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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Impression of Job Talks

I've been attending the faculty candidate talks that the Radiology department has been having. First off, many have been very they're interesting talks. A second benefit is that attending these talks is a chance to see lots of people give job talks, and to see what works and what does not.

Here are some very subjective (and likely incorrect) ideas I've had about what works and what doesn't work.

First, it seems important to actually have poeple in attendance at the talk. This is probably all showmanship, but it seems that the more people are there, the more exciting the talk seems and the better the questions you get. If I were giving a job talk, I'd try to ensure that friends and friends of friends were in attendance.

Next, the more successful talks all seemed to be somewhat tailored to the specific interests of the department. Some talks seemed generic, and some seemed like they'd been customized to appeal to whatever it was that the search committee was looking for. I don't need to tell you which ones appeared better. Also, make sure the level of detail -- and choice of details -- is appropriate: talks that were CS-theory-heavy when the audience was mostly radiologists? No good. Talks that spent minutes on the central dogma for the same audience? No better.

Also, more successful talks were "multi-scale" -- that is, they covered a "big picture" of a very exciting area, then gave detailed results about work that clearly has implications on the "big picture." The best talks also included a section on potential research approaches that the candidate would presumably do if they got the job. This section, in my opinion, should be the bridge between the small-scale research results and the big picture. The point here being that you appear to be (a) a visionary, (b) able to do real reasearch, and (c) able to connect real research to a vision of what you want to do.

I liked talks that showed how the person in question had a particular set of skills exactly appropriate for what they wanted to do. Nothing blatant, of course! But talks that gave the listener the impression that the speaker had the "perfect training" to do whatever made the speaker seem to be a very good candidate.

If any of you saw Atul's job talk, I think that's an example of one that hit all of these criteria.


  • Yeah, as I said to Zach earlier, I think it's nice to set yourself as Mr X, where X is a nascent or non-existent field. Correlates strongly with acting like a visionary I suppose.

    By Blogger brian, at 11:35 PM  

  • My secret is that I always wear at least 37 pieces of flair. Never fails!!!

    By Blogger jchang, at 5:31 PM  

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