How much do you know about the other people who are also interviewing where you are? Do you try to find out who they are (or their CVs)?
Date: 07 Dec 2010 03:46
Number of posts: 16
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I've heard things through the rumor mill and of course google them when I find out, if I don't already know them. I would never ask anyone where you're interviewing, though.
oops i meant : I would never ask anyone involved with the interviews (faculty, search committee, grad students etc) about the competition.
Also it's worth noting … I have heard cases where they liked >1 person and they were able to negotiate or get someone to defer in order to hire both. so although they are sort of like competition, they may not end up being so in the end… best to mostly worry about yourself.
There is usually no way to really know unless you have someone connected to the department somehow (like a friend who is a grad student or post-doc) who feeds you the inside info. Even then, its hard to know if having that information would even be helpful. I know of a person who did get a job last year, but then later found out others who were considered and saw their CVs he had no idea why he got the job over them as they were objectively stronger (more pubs), but he just happened to fit what they were looking for.
Totally agree with the anon above me that its best just to worry about yourself and putting your best foot forward. I've learned always to assume there is someone out there who is better than you so its best to just sell yourself as best you can and hope the rest works itself out.
By the way, I think if you just want to have a sense of where the competition is at, in general, take a look at the "n of applications thread." Lots have posted their number of pubs and its very impressive. Many have double digits, with some over 20. Clearly an employers market at most places.
I think the whole "he or she has more pubs than I do" thing is over-rated. Having a lot of pubs may get your foot in the door…but once the campus visit happens (if it gets to that point), a whole host of factors come into play that may ultimately trump what's on the CV.
I would tend to agree that once you get to the on-campus interviews lots of other factors, beyond publications, end up making the difference. However, that does not lead me to conclude that quantity or quality of publication is overrated for two reasons.
First, what is on your CV is among the only things we actually have control over in the process. The other extraneous factors regarding "fit" and such are really unpredictable and likely not much one can do to prepare for.
Second, saying pubs are only important to get your foot in the door belittles how important getting an interview is in the process. That is like arguing that since GRE scores don't predict success among grad students one shouldn't worry about what you score on the GRE. The reason GRE scores don't predict success is that everyone who gets into grad school already has high scores. Same with number of pubs. Almost everyone who gets an interview already has many pubs, thus its preditive power is now weakened.
My mentor preached that "publications are the currency of the realm" for an academic career, throughout grad school. I still think that is correct, but I'd argue that, at least in clincal psychology, grant funding is now moving up quickly.
Where your name is on pubs matters too. If someone has 10 pubs but no first authors (or just one), this doesn't match someone with 8 but half or more are first author. SCs want to have faith that applicants can manage a lab and flourish on their own rather than getting pubs only because they are part of someone else's (e.g. the advisor's) 'research machine.'
That's where candidates flop on the interview; yes of course personality matters, but sometimes it becomes painfully apparent that a candidate only has a long CV because of projects given to them (or they did only a little bit of work on it) and they have no clue how to continue on their own (or nothing original outside of their advisor's work).
I once spoke to a job candidate (as a grad student) who couldn't even remember basic findings of articles he was on! That is, I said "that was fascinating how you found X instead of Y, but it made since when you talked about Z might come into play in the discussion. Are you currently working on testing Z?" and the candidate replied "oh, is that what we found? hmm, i guess that would be an interesting next step." The guy was second author on this pub (and it was in top journal)!
ANON: I know it wasn't the main point of your post, but I think your side point about knowing what you found in any paper is really valuable. There are a couple of long, complicated, first-author papers that I haven't looked at in several months. I can almost guarantee that if interviewed now someone could stump me by bringing up one of the finer points. It's possible that makes me a bad candidate. Either way, I'm planning on at skimming my past papers before interviewing in a month. Maybe unnecessary and neurotic, but the interview amnesia you described sounds awful. Better safe than sorry. Anyway, thanks!
Sorry, I meant to direct my reply to "anonymous (guest)." Lots of anonymity on this discussion board. Which is understandable. Maybe someday I'll regret using my given name, Phozacle.
Phozacle: Ha, no problem. Well if it makes you feel better it really wasn't that much of a finer point (and the question even summarized the nature of the findings).
I think the more important lesson here is that if you do have a momentary blank-out, BS your way to safety. With that particular example, all the candidate had to say was "Oh, actually my current research isn't going in that direction, but if I mentored any students who were interested in that topic, I would be happy to continue that line of research" or "Yes, that's a research design I am currently trying to flesh out, but I haven't thought about it in awhile given my other projects" then follow it up with "It sounds like you are interested in that topic; what ideas do you have?" and let them do all the talking.
It's not about knowing everything, but at least avoid looking surprised when people actually bring up your past publication findings, and letting the questioner elaborate for you. :)
Sometimes knowing the competition can just make you feel worse LOL
An upcoming interview they posted all the candidates job talks on their website….of course I google them, and now feel like a complete failure. Not even sure how I made the short list compared to these other ones!
Reframe: Apparently the SC thinks you're in the same group with those candidates. From that point of view, knowing the competition could make you feel pretty good about yourself.
Sometimes, I worry that when I interview, I am the one they "had to" bring in because they were required to interview at least 3 people, and I never really had a chance. Like, you know, you hear about them doing sham interview processes when they really have a single candidate, or an internal candidate, picked out in advance, but they have to put on a show? Yeah. Probably not a very charitable way to think about myself, but there it is. I just figured I'd throw it out there to go with the "a good laugh" comment.
Anon! Anon! People put way too much time and effort into these things to not consider you. Even if they know they really want one person in particular, most schools have to acknowledge that their desired candidate is likely desired by other schools as well. Thus, if they bring you in, they have to consider you in at least some way. There are for sure schools with dysfunctional recruiting practices bringing in poor/strange candidates to make others look good. But last I heard, they weren't having much luck. I've been that third candidate (e.g., straight of grad school with 1 first author pub up against 2 post-docs with double digits at a major R1) and felt very well-respected by the site of my interview. Faculty and students were excited to meet me, the job talk room was packed, etc. Don't be too hard on yourself. The field does enough of that for us.
Anonymous, I agree with you that knowing the competition can make you feel worse. I had that same experience last year of the candidates being posted on the website, and it made me feel totally out of my league. I actually think it led to me doing worse on the interview. It's better not to know and not to think about it. There are so many factors beyond our control - we don't know the political behind-the-scenes stuff or if there's already a favored candidate. Try to forget about it. All you can do is try to stand out on the interview.