Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Smoker "Do"s

Spiros at Philosophers Anonymous is running a "Smoker Don'ts" thread. It has been suggested that we run a thread devoted to Smoker "do"s. I have very little experience with this thing, but my understanding of the "do"s is as follows:

1. Do go and visit every school you interviewed with.

2. Do be sober during the entire thing.

3. Do follow up on any interesting research questions that came up during your interview.

4. Do be nice, pleasant, personable, and not an asshole.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. What else?

--Mr. Zero

P.S. I am deeply sympathetic with Spiros's anonymous commenter at 1:00, who says "I cannot believe that this "smoker" business occurs! It seems totally unfair, and borderline illegal to expect people to travel to a conference for an "informal interview" that is actually mandatory."


Anonymous said...

Well, no one really flies to the APA just to attend the informal "interview" at the smoker. That WOULD be stupid.

I have first hand knowledge that at least one professor at one PhD granting institution emphatically does not like job candidates to come to their table to follow up the interview. It's awkward and this person wishes the practice would cease. But I'm sure this person is not representative.

But, really, in this market, should departments currently hiring be worried that someone might not want their job, indicated by their absence at the smoker? Really?! Because it looks like most of us would be super fucking happy to get a job, any job. It's not the 80s or 40s or whenever in some ideal world departments had to read the smallest signal from their potential candidates that they weren't interested.

Anonymous said...

I think people should treat the smoker as it is - an informal interview. So keep a drink in your hand, and leave a bit in it so you can provide yourself an excuse to switch conversations by finishing the drink. Talk to your potential colleagues for a bit, and tell them about your work and ask them more about theirs. In between this, say hi to friends that you might not get to see that often. Treat this like any other conference reception. Act like a professional - this schmoozing is just part of the job, and not just when you're interviewing. Figure out a way to be ok with it, because we have to do this kind of thing for a long long time.

Anonymous said...

The smoker is a great opportunity to meet and talk with philosophers whose work you've admired but who aren't interviewing you for a job. They might even be relieved to talk to someone who isn't trying to get their vote for a job.

Anonymous said...

Besides talking to philosophers you admire, I should add that if you do go to the smoker, you should talk to whoever did interview you, as you don't want them to see you there without saying anything to them.

Anonymous said...

Um, no. You shouldn't talk business at a smoker or any other informal event; that's boring and easy to do. No, the test is to schmooze socially, to see if we'd want to hang out with you, to get a sense of your personality. Now, if you don't have personality, then perhaps it's a good idea to stick with philosophy.

No one really wants to hear about your work; we're all self-interested. And we've been working/interviewing candidates all day, so we want a break. And to get our drink on. Join us for a drink, engage in easy conversation (i.e., get us to talk about ourselves), show humor, but please don't make us work more.

As for the advice to not really drink, some people are more relaxed and loose and funnier when drinking. So figure out if you're one of those people or, more commonly, not.

Anonymous said...

To support the suggestion that the smoker is a chance to meet the philosophers you admire, it's also a chance to meet experts in your field, even if they are not your interviewers and especially if the community in your field is small.

Relationship-building is important in philosophy as it is in the business world. It leads to such benefits as being invited to: speak at a conference, edit a journal or be on its board, contribute to a book or project, get hired later, and so on.

Anonymous said...

Still struggling with the dress for this conference and the interviews

Anonymous said...

I was given the following advice: on the day of the interview, drop by the table(s) of the place(s) you interviewed with just to say (to someone who was actually at the interview) something along the lines of "thanks for talking with me today, I really enjoyed our conversation". (Yes, lie if you must.)

If a conversation naturally comes up, or if there was something at the interview that you'd really like to follow up on, or whatever, then go for it. Otherwise, say "hi" and then walk away. At most places, this will be enough to show that you're not blowing them off -- you took the time to come up and say thanks, after all -- but they will appreciate as much as you the avoidance of any awkward, forced conversations.

That was the advice I was given, and I took it. Was it good advice? From the committee's perspective: Dunno. I'm was a grad student a couple of years ago, and am in a TT job now, so it didn't hurt too much. But it sure made the experience less of a nightmare for me.

Anonymous said...

