Thursday, January 12, 2012

Flap your wings

Anon 4:12 requested a thread on fly-out advice. Fine idea, as some of you are no doubt preparing for them. The campus visit is a strange beast, a two-day (more or less) gauntlet of job interviews and social calls, with some harrowing, high pressure philosophy thrown in. You'll meet with various deans, and lots of faculty, and students. You'll be continuously shuttled from one thing to the next, with very little down time in between. You'll be dined (not often wined -- many university budgets don't permit putting alcohol on the tab) more often than you can bear. The worst of the meals is breakfast -- to my mind, if you want to know what kind of colleague someone might be, don't evaluate them before they've had caffeine. (Advice: if your hotel room has a coffee maker, use it, even if it makes lousy coffee, just for the medicinal benefits.) You might give a talk, you might be asked to do a teaching demo. Or both.

The campus visit is also an opportunity to learn about the school. You can get a sense of the campus culture, and of the department. Don't think like someone who is desperate to get a job, any job, but rather like someone who might be sold on this particular job. Hopefully, the people you're interacting with are of a mind to sell you. Ask questions about the students, about campus life, about what it's like to live there. You will need to exhibit at least minimal chit-chat skills, because you'll be doing lots of it while people are walking you around campus, driving you to the airport or restaurants, etc. A five minute walk becomes much longer when filled with awkward silence.

Anon asks specifically about the job talk:
Is there any circumstance in which it's appropriate to give your job talk on the paper you gave as a writing sample? I work in a somewhat technical and obscure area, and am interviewing for an open job. And I sent my most accessible paper as a writing sample. And while I'm pretty good at explaining my technical stuff to a non-tech audience, I know the writing sample talk goes down a storm with varied audiences. But I'm a few years post-doc, and I don't want them to think I only have one paper!

You want your job talk to be something you know inside and out, and something you're comfortable presenting. If that's your writing sample, or a variation thereof, I'd say use it. (For one thing, it's likely only the SC read your writing sample, so for most of the audience, it's going to be new.) You certainly don't want to try out new material. (Although as a grad student, I saw a job candidate deflect many, many questions during a job talk by saying he needed to think about the issue, and come back to it. He didn't, of course, come back to those many questions during the talk. He also got the job, although he wasn't the first choice.) If you plan to use powerpoint or some such, ask in advance what tech will be available, and be prepared to not use it, if something fails. You have far more control, in some cases, over the content of your job talk than over the content of a teaching demo. I had one campus visit where I was assigned to teach half of a particular existing class. It was a course that was completely outside my AOS/AOC, and outside the AOS/AOC of the job ad. The SC chose it, so far as I can tell, because it was convenient -- the prof was willing to give up half of his class for the demo. But it was hellish for me, to come in during the second half of a class, try to bring the topic around to something I was able to teach well, and have only about 30 minutes to do it. (I didn't get that job.)

Take granola bars and portable snacks, especially if you have dietary restrictions. The days are really long, and being hungry makes you cranky. Have at least two pairs of good pants, especially if you're going to a wintry clime where the odds of getting mud/snow/salt on your pants are high. It's a short trip, so take a carry-on so nothing gets lost in transit. Be polite. Practice a firm but not crushing handshake -- you'll be shaking lots of hands. Be very nice to the department secretary/admin assistant. They know where the bodies are kept.

Jump in with fly-out questions, advice, or whatever.



Anonymous said...

good advice re: snacks

also, keep a bottle of water and mints in your briefcase. all that talking can dry one's mouth out. being well hydrated will provide you with energy too, and bad breath is a no-no when making a first impression.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for starting the fly-out discussion. As a first-time interviewee prepping for fly-outs, I'm particularly interested in people's stories of successes and failures.

Teaching demos feel especially heinous and hard to prepare for. It makes sense why departments would want them, but most models that I have seen appear to create an environment where it is almost impossible to achieve the desired results (e.g., establish rapport with students and make them feel comfortable in discussion while they are being watched by every philosophy professor they've ever had simultaneously). Is there a teaching demo model that actually works to display one's teaching skills?

Anonymous said...

Absolutely refrain from gossiping about students, members of the profession, etc.

Anonymous said...

I am leaning toward using my writing sample for my job talk, because most of my other (polished) work has been published. As Zombie suggests, I don't want to present a new paper for the first time as a job talk. Is the fact that I have published likely to assuage concerns on the part of the hiring department that I am reusing the writing sample? My (naive?) assumption is that it is less risky to present one's writing sample if there is good evidence that one has been productive in other cases (e.g., by publishing several papers in good journals over the past two years).

Anonymous said...

Make absolutely no self-deprecating comments. No matter how charming you think they are.

Anonymous said...

So, I have both a comment and a question. First, to people wanting to use your writing sample for a job talk, don't do it. Our placement officer said someone didn't get a job because of that from a lieteriffic school (he's from one not me). It suggests narrow interests and it probably bores the SC.

Now my question: I'm giving a job talk at a slac and am told that people from other departments will be there and that the paper should show not only that I am a good scholar in my field but also an interesting colleague to be around. What does that mean? What do they expect? How sexy a talk should it be? I have some ideas but would like to know what others think.

Anonymous said...

8:17: Why? Why is self-deprecation always bad?

Anonymous said...

"Make absolutely no self-deprecating comments. No matter how charming you think they are."

WTF? Please explain.

Anonymous said...

