Here is some of the idiosyncratic advice we give to job candidates at my own university: The search committee will have already read as much material as possible beyond the writing sample, and will have asked about future directions at the interview. We don't expect to hear anything new in the job talk. The talk is more an occasion to introduce the candidate to the rest of our colleagues. If you have already written on different topics, or have several publications, you have already proved you are not a one-trick pony. You don't need to prove it further by giving a talk on some new topic. (This is in contrast to some of the advice above.) Our audience will include faculty in other humanities fields. These are book-centered, and their job talks are usually advertisements for a book project. So we recommend that speakers say something about how the topic of their talk fits into their overall research trajectory. We also have time constraints (daycare hours) that require slightly shorter talks (typically 50 min. rather than an hour).

newly tt

Asking for guidance, even in an open-ended way, is the correct course of action. (I think it could also be good indirect evidence of collegiality.) So, too, is the advice to practice whichever talk you picked.

FWIW, I got my (non-fancy) research job at a PhD granting-department with a weird online talk, which I'd never written up but I had been able to practice before the stay-put. I had asked what the department's expectations were and had been told, accurately, that some department members would have read my (unpublished) writing sample and my published work. I'd also been, gently, advised to pick a talk which emphasized my fit for the job's AOS.

Hiring is idiosyncratic. My point is really that asking these questions help you align with the idiosyncrasies. It might not get you the job - the other finalists are also good! But you did your bit! And if you don't get the job, you still got to make progress on your work (hopefully).


OP here. Thanks so much everybody! I had no idea it was appropriate, let alone positively perceived, to ask the chair for guidance. Incidentally, this does make me wonder how much knowledge about hiring-related practices just never reaches some of us...

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