Is it better to talk about the latest research you have done (e.g. in your postdoc) or talk about your work from grad school which is usually more familiar and comfortable? My feeling is that the SC might be already familiar with the "old" stuff which probably produced several publications already, and hence it might be a bit boring for them to hear about it again. Did anyone talk about two different topics in his'her lecture? I am mostly interested in research university as I suspect that in SLAC they might be more interested in your presentation skills.
Date: 07 Aug 2014 16:15
Number of posts: 5
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Your job talk should present who you are as a researcher and where you're going. If you previous research from grad school doesn't really connect with what you're doing now or will do…it might actually be a negative to present it. But, if you can tie it to your current work and where that leads (a nice research trajectory) then that would be the ideal.
The search committee knows what you've done and where you are…they want to know where you're going (essentially, what will they be getting).
It's good to start forming your job talk before you even get an interview, if you can. But, it rarely hurts to ask the search chair ahead of time what the committee and department expect in a job talk. I've seen more than one candidate get trashed in the faculty meeting because the larger department felt that their job talk was simply off course.
Most of the audience will not be that familiar with your work at all and even the members of the search committee probably have not read many of your papers in any detail (or if they did, they will not have retained a lot of it). I think if you only present published work this might be a mistake (and make them think you are out of ideas), but I would focus pretty heavily on whatever you think is your best work.
You should tailor your job talk for the audience. At an R1, this can mean a more technical presentation that ideally should convey your current research interests, accomplishments, and direction. A good job talk should provide a sense that you have a coherent set of research interests and that you have an active research program with a clear ultimate goal.
For more teaching-oriented institutions, though, you might opt for a more accessible talk - especially if undergraduate students will be part of the audience. I'm at a SLAC and have seen some candidates who looked great on paper bomb their job talk by presenting something loaded with obscure technicality and complicated ideas. Then, I've also seen candidates do lousy by over-simplifying their talk and making it more like some teaching demo'. One more thought - your talk should clearly demonstrate your enthusiasm, so make sure the topic is something you love and can show some passion for.
Hope this helps!