On teaching demos: I've done four of these. (1) was taking a day of phil 101 that happened during my visit (hence, they chose topic), (2) was a section of a non-intro course in my AOS (I chose topic), (3) was a fake class given to faculty acting as students (I chose topic), (4) was a different kind of thing altogether, and I believe sui generis. I got offers in (1) and (2), not (3).

My advice:

For types (1) and (2), do not worry about how much you cover. Quality is more important. More important still is engaging the students. For case (1) I went a little off-syllabus to bring in a contemporary take on a problem addressed in modern; that formulation resonated a little more with students. I also left gaping holes in my explanation in order to get them to ask questions. They asked, and it went well.

For case (2) I divided class into small groups, giving them handouts (photocopied before leaving home) with problems, and having them explain their groups' conclusions, and then trying to tie the thing together with some philosophical structure.

In both cases, I only covered a bit, but in some depth and with students participating.

Also, if you can, ask their names when they participate, and use their names when you repeat/reformulate the question back to the class (you do that, right?). Both places (1) and (2) really liked this. I think it's basic courtesy/respect for the students, so kind of natural.

For type (3) cases, where faculty pretend to be students, choose a topic you know really well. They will ask you job-talk style questions. They cannot mimic student behavior, even if they try. I went in with a topic I like to do in Intro, but which I'm ill-equipped to address beyond really basic stuff. I got clobbered, and the whole interview went downhill as a result. (For SCs: avoid this model!).

Other advice: spot-on regarding snacks, water, mints/gum. Do not be afraid to ask to get coffee during the day.

More advice: choose a salad at lunch. Do not let yourself get sleepy b/c of heavy food. It will happen if you order the lasagna, or even a sandwich. If your stomach growls later, you have snacks.

Further advice: everything is always awesome. Always. Too much talking? When they express sympathy late in the day, do not agree that you've smiled too much (and smile at everyone you meet) or met too many people. Say, "it's a lot of chatting compared to writing my dissertation, but I'm really having fun." Nowhere to eat the night before (e.g., if they have you make your way to hotel night before w/o greeting you)? Order a pizza or pop for a cab to get to grocery store. Do not complain. Don't come across as negative. (That's not to say that you shouldn't ask for things you need: coffee, vegetarian option, a moment to sit, an umbrella.)

Flip side: comment on what you like about the place to everyone: students, faculty, staff, provost, cab driver. They all want to know you want to be there, they cannot assume it, and they won't necessarily convey your positive comments to each other. Don't lie, of course. But if you are psyched about the fact that it's a warm climate, say so. If you are looking forward to teaching X, say so.

I'm on a SC now (external member of a different field). It is shocking how many candidates don't give any indication that this is even a remotely desirable place to be, or job to have. (And it really is both!)

Final advice: enjoy the visits for their own sake. They are stressful, and you may not get the job. BUT, you spend the time with people who are disposed to like you (remember, they're investing time and money to bring you in) talking about your work/passion, and who are trying to show you a good time. It combines some of the coolest parts of being a scholar; if you can internalize that, you'll have a better time and come across as a good colleague.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

It's obvious what 8:17 means. People believe what you tell them about yourself. This is especially important for women to keep in mind.

Anonymous said...

Wear comfortable shoes! Every on-campus I had involved a lot of walking around.

Mr. Zero said...

Re: self-deprecation. When you're in an interview, you're in a best-foot-forward situation. You should not deprecate yourself for any reason, even if it's funny. Every remark you make about yourself should be positive.

Anonymous said...

"Make absolutely no self-deprecating comments. No matter how charming you think they are."

WTF? Please explain.

I say this as someone who is naturally self-deprecating. (Proof: I am employed but I continue to read academic job blogs and wikis because I found the whole academic job search process so traumatizing and life changing...and I suceeded. I now gravitate towards philosophy blogs (I work in another field!) because the ultra-nagative tone maintained by philosophers is more comforting to me somehow.) Hmm. This reminds me a little of Fight Club all of sudden.

Anyway, I think others have already more or less answered why self deprecation is bad on an interview, but let me just add that I was suspicious of this advice too when I first heard it from my mentor. I followed it religiously though, and received several offers. Note: not being self-deprecating does not equal being an arrogant shmuck.

doris said...

"First, to people wanting to use your writing sample for a job talk, don't do it."

It's a tricky matter, but I'm inclined to partly disagree.

The general advice is to do your absolute best, most practiced stuff.

If you've truly (!) mastered material outside of your job paper, you may want to avoid the risk of boredom and not repeat.

But if you, like many early career candidates, know your other material less well than your job paper, I believe the risk of SC/Dept. boredom is outweighed by the risk of getting clobbered on material you've not mastered. (Sadly -- and to predictable effect -- the chief intellectual virtue for many philosophers is not making a mistake.)

I think the risk of boredom can be combated by presenting your job paper in a fresh way -- most obviously, by not reading it. If you read the paper you sent, you do risk boredom (yours and theirs!).

However you present, remember that you are giving a *performance* -- and that means success requires practice. I'd do my job talk, full dress, out loud, at least ten times, and hopefully a couple of more to friends. Unfortunately, the job talk has hugely exaggerated salience, in part because in many instances, that's all much of the hiring department will know of you, philosophically (yes, this does suggest that boredom is often not a grave concern).

FWIW, I only gave work outside of my job paper once as a junior candidate (since the department asked me to do so). I did not get the job, and later heard that my job talk was thought to be "underdeveloped." I'm now inclined to think this was a bit of a set up; Jamie's advice on another thread to ask what they want is good advice, but I'd try to ask in such a way that the result is a request to do your best work.

