Friday, December 28, 2007

I'm Tongue-Tired, Waiting, Hoping, and Praying

Dinner with PGOAT and one of my office mates ran a little later than I'd planned, so I'm already late for the smoker. Oh, well.

Anyway, here's the problem we'll be facing tonight. For the civilians following along at home, there's an APA custom that says people who've interviewed should find the departments they interviewed with at the smoker, and make with the small talk. You know, show what a charming junior colleague you are. Okay, fine, right? What's the problem with that?

Well, my problem is, I have no idea how to start those conversations. I've been wracking my already shit-kicked little brain for natural openings, and pretty much all I can come up with is, "So, I'm supposed to come over and say hi, and I really, really want a job. So, um, hi."

Think that'll fly?


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I have the advice sheet handed to students at an R1 (not my school), and it says that approaching people you've interviewed with at the smoker is risky as you can intrude on them. Me, I haven't had an interview yet, so I'm feeling free to avoid the smoker.

Anonymous said...

I know that this must be the minority view, but my advisor tells me that he actually doesn't like candidates to come to their table for precisely that reason (awkwardness and all). He realizes that most candidates are told by their advisors that it's mandatory, so he tolerates it. I wish I could tell you which department I'm in so you don't have to bother with that table tonight (he's interviewing there), but that would of course give away my identity. (The exception, of course, is if someone in the interview specifically asks you to come by to continue some discussion from the interview).

Dr. ? said...

I suggest the following openers:

1. "Hello, I wanted to continue our coversation from this afternoon, you know, the one in which you pushed an absurd view then ignored the various philosophical beatings I politely administered."

2. "Hello, I was curious if you would like to relate your obscure, dopey field of research to the contents of my trouser pocket, you know, since you seem to enjoy that kind of nonsense."

3. "Hello, can you tell me more about your student-faculty sex policy."

4. "Hello, I would like to hear more about the cultural mecca that is Omaha."

5. "I'm not drunk osciffer, you're don't know me, Kevin!"

recent hire said...

He realizes that most candidates are told by their advisors that it's mandatory, so he tolerates it.

I'm afraid it is. My placement director once asked a guy why his school didn't fly me out, and he said that I hadn't come to the table. I had talked to the other guy on the committee for like half an hour one night, but it might not have been at the table, and it might have been the night after the interview, not the night of, so I didn't get the points for that. So after that I went to every damn smoker table, even though I felt awkward. Sometimes there was no one there, and I hoped that I'd fulfilled my duty.

And, no joke opening lines. Sorry. Too much risk that self-deprecating humor will make them think you're weird. Post them here.

Anonymous said...

I was told by my faculty advisor not to come to a table unless you are invited. So that is what I did tonight - I visited the two tables that invited me and skipped the other that didn't. I hope that doesn't blow my chances completely with the other prospect. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Who fucking knows? There are no necessary and sufficient conditions for job market success, that's for damn sure.

tt assprof said...

Anon 7:32pm said:

"I was told by my faculty advisor not to come to a table unless you are invited. So that is what I did tonight - I visited the two tables that invited me and skipped the other that didn't. I hope that doesn't blow my chances completely with the other prospect. What do you think?"

You should go to all the tables with whom you've interviewed.

Definitely go to the table that's invited you.

But SC's that didn't explicitly invite you:

(1) Assume you'll show up anyway; or,

(2) forgot to invite you; or,

(3) didn't reserve a table, and aren't sure about being there; or

(4) didn't think your interview went very well.

If (1) or (2), you have to go.

If (4), you should still go if you think there's a way to repair the damage.

If (3), though they may think they won't be there and, instead, paint Baltimore red, they'll eventually wind up at the smoker anyway since, as meganerd professional philosophers, they lack social paint; so try to find them anyway.

If they're not there to get wooed by candidates, why are they there, right?

A prof interviewing at APA said...

Wanna make with me about football.

will philosophize for food said...

I was in the most awkward political situation ever--the table adjacent to mind was one of the schools at which I interviewed. So I avoided my own grad school's table after the interviews, striking up conversations with random strangers, to avoid staring awkwardly at the table the whole night, with all of the other candidates coming around to shmooze (sp?).

I ended up talking to a very nice grad student in ethics to whom one of my profs introduced me. And of course, what else did we talk about but the philosophy job market blog . . . and some reasons I should be a deontologist.

lonnie plus said...

One of my profs said that I should NOT go to a table if I had a good interview with that committee. His reason? "You can only fuck it up."

