Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Interview Successes

Although I would hate to derail the amusing and enlightening discussion of fucked-up interview experiences that is now ongoing, I do want to start a parallel discussion of interviews that did not go poorly. In this thread, we tell stories about interviews we nailed.*

Unfortunately, I don't have any (true) story about the time I hit it out of the park, but I have had a couple of interviews that went well enough that I didn't think it was crazy to imagine that I'd get the flyout or the offer. One interview with a Ph.D.-granting department focused on my research (of course). They said they wanted to talk about my writing sample, but what they really wanted to talk about were all the deeper issues that didn't specifically come up in my writing sample but which were hiding slightly under the surface. All the assumptions you have to make in order to get to the point where my question comes up. So, if my writing sample was a defense of utilitarianism from the Organ Harvest objection (it wasn't), they wanted to talk about whether there was any such thing as moral permissibility, in the first place, at all. The nice thing about it is that I was familiar with these deeper issues, thought they were really interesting, had thought about them a lot, and had a near-final draft of a paper in which I respond to exactly the arguments they were pushing. And so I was able to present what I considered to be cogent, well-thought-out responses to their questions. (The paper has since come out in a pretty good journal.) I thought the discussion went really well, and I was really bummed when I didn't get the on-campus. I'm still not sure what, if anything, I did wrong there. In all honesty, I'm not sure I have it in me to give a better interview than that.

--Mr. Zero

*I was trying to think of what the opposite of a "fuck-up" is, and it seemed that it would have to be `fuck-down.' But I didn't think that a post called "Interview Fuck-Downs" would attract the kind of attention I was looking for. So I went with the more pedestrian 'successes' as a clearer alternative.

62 comments:

Anonymous said...

Did you ask them for feed-back? Do you sometimes/always ask for feed-back on unsuccessful applications? When you get it, is this feed-back useful?

Mr. Zero said...

No, I've never done that. I didn't realize it was something people do. I always figured that communications like that from unsuccessful applicants would not be welcomed. Is that something people do?

Anonymous said...

I've been strongly advised to do it - obviously, in cases when I had at least been shortlisted for an interview. So far, I haven't learned a tremendous amount of new stuff, but it did not hurt either and it can be a good way to infirm or confirm one's (worst?) suspicions...

Anonymous said...

I've been strongly advised to specifically NOT ask for feedback.

If there's something blatantly wrong about you or your application that it would be a problem anywhere, someone else (adviser, colleagues, etc) will be able to tell you about it. If, on the other hand, there reason for dismissing you was specific to them, you gain nothing from learning about it that will help you elsewhere. When the space between getting a job and not getting a job is really a matter of the search committee's opinion, you don't win by asking them about it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:52 here. Right, it must be a cultural difference here. I live (and apply) in continental Europe. Nobody but me has ever seen any of my applications before sending them. Nobody at the uni that granted my PhD ever gave any advice to future graduates concerning the market (or even concerning publishing.) Actually, the only person who ever gave me this kind of advice was my last boss. Under these circumstances, asking may be a source of valuable info.

RexII said...

I was told not to ask for feedback. because it was unlikely that I would get any meaningful response. If I asked too soon, they wouldn't tell me, because I might still be on the list. If I waited until they hired someone to ask, they'd have forgotten much of what happened during my interview. So I've never asked. But I don't see what harm it can do to ask.

Two bits of anecdotal evidence re: interview success.

When I finally got my job, I was told that what the committee really liked was how genuine I seemed in the interview. I came across as very honest and open, and they felt they knew exactly who they would be getting.

A friend described a similar experience. He was frustrated after several unsuccessful years on the market and ready to leave philosophy. He had one more Central APA interview. He thought, "fuck it," and just "told the truth," as he put it. He wasn't worried about how he came across during the interview, because he had one foot out the door of philosophy anyway. He just decided to be himself. He got that job, and was later told that the committee loved his relaxed manner, and felt the interview was more like a really interesting conversation about his work.

So you know that scene at the end of Tin Cup, where McAvoy just keeps trying to hit the green over the water? That's the sweet spot for some of us.

Anonymous said...

I don't have anything helpful to add to the discussion, except how about "Interview Fuck Yeahs."

Filosofer said...

One important lesson from Mr. Zero's original post is this: it's possible to do exceptionally well in an interview and still not make the cut. The university in question can probably afford to bring 2-5 candidates to campus. They're probably interviewing 10-20 people at the APA. You may be amazing. They may really, truly love you. The sad truth is that they may love other candidates just a little bit more. In this profession, hiring departments suffer from an embarrassment of riches--there are a lot of awfully good candidates out there.

In other words: don't think that you did something wrong if you don't get an on-campus interview.


And in other news, I suggest that the opposite of 'fuck-up' is 'modestly and graciously abstain'. I fear that's insufficiently crass for this blog, though.

Anonymous said...

The opposite of a fuck up is an epic win.

(WV scracc. As in "I've got to scracc my bocci")

Anonymous said...