Anonymous said...

I'm the one who originally asked for this thread, and about the job talk - and I'd like to say a big thank you to all those who suggested contacting the search committee about it. I can honestly say that it hadn't occurred to me, which is crazy - when I'm invited to give someone's departmental colloquium in normal circumstances, I ask them what they want to hear. That said, if anyone has been on a search committee and thinks asking is a bad idea, do let me know!

But I also thought I'd second the advice not to give anything too new, and add to it some advice not to try to be something you're not. I ruined a great shot at a Leiterrific school by trying to come up with new work to better fit the AOS - it lead to my giving a paper that I'd only worked on properly for 6 weeks. The job was in an AOS that wasn't really mine (although I'd popped it on my cv for that application, and it's not implausible), and shortly after they invited me to interview they asked about my work in the AOS. I thought the only way I'd have a shot at the job was by showing them that I really did work in the AOS, and produced a last minute talk, which got attacked in roughly the way you'd expect a last-minute talk at a top school to get attacked. And, of course, it turned out that they would have been perfectly happy with a talk in my real AOS - after all, they knew who I was and had met me...

The morals there (obvious in retrospect):
1. Never give a talk on anything you don't know inside out.
2. Be yourself - by this stage the sc has a good idea who you are, and are interested. And anyway, you can't fake a 2 day dawn till dusk interview with smart people.

zombie said...

Reposting two questions re: fly-outs posted to the previous thread:

I second 4:12's request for a fly-out thread. Like her or him, I am wondering what makes for an appropriate and successful job talk. How, if at all, does a job talk differ from a conference paper? Must the talk be squarely within the advertised AoS, or may it be on the borderline (e.g., by including content that fits within one of the AoCs)? What are the pros and cons of PowerPoint in this context? Any feedback is greatly appreciated!

I would be curious to hear from experienced smokers about how to approach giving a job talk at an R1 vs. how to approach giving a job talk at a SLAC at which you would be the sole person in your AOS.

Christopher Hitchcock said...

If in any doubt, you should ask someone (e.g. the chair of the search committee) which kind of talk you should give. This includes not just whether it should be different from your writing sample, but also where it should lie on the broad & accessible vs. technical & detailed spectrum. This may be determined in part by the dynamics of the search process at a particular school. (E.g. at Caltech, all the philosophers read lots of written work and ask the candidate about it in a small interview-like session. The job talk is mainly for others in the humanities group. In this setting, there is nothing wrong with the talk duplicating a writing sample. But other places will work differently.)

Remember that you will be judged on the Q & A as much as on the talk itself. That is why it is important to give a talk on material that you have really thought through thoroughly. Don't forget to say things like "That's a great question!" or "Thanks for the helpful suggestion!"

Anonymous said...

to people wanting to use your writing sample for a job talk

Did the SC read your writing sample closely and ask detailed questions during the first-round interview? If not, then that's one reason in favor of using your writing sample.

Anonymous said...

If it is a research job DO NOT give your writing sample as a talk. Give something else. They want to see evidence of a research program.

Anonymous said...

I see no problem with giving a job talk based on the writing sample. In fact, I appreciate it. The writing sample generally is the applicant's best work. If we've invited you to campus, we are interested in your work. Which means we very likely want to talk to you about it (which we will do during the Q+A), and want you to talk about it with the rest of the department, who may not have read the writing sample.

Yes, we want to see evidence of a research program, but anything we don't see in the application (the cover letter and letters of recommendation should have covered this already), we will be sure to ask about, if we haven't already at the earlier interview.

Put your best foot forward.

Anonymous said...

I teach at a decent SLAC (2/3 load, nice region) and have served on SCs. So I'm speaking only to how I would recommend a candidate conduct him- or herself at my institution.

Pitch your talk to advanced, bright undergraduates. The SC wants to see as much evidence as possible that you are a great teacher, whether they realize it or not. Your talk can be a piece of scholarship and still be aimed at the level of bright undergraduates.

Moreover, I would "teach" your talk rather than read it. If that requires memorizing every single last word of a paper you've written, then do it. You will stand out.

Definitely ask the chair of the search committee if they have a preference about what to present. (But don't ask if you don't have anything but your writing sample to present.)

The advice not to be self-deprecating is good advice. A self-deprecating manner can be very appealing when you among people who already know and like you. But in a situation where you are trying to make a good first impression, people will believe what you say about yourself. If you play down your acumen, then your audience will believe that you are not that bright. There's no need to be arrogant (as someone pointed out above), but there's NO need to be unnecessarily modest (or modest at all).

The advice to be positive about everything was great (9:03), as was the same poster's advice about expressing excitement and enthusiasm about the institution and area, even if you think it goes without saying. No need to lay it on too thick, but make sure you communicate it clearly.

Finally, everything you read here could turn out to be inapplicable at the institution you visit. Unfortunately, a department's idiosyncrasies can swamp good advice.

Anonymous said...

Would it be possible to have a thread on adjuncting?

Here are some things I'd like to know:
How easy is it to obtain an adjuncting job? How easy is it to obtain an adjuncting job that's something like fulltime? With health insurance? How easy is it to obtain an adjuncting job in one's home town? How does one get such a job? I sort of have the idea that you just email the department chair at a particular institution, but maybe that's wrong.

