Monday, December 19, 2011

Interview Advice

Philosophy jobs searches at colleges across the country work on the same schedule. The annual eastern meeting of the American Philosophical Association has traditionally been the place where all first interviews take place. Skype has meant that some departments don't use the APA meetings, but even with them tis the season to interview.

So, for the candidates who will be interviewing -- and for job candidates, in general -- any advice?

My one piece of advice involves a question you are almost surely going to be asked, the dream class. If you could teach anything in the world, what would you want to teach? We who have been lucky enough to get jobs know that the function of graduate school is to induce mental illness. You will be convinced that your dissertation topic which is a small corner of a corner of a corner of a sub-issue of a technical concern is the most important and interesting question in the world and the continued survival of the human race depends upon its being successfully resolved. As you leave your grad student years behind, you will eventually be able to hold actual conversations with human beings who are not your dissertation director and have the other person actually care about what you are saying. The dream class question is really a test to see how far along that path you have already traveled. DO not answer the question by saying that you would love to teach an advanced seminar in the field of your dissertation or on the major figure in your dissertation. The question can be faithfully translated as "It is impressive that you have written a dissertation, but are you more than a one-trick pony?" By answering the dream class question in a way that brings up your dissertation topic, you are saying "Why yes, I am. I have a very narrow intellect and am not excited to branch out into all of the wonderfully fascinating directions your students will want to explore. I am a boring automaton who will repeat the name of a single philosopher over and over again for the next 30 years whenever you ask me how my weekend went or what I think about the weather. Can I have this job now?"

Other advice for job seekers, philosophical, academic, or real-worldly?