Fuck-up to success story. I had a phone interview after the APA. Arrangements were made but due to a time zone screw-up, I was still looking after my 3 month old baby when they called. My husband was due home to look after the baby in another 45 mins!!! I conducted the first half of the interview juggling my screaming baby and attempting to answer questions about my dissertation. They were polite and said perhaps they could call back in a day but I refused. Luckily my husband arrived home early and I finished the rest of the interview OK in peace. I thought I had totally screwed my chances. They called for an on-campus interview the next day and I got the job. Got tenure 2 years ago.

Prof. Kate said...

Success, part one of two:
In a lovely other-end-of-the-rankings moment, contra the Carleton College story in Fuck-Ups,
I interviewed at a small gem of a public liberal arts college a decade ago (hi, St. Mary's of Maryland!). In the meeting with the administrators, I commented, "Hey, I see you guys cracked the Top 100 in the US News and World Report rankings." Since they were a young, struggling public with an endowment of just a few million, they LOVED when I said that. They were very happy to note their progress as an increasingly recognized pocket of awesomeness. But yeah, I interviewed at Carleton once, too, and they did not seem keen on mention of their comparatively elite status.

Success, part two: I arrived late to St. Mary's campus (not my fault, it was Bush's inauguration day), sat down to a dinner that had already started, and was promptly asked by the chair, "Your writing sample mentions philosophers who were in some sense ecologically aware and in other ways fascists, and I was wondering, like WHO, for instance?" So I went right to the card-carrying Nazi member credited with inspiring deep ecology: "Well, Heidegger, for one." And the man to my right, the most senior member of the department, looked afronted and said, "Heidegger was the most important philosopher of the 20th century." Blast, I thought, I've literally been here five minutes and blown it. Immediately after dinner was my job talk: I improvised (fuck it, why not? I've BLOWN it!) that "sure, one could take the Nazi's side, like my friend Alan, here," and waved at the senior scholar. And he laughed! He laughed so awesomely! They hired me days later.

Moral: Sometimes you can semi-fuck-up, and still succeed, as long as the department is filled with pretty cool cats.

wv: polog (heh)

Anonymous said...

The last time I chaired a search committee, I ended up having several conversations with unsuccessful candidates who wanted feedback on their applications, interview(s), and/or general candidacies. I made every effort to be obliging, honest (within reason), and helpful while at the same time trying to be warm and considerate. (I don't know if I succeeded, but I tried.)

That said, I would not recommend that candidates ask to have such conversations. First, it's extremely unlikely that we'll be able to tell you straight out why your candidacy was unsuccessful. (How do you tell someone that one of your colleagues is a douchebag or lacks good sense? or that it was practically a flip of the coin? or that they made a horrifically bad impression on the Dean? or...and so on...you get the idea.) It's a hideously unpleasant conversation to have with an unsuccessful candidate, and for the most part, one that is extremely unlikely to provide any useable information.

But the main reason was suggested by Filosopher above: In nearly all cases, we would have been thrilled to offer any of the candidates we brought to campus the job. And probably the same is true for nearly all the candidates we interviewed at the APA. So the real answer is, "Hell, you were great! You deserve the job here more than I do. But we had to choose someone and, for reasons I wish were significantly more explicable (to me), but just aren't, we didn't choose you."

Anonymous said...

Annon 2:34

I would be very surprised if anyone is interviewing 20 people. That is a crazy ammount. 10 even seems to be on the high end. I'm on a sc now. We are interviewing 3. That is admittedly low. But most places it is 7--12. None of this l, i know, affects the point you are making.

Anonymous said...

I got an interview and went to update the wiki. The job isn't even there to update. ??

Anonymous said...

I just had a good laugh over David Stove's classic article: "The Intellectual Capacity of Women".

Jeff Wisdom said...

I was on the market in 2010. I interviewed with a total of four schools, which netted me three fly-outs. Two of the three schools offered me a job afterward. More importantly, the search committees at each of these schools were comprised of genuinely decent people. So take heart, job candidates: despite the horror stories you've read, some search committees will be kind to you when they interview you. And (loosely paraphrasing Socrates), if the people that interview you are wise, they will not mistreat you. If they are unwise, their opinion of you doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

In response to 3:23pm: Being on a search committee puts you in a rare epistemic position. If you interviewed candidate X, then you are one of a very small number of people who have actually seen candidate X give a real interview (as against a mock interview, which is a very different animal). So, I think, if you want candidate X to succeed in future interviews, then you can provide invaluable help by giving honest feedback. At the same time, you're obviously under no obligation to give such feedback. It's a favor (and a big one), not a duty.

Scott H. said...

Perhaps I'm an idiot, but I don't intend to be preparing any canned answers to canned questions for interviews.

And if I'm asked canned questions, I'll assume they're not looking for canned responses. In fact, I think charity requires that one assume this.

Furthermore, it seems to me that it should be pretty easy to detect whether or not the interviewee is giving a canned response they've planned in advance. If I was asking that kind of canned question, I'd probably be looking to rule OUT candidates who respond with canned answers.

