“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Sunday, December 12, 2010

How to Get That Elusive Academic Job 16—the interview (the first five minutes)

The first five minutes AND NO LONGER you should use to pitch your project. “So tell us a bit about your work” is a common starting question. (Even for community colleges these days. They want good intellects as much as anyone.)

This is where your three sentences, ikebana style, will be put to use. Have you been practicing them? You should now have them down to something you can write in invisible ink on the side of your right forefinger.

Search in the search bar opposite for "ikebana" and "academic job" and you'll find all my previous posts about it. Essential reading. I'll post some more on this soon too.

Warning: now is NOT the time to reinvent the wheel, prove you're smart or go into huge detail. Sketch out the vision (Heaven), the archive (Earth) and ONE discovery (Child). Then STOP. Let them hear it. Let them speak.


Anonymous said...

This is all good advice, but one of the important threads that runs through each installment of your advice columns is this: search committee questions are in many ways less about the candidate than about the committee. I simply mean this (and yes, it's a bit cynical): does the candidate reflect back to the committee the type of person/academic/colleague that they themselves want to be, or even, that they actually see themselves as? Does the candidate make the committee members feel witty, cool, successful? etc.
Again, a bit cynical, but kind of true, in my experience on both sides of the table, but I think these things are exacerbated at the cattle call interviews at the MLA, APA, AAR etc. I think it's helpful to remember that interviews are not one sided, by any means, so the advice to pretend you are chit chatting with peers in your graduate program hits the nail on the head.

At the end of the day, virtually everybody is qualified and for better or worse (worse, most likely) it very often comes down to “intangibles.” These intangibles vary of course, e.g. “do I want to work with this person?”, “Is this person’s research plan threatening to mine?” “how was their lecture/teaching demonstration” “Were they wearing clothes that fit them properly?” (seriously) etc. And this is to ignore the internal politics of the search committee! In fact, I know someone who, once granted tenure, makes it a point to routinely blackball Ivy League candidates.


Timothy Morton said...

"Chit chat" no--this is about your work
"Reflects on the interviewers" -- of course it does. Be sensible. They are wondering whether they will be able to stomach you for three + decades.