If, on the other hand, the interview went less-than-well, it is worth it to try again.

tenured professor girl said...

Speaking as one who, in my day, actually perversely enjoyed interviews but had total panic attacks come smoker time, here was one of my smoker tricks ... I would wait until the table I thought I needed to speak to was swamped with people, rather than when they were on their own. If you're the only one there then there is simply no way of extracting yourself from the conversation without infinite awkwardness. Once the table was overrun, I would briefly interject myself, and in an apologetic tone say something like, "I can see you're swamped but I did want to quickly say 'hi' and let you know how much I enjoyed meeting you today". Then I would beat a hasty retreat, as if I were just too polite to add to their social burden but couldn't restrain my joy at seeing them.

My callback rate was well over 50% so apparently this method did not suck.

While I have your attention ... in the badly dressed department: Did y'all see the guy with the bandana and the crossing-guard-orange T-shirt with his name tag pinned down around his navel? I couldn't make out the tag. WTF?

I must say the anonymity of these posts is starting to be endangered. Be careful, kids. Folks with jobs to give, like me, do read this blog! I now know who one of the comment-authors above is.

Hope everyone survived last night with their self-esteem and sense of humor still alive and kicking. See you tonight!

Alias Smith and Jones said...

Hmmmm, I am curious how Tenured Prof Girl discovered the identity of a comment author on this page.

To be sure, keeping one's identity a secret on this site is essential to its fun, so any tips on how not to give one's self away would be helpful.

I know that I, Dr. John Smith, want to keep my identity hidden.

juniorperson said...

tenured professor girl's idea for the smoker is superb!

tenured professor girl said...

Re: Alias Smith and Jones:

Well, this will out my identity too (to at least one person), but avoiding telling anecdotes as specific as "will philosophize for food" did is one important tip - you never know when the professor who introduced you to the nice ethics grad student in order to save you from the awkwardness of sitting at your own table next to the table that interviewed you is reading the blog. But don't worry, WPFF, I saw that you had that other table in the palm of your hand by the end of the night - and at least you didn't blog something mean about me on this board ...

One of my diss students did that once - that is, said something mean about me on his (non-anonymous) blog. I was much more insulted that he would assume that I was not internet-savvy enough to find and see it than I was by what he actually said.

PS - Actually it just occurred to me that it's worth making a more serious point: I don't think you guys are aware of how widely-read this blog is in the profession. Only a handful of profs have been writing comments, but I have already had maybe 10 or 12 conversations about this blog with faculty friends of mine - junior and senior, from various institutions - and so far it turns out that EVERY ONE of them have been reading. I don't know the percentages, but basically reading the blog has been a fun pass-time for the profession at large this fall. So be careful - really careful - what you say. Almost certainly at least one person from each of your interview committees is reading.

Great blog, BTW

Anonymous said...

I've been on the meat market three times (and am now tenure-track at R1). IMHO, it's advisable to make a pass by the table of each department that interviewed you. If they're interested in you, they're likely to welcome the chance to talk further with you. And if they're not, then there's nothing to be lost anyway.

I don't know how much doing this helps your prospects, but in my own case I've found that it is very informative for the candidate. In every case, I've been able to correctly guess the outcome of the interview from how pleased the interviewers looked to see me.

Also, can I suggest that it's not really a choice between pushing yourself on people and not showing up. I recommend passing by the table and trying to make eye contact. If they want to talk to you, they'll greet you, and likely take the lead in the conversation. If they look less enthusiastic, just move on. (Polite people might greet you even if they'd rather not talk to you. If that happens, just don't linger.)

Anonymous said...

Just to make this even more complicated than it is for job-seekers: as a search committee member several times in recent years, I objected to having a table at all. I was concerned that the many applicants who currently had a tenure-track job and were looking to move up wanted to keep that very confidential from their current department. Expecting everybody to show up at our smoker table might "out" them in ways that would make them feel very uncomfortable. Yes, they might get noticed at the ballroom interviews, but why put even more pressure on them to show up at the smoker and talk with us? I personally would never hold it against an applicant who didn't show up at the smoker, but unfortunately some others in my department would. See, I told you this would make things more complicated!

Anonymous said...