Worse, I'd wonder why this candidate wasted so much time on trying to predict questions that might be asked in order to appear to be a good interviewee, rather than spending that time on producing good philosophy or working on teaching philosophy better, etc...

Work on being a good person and a good candidate, not a "good" interviewee. Then go be that good person and good candidate.

Anonymous said...

I just want to register that I think Scott H. is giving terrible advice.

You *must* prepare answers to questions, since there are (kinds of) questions that are sure to come up. You only have a short time to convey info, and ad libbing often conveys far less info than prepared answers.

My advice:
Do not memorize prose. It feels artificial to recite it, and search committees will know the answer is "canned". Instead, memorize outlines -- literally bullet point you answers, and organize your thoughts. This way, you can ad lib the *way* you say it, without having to ad lib content on the fly.

Worked for me anyway.

doris said...

On interview feedback:

It is less awkward, and potentially more informative, if someone on your committee or your placement director does the asking, esp. if they know someone at the searching department.

My committee and PD were happy to do this for me, and while its quite true that social niceties, self protection, and the fact that a lot of candidates may be highly qualified can limit what is learned, there is still the potential for useful feedback. Even if they pay attention, people in your program can't see you as others see you, esp. when the others are at different sorts of programs.

I occasionally get asked for feedback when on an SC, and I don't regard this as an imposition, even when I don't have anything useful to say.

Anonymous said...

What is a "Placement Director"? Because my graduate program didn't have any such. I hear it's really helpful (provided the right person is in the position).

Anonymous said...

Here's my success story. When I was on the market I obsessively read whatever material I could find about the whole job search process. This was before blogs like this existed (late 90's / early aughts), and so I mainly found generic things about academic interviews. One piece of advice, which I've seen here too, was to read some material written by the faculty who will interview you. It's basic obvious advice. So, I did it. For both conference interviews and flyouts, I read everything I could get my hands on. I did this for everyone, including Deans and other administrators who had been out of research for a while. (I should add that none of these were top research schools, but most had some research component). Anyway it served me well. In surprisingly many cases the interviewers seemed genuinely pleased--even a bit startled in some cases--that I had read their work, and I suspect this shot me to the top of a few lists. I ended up with a few offers and a job I am happy with.

Scott Hendricks said...

I am torn. I want to agree with Scott H. for the sole reason that I am also a "Scott H." (Solidarity!) But I think that there is some merit to 3:55's criticism. (Although saying it is "terrible advice" is perhaps overstating things.)

It is really quite important to spend a great deal of time considering, and even rehearsing, various possible answers to certain standard questions (questions that any candidate should expect to be asked). For example, you will want to have practiced answering the question "What is your dissertation about?" hundreds of times. No joke.

The more you practice answering these questions, the more likely it is that your answers in an actual interview will be both natural sounding and articulate.

zombie said...

10:16 -- in my grad dept, the "placement advisor" was the faculty member assigned for the year to assist jobseekers with the process. The year I first went on the market, it was a completely incompetent junior faculty who really couldn't have been less helpful. I ended up getting help and advice by going around him and reaching out to other professors.

But many schools also have a career office/service to help grads find jobs, and a placement director might also be someone there.

Mr. Zero said...

Because this thread has started to cool off, I would like to formally request additional stories of fuck-downs. I realize, of course, that it is easier to fuck an interview up than it is to fuck it down, and so it's only natural that the fuck-ups thread be the longer of the two. But I think there are a lot of good fuck-down stories out there that haven't been told. It doesn't have to be the world's greatest interview; you don't even have to have gotten the flyout; it just has to have been a good interview.

We want to hear about your fuck downs, Smokers.

Anonymous said...

So I interviewed at Wellesley a few years ago and had a really fun interview. I knew going in that I had little chance of landing the job (I don't come from a Leiterific school), but the interview was really well done. They had actually looked up and read old publications of mine (including some published stuff from my undergrad days!) and had detailed and thoughtful comments and questions. We had a wonderful philosophical debate about a host of topics (both in and out of my AOS). btw, the faculty who interviewed me were both super-friendly and *much* smarter than me. I didn't get an on-campus but was happy just to have such a good philosophical discussion.

Anonymous said...

2:28 - I interviewed with Wellesley last year and had pretty much the same experience as you. I wanted that job so badly. Like you, I'm not Leiterific, but I believed I would get an on-campus, right up to the moment I found out I wasn't getting one.

Anonymous said...

I was lucky enough to get several interviews (and later several offers) my first year on the job market. I don't remember all of the details from my interviews, mostly because it was such a whirlwind process, but here are a few of the things that either I think helped my interviews go well and/or was told by interviewers went well:

I think I was pretty successful at just being myself during my interviews. One of the things that helped me do this was that I continually reminded myself that I only wanted them to hire me if they wanted to hire me. That may sound stupid, but I wanted to make sure that my interviewers got a sense of who I was, not some alter-interviewee-version-of-myself. I maintained an "if it is meant to be it will be, if not, then not" attitude.

