I just received an email from my institution about chalk talks. That this is something new departments are starting to implement during the interview process. Has anyone heard about these? Are they being used in psych? What are they?
Date: 01 Oct 2010 16:47
Number of posts: 10
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My husband's dept has this in biology at a big R1. It's basically like an extension of your job talk on 'future directions'. You provide more concrete details about where you research is going, what grants you are applying for, etc. Do not let the casual name fool you—this is a big deal when they bring in interviewees for R1s. Stellar candidates on paper and in their regular job talk have been dropped for not being unprepared/disorganized or unclear/rambling during chalk talks.
It really shouldn't….I mean most of us will have a 5 year plan prepared (in order to answer that awful question) and should include specific grants….that just shows that you are serious!
I'm not afraid of articulating my research plan, but I am really scared of having to talk at length about a particular analytic technique or something like that.
Ah yes, the quant questions….those are the one that scare me too! Even though I know what I'm doing, I don't have the full confidence about it like I do with my research plan, etc.
My graduate institution (R1 psych dept) had candidates give chalk talks so I've seen several. The faculty would ask questions of the candidate ranging from expanding on a point made in the job talk, to a second line of research, to explaining a statistical analysis they presented data from, to asking about a random thought they had during the talk (which may or may not have been relevant) to a 10 year plan. The intention was not to stump the candidate but to see how the person thinks on the fly. There were candidates who had perfectly polished job talks and awful chalk talks, as well as those who had mediocre job talks but very informative and pulled-together chalk talks. One faculty member told me that in the chalk talks they were looking to weed out inexperienced-but-well-coached/coddled candidates.
I've never heard of chalk talks before—good to know! How are these different than the Q&A after the job talk? Are you told about these in advance (couldn't someone be well-coached for this part, too?) or is this something thrown at you during the interview?
I think people are always told about them in advance. They're not that different from the Q&A although the questions people got in the chalk talks were more in-depth and required longer answers. For example, someone might ask in a chalk talk to propose some follow-up studies they might want to run to tease apart some aspect of their research. Or, someone might say, "I saw on your CV that you did a study on XYZ but you didn't discus it in your job talk. Can you tell us about that line of research and whether/how you'll continue it?" I've also seen them go in very methods-ey directions if the speaker discussed some new techniques/analyses, seen people drawing neural circuitry on the chalkboard, seen people challenged about assumptions or concepts, basically any/all of the above for an hour.
I suppose someone could be coached for this part (my recommendation : have follow-up studies in mind), but it's much harder because they have no idea what will be asked and where the discussion will go (and it seems to "go" a lot of random places).