Academic Careers

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Are you preparing to apply to academic jobs with your PhD? You may find it useful to know the key steps to creating job application materials, delivering engaging stories in academic interviews, and navigating the complex job market within the academy.

This page offers information to supplement the technical and specific support given by departments. Use it to guide your strategies for success.

Give a Job Talk

Overview

Advancing to the job talk part of your interview is a great step forward in the recruitment process. We can not emphasize enough the importance of practicing: Aim to have a balance of preparedness and polish while avoiding being so scripted that you can get thrown off track. We urge you to go to a job talk within your home department to see what it is like on the other side and understand what makes one successful. We also encourage you to do a practice job talk for your home department to get feedback from your colleagues. Talk to professors in your department to make sure you are following norms and expectations in your field during the job talk.

 

Clarifying Expectations

Research-focused and Teaching-focused Schools

Understand the department’s expectations for your talk. You can ask how long the talk will be and how much time will there be for questions and answers. You also want to understand what the focus of the job talk is. Ask if the talk is more focused on your research or your teaching philosophy. You need to know who will most likely be in the audience (e.g., are students and staff included?). Be sure to ask which devices will be provided, such as audio/video technology, a computer, or a projector and clicker. Lastly, ask if you need to bring copies of your presentation. 

Teaching-focused Schools

Prepare to potentially give a teaching demonstration in front of an actual class of students with faculty there to observe. If this is the case, be sure to ask questions related to how many and what kind of students will be in the class. It will be important to clarify the expectation, goals, and topic of the class. Be prepared to present in a way that highlights your teaching philosophy or style, and be as engaging as possible with the students. If you are guest lecturing, ask for the course syllabus so that you can try to fit your lecture into the overall course goal. 

 

Showing the Significance of Your Work

Research-focused Schools

Show that you are capable of describing the importance of your work and how it impacts the larger field. Acknowledge limitations as relevant. Be honest in the ways your research is or isn’t impacting the larger field. If it is not impacting the larger field,clearly and explicitly state why your area of interest or expertise is valuable. Balance between broad and specific information when talking about research. You want to show a high level of sophistication without being too technical in your delivery.

Teaching-focused Schools

Identify courses that you could be asked to teach or could propose to teach. Do your best to show awareness and competence in those courses. Show your ability to teach through different methods and address students with all types of learning styles.

 

Talking About Your Goals

Research-focused and Teaching-focused Schools

Show the audience how you will be successful. Think about the big picture and address where you will be in five years. Go beyond describing your dissertation and show the committee that you are thinking ahead.

 

Show the Type of Colleague You Would Be

Research-focused and Teaching-focused Schools

The hiring committee is looking to see that you are someone they can get along with and who can roll with the punches. Try your best to be yourself and do not forget to smile when appropriate! You can show your personality with humor if that is your thing. Show the passion for what you are doing in your presentation.

 

Answer Questions with Finesse

This part of the job talk is almost as important as the presentation itself. The audience members want to see two things: 

You are competent and capable of answering questions. We recommend focusing on the question being asked. If necessary, repeat it to ensure you heard correctly, then answer the question to the best of your abilities.

You can think on your feet. This part is important because it demonstrates you are capable of handling questions. One tip is to show give and take. If you have a question that has stumped you, do not make something up. An appropriate response could be, “I haven’t thought of the question that way. I’ll have to think about that more, but my initial thoughts are …”

The question and answer portion tends to make people nervous, so practice! If you anticipate that certain questions which make you nervous will be asked, you can prepare by creating additional slides at the end of your presentation which address them. If you get asked one of those questions, you can go to the appropriate slide and say, “Yes, I can answer that. In fact, I have a summary of that information here.”

 

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