I made eye contact with each interviewer several times throughout each interview. I genuinely was interested in what they had to stay and tried to really listen to them so that I could understand what they were asking.

When it wasn't clear what someone was asking, I asked them to clarify their questions, sometimes asking if they meant XYZ.

When I didn't know how to answer a question right away, I paused for as long as I needed (as I do when giving a talk or teaching) before answering. And if I was genuinely perplexed or hadn't read whatever it was someone was referring to, I said as much. I know at least a few times I happily acknowledged that I had thought about QRS issue in that way and would be sure to think some more about it.

I followed up (by email) with anyone who had suggested I look at a particular author/paper/book and/or who helped me think about something in a new way.

I offered multiple explanations to tough questions, pausing to ask if I was making sense along the way. (I was later told by one interviewer that because of this they could tell right away that I would be a good teacher, which was important since this came from someone at a SLAC.)

I did my research in advance and asked specific questions about whatever school I was interviewing at. Since my work has an interdisciplinary aspect to it, I often asked how common it is for professors in different departments to collaborate with each other, about a specific interdisciplinary program on campus, and/or how many joint majors they have.

I smiled a lot and tried to be genuinely friendly. Given that I am a very optimistic, outgoing person, this was pretty easy for me.

This is more relevant to on campus interviews, but I asked questions about things that would pertain to my personal life (housing, food, etc.), but tried to maintain appropriate boundaries. When I felt uncomfortable answering a question (e.g., that seemed like it was probing about whether or not I want children), I said as much and steered the conversation elsewhere.

(The only thing I kick myself for is when I was hit on by someone on the hiring committee and didn't say anything about it... but then again I got the offer and the reason I didn't say anything was that I worried it would undermine my chances.)

Anonymous said...

I had an interview once for a position that involved running a center for ethics while teaching a course a semester. The job was in a place I'd always wanted to live, and I really wanted it, despite the administrative side. The job was advertised as a 12 month position, and when asked in the interview if I was ok with this kind of a job, for some reason I got confused and asked, "You mean, I'd have to worry about sick days?" The interview ended abruptly.

Anonymous said...

This is an old tale told by an idiot signifying little if not nothing, but I'm 1-for-1 on interviews. Tenured for years now.

And as I found out years later--that was against an internal candidate who was almost assured to have the job.

What happened? Well these were days in which candidates sometimes were flown out together (as still happens in Europe). So as it happened I met another candidate on the plane going to the interview! Only later did I know we two were used as window-dressing for the internal candidate.

And we three things for candidacy were (can you hear the seasonal tune in your head?) all taken to lunch together too.

I was the last interview after lunch. A committee member approached me prior to the interview--"I'm not able to sit in on your interview due to an emergency--but I'm voting for you because you were the only interesting person at lunch". (And--I ordered one local-brew beer at lunch BTW--part of the impression I made as it turned out.)

Well that inspired me. I just was myself, as I was at lunch, and let fly at the interview--no pretension, no posturing, enthusiastic about the location and position, and even made jokes (about myself). So--here I am, an excellent second-class tenured philosopher with a satisfying career.

On the flight back from the interview, I changed planes in Chicago. I literally ran into Bo Derek (apologetically) feverishly trying to make my connection.

Got a job and ran into Bo Derek in one day. Not bad.

Anonymous said...

I had an interview with almost 20 SC members in the room, and I could only less about 8 of them. Really, I could only have a normal conversation with about 3, but I could probably make eye contact with a few more than that. It started out very awkward, with questions from people who couldn't see me and who I could not see.

Then one guy, sitting closest to me, the only one I could really see, starting asking really interesting and fast paced questions about my writing sample. he was asking really technical things about a particular subfield that no one else was in a position to know anything about.

I tried for a while to respond in a way that attempted to render the issue comprehensible to the many invisible and puzzled people in the room. But after five minutes, I realized it was a disaster, and I could eiher answer the superinteresting questions, or do the interview properly for all involved. I gave up on the interview.

And this one guy and I proceeded to have probably the most interesting discussion (certainly the most fast paced, which I enjoy) on my writing sample I have yet had with anyone. It was twenty minutes of totally fucking awesome.

Turns out the rest of the committee just wanted to watch that show. They complimented us both afterwards. I got a flyout, although not the job offer. When that piece comes out, there will be a warm thank you to that one committee member for his contribution.

Anonymous said...

My success story:

I got a job, and one I'm happy with. And to be honest, at the time, I couldn't have told you why. That is, I felt as good about this interview as I felt about others, for jobs I was not offered. (In fact, the job I got was the only one I had a campus interview for, which surprised me because I felt I nailed all the interviews - but one - equally.)

I was later told that the pool was strong (of course; I know the market situation), but the decision was easy. We were all equally qualified, but the SC felt I was a better fit. They liked my energy, and the way I interacted with faculty and students. And to be honest, I don't recall doing anything special on that front.

One cannot underestimate fit.

Anonymous said...