I know some smokers know something about adjuncting that would be helpful to those of us who know very little, and may need to do adjuncting work in the very near future. Maybe a thread on it would be helpful to some of us.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm the exception. I gave a job talk on new material that I scrambled to put together right after the APA for a job talk in mid January. I wrote the accompanying chapter in that time too. I did it to show breadth of scholarship. My writing sample was on a very applied topic; I wanted to show that I had mastery of a more theoretical aspect of my project. This was essential to make me clearly centered in the AOS. (I got the job btw).

(Also, shouldn't most of us have something in the pipeline for a job talk given that we all have more than one chapter in our diss? I mean, even if you haven't completely written this chapter, it should be something you've done some thinking on and are not coming to cold. I would expect this of a candidate if I were on an SC.)

I nailed the talk (did it twice). The risk was worth it. In short, I don't think there is one solution to this issue; it depends on what strengths you need to convey to the search committee. Don't take blanket advice on this. But do practice your talk in front of philosophers at your department. Do polish your powerpoint skills, if you use them. Do practice your talk out loud until you're doing it in your sleep. And of course, do think through every possible objection and be quick on your feet in answering them.

Second best part: I had another chapter done.

Anonymous said...

9:31 and others interested in giving job talks at SLACs:

You are right to expect that giving a job talk at a SLAC is a different kind of animal. Your audience will likely consist of undergrads, a handful of philosophers with specialties that lie outside your AOS, and professors from different departments. You indeed will be judged on more than just the quality of your argument, although do not for an instant think that the quality of your argument isn't important and that they are not looking for a top notch scholar. They will also be looking at your ability to communicate and explain your argument to non-specialists. You will need to find a way to make the talk interesting and accessible while also treating the audience as the smart group of intellectuals that they are. Keep in mind that this may also be the only opportunity the department has to gauge how you will do in the classroom. Make sure you call on students during the Q&A, and do your best to engage with the students. This is all hard to pull off, but if you can, chances are you will be a good fit for the college.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine got a job at a teaching school (a 3/3 at a regional state college). Before he got the job, he had a couple of fly-outs at teaching schools, where he gave job talks based on his research. He had a nice paper to present, but it was technical. He didn't get anywhere with it at the teaching schools. After this experience, he decided to give one of his standard course lectures instead as his job talk at teaching schools. He always taught a well-known paper on X in his class on X. He felt he had developed a clear presentation of it and was good at getting students to understand it and talk about it with him. Using this as his job talk, he said, got him a couple of offers.

I think this will work for some schools. For one of my fly-outs, I was asked to give a talk that was appropriate for an educated but non-expert audience. Sort of a job talk/teaching demo in one. My friend's strategy would work in a situation like this. It might work at some SLAC's, but obviously won't at research U's.

Anonymous said...

NEVER give the same paper which you sent as a sample. Of course, if they really want to hire you, it does not matter; if they really don't want to hire you, then it doesn't matter either. But if they are unsure between you and another candidate, you just gave them something they can use as to convince themselves that you are not the better candidate. I've seen this happen.

I did this twice, and did not get an offer in either case. In one of them, I was actually told that I did not get the job because the talk was the same as the sample writing. Of course, it was probably just an excuse; but that's precisely my point.

Anonymous said...

About water: be very careful about how much you drink. Sips only. I leave it to the reader to figure out why. I made the mistake of drinking way too much water once during a talk. Never again.


ps: it would be good to also address how the hell to give a talk when it is one addressed both to students and faculty. I had to do this and it was hell. Teaching demos are also no fun. See if you can get a choice about topic from the SC. I did and got it.

Anonymous said...

I am at a Leiter top ten school. I gave my writing sample paper as my job talk. I got the job. Deciding whether to give your writing sample as your job talk depends, to some extent, on what your writing sample is like.

If your writing sample develops a fairly substantive idea and (or?) is the centerpiece of your dissertation, then giving it as a job talk is fine, even maybe a good idea. As anon 2:24 said, the department as a whole will want the chance to hear you present your main idea and talk it over with you.

If the writing sample is thinner, say, more of a criticism of some figure in the field or not something that people can get their teeth into, etc., *and you have something else that is equally good*, then you might want to give that other paper for your job talk.

If you give your writing sample as your job talk, then as Doris said, don't read it, and reformat it a little. Change the presentational details, add a few points, and maybe adjust an example or two. Chances are, some of the members of the department won't even notice that the talk is the same as the writing sample.

Anonymous said...

On the SLAC question, you really need to guage the environment carefully. Not all SLAC's are the same and you could be faced with almost anything. But, at my SLAC it would be close to death in most departments (perhaps sciences excluded) for a candidate to present their research as they would at a professional conference. Faculty in other departments should be able to understand why the research is important and interesting, students (in the department) should be able to grasp the presentation and form a view of the content. All of this while still impressing the philosophers! It's a very difficult line to walk neither dumbing down the content nor talking to the one or two people in the room who have a background in your field. I have seen candidates fail in both directions.

It's probably obvious but, I would suggest to a candidate that they aim to convey their excitement and try infect the audience with your interest in your subject matter while increasing their understanding.

But, as I say, there are many different types of SLACs.

Anonymous said...

