Tuesday, January 22, 2013

for an interview, you have to have a well-defined self.

since the job season is in full swing ..
// initially written: late february 2012

nobody has told me this outright, but i'm not particularly good at interviewing.  the problem, i suppose, is that it is a very specific, stylised skill and that i've done very little of it in my life.

interviewing is different from most forms of conversation that i know.  there's always an agenda, for one thing, and you are clearly under scrutiny.  the whole meeting is meant to evaluate you as a potential future employee and colleague ..

.. among other candidates, on top of that!
i guess it's like dating, but institutionalised and with less emotional baggage.

like dating?

it would explain why i'm not skilled at it, then .. (-:
i don't mind talking about maths: that's generally fun.  i don't mind debating what works in teaching, what doesn't, and what's not clear.  it's an issue that matters and i think about it often ..

.. but make it about me, and then i start to cringe.

// added: mid-january 2013

so, yes: i wrote this last year, right after coming back from an on-campus interview at a medium-sized liberal arts university. (i had meant to write more, but i was rather busy at the time; shortly after that, i started furiously working out an idea which later became a preprint, and i probably had another two talks to give in the weeks to come.)

in the end, they hired me and i deferred a year.

i consider myself very lucky. part of me wonders whom my competition was, but the other part knows that it's not worth knowing that kind of thing.
thinking back on it now, i'm surprised that it worked out. what i remember most was feeling like a nervous wreck. i think i botched a meeting with one of the university deans, for one thing.

also, my talk did not go according to plan by any stretch of the imagination: every few minutes there was another question, and i only went through half my slides [1].
those things said, i don't really have any advice for those of you on the market and on someone's shortlist. the only thing i can think of is be prepared .. and, well ..

.. if you're comfortable with who you are in your everyday life, then just be yourself; otherwise imagine who you'd ideally like to be, pretend to be that person, and stay in character.

[1] this is not to say that the talk went badly. the fact that there were so many questions suggests that people were actually listening .. or at least half-listening, since i ended up clarifying a lot and did an example on the fly. if they didn't really care, then i suppose they wouldn't ask.

i still maintain that it wasn't according to plan, because i did want to try and impress them with the theorems in the second half of the talk .. which were never aired. on the other hand, this fits in with some advice i was given, years ago: when giving a job talk, be over-prepared with too much (extra) stuff at the end; it gives the impression that you have a lot to discuss, and hence your research agenda "must" be pretty robust ..!

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