If you ask for feedback, you are not likely to get an honest response. In the event there was something specifically bad in your interview or materials, the SC will not want to invite a defensive conversation (or lawsuit!) over the specific point. In the event there was just a better candidate who won out, you won't get any more than the vague consolations of a standard PFO. Even roundabout questions such as "how could I have improved my presentation?" are unlikely to yield anything useful.

Anonymous said...

I got a job that I didn't think I could get. I knew (academia is a small place) that there was an internal candidate who had been promised the job. I was being flown out, so I thought, to give an impression of a fair contest. I almost didn't go, so much had I been told that the job belonged to the other philosopher. As I was deciding whether to go or not (it was a long flight, away from the family, I'd have to cancel three days of classes (I had a VAP), and so forth) I got contacted by another school wanting to fly me out. I decided to use the school with an internal candidate as 'batting practice' as it were. I figured that if they were going to use me, then I'd use them just to have a warm up for the next interview, where I had a shot.

I went to the interview convinced that I couldn't get the job and it really was like batting practice. I was relaxed, comfortable, I taught as good of a class as I have ever done, presented my research better than I'd ever done before (I was able to move between profound and funny and back, which I don't usually do), and I was positively charming the whole day. I got back on the plane, having enjoyed meeting the department but mostly happy and confident that I could do well on the next interview. The next thing I heard from the university was when the provost needed to schedule an telephone appointment with me, but he was in China, so timing was difficult. At that point, I realized that something was up. I got the job, accepted it, and cancelled the interview with the other school (who insisted I come down anyway - nothing succeeds like success! - but for personal, family reasons the earlier job was far preferrable and I took the initial offer).

I wonder how I would have done had I not known about the internal candidate. I performed as well as I did, in part because of how relaxed I was because I was sure that I wasn't getting the job.

My two cents: Getting a job means being better than the competition, by whatever metric the committee values, for that one day in front of that one group of people.

Anonymous said...

After a flyout interview that went very well, I was the highly favored second choice. Alas, I did not get the job. When the chair of the department called me and told me I was really talented, it was a hard choice (which I appreciated), but that the department was offereing the position to another candidate, he offered something strange and I wonder if anyone else has ever heard of this. He offered to write a letter for my application file - a letter of recommendation - to say how impressed he'd been with my file and what a great philosopher I was. I stammered 'Thank you' and told I'd be in touch if I needed his help, but for the life of me can't think this would be useful or helpful. It would seem to come across as 'Well, that philosopher is good, really good, but not quite good enough for us. I think he'd suit you nicely, though."

Has anyone ever heard of this? Am I missing the point of this letter? Did I miss out by not taking him up on the offer (if it matters, he's not famous nor is the school particularly)?

zombie said...

There seems to be a running theme here: the more relaxed you are, the better you do in interviews. My success story: I had a fly-out to a school that was pretty far down on my list of places I wanted to be, mostly for geographical reasons. I had already been told I was the only candidate getting a fly-out. These things combined to make me pretty relaxed the whole time. I found the department to be exceptionally friendly, liked the school, and found the area really charming. I was offered the job, got a great offer, and asked for more time to think about it because I had another fly-out pending. I ended up taking the job and withdrawing from the other search.

So, the moral is, relax. Meditate, or drink some chamomile tea, or something. But REMAIN CALM.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the point about being relaxed: when I applied for my current job, I already had another job (and was trying to move because it was a better situation for my partner). That took some of the pressure off. Also, I was convinced another finalist (who I knew), was certain to get the job, since he had co-authored a paper with the chair of the search committee. I figured he had the inside track. But I went to the campus visit (there was no APA interview), thought of it as good practice, had a lot of fun talking about my research, meeting people, etc.
And then, much to my surprise, I got the offer.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a running theme here: the more relaxed you are, the better you do in interviews.

Given the literature on confabulation, I wouldn't bet on this.

Anonymous said...

I have a question regarding an APA interview that I'm hoping will be a success:

I've been investigating the department website. In doing so, I have become greatly curious how a certain faculty member teaches a certain course required for majors, due to its Herculean description in the course catalog. (This is also a course that I might very well be asked to teach, were I to get the job.)

At what point -- before, during, or after the interview -- is it appropriate to contact this professor and say, "I'm really curious how you design a course that even remotely meets the course description. Could I see a copy of your syllabus? What books do you use? Etc."

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:39: This seems like the perfect "do you have any questions" question! You could note that you saw X course was taught and that you have an interest in teaching it. How is it typically done? You might ask the question generally, without targeting the faculty member who normally teaches it. And I guess mentioning that you are interested in teaching it should be contingent upon whether you have a reasonable expectation that they'd like you to do so, so you don't step on any toes.

zombie said...

I would be careful about saying that you're interested in teaching the course. Some people can be very territorial about their courses.

Anonymous said...

I just accepted (today) a tenure-track asst. prof. job offer at a great school, in a great location, with an great salary, amazing travel budget, etc - with a research teaching load.
I'm floored. I never expected this, particularly before the APA!