As for dress, I can only give advice for men but wear a suit and a tie for the interview. You can lose the tie for the smoker. Can you lose the suit? I don't see why not. You can dress "business casual" for the smoker. I tend to wear a sweater and maybe a button down shirt underneath depending upon how fat I've gotten applying for jobs rather than working out. I don't see what's wrong with jeans. I cannot imagine that anyone would remember whether you wore jeans rather than some other sort of pants provided that your top isn't silly and your jeans aren't silly. Eventually someone is going to show up in True Religion jeans, right?

Avoid purple velvet unless you are Prince or a fucking genius who cares more about his genius than future employment.

A rule of thumb is a tie without animals on it.

Don't wear a suit that is too tight, sleazy, flashy.

If the airline loses your luggage like they lost mine last year, you can just wear the same suit you flew in. Otherwise you'd be naked at the smoker. Reminder: I wouldn't pack your suit in a bag you check.

Anonymous said...

Out of all the things to worry about, don't worry about what to wear! (I say this having myself stressed out about it, when in that boat). Anon 6:42 has nailed it for men. Women: wear a suit, unless you feel totally uncomfortable, in which case go for tailored knee length skirt or pants, white collared shirt, nice sweater. If you go for the suit, feel free to ditch it for the smoker and go with the latter.

OK, now go back to worrying about the hard stuff, that actually counts!

All is lost said...

So to sum up the advice so far...

Go to the smoker.
Don't go to the smoker.
Talk about your research.
Don't talk about your research.
Talk about their research?
Don't talk about any research.
Be sociable and strike up a conversation.
Just say 'hi' and walk away.
Don't drink.
Drink just a little.

Basically, you're either fucked or not fucked no matter what you do. So flip and coin and do whatever you happen to do.

I hope the smoker goes up in flames.

Anonymous said...

"All is lost" has captured the insanity of the Great Smoker Debate. More, it's a microcosm of the entire hiring process, from what the hell should I put on or avoid putting on my CV, which order, writing sample--short, long, in between, just one, maybe two, letters (3, 4, 5, 6), blah, blah, blah. It comes down to common sense and screw everyone else make nonsensical judgments.

Or you could said...

try an approach that worked for me: I used the smoker as a chance to interview them. I know the job market is so rough that it's hard to imagine there's a job you don't want, but the smoker's as much a chance to learn about the hiring department and its faculty as it a chance for them to learn more about you. I went to the smokers with a few generic questions to get them talking about themselves: How long have you been at university X? Was that your first tenure-track appointment? (if no) How is X different from where you started? What are the dissertations about that you're advising right now? What are you teaching this/next term? etc. For one, I think this helped me get campus visits (everyone likes to talk about themselves) and in one case, it led me to have serious doubts that I would be happy at a place that interviewed. It may also have boosted my confidence and put me at ease to think that I'm not just selling myself, but that the departments need to sell themselves to me. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

I was given the following advice: on the day of the interview, drop by the table(s) of the place(s) you interviewed with just to say (to someone who was actually at the interview) something along the lines of "thanks for talking with me today, I really enjoyed our conversation". (Yes, lie if you must.)

Yes, this is a very good piece of advice. It's called a fly-by. If they want you to land, they'll let you know. (But don't read too much into it if they don't.)

Also, it's a good idea to get your interviewers to talk about themselves. People (subconsciously) tend to like you more when you allow them to do just that.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:45am:

Still struggling with the dress for this conference and the interviews

Just lose 10 lbs and it will fit just fine.

Anonymous said...

So to sum up the advice so far...

All is Lost,

Awesome summary. Just fucking awesome.

I think I'll just lie down in the corner curled up with Sophie's World and see whether anyone is intrigued enough to come talk to me.

Or were detached and coy already mentioned as good strategies?

Anonymous said...

I will be there as an interviewer. In my opinion, a lot of the advice on this page is dead wrong. Sure, go to the smoker (well-dressed), talk with your friends, be available in case anyone wants to break the ice with you (in which case, they will take the lead). But unless you are very good at acting casual when you fear for your life, don't go visiting tables. We will be judging our candidates on the basis of their work and what they can say about it when called upon to defend it and not on the basis of their schmoozing skills. I can't imagine any other department seeing it differently. You have more to lose than to gain.

Anonymous said...

I just want to say something. Here is a Do. Give up all hope.