I was on a committee interviewing candidates a few years back, and one person who started off looking good ended up ruining his chances by by overly desperate. He had family in the area, and really wanted the job. It is good to let us know that you would take the job if offered, that you are interested in it. But he basically ended up begging us to give it to him, asking us where he stood compared to the other candidates, who they were and where they were from, and we began to think that he might not have been emotionally stable. So even if you are interviewing for your dream job, be sure to keep your enthusiasm in check. We know you really want the job, as do the other people we flew out. But we want to hire someone who can act professionally.

Anonymous said...

I'm at a regional state university. We expect a serious paper as a job talk, and a different paper from the writing sample.

Maybe the candidate should just ask what the protocol is at the school in question.

Anonymous said...


I'm curious: how do you conduct your first round interviews as far as balance between research and teaching? I've had several interviews with regional state schools, and all of them were almost entirely about teaching (one or two cursory questions about research thrown in for good measure). Didn't get a campus visit with any of them, but I would have been surprised to have heard from them that they wanted a serious-paper-job-talk.

Anonymous said...

In anyone's experience, does the order in which the candidate visits/talks are scheduled indicate anything about the (possible) prior preferences of a department or search committee?

imprecise said...

1:05 - In my experience the order means absolutely nothing. Our SCs try to make it convenient for everyone to come, so if someone is flexible and someone else is not, we give the non-flexible person first choice. Basically, the chair of the SC emails everyone, and the first to respond gets the first choice.

3:43 said...

To 1:05:

No, not for us. The order doesn't matter. I found that scheduling three (or even four) on-campus interviews within a two week period is hard enough even when you have no preferences about who visits earlier or later. I'm sure the order does, in certain specific cases, reflect department preferences to some degree or another. But I doubt that general patterns have emerged. There is no point is second-guessing.

Anonymous said...

does the order in which the candidate visits/talks are scheduled indicate anything about the (possible) prior preferences of a department or search committee?

If there's no ranking of the finalists to begin with, then it's unlikely that the order matters.

However, if (1) there is a preferred candidate and (2) the SC takes seriously the possibility that the preferred candidate might get an offer elsewhere, then wouldn't it make sense to schedule the preferred candidate first?

Anonymous said...

11:17 here.


We spend a few minutes talking about teaching--say, 15. The rest of the interview is about the writing sample (about 40 minutes) and about 5 minutes about the department.

This means a hell of a lot of prep for the interviews. But you get what you pay for in these matters, I think. Plus, it lets the candidates know that we're really serious about philosophy, in spite of the fact that we landed at regional state U. (I mean, it worked with me. When I was interviewed, I walked away thinking that I'd *really* like to have these people as philosophical colleagues.)

Anonymous said...

When we invite candidates to campus, order is entirely a function of convenience for the candidates. Same goes with the order with which we schedule APA interviews.

Anonymous said...

The order only matters in religious schools or when your AOS is logic.

Anonymous said...

Another reason not to worry about whether order matters is that you can't know the order. Or is there a way to figure out the order? If so, I wanna know about it!

doris said...

The varied experiences reported here suggest to me that the claim that one should *never* give one's WS for a job talk is false, and perhaps badly false.

But that there are (very) strong convictions on both sides indicates the importance of "feeling out" the hiring department, to see what they prefer. You might consult with an "official" like the chair or SC head, but it is sometimes possible to identify a "friend" such as a person in your area, or someone you "clicked" with during an interview, who might give you a straighter scoop. Be careful, though: I was "set up" with bad advice from an "enemy" when I was on the market. Perhaps best to triangulate, and ask a few people, if it's not too awkward.

If you're feeling cheeky, you might have a couple of talks ready, and ask the audience which they want to hear. I stole this idea from somebody else, and it went over well when I did it (they asked for my WS, btw).

Good luck, and try to have fun.

Anonymous said...

Two pieces of advice, one of which hasn't been mentioned above:

1. Be willing to ask what to do. At one of my interviews this year they told me to present my WS as my talk. I asked: Really? They said: Yes. At another I am on the border of their AOS, and they told me they want me to demonstrate that I can cover what they need. I asked: So you want me to come up with a new paper if necessary? They said: Yes. In neither case would I have known if I hadn't just asked.

2. Be ready for brutal treatment of yourself and your ideas. Philosophers can be extremely combative, and can see colloquia and other public discussions as opportunities to make people look stupid. This is terrible, and for job candidates -- who are stressed, tired, in a position where it's natural to be deferential, etc. -- very unfair. But it's the reality at many institutions, and it pays to be ready for it.

Word verification: trive, which is what you do when you do de above.

Anonymous said...

"Be ready for brutal treatment of yourself and your ideas."

Well, fuck. How common is this "brutal treatment" on on-campus interviews?

Anonymous said...

This is 12:14 again. One more thing:

3. EAT. It is very easy to spend your meals talking, but if you notice this happening, then start shoveling it in. (On my last visit I was complimented several times on my ability to do this.) And if you are someone who needs lots of protein, then don't follow the advice above to eat a salad for lunch, unless you put lots of hard-boiled eggs on it. This is a hard-learned lesson -- the first time I had a flyout I was soooooo hungry.

Anonymous said...

I know few people who were treated poorly during on-campus interviews. It happens, I'm sure, but given how expensive it can be, committees generally won't bother flying someone out just to bash them. That said, someone in the department not on the committee could be an ass, so it's best to be on the lookout.

