How important are interviews ?

Interview season is about to start for academic job seekers, chiefly at the tenure-track faculty level. Blogosphere abounds with pointed advice on how to conduct oneself during an on-campus interview — “Dos and donts” of a faculty candidate include, and are not limited to: be confident, not cocky; respectful, not obsequious; funny, not tasteless; enthusiastic, not eager; competent, not haughty; and so on.

Don’t get me wrong, all of that is very sensible advice, and in fact I still remember the way I felt on my first interview; to say that I was a nervous wrack would be an understatement, constantly rehearsing lines in my head, worrying about any possible faux pas that could conceivably cost me the job.
But… does that really happen in practice ? How often does a candidate lose a job for which she initially seemed like a “shoe in”, due to an abysmal performance on the on-campus interview, or even for a less-then-brilliant talk, or an unfortunate statement, something “over the line” said at a topical moment of the interview ?
In my opinion: very seldom. Of course, it is entirely possible for someone to botch it badly, or in any case convey a very different impression to the search committee from what curriculum vitae and letters of recommendation initially suggested. However, based on my experience over the course of twenty years, as job candidate, faculty involved in a number (6) of faculty searches (in different capacity, generally member of the search committee), and even back to my graduate student days, I believe that most of the time the ranking of the finalists at the end of the interview will be the same as before the interviews started [0]. That is, in the mind of the generic member of the search committee, the interview will simply confirm, indeed usually reinforce the impression that the person has formed while going through the pile of applications. And, to me this is not surprising; in fact, I would find it more peculiar if interviews completely upset the assessment based on an examination of the actual records.

By the time a junior scientist is invited for an on-campus interview, she has been in the business for at least a decade. She knows the environment, has met dozens of faculty, gone to countless seminars, (hopefully) given a lot of talks herself, may even have sat on a search committee herself, as a student representative. She has co-authored articles, put together an application package, including a research plan, a statement of teaching interests. She has attended conferences, Summer schools, spent time in different research groups, shared office and lab spaces with many colleagues of different seniority. Established scholars have put their reputations on the line, by stating in their letters of recommendation on her behalf that she has all that it takes to serve as an academic.
The likelihood of such a candidate displaying some unusually serious communication difficulties, surprising gaps of knowledge, particularly poor people skills or abrasive character traits, or any other shortcoming that could irreparably impair her ability to serve effectively in the capacity for which she is interviewed, is very low [1]. Based on my personal observation, I would say that 95% of faculty candidates who make it all the way to the interview stage are competent, capable of the job, and could serve adequately to the satisfaction of the hiring institution.

Obviously, that is not to say that all candidates are alike. On each and every one of them, each and every one of us will have a personal opinion, possibly a strong one, but opinions over a single candidate will be widely different across members of a search committee, let alone an entire department. This becomes especially true when comparing a handful of applicants whose research records are all distinguished, by any accepted, reasonable scholarly metric. At that point, what I like to refer to as the “unmeasurables” come into play. One person’s “fire in the belly” will be someone else’s “aggressiveness”, what is perceived by some as “professional”, is lamented by others as “uptight”, “down to earth” to him is “sloppy” to her, and so on. It is the very nature of the process, conducted by humans and therefore subjective and intrinsically imperfect, that makes reaching a consensus on one person essentially impossible, in the vast majority of cases. That means in turn, that in the vast majority of cases the person who will receive the first offer is not unanimously perceived as the best candidate by the whole department, but at best by a majority thereof (and often times, just by an influential minority) [2].
This is good news for interviewees — they need not stress about “winning the contest”, they should not worry themselves sick about what they should do next, whether to use animations in their presentation (or, Comic Sans fonts), what they should say or not say, wear, how much they should eat or drink at dinner, etc. They should just act normally, the way they conduct themselves every day, and they will be fine. What does that mean ? That they will be loved by few, liked by most, and disliked by few, like in every other work place, or social situation of any kind.

