|By Kerry Soper.|
|By Kerry Soper.|
Of course, you also don’t want to project yourself as someone you aren’t. Most obviously, you shouldn’t drink if you aren't comfortable with it. In addition, you should avoid situations that encourage inappropriate comments or discussions about race, religion, sex, or other topics that can be insulting or uncomfortable. Moreover, if you receive comments of this sort during the interview, you should make sure to tell the department chair or someone higher up. Situations that make you personally uncomfortable or intimated should not be tolerated or allowed to pass.
Don’t describe too many projects. Hiring committees generally want to see someone who is going to be a world expert in some particular topic, not a dilettante who jumps from one random project to another. Thus, you want to present an integrated and multi-faceted approach to a particular important question (baby/werewolf) in which your work has the potential to be world-altering, paradigm-shifting, game-changing, and all those sorts of things your letter writers have said about you but which you can't explicitly state yourself. Of course, some people really do work on several entirely different topics that are not closely related to each other. In such cases, I still generally suggest focusing on only one of the topics in your talk, unless you have a clear expectation that some of the audience is specifically interested in one aspect of your work and some other segment of the audience is specifically interested in the other aspect. In such cases, you can present both but you need to explain why you are doing so.
Don’t say “that’s a great question”. By way of illustration, I will relate a personal anecdote. When I was answering questions during an interview for a faculty position in 2000, I said for the first question That is a great question. Then I paused and said out loud (as it was crossing my brain in real time) Why do we always say that before questions? If we say it for everything, then it means nothing; that, in fact, no questions are great. And, if you don’t say it for one question, does that mean the question is not great? The audience looked amused or at least bemused. Then I went on to answer the question. I was still mulling over what I had said as the next question was being asked, and so I responded histrionically That is an OUTSTANDING question. This time some folks in the audience actually laughed out loud. Then I answered the question. Then, at the start of my response to the third question, I said That is a really awful question. This time, the whole audience burst out in loud guffaws. It turned out that the third person was internally famous for asking ridiculous questions and I had timed my comment just perfectly. However, I didn’t get the job. Perhaps my flippant comments were the reason or perhaps it reflected the search committee’s chair’s first words to me I don’t even know why we are interviewing you, you are totally unsuitable for the position. In fact, knowing that I wasn’t going to get the position was perhaps one reason I felt emboldened to say what was on my mind.
As a related point, make sure to leave room for questions at the end – your talk should only be about 45 minutes but not much shorter. During questions, make sure you respond at length and with deliberation. (Don’t just say Yes, you are right and then move on to the next question.) If the question doesn’t make sense, say something like OK, I am not sure precisely what you mean – I look forward to discussing it more with you later over beers – but I will for the moment convert your question into one that I can actually answer. A response like this is often good for a chuckle, which again makes you seem fun and engaging.
One problem that I might have introduced with all of the above advice is that you will begin to overthink everything during the interview when you really should be relaxed. So here is a more general suggestion that hopefully facilitates all of the above my more organically. When you go for the interview, pretend that you are already a faculty member at University X and that you have been invited to give a seminar at University Y. This mindset will hopefully help to make all of the above flow more naturally and without conscious thought DURING the interview.
Finally, note that many website give additional more specific advice - just type "job interview academia" into Google.
Now go out there and kill that interview.