Another piece of advice: don't be a yes-man/woman. I've known of people who were asked if they could offer some course wildly outside their areas. Sometimes, this is someone picking a fight with or making a point to the SC. But sometimes, this is a test to see if the candidate is ready to say no. Something along the lines of fishing for the candidate to say, "I can't offer a course on X." Learning to say no is vitally important in the first few years on the job, and while a good chair will help with that, I've known of departments who wanted to test a candidate's ability to do so. In keeping with the advice to stay positive, should you be faced with such a question, remember to stay calm, and be focused on the work you do, and do well. Unless the ad is for a Jack/Jill of all trades, you really aren't expected to teach every possible course in the catalog.

Anonymous said...

How common is this "brutal treatment" on on-campus interviews?

I just finished being subjected to it: namely, being asked many questions that were clearly designed to put me on the spot and make my views look unsupported / unmotivated / wildly false, rather than engaging charitably with my ideas with the assumption that I was on to something interesting and had some worthwhile things to teach people. In my experience this has been pretty standard practice for colloquium talks at all three research departments I've been at.

machine for brains said...

When I was on the job market, I had several on-campus interviews and I was never treated rudely or "bashed." This is of course not to say it doesn't happen. Clearly it does. But I expect that it is only because it is a horrifying possibility that we cling to the exceptions as if they represented a wide-spread pattern.

It is unfortunate if SC members do challenge and test candidates in the way 1:15 suggests that they do. This is a useless and absurd technique for gaining any real information. (For example, I do not expect that being a yes-person at an interview correlates in any way with being able to say 'no' and protect oneself as a junior faculty member.) In general, I find the whole idea of "testing" candidates to be silly. We usually get more usable information from job interviews when we -- members of the SC -- are as honest and transparent with the candidates as possible. At the very least, planting test and traps and scheming certainly gives the candidate a poor impression of the SC members.

Anonymous said...


So in your experience, the "brutality" is something peculiar to on-campus interviews at research institutions? Also - if you don't mind me asking - how did you hold up to the brutality? Did you get the sense that the SC really did not think well of your work, or that they were just being jerks on principle?

Anonymous said...

This is 2:12 again. I do think the "brutality" I was describing (and perhaps this is not the best word, though it really is brutal) is peculiar to research institutions and other "high-powered" environments. I teach at a SLAC and so hadn't experienced it in a while; I think this is why I was taken aback by something that in graduate school was very familiar. I would like to think that I held up okay, but it is very hard to say; it is the first time I experienced this sort of thing on the receiving end rather than the giving one. Stress and exhaustion don't help at all, though.

FemFilosofer said...

Related question: I have an on-campus with an SLAC, no job talk is scheduled, but there will be time devoted to discussing my research interests with the faculty.

My plan is to prepare a detailed sketch of my research background, immediate projects and long-term projects (if only for myself as a reference during these conversations). Should I prepare anything more than this? Other than this? For reference, we did discuss my writing sample during the APA interview.

Anonymous said...

A recommendation: if one is asked questions that seem designed to make one's views look "unsupported / unmotivated / wildly false," the best response is for one to support / motivate / give evidence for those views. If some research place is going to make a long-term investment in you, it wants to know whether you really know what you're talking about.

Anonymous said...

Reading this blog, I'm super glad that I don't have a job at an R1. It sounds fucking horrible. I'll stick to my 4-3 teaching load and laid back and humble atmosphere, thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

7:01 writes: "if one is asked questions that seem designed to make one's views look "unsupported / unmotivated / wildly false," the best response is for one to support / motivate / give evidence for those views."

In defense of 2:12, It is perfect possible to formulate questions that are rhetorically difficult to answer, even though the substance of those questions would have been easier to address had they been framed in a more friendly way. Similarly it is possible for a group of douche-bags to decide to torture a candidate and the candidate be hard-pressed to defend him- or herself despite their acumen.

I don't know if that was the case for 2:12, but a little charity seems appropriate here.

Anonymous said...

Yes, let us show some charity. A department is bringing a candidate out to campus, at great expense to the university, and a major time investment for the members of the department. And their big strategy is to torture the candidate. That does not sound like a charitable reading to me.

2:12 again said...

What 8:55 said, basically. Though I wouldn't go so far as to say that there was any *decision* to go in for torturing; rather, it is a natural thing for philosophers to do, and it can be quite unfair to job candidates, given our exhaustion and the inferiority of our standing. There are plenty of ways to challenge someone to defend their ideas without being rude and uncharitable.

Anonymous said...

In response to the discussion generated by 2:12:

I just came off two on-campus interviews both at R1 departments (one in the US, one in Canada) in which it was exactly the opposite. They were definitely "engaging charitably with my ideas with the assumption that I was on to something interesting". Sure there were some tough questions, but that's what you want! Especially when phrased in a non-combative way.

So, not all top departments treat their candidates "brutally". Some are actually quite pleasant.

Anonymous said...

And their big strategy is to torture the candidate. That does not sound like a charitable reading to me.

The claim is not that this was any sort of strategy, only that it is among the things that happened.

Anonymous said...

2:12 is really putting a lot of information about him/herself out there, along with with a description of the department he/she visited as "brutal" and "torturing" and an endorsement of a description of the department he/she visited as "douche-bags."

Anonymous said...

If I could change the subject for a moment:

What sorts of questions should one expect to get from deans, provosts, and faculty members from other departments?

Also - what documents should I bring with me to the campus interview other than my job talk materials? Should I bring multiple copies of my entire dossier - CV, writing sample, teaching portfolio + syllabi and all? For smokers who have done this - how much did you use such materials on the campus interview? Did you cook up new syllabi for courses once you found out you got the campus interview and then show those syllabi to SC members on the campus interview.

