Mentoring Discussion Series

Jesse George-Nichol's picture

Mentoring Discussion Series, Question 7: 

What are the keys to giving a successful job talk?

Thank you to everyone who has participated in our discussion series so far.  We hope that you will continue to do so and make this a useful forum for discussion for the hundreds of scholars on the H-SAWH listserv.

A new discussion question will be posted in this series every two to three weeks.  You can suggest a discussion topic or question here.  There are also excellent essays on a wide variety of mentoring-related topics available in H-SAWH's mentoring toolkit.

You have to know the audience and the kind of institution interviewing you to ace your job talk. Is the audience going to be department faculty, a mixed audience including students, and if there are students are they undergraduate or graduate. People are going to be assessing the talk both as an indication of the quality of your research AND your ability to interact and communicate in a classroom. Those are not always the same things, but the ability to make people care about your topic and go away interested intalking with you more about it would be the best outcome. If you aren't excited about your topic, no one else will be. Reading a dense research paper is probably not your best strategy. Whatever you do, time your presentation and be sure you have time for questions and are not running over.

When you are invited to an interview the institution should indicate what sorts of things they will be expecting from you. Many will give you a schedule of your events. It is perfectly acceptable to ask about the conditions for a job talk (or classroom presentation): How many people will be there, what kind of tech will be available, who the audience will be. Be sure to ask about time and whether there will be Q and A after. These questions show that you really want the job because you are willing to tailor your performances to their conditions.

I have seen impressive job talks given like a conference presentation, or with PowerPoint, or just sitting around the table talking with colleagues. If you do choose to use tech, make several backups. Bring your own laptop/tablet, email yourself the presentations, carry a flash drive, and so on. And then be prepared for none of it to work.