I did my fly out a couple weeks ago, and it went amazing. Here's what went down:

The first night I flew in, the SC took me out to dinner at a really nice place. The dinner went great -- over 3 hours, just me and the SC. We laughed, we told stories, we had great wine, we talked research, we talked teaching, we talked about everything. But then I realized: this is just the start, TOMORROW is the real test.

The next day was nuts. It started at 8am with a 1-on-1 interview with a prof in the dept. That went for 30 mins and he then escorted me to another prof. for another 30 min. interview, which she then took me down the hall to another, and so on. This went on, ALL MORNING, non-stop, without a break, from 8am until 12:00. At 12:00, rather than a break, I had to go IMMEADIATELY into the class I was teaching to their students. I scrambled to pull out my notes and handouts as I started doing my thing. The class went very well, except that I think I spoke too fast. (I found out later, I was the students top choice.)

From that talk I went right to a lunch meeting with another fac member. From that, I was back to the grinder of 1-on-1 (and occasional 2-on-1) interviews until 4pm, at which time I was brought into another room and told to go straight into my 90 minute job talk with the entire dept!

The job talk went fantastic. I knew my shit, was able to answer some tough questions, and at a couple points conceded some very good points (I think they liked this). I had researched my butt off for the interview, so I drew in some of the various faculty member's research and connect it to what I was presenting or how I was responding to questions on the fly.

They called me the next week and said I was their # 1 choice and they were willing to do whatever it took to hire me. I was completely shocked, but also didn't know what to make about their timing demand before the APA. They were very forthright about it: They wanted to get me before I had other offers. Given the hellishness of the market, my mentors and I decided I should absolutely, unquestionably take the "bird in the hand" offer, rather than turn it down and risk the very likely possibility of not getting anything or a lessor offer. They made me a very strong offer. So we accepted. (Today, officially.)

What went well in the interview? Well, I was relaxed (or tried to be, even though it was grueling). I was personable and friendly and tried to act like a colleague or peer with each faculty member, not a grad student. I was confident, I think, but not overbearing and also deferential towards the faculty's very impressive work, and I tried to be humble in criticism and really reflect on various discussions, rather than just give canned, prepared answers. With the students, I was dynamic and had a lot of energy. I think energy is key - and being interesting. I had the choice to teach on what I wanted, so I picked a very interesting topic.

Finally, I think the main reason I was insanely lucky to land this was because of the hard work I've been doing the past 4 years:

-I've got 7 journal articles and book chapters, a couple of them in very strong journals
-I have a book forthcoming from a top academic press
-I have several smaller pubs, like reviews and conference proceedings
-And I've presented a LOT, at all kinds of conferences, all over the world.

So, the real moral of the story is:
PUBLISH! And THEN go kick ass when you get an interview.

(One last note: I'm NOT from a top 10 Leiter school. I'm also only ABD and defend in the Spring, and this is my 1st year on the market.)

Anonymous said...

Wow, congrats to 1:02 AM.
You wrote a book before you finished your dissertation? Huh. Is that common?

Anonymous said...

"-I've got 7 journal articles and book chapters, a couple of them in very strong journals
-I have a book forthcoming from a top academic press
-I have several smaller pubs, like reviews and conference proceedings
-And I've presented a LOT, at all kinds of conferences, all over the world."


Well, if this is what one needs to do *prior to defending* in order to get a job, I think we're all pretty much FUCKED!

Anonymous said...

To answer 8:07,
No I didn't write a book before I defended my dissertation.

I got a book proposal accepted for publication from a top academic press before I defended my dissertation! There's a big difference! :) Now I can say it's under-contract and forthcoming on my CV, but the thing is not anywhere near done yet.
(And much/most of it IS my dissertation or is drawn from work related to my dissertation.)

zombie said...

Congratulations, Anon 1:02!

Anonymous said...

To Anon 1:02:

Congratulations. That's awesome.

I do hope you realize how lucky you are, however. Like you, I'm ABD at a non-Leiterrific school. I've also published seven or so articles in top journals in my area, and I have presented at a lot of conferences, some of them fairly prestigious. In spite of this, I think my efforts on the job market this year may not be rewarded. Admittedly, I don't have a book deal, which is a *huge* deal (again, congrats, that's awesome).

But I think it's important to realize that the advice you give doesn't automatically lead to a job. There's still a lot of luck involved, even if you've done everything right.

So when you advise up-and-coming graduate students, please let them know that, while they obviously should publish, the job market might still eat them up and spit them out.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with 9:05 - most of us may be f-ed. I mean is it common for an ABD to have that many publications prior to defending? I just think it is unreasonable for the profession to expect this of people. But I guess it just really may be that much of a buyer's market out there. God help me.

zombie said...

Anon 1:02 is an outlier -- most ABDs don't have nearly that many pubs, or a book deal. Which is a substantial ingredient of 1:02's success. But I have no doubt that 1:02 also interviewed well. I don't know what program 1:02 is in, but they seem to have done a good job getting her/him ready for the job market.