Help, please.

Anonymous said...

Here's a question I got from a provost: "I see that you like to write a lot. You know this is a teaching job, right?"

That was fun.

8:55 said...


Are you seriously suggesting that philosophers never or rarely bring job candidates on campus and then treat them poorly? Surely you've noticed that the vicious treatment of a speaker is a sufficiently commonplace occurrence. Admittedly, it does not strike me as the norm. As 6:06 reports -- and as my own experience attests -- many departments, R1 or otherwise, are quite polite (I would even say most). In any case, the idea was not to generalize at all about research institutions. But it is also the case that many institutions have a habit of being hostile and unpleasant. Further, the suggestion was certainly not this was an explicit strategy, but rather just the result of poor social skills perhaps or some misguided idea that this is how serious philosophical discussion is supposed to be conducted.

Perhaps you could put aside the sneering sarcasm for a moment and explain what exactly is behind your resistance to the suggestion that a philosophy department was excessively aggressive during a job candidate's talk?

Anonymous said...

To FemFilosopher:

Your question is hard to answer without knowing a lot more about the institution and the department. As I'm sure you've noticed, there is very wide range of attitudes departments adopt about themselves at different institutions. Some SLACs are quite serious about research. Others, as the story 9:09 relates, very self-consciously think of themselves as "teaching institutions" where this category apparently excludes too much focus on one's own scholarship. (I personally find this strange, by the way. I am very happy to be at what I think of as a "teaching institution" but my department, my school, and I all but a lot of weigh on having a successful research program as well.)

However, let me offer the following suggestion. Even at research institutions, a detailed, drawn-out spiel on your research can be the kiss of death. Work on preparing very short and accessible descriptions of your research. Be prepared to go into more detail only when prompted. No matter how research-oriented a school is (whether an R1 or an SLAC), long, detailed orations about a research project get boring really quickly. People want to ask questions. They want to understand. So start with compact "big picture" descriptions and give your interlocutors lots of opportunities to engage you in a conversation.

Also I would be prepared to give a mini-talk to a group of smart undergraduate students as well. Find some self-contained lecture on an interesting subject. You never know, they may ask you to "teach" some students as well.

Anonymous said...

to 8:54, who asked about questions from deans and provosts:

These vary by type of institution, but they tend to be like faculty questions, but with an emphasis on the institution as a whole. So, they'll ask about your research, teaching, why you want a job at their school, etc. They'll want to know why your research is interesting, and why it's important. They like to hear about how it's important beyond philosophy, too. They want to know about why what you teach is important for the mission of the institution, and that your teaching philosophy comports with the institution's goals. They want to know that what you care about is consistent with what the school cares about, that you understand the nature of tenure and promotion at their school, and so forth.

I had one (at an R1) ask what it meant for a philosopher to "do research" if we don't take data (he was goading me to see how well I danced, and he has a reputation for doing this to all candidates--sometimes asking really jerk-ish questions). I had another ask about how I could scale up my ideas and collaborate with others on campus.

Like faculty interviews, they are partly about feeling the candidate out and partly about selling the institution. So, they really like to answer questions about vision for the institution / direction of things, and so forth. Hence, it helps to do a little homework on the institution.

Also, it doesn't hurt to ask your host faculty about the person you'll meet with. They often give hints to help you impress--they want ALL of their job candidates to impress the higher-ups, after all. It makes them look better as a department, and forestalls any tension when they put up a candidate to make an offer.

zombie said...

You can also expect a dean and/or provost to ask about how your teaching experience/vision has prepared you for their particular students. A school with a lot of adult students, or international students, or a state school with a lot of first gen students might want to know about your experience with such students, and how you handle the problems/challenges unique to certain student populations. Here's where it helps to know about their students in advance. If it's a tech school, for instance, how do you engage tech students who are required to take philosophy?

Something to keep in mind is that a lot of these folks are not just administrators, but also have an academic/scholarly background, and they might be eager to "talk shop" as it were. Maybe they don't get no respect from their academic colleagues.

In my experience, someone on the SC will give you a heads up about the deans/provosts -- perhaps the person who walks you over to your appointment. It doesn't hurt to ask if they don't volunteer the info.

just looking out for the youth said...

You know, this blog provides an excellent service. But job marketeers should remember that they need to be very careful. The philosophy world is small, and not all of us giving away jobs right now are tottering old fools too uncool to keep up with blogs. It's really not that hard to give away too much identifying information on line and hurt yourself ... or, perhaps even more importantly, to lead people to think that you have, even if you haven't quite, thereby perhaps hurting someone else's job search inadvertently. As 8:30 am hinted, faculty members running a search might not be thrilled about seeing themselves described as rude, torturing douche-bags, whether intentional ones or not ... especially 'just' after the event, when they presumably haven't made up their minds yet.

Anonymous said...

When I had my campus visit (R1, 2/2 load), I was told by several faculty members that the meeting with the dean would be low-pressure and that there wouldn't be any questions I had to answer. This turned out to be accurate. Least stressful part of the day.

Anonymous said...

Job talks are not like other talks in philosophy. The primary function of them is not for everybody in the room to learn some philosophy, wonderful as that might be, but to find out something about the candidate. This is especially a big deal for departments who are really committed to seeing their hires get tenured. So if we look like we are more interested in finding out whether you are a good philosopher rather than making sure that we get the most plausible version of your views out on the table, it is because we are. Most of the people in the room have already been hired. We already know what they can do. We want to see what you can do. We already exhibited our assumption that we have something to learn from you by choosing 2% of the applicants to come to campus.

