Thursday, February 14, 2013

T. Oatley on "Ditch the Job Talk"

One of the thing that frustrates me is the centrality of the "job talk" for professional hiring in academics.

It's an artificial situation, and has almost nothing to do with whether the person will be a success.  Not surprisingly, "good" job talks turn out to have almost no predictive value in judging tenure chances, and "bad" talks don't tell you much, either. 

(Full disclosure:  I was notoriously a "bad" job talk giver.  Neanderbill had to save me at UNC, after I totally stunk up the joint.  And my talk at U Minn and U Md were epically, apocalyptically bad, still spoken of in awe a decade after the sorry debacles were over.  People--I in particular--were still waking up screaming at the horrors they had suffered through. So perhaps this is just sour grapes, I'll admit that).

And for senior people...even dumber.  Why in the world would you look at the job talk for a senior person? If you have read their work, and think it's not good, or not good enough, that's fair.  But a job talk?  Seriously?

Anyway, Dr. T. Oatley has some thoughts. And as always, the thoughts of Dr. T. Oatley are worth reading.

1 comment:

Jack P. said...

I think there is increasingly concern over whether someone's work is their own (co-authorship, etc.), and especially with empirical work whether they understand what they're doing (canned code makes it easy to run big regressions and tests blindly).

We've had candidates who looked good on paper and who had even published in OK journals, and yet during the job talk were obviously clueless about basic aspects of their research and their field. They were just good at aping other papers and maybe had good advice or good co-authors.

With junior candidates, CVs don't say much, and besides as you know personality also matters so some extent. You can try faking being a friendly and helpful guy, but we've also weeded out some weirdos and pathological liars by flying them out.