Job Talk Alternatives?
posted by Dave Hoffman
The hour-long job talk is the market standard measure of a candidate’s presentation skills. As Solove explained, ”[i]t begins with the candidate lecturing for about 20 to 30 minutes and is followed by about 30 minutes of Q&A.” There are advantages to this format: it permits the candidate to get his or her thesis on the table before being interrupted by faculty, who, being who they are, aren’t accustomed to listening to other people talk and who would otherwise interrupt with the first thought that pops into their heads. There are disadvantages as well — a shorter 20 minute grace period may be insufficient to make any particularly complex argument; a longer 30-40 minute speech risks boring the room. Plus, to the very limited extent that the job talk is a good predictor of how well a candidate will teach, longer talks are particularly unrepresentative of a well-functioning and open classroom.
I thought I’d ask the audience whether they know of truly different models. I know that in 2004, when I was on the market, Lewis and Clark had candidates speak to a full room of students and faculty (75+), with no constraints that I can recall on the Q&A. (My god did I bombed that talk!) Conversely, I’ve heard that some schools permit questioning from the first minute, but insist that all comments until the 30 minute mark be merely clarifying. Whether and how that rule is enforceable is beyond my ken. Some schools are rumored to entirely ban powerpoint. Others, I hear, ask the candidates to teach as if they were talking to a classroom of law students.
But these are largely rumors. Does anyone know of different models and have thoughts about what works particularly well?
I’ll add that I’d prefer that the thread not devolve into a criticism of the idea of job talks — though I agree with the critique in many respects.