I suspect many philosophy grads are ill-served by their depts when it comes to providing substantive advice about getting published. I got nothing on that score. I got very little substantive advice about the job market, applications, dossiers, etc. I don't know how these things are done in other departments, but my sense is that some provide more support than others. Jeff McMahan appears to rock as the placement advisor at Rutgers, if their placement record is any indication.

Anonymous said...

Not to knock super-star's impressive record, but seven articles in good journals is a lot more impressive than a book deal. In fact, a single article in a top 10-5 article is generally more impressive than a book contract. Books are easy are much easier to get accepted than articles, far, far easier no matter the publisher.

Anonymous said...

Here's a perspective to balance against 1:02's self-report. I'm not on a search committee this year, but I have been several times in the recent past. And my research-oriented department is hiring this year (not in my area). I can say with great confidence that from our point of view you do not need to publish while in graduate school. I'm pretty sure every member of my department shares the view that it is pernicious to expect graduate students to publish.

We think graduate school is simply not the place to be developing work directly for publication. We did not ourselves publish in graduate school. We were all churning out top-tier publications by the time we were half-way through the tenure-track, but we did not even try to publish anything earlier. We shudder to imagine the garbage that we would have tried to published -- and perhaps succeeded in publishing! -- had we felt pressured to publish earlier. And here's the point: we don't want younger philosophers to have to act differently.

If we have two writing samples from ABDs or new Ph.Ds that seem equally good, it really doesn't matter from our point of view that one but not the other of them has been accepted for publication. Really. It does not matter.

Of course, anyone who is a year or more past the Ph.D. should be trying to publish. We would expect a publication or two from someone who is, say, three years past the Ph.D. All the anxieties expressed in this thread do make sense in that scenario. So by all means write your dissertation with an eye to potential publications. Prepare to begin submitting stuff as soon as you defend. But don't -- please don't! -- let the pressure to publish directly guide your graduate education.

Alas, other departments apparently don't share our sensibility. So maybe you shouldn't follow this advice. We think that's a real loss. We think the hyper-professionalization of philosophy -- undergraduates are now trying to publish, in order to get a leg up on the competition in grad-school applications! -- is a real loss for philosophy. An education in philosophy just doesn't work like that.

We wish our colleagues in other departments could see the damage they're doing when they valorize publishing by ABDs. (Consider how hard you work educating anonymous young philosophers in your referee's reports! Wouldn't it be better if you could devote those energies to your own graduate students?)

Unknown said...

Anon 1:02

Where?

Anonymous said...

In response to 5:56, I'm a grad student at a top leiter deparmtent this year, and your advice is consistent with what we're generally told; don't worry about publishing in grad school, give your work time to mature, etc.

I didn't really follow that advice, and I have to say I'm happy I didn't. While my writing sample isn't published, I do have a few publications from work that didn't end up going into my dissertation (I thought it might, but ended up going in a different direction) in very good journals, and I'm pretty sure that's been helping me on the market this year.

What's sad is that you (and the faculty at my department) might be totally right about what would be best for the profession, but that doesn't mean that it's in the interest of individual graduate students to follow that advice.

Anonymous said...

I just have to respond to Anon 5:30.

I think what you just said is total nonsense.

Books are hard to publish. The only people who say they aren't are people who have never published a book with a top (or even mid-level) press.

A book with a solid university press (Cambridge, Oxford, Chicago, MIT, Princeton, Harvard, etc.) is worth far more than one, two, three, or even four articles in top journals.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that publishing in good-quality journals is the easiest way to prove to hiring committees that you can publish in good-quality journals. Journals should adopt a rule against publishing grad students' work. That's the only way I see to nip this collective action problem in the bud. You're not going to get grad students to voluntarily abstain from trying to publish, given the huge incentive to do so.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 1:02 here.

Sorry for the delay, I'm generally in a tequila induced haze most days. (And, yes, I do plan on getting drunk at the Smoker since I'm happily now cancelling my APA interviews.)

I'll respond to a few questions, except those that would break my anonymity. (As to the "where" question, I'll only say that I haven't posted anything about it on the Phylo Wiki, and I don't see it on there. There's a lot more out there than just what's shown on the wiki!)

First, to Anon. 9:05. No, I don't think everyone is fucked if you haven't published a crazy amount pre-defense. But I DO think that in this market you need to have published at least something good.

To others:

-- I agree that I got insanely lucky. I was not expecting this kind of good fortune and was hoping for a job, any job. There is so much incredible amounts of luck involved with all this that it's absurd. (From pubs themselves, to the timing of your specialty with job hiring, etc., etc.). I will say that, yes, Zombie is right, I think I did very well in the interview. (They flew out 5 candidates -- I was the top choice, even though the others all had, I was told, better schools and impressive pubs.) A lot of that was hard work and preparation for the interview (as mentioned above), and a lot of it was just my personality type, I think. In general, I tend to interview well. That's actually why I published so much -- because I knew if I could just get an interview, I'd have a chance.