This thread about the "do I or do I not" decision of attending the smoker, of visiting the table etc is just one poignant example of the insanity and dysfunctional nature of the whole fucking process that is the APA job cycle. Explain this to any one else in any other profession (outside academia) and they will certainly think that some sadistic evil cabal set the whole thing up on purpose to elicit such angst. If there's no easy way of discerning whether or not we are to do such a simple thing as visit the table of the department that interviewed us earlier in the day, then how in the fuck is this even about qualifications for the position. Some faculty don't like you to visit them; some do; some penalize you if you don't show up; some penalize you if you do show up and say something that hurts you but wouldn't notice if you hadn't come to begin with; faculty from the same department have differing opinions about it and factor those into their overall assessments. WTF!!

juniorperson said...

Anon. 11,37's point about interviewing departments' smoker tables making things more awkward for interviewees with TT jobs is an excellent one. Since my own dept. had historically hired people who already have TT jobs I'll make this point next time we hire, against having a table.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

What about just telling them during the interview that they need not bother coming by the table?

juniorperson said...

I think that could be taken the wrong way! Far easier not to have a table to begin with.

Anonymous said...

I agree that being told not to bother coming by the table could (and probably would) be taken the wrong way - I would certainly take it as a brush-off. On the other hand, I have interviewed with a department that didn't have a table and I worried there as well.

Should I circulate the smoker trying to find the SC members individually and chat with them? Was the lack of a table a sign that they weren't terribly interested in the crop of interviewees they had this time around?

If this blog has taught us anything, it is that the process is ineliminably fraught with tension and uncertainty, to say the least.

All that being said, I think tpg's advice is the best I've heard to date.

Anonymous said...

More than just "uncertainty"--complete irrationality and the inclusion of arbitrary and irrelevant factors

recent hire said...

Should I circulate the smoker trying to find the SC members individually and chat with them?

My thought -- and this could be wrong -- is that if they don't have a table, they're not expecting you to hunt them down. If you see someone, say hi, and if you fall into a conversation that's great, but if they're not at a table they may want to talk to their friends.

Was the lack of a table a sign that they weren't terribly interested in the crop of interviewees they had this time around?

Nah, they probably decided about the table before they decided who to interview.

Anonymous Female Department Chair said...

Here's a few more thoughts. We do hope people will stop by our table and generally view it as a sign of their interest in our job. Keep in mind that some departments feel that their candidates may have had many interviews and may not be too interested in them. Stopping by, to us, indicates interest. I also think that in general we are tired from a 10 hour day of interviews and may not feel so eager to talk philosophy but seek a chance to get more of a sense of your personality, and also want to see if you have broader questions about life in our department or our city. It can be hard if candidates are coming and going because I at least try to be fair and not let any one person hog the conversation, and sometimes I politely excuse myself and say "I'm sorry but I should spend time with others as well." In such a case though, I do at least try to pass you on to a colleague of mine and/or introduce you to someone you may not have met yet from our institution. In some cases, a topic may have come up during your interview that is somewhat tangential to the main line of your research, and I don't want to de-rail the conversation then, but I may suggest "I'd love to hear more of what you think on x, why don't you come by and we can chat about it more." Some of us try very hard to be cordial and create a friendly and relaxed atmosphere. So many people in our profession lack the basic social graces... I think that any of you who talk about how fucking idiotic someone's questions were or how you are trying to out-strategize the competitors are, alas, only contributing to the overall social ineptitude that I for one am trying to combat. We can certainly tell if you are thinking that we or some of our colleagues asked idiotic questions, and (duh) in such cases, why on earth do you want a job with us and why do you think we'd ever want to hire you? Go on out to the department or job you think you deserve due to your superior intellect, and good riddance to you.

BornInTheSixties said...

Visiting a table can often do as much harm as good, and I typically tell candidates that I will not be at our table in hopes that they won't feel that they have to visit (and because I'm typically not at our table).

Making a visit is, in my opinion, only really important if:

1. You are interviewing at a school which for some reason (location, teaching load, etc.) they may have serious reason for worrying about whether you would be interested in coming. or

2. Your letters suggest that you are so great that even schools without obvious problems would worry that you would be interested in less than a Leiter top-10 school.

3. You've been explicitly asked to visit.

If you aren't in one of those three groups, then I'd advise following the advice of "Tenured Professor Girl" about this.

Above all, I would strongly recommend against (though I suppose it's too late at this point) seeking out people from schools who have tables but are not themselves at that table. Anyone sitting at a table should expect candidates to come by, and so typically won't mind if they do, but if they are avoiding their own table, then chances are they are with other friends in the profession, and since a natural topic with such people is how the day's interviews have been going, having a candidate turn up can put an awkward damper on the conversation.