Thursday, January 31, 2013

Job Talk: Best Advice Ever

Way back when I received this bit of advice, I thought it was a clear signal that the person who offered it had no real interest in helping me get a job.  But now I see that it's quite possibly the best advice it's possible to give about a job talk.  Here goes (verbatim):

Know your shit.  
Don't fuck up.  
One joke at most.
Don't go on for longer than they asked you to.  
Read at a reasonable pace.  
Answer the questions they ask.  
Bite the bullet if you have to.  
Make eye contact.  
Don't insult anyone.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good advice, except the "read" part. Do not read.

Anonymous said...

What made you think this was bad advice at one point?

Spiros said...

I never thought the advice was bad. I thought it was so obvious that the person who had offered it must not have put very much thought into the matter, and thus had no interest in actually helping me to prepare for my job talks.

Anonymous said...

Surely the number of jokes you're allowed should be determined by how funny you are and how well the first one is received, right?

Anonymous said...

I say one at most. Too many jokes could make you look unserious, even if they're good ones.

CTS said...

Speak at a volume such that people in the back row can hear you.

Anonymous said...

I'd add: "Pitch the talk at a level at which your audience can engage it."

Some candidates know their shit but fuck up because they don't know how to pitch it to non-experts in their AOS. And so those candidates don't get the job...

Anonymous said...

In this context, what exactly constitutes 'biting the bullet'?

Glaucon said...

Why do I keep fucking up?

Anonymous said...

"Read at a reasonable pace" LOL no shame

Anonymous said...

I feel like the "Don't go on for longer than they asked" piece of advice should apply to any kind of talk. However, I have noticed non-job-related talks go 5-10 min over from time to time. Would it look unprofessional to go just a little longer than one's allotted time as long as one isn't obviously freaking out about it?

I apologize for smoking.

Anonymous said...

"However, I have noticed non-job-related talks go 5-10 min over from time to time."

This is because most academics think rules apply only to other people, or that what they are saying is important enough to merit taking someone else's time.

Take as much time as you want. That seems to be SOP anyway. Some people will complain, and then go do the same thing themselves. Whatever.

7:36 said...

@7:15,

That pretty much sums up what I was thinking. I'll also add that I've been to job talks where the candidate sees that s/he is going to go over, apologizes, and then stops the talk before it comes to its natural conclusion. Now, I appreciate that the person was mindful of the time, but it also seems plausible that this kind of thing can send unwanted messages. For example, if someone stops a talk before it's done it may seem like he or she lacks confidence or wasn't completely prepared. It seems to me that in this kind of case it might be better to go long than to send the wrong message.

WV: Heire me

Eddy Nahmias said...

The seemingly obvious advice is all good. I'd add that I think a paper read well is better than a bad powerpoint talked through poorly. Much better to get across a lot of good content than to stumble through half as much content. But if you don't use powerpoint, use a handout. And either way, use your visuals (e.g., don't get ahead of ppt slides or make your audience try to figure out where you are on handout). And for f's sake, set up your argument so that people not in those trenches can see why what you're doing is important!

David Vessey said...

I'd say be careful to not pitch your talk too low. You're the expert in the area they need an expert (that's why they are hiring in that area). If you're not showing your expertise, if they are not learning something new and being forced to think about new things, you will not be reminding them why they wanted someone who does what you do. And the best talk is one where they look forward to talking to you more, in the Fall.

Anonymous said...

5:56: I assume biting the bullet means not evading in the Q&A. Someone makes a good objection: that person knows it - everyone in the room knows it. Acknowledge its force and do some damage control. Don't pretend it didn't happen or was something other than what it was.

Anonymous said...

"For example, if someone stops a talk before it's done it may seem like he or she lacks confidence or wasn't completely prepared. It seems to me that in this kind of case it might be better to go long than to send the wrong message."

Actually, what would be best would be to acknowledge that one is out of time, and then ask the audience if they would mind if one takes a couple extra minutes to wrap up. If they are interested, they will grant the time. Those who have to leave for other appointments will quickly do so before the speaker resumes.

-7:15

Michael said...

7:36 AM:
When you *have* a job you can be like everyone else, pretend rules don't apply to you and your stuff is the most important thing there is, and just run over on time, figuring those who complain will do the same thing. When you are looking for a job, *don't* do this. Don't presume that you are already part of the club. You aren't. You are trying to gain admittance. When those who don't like your running over fail to hire you, it will be cold comfort to know that they run over on their own talks.

How can you avoid running over while not ending your talk prematurely? Plan a talk that has the appropriate amount of material for the time allotted. Practice your talk multiple times before giving it. Make sure that you can do the talk with 5 minutes to spare. Then if you get tempted to add an impromptu bit, or there is a delay in getting started, you will still end on time.

Michael Kremer

7:36 said...

I realize my previous posts weren't very careful. Although the thread is about job talk advice, I wasn't trying to give advice and I definitely don't think people should go over the allotted time for their talks. And although I'm not exactly sure about 7:15's suggestion, I do agree with Michael Kremer.

I was merely wondering whether there might be occasions where stopping on time without finishing the talk would hurt a candidate more than going over in order to come to a natural conclusion. My reasons for thinking that it might at least sometimes be better to go over pertain to Michael's "club" metaphor. I've observed job talks where a person is going to run over and s/he is clearly rattled by it. It seems to me that being shaken like this might signal to the audience that this person isn't prepared to be a part of the club. On the other hand, some people can remain confident even when their talk looks like it's going over. This confidence might signal to the audience that s/he is the kind of person suited for entry into the club.

I don't have an argument for this, and I'm just speculating. Nor do I think it's a good thing or something that should decide who gets a job and who doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Also, take a stand on something. This might seem obvious but the worst job talk I've seen was one where the candidate just talked through her basic framework, rather than defending anything. It ended up feeling like a really odd teaching demo rather than a job talk.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 10:22: mare a positive contribution in the job talk, don't just have a talk that critiques other views without offering at least part of your own positive view. It can be the last 10 min, but it has to be there. Also, I'd advise having at least one aspect of your work that's meant to be eyebrow-raising, and it doesn't hurt to signal the point in the talk where you're doing that.

Finally, remember that it's hard to move up in the department's eyes during your visit, but it's easy to move down by performing poorly.

Anonymous said...

How about some good angry old man stories. Every department has the angry old man who asks some variation on: "Why do you have to represent everything that's gone wrong with philosophy since I stopped paying attention?"

saglikli birey said...

thanks for share . i like your content.

Anonymous said...

yes, best advice.