-- I also agree that it should NOT be the case that grads should have to publish BEFORE they defend or go on the market. It's a ridiculous situation. BUT THAT IS REALITY. YES, you are right, most of the people on SCs didn't pub before they were on the market -- and they didn't have to. How nice for them. But I was given very good advice from my program, very early on: "You shouldn't have to publish -- in a better world you wouldn't have to publish. This is a crappy reality. But in this market, if you want a job (especially since the school in non-Lieterific), you NEED to publish." I don't like the reality of this. But that's the situation now. The game has changed!

-- Finally, I wholeheartedly agree that my peer-review journal articles are much more important (AND MUCH HARDER TO DO) than landing a book deal.

Anonymous said...

To Anon. 12:40 (this is Anon 1:02 again): I disagree.

My book deal is a with a top academic publisher (one that you mentioned). Granted: IT'S NOT DONE YET! But it is under contract. And, yes, it was a hell of a lot of work just to get a contract.

BUT... publishing in a top-tier peer-reviewed journal is an insanely hard thing to do.

Which is "worth" more? I have no idea. But a top-tier peer-reviewed journal article is just a crazy hard thing to pull off. The acceptance rates are so insanely low that, well, everytime anyone gets on it's borderline like winning the lottery. That's why I view my (best) journal articles as more important.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 12:07pm over against 5:56am's advice.

I am at a Leiter top-3 dept, and have heard advice like that from 5:56am. And the spirit of the advice is correct insofar as lots of my colleagues have gotten great jobs at top-25 depts with having published nothing or almost nothing.

But the problem is that even if one's work is good enough to get the attention of SCs at such depts, it seems perfectly clear that the job applicants with papers forthcoming in the very best journals get more in the way of interviews and flyouts. If your writing sample is as good as A's, but A's writing sample is forthcoming in Mind (and yours isn't), that's going to sway most SCs toward A (and often away from you).

Anecdotal: I've recently learned that 2 other job applicants from top-10 depts, who work in my AOS, each have a paper forthcoming in Phil Review! (in addition to other awesome-looking pubs). And they're getting interviews with/flyouts to top jobs that I'm not getting.

Now of course, it doesn't follow from this that they got these *because* of their pubs; indeed, they may have gotten similar attention from SCs even without such publications. But it's hard to imagine that such publications did not count heavily in their favor with SCs; and it's similarly hard to imagine that I might not be faring better if I also had a paper coming out in Mind/Nous/Phil Review etc. (even though I do have 3 pubs in great journals).

I think advice like 5:56's was more apt (when given to those getting PhDs from the top-10ish depts) before the economic downturn; these days, the competition appears to be so fierce that it can only help you to have pubs in good journals.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'd like to note something that should be a given, but perhaps isn't.

So I have been on two search committees. I know several who have also served on multiple search committees. We all work at a variety of schools (top research, SLAC, teaching heavy small state school, etc.).

Yes, publications can matter. Of course. And where you have published also matters. Of course. But what seems to get lost in the conversation is that *what* you publish also matters. When looking at application files, you may be judged based on what you are working on. Sometimes, if you know someone with fewer publications getting interviews you are not getting, it may be that SC are more interested in that person's research. Yes, you may work in the same area, but that person's research may be more interesting to us. And yes, we have actually used this as a criterion in our meetings.

I'm sure you all know this already, but it bears repeating for those who seem to think that our evaluation of CVs stops at counting lines or scanning for journal name. We very often care what it is you are working on, and not just which top journals decide to publish your work.

zounds said...

I just want to weigh in on the articles vs book issue.

I'm looking at two CV's. One has 4 articles in excellent journals. One has a book on Oxford UP. Everything else being equal, 4 articles (or 3, or maybe just 2) probably wins. I have no idea what the basis for 12:40's remarks might be.

(Of course, there's still something ridiculous about this. What is it for all other things to be equal? For the thought experiment to work, I've got to imagine that the quality, draw, and impact of the scholarship is "equal," and I have no idea what that really means or how I'd ever arrive at such a determination. I've been on SC's and fortunately I've never had to pretend like I could make such judgments.)

Anonymous said...

2:19, you write "As to the 'where' question, I'll only say that I haven't posted anything about it on the Phylo Wiki, and I don't see it on there. There's a lot more out there than just what's shown on the wiki!" Why didn't you post anything to the wiki? Perhaps doing so now (at least immediately) would threaten your anonymity, given all the things you've said here. But why not post to the wiki prior to your commenting here (and then be more careful in what your comments say about you and the position)? That would have been helpful to the many job-seekers who are holding out (false) hope for the job you were fortunate enough to land.

Anonymous said...

In response to this: "There's a lot more out there than just what's shown on the wiki!" I'd just like to express a bit of skepticism. I applied to a bunch of jobs--almost everything I was eligible for in the JFP, along with some stuff from the chronicle of higher ed, and the philjobs site. While I'm not sure that literally every job I applied for is listed on the wiki, I am sure that every job I am excited about is listed on the wiki. If there were a lot of attractive jobs that weren't listed there, I'd be surprised.