Monday, October 29, 2007
Concurring Opinions' Daniel Solove has a great piece on how to prepare and give a terrific job talk. Here is some of his advice:
The first thing is to understand your audience. Here's my perspective as a member of your audience. Your job talk is taking place during the middle of my day. I'm busy. I've got a ton of things to do, classes to teach, papers to work on, emails to respond to. I'm not coming in eager and excited to give my valuable hour to some unknown person plucked off the street after a 30-minute interview at the meat market. So you've got to work to get my interest and make that hour an interesting part of my day. That involves getting out your thesis quickly, making an interesting argument, and then having a good discussion with the faculty.
Sounds easy, right? You wouldn't believe how many fail at doing these basic things. I've seen countless candidates crash and burn during their job talk. It's like reading a Kafka novel -- things start out bad, and then they get much worse, and then you die.
Here is what I'm looking for in a job talk:
1. Were you able to articulate a coherent thesis? Your talk must have a point, and the point of your talk should be stated towards the beginning.
2. Was the thesis of your talk original and not an obvious point? I should not be saying "duh" to myself throughout your talk.
3. Were you able to defend your thesis?
4. Did you recognize the arguments on the other side of your thesis?
5. Was your talk interesting and engaging?
6. Were you articulate and clear? If not, I might have doubts about the clarity of your thinking as well as about your ability to explain concepts to students in a class.
7. In the Q&A, did you respond well to the faculty's questions?
8. If a question posed a severe challenge to your thesis, were you prepared to address it?
9. Did you demonstrate adequate command of your topic? I expect you to be familiar with the literature and cases on your topic.
Professor Solove provides further helpful tips as well.