I just finished with a phone interview. It was a disaster. I hope that you post a separate thread where we can bitch about what went wrong, that wasn't even our fault, during the interview.

This business has given me nothing but pain and sorry. This business has broken my heart.

onemorebrown said...

One thing you could do after you bomb your interview and make a drunken fool of yourself at the smoker is to head on down to the Philosopher's Jam Session at the Parkside Lounge (url=http://www.parksidelounge.net/)

It starts at 1030 and there will be plenty of opportunity to sing the blues!

Applicantus said...

Anon 10:19, do tell!

Anonymous said...

What night is the philosopher's jam session?

Anonymous said...

I'm a far-along junior professor at a highly ranked PhD program; I did well on the market.

Here is my advice:

Do not stop by any tables of schools who interviewed you unless you have a very good reason to do so. (See below.)

Do not have more than *one* drink, no matter how big a person you are. You should be completely sober. If one drink leaves you tipsy, have no drinks.

Do show up early to the smoker, no later than half an hour after the smoker begins, and hang around the table of *your* school (your PhD-granting department, if you are still in school), so that those who interviewed you can try to find you if they want to. Your obligation is to be at the smoker and to be *available* if they want to talk to you, it is not to go up to talk to them if not sought out by them.

You can leave as early as two hours after the smoker begins, and perhaps even as early as one and a half hours after the smoker begins. Do leave early, and do get to sleep early. You need sleep.

See my next post on what to wear.

Here is the only really good reason to seek out someone who interviewed you: one of your professors (an advisor or the placement person) has had a conversation with the school that interviewed you and learned that they are seriously worried about *this* serious objection to your work, or *this* other issue about you, and you are confident that you can talk to them about it in a way to improve their view of you. (You actually have an answer to that objection, or they think you have no background to teach Kant but really you do . . . ) If you don't have anything good to say on the relevant issue, don't talk to them about it.

Here is not really a good reason to go talk to a school that interviewed you: your own assessment of the interview is that it went quite badly, for *this* specific reason, and you are confident that if you talk to them, then you'll be able to improve their view of you. This is not a good reason because it is very very hard to tell whether an interview went well; often candidates think an interview went well but it didn't; often candidates think an interview went terribly but it went well.

When I am at the APA to interview people, I don't want to talk to people I interviewed at the smoker (unless I have a very specific reason, in which case I'll seek them out). I want to talk to my old friends, who are there in droves and who I never see. Job candidates who seek me out seem grasping and annoying.

If you choose not to take my advice and to go talk to people who interviewed you, I like the advice, given above, to talk to them about themselves--or about some substantive philosophical question--don't try to just "continue the interview" in some way, talking about you and your work, they don't want to do that, they've been interviewing people all day. But I do not like the idea of trying to figure out whether you would like teaching at the school. If that's what you're trying to do, it'll be obvious that that's what you're trying to do, and frankly it's insulting to them, suggesting you genuinely doubt whether you would like it there (and you genuinely doubt whether they are happy in their lives). If you do get a fly-out, you'll learn a lot about the place in a more natural way.

"So keep a drink in your hand, and leave a bit in it so you can provide yourself an excuse to switch conversations by finishing the drink. "
This advice seems very bad to me because it suggests that throughout the evening you should have more than one drink. You should not.

Anonymous said...

continuing my post with advice:


Both men and women should wear suits. You should wear a suit that looks good on you. Men should dress pretty conservatively; I favor blue shirts for men. Women can wear brightly colored shirts or blouses with their suits, that is fine.

Keep wearing your suit at the smoker! I think it is very weird when people change out of their suits, and to me it screams "I can't bear to be here! I can't bear to be wearing this suit! I am so miserable!" Job candidates do feel this way but it's best not to behave as though you feel this way. The smoker is a professional event that is part of the interviewing process. You wear your suit to look like a professional person taking the interview seriously; take the smoker seriously too. Also, most job candidates do keep wearing their suits at the smoker, and it's a good idea to be identifiable as a job candidate.

onemorebrown said...

Oh Sorry! It's Monday December 28th

Tamler said...

The suggestions not to drink or to have just one drink are insane and irresponsible. If ever there was an occasion that calls for heavy consumption of alcohol it's the smoker.

Anonymous said...

Sorry--what night is the smoker? I just got a totally unexpected reason to go.