How to give a great job talk: Andrew Green from the Career Center
(November 2007 WIS meeting)
; Take home messages:
o The job talk is the most decisive part of the application process because it shows
character and communication skills.
o Provide context and bigger picture message of your research questions because most
people in the audience are not in your field so you want to reel them in with the
o The goal is to deliver a good job talk. Often times, job talks do not go so well for
most applicants, so as long as your talk is good, it will standout. ; The talk began with a discussion of how important the job talk is to your job interview but
also to your career. In fact, Andrew called the job talk, “the single most important point in
; The problem with the job talk is that you have to squish all research you’ve ever done into
about 40 mins (because seminars are usually less than an hour and you also have to leave
time for question, so in reality , you only have 38 mins to talk)
o This is why Andrew suggests going from “general to specific to general,” meaning
that you should focus on the most important aspects of your research and leave the
; Main goal: to give a tight, concise, clear job talk that is reels your audience in and keeps their
attention. This is why, you might have to focus your talk on the most important research ; What to know before you go to the interview:
o What kind of job talk are you suppose to give? i.e. what does the department want to
; For example, are you expected to give a research talk or a teaching talk?
o What kind of AV equipment do they have?
o Make sure you have free time in your schedule before you give the talk so that you
have a change to look over your slides again and collect your thoughts.
o See the room beforehand if possible to help reduce anxiety
; Introduction of your talk: “Setting the hook”
o Convey the significance of the research to the audience
; The goal is to get the audience to lean forward in their seats because they are
so interested in your talk. Explaining the broader questions that your research
is designed to answer will help to get the audiences attention
; Also, most people in the audience will have limited knowledge of your field
so you have to tell the audience why your work is important
o Provide an outline of where your talk is going to make it easier for your audience to
follow the talk
; Presenting your research
o Go from general to specific to general
; This involves stating your general question (if possible, condense your
dissertation into one main question) and the broader context for your research.
Then state the specifics required to answer your question.
o Finish your presentation with a brief overview of your talk and discuss the broader
implications of the research again.
o Spend 2-3 slides on your future research and discuss how these ideas fit with the
o General tips
; Assume your audience is ignorant because not everyone knows your research
as well as you do, so assume that your audience doesn’t know anything!
; Watch out for the “straw man complex” and remember that you are the expert
on your research so don’t loose confidence because you think that your
audience knows more than you.
; Don’t assume that the data say everything. Make sure to explain the
significance and interesting aspects of your research.
; The language of the talk
o Use evocative language.
; Metaphors and similes may help the audience to better understand the
research but avoid clichés.
o The 7% rule: people generally only remember 7% of talks
o But 65 % of people remember talks based on body language so emphasize the
important parts of the talk with pauses, changes in tonality.
o Showing that you are excited about your research also helps to engage your audience. o Mistakes: most people don’t notice when you misspeak, so don’t draw attention to
your mistakes by apologizing for them.
o Make eye contact with everyone in the room. This helps to engage the audience and
to humanize the audience.
o Make sure to adjust written language to spoken language. For example, if you want to
talk about data in a paper you’ve written, don’t put your paper directly into your talk.
Instead, change the language so that the talk flows more naturally. o Speak slowly and make the talk easy to follow because people are hearing about your
research for the first time.
; The easier you make the talk for the audience, the smarter the audience will
feel and the better the audience will feel about you.
o If a question is unclear or ambiguous, re-state the question in your own words and try
to maintain control.
o If a member of the audience raises objections to parts of the talk, you don’t have to
engage every point if you feel uncomfortable. You can always ask to discuss the point
after the talk.
; General tips:
o Bring transparencies with you. You never know if the school will have problems with
their projector or if you loose your computer etc. But the school will always be able
to get an overhead projector relatively easily.
o Practice! If possible, deliver the job talk to people who are not familiar with your
research as well. This will highlight the parts of the talk that are unclear. o The point of the job talk is to carry your audience step-by-step through your research
so that you can show your audience how well you know your research. o Always have confidence in the argument that you are making.
o You have made it this far, don’t blow the job talk!
; Individual interviews:
o The goal of the individual interviews is to show that you have interesting research,
that you would make a good colleague, and that you are good with students. o Be prepared for any question, even if the school tells you that you don’t need to
worry about certain things. For example, if they tell you will not be asked about
teaching, be prepared for teaching questions anyway, because other members of the
search committee may want to know about your teaching experience. o Show that you are a likable and charismatic person.
o Have good questions about the department that you can always ask if the
conversation is strained.