If this feels like torture, it's not. It's just questions being asked.

just looking out for the youth said...

Anon 4:59 - Word. Way less than 2% in fact, typically.

Anonymous said...

So philosophers in hiring departments are sitting around reading blog comments, discerning similarities between commenters' self-descriptions and traits of their job candidates, and letting this influence their decisions? Perhaps, but I can think of few things less responsible than saying "Hmm, I can't be sure whether NN is the person who posted this mildly negative comment about a department that might have been my own, but he/she *might* have done it, and that's good enough for me!"

For what it's worth, I'm sure that whoever posted those anecdotes liked the faculty at the hiring department just fine, doesn't think they're douche-bags, understands that this is the way philosophical discussions often go, and was just trying to offer some helpful advice to other job-seekers.

Anonymous said...

Jesus. SC members reading this blog really need to avoid getting confused between a commenter here describing, on the one hand, their situation, and on the other, them specifically. Even at this early date, numerous departments are already bringing candidates to campus. Moreover, it is not uncommon for candidates to appear fatigued or to otherwise fit the profile that 2:12 describes of him- or herself. I was on a SC last year and 2:12 could have been two of our candidates.

Please don't assume, or take yourself to have deduced, that a person commenting is someone you know. It is very common practice for commenters to alter irrelevant facts about themselves precisely to avoid being identified. It would of course be unfortunate if, by making these alterations, they end up describing another person's situation to a t. But the best way to prevent this from having untoward consequences is for SC members to resist making inferences. Be epistemically responsible! You are the guests here.

Anonymous said...

I understand what you're saying, 4:59, and you have an excellent point. However, some people in the profession seem to have the view that philosophical argumentation is a form of combat, and some of us have a problem with that. Some people are really "good philosophers" but may not shine when put on the spot in an adversarial way, especially when a *job* is on the line. It's a pity, then, that so much rides on that one performance.

jus said...

" It would of course be unfortunate if, by making these alterations, they end up describing another person's situation to a t. But the best way to prevent this from having untoward consequences is for SC members to resist making inferences. Be epistemically responsible! You are the guests here."

I am not sure what 'you are the guests here' means - surely all the commenters are guests. But I entirely, totally agree with the rest. It is, indeed, really important for SC members to resist making inferences, as I have reminded people recently. But human nature is a tricky thing and we are not masters of our own psyches, and I think job marketeers should just be careful is all. You must understand it is hard for people not to talk and speculate about what they read, no matter how much they know they shouldn't. I am not saying it's right - I am just saying that some care seems to be prudent. I also super agree with your point about how 'unfortunate' it would be if someone accidentally sounded a lot like someone else specific. That was really my main point in writing. Don't take the risks for yourself or others. Leave all possible fake or real identifying information out of it. I have no ulterior motives here. I'm just being realistic. The 'best' way to prevent untoward consequences might be to have SC members free from all implicit bias and all temptations towards overhasty induction. But y'all on the market can't control that end of it. You can control what you say online.

Anonymous said...

All I meant by 'you are guests' is the following. This is a blog run by and aimed at job market candidates. I understood it to be a forum for candidates to air concerns, gripe, and ask each other for advice. Obviously it is helpful to have established academics (philosophers with jobs, tenure, experience with searches and what-not) lurking as well. Ideally we can offer advice and helpful perspectives. But where this blog can sometimes play an appropriately therapeutic role for job seekers, it is, for established academics, at worst not much more than a curiosity, and at best, an invitation to rethink current job market practices.

Perhaps thinking of established academics as 'guests' at the Smoker is not the best word for capturing the thoughts above, and perhaps the thoughts above are misguided in some respects. But that was, in any case, the thought behind the expression.

Anonymous said...

"for established academics, at worst not much more than a curiosity, and at best, an invitation to rethink current job market practices."

A good idea, certainly. Far too many people on SCs are many, many years away from their own market experiences. A gentle reminder of what the other side of the table feels like couldn't hurt.

Anonymous said...

This might be too late to get a response, but I'm on the market for the first time and got interviews for post-docs. I have no idea what happens next -- if it went well, do I get a campus visit? If so, is it typical for me to be asked to give a job talk and/or teaching demonstration as I would at a tenure-track position campus visit? I'm just trying to get a sense of what's to come if I'm lucky, but I can't find anything on the internet about the post-doc context specifically. Thanks for any help you can give!

Anonymous said...

I know at least one place does campus visits for their postdoc, but I don't know all that's involved at the visits. They at least do job talks, and they meet with the entire dept. faculty and then separately with whoever of the grad students will show up for a lunch meeting. At this particular institution, I don't think they do teaching demonstrations for any candidates, so I have no idea if teaching demonstrations are part of it for postdocs at institutions where those are done for tenure-track and VAP positions.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the input -- I was worried no one looks at this thread anymore. Hopefully we'll hear from the experience of a few others. I'm wondering whether I should write about this as a new possible thread to post?

Anonymous said...

Interviews for UK postdocs are purely an on-campus affair. They typically invite all the shortlisted candidates out at the same time. Job talks and interviews are held on consecutive days. There's usually a candidates' dinner, where you and your competition are invited out to eat/drink with faculty and grad students.

I don't have any experience with US postdocs (which I gather is what you were after). Sorry.