Unsolicited Advice for Academic Job Interviews

In the midst of more job talks and visits than I can shake a stick at and thinking about advice for my PhD students, as they contemplate a pretty bleak employment landscape. This is mostly a list of don’ts. Will work on positives later.

1. Don’t give a job talk based on the writing sample you submitted. It makes it look like that’s all you have and it will bore members of the search committee in your audience.

2. Don’t use Prezi. It’s vertigo-inducing and you can’t spell eheck it.

3. Spell check any visual materials you’re using — twice. Run through your presentation using a projector, so you can trouble-shoot problems with images before you’re in the hot seat.

4. Don’t drink at dinner, even if everyone else is. Exhaustion+stress+alcohol = fail.

5. Consider every interaction you have as part of the formal interview. Don’t be tempted to slip into the familiar or to share anything about yourself that isn’t related to professional matters. You don’t know who your allies are in the department — I heard one candidate bombed a campus visit because, in the eyes of a faculty member who had cultivated a friendly relationship with him, he had “overshared.” This is a real minefield for women, so be careful. Behave as though you’re in the opening episode of Survivor.

6. Don’t read your job talk, even if you’re relying on a text. Practice it so that you can read and look up at your audience every few sentences.



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