Of course, when it comes to making a decision, the members of the department who oppose the hires of specific individuals will use the interview as a cheap and convenient (if dubious) basis to make all sort of preposterous, disparaging comments about them — “he was dressed like he is going to work at a bank”, “she has a squeaky voice”, “that joke he made at dinner time was crass”, “her presentation smacked of arrogance” — but one should take all of that for what it is, i.e., nonsense. It is doublespeak. People making these comments do not necessarily “dislike” the person about whom they are talking, they just have their own agenda, typically their own favourite candidate [3]. Putting down everyone else, in any way possible (preferably over highly subjective, unmeasurable and unquantifiable aspects, thereby preventing any rational discussion) is simply part of the strategy. There is no lesson to be drawn for the applicant, in this situation. One ought not take any of that seriously, personally, or at face value. It should simply be dismissed as silly and unprofessional behaviour on the part of those who make such comments, who are on a power trip, not really trying to add anything useful to the debate.
Relax, candidate. No, you will not lose that job over your yellow tie, unpolished shoes, cheesy animation or even downright bad talk. We all have bad days, none of us always gives good talks, and most reasonable people understand that. If one is not made an offer, it is because those in charge of making the decision, or capable of influencing it the most, had someone else in mind before interviews, in fact possibly even before the entire search started.

But then, what purpose does an interview serve ? Well, from the standpoint of the institution, making sure that one is not falling victim of one of those rare occurrences of individuals looking great on paper, but turning out to be different in person. They are more important for the candidate, of course. First of all, it is the one and only opportunity for a young scholar to check out and assess the place where she will be spending arguably the most important years of her professional life. Secondly, it is important to be seen by the majority as a viable candidate, one to whom an offer can be extended, in case the person who receives the first offer declines the job, which is a very common occurrence.

[0] I do not have hard data, and I am not sure how one would go about collecting anything that could be deemed reliable. Perhaps conducting interviews of members of search committees may be a way to go.

[1] Don’t get me wrong, it happens. I have witnessed cases of candidates who had simply “slipped through the cracks”, so to speak, i.e., they had managed to reach that point in spite of significant, obvious weaknesses in important, mission critical areas. I think in the course of over twenty years, having observed over one hundred faculty candidates, I have seen maybe five with obvious shortcomings (of different nature). On those occasion, I could not help feeling perplexed by the fact that their references had not made (more) explicit and/or forceful commentaries in their letters (but in at least one case, the person was actually hired some place else).

[2] Yes, that includes those cases in which the leading candidate has the sticker of one of those few, unquestionably superior institutions and/or has the recommendation of an acclaimed leader of the field. Believe it or not, even in those cases, in which no two opinions should be allowed, someone will have the audacity of saying “OK, but… I was personally not that impressed” (I know, the nerve that some people have…). Thankfully, in most cases a more reasoned and informed colleague will make sure to silence the crackpot — metaphorically speaking, goes without saying.

[3] Sometimes, member of the faculty are dead set against having that search to begin with, and pass for “concern over the quality of applicants” what is in fact their intent of simply derailing the search. These individuals will find a way to oppose anyone.

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31 Responses to “How important are interviews ?”

  1. Schlupp Says:

    Ha, I found something to disagree: I think that should be “shoo in”.

    In [2], does the “metaphorically” refer to “silence” or to “crackpot”?

    I absolutely agree that a lot of that “your own fault that you didn’t get a job, you wore/ did not wear a yellow shirt” is BS, but I have to admit that the one disastrous job talk that I remember *was* amusing.

    What is your opinion on the interview process for people with less experience, where your “whoever got that far is not going to mess up royally now” argument is weaker? One of my previous employers did conduct interviews for postdocs (yes, that would be the insanely rich employer) and my impression was that the job talk was very important.

    • Massimo Says:

      Thank you for the correction, I have already been told that it is “shoo in” many times, but, hey, you have to be patient with old people, right ?

      “Metaphorically” refers to “silence”, of course.

      I think it is possible to botch it, but the few really bad interviews I have seen were with people who should not have been interviewed to begin with, and a more attentive, dispassionate examination of their records should have actually raised red flags.

      And at the postdoctoral level talking to people is much more important, of course — but who has the money to fly them in…

  2. mareserinitatis Says:

    More succinctly: don’t blow it and you’ll be fine. 🙂

  3. transientreporter Says:

    1) In my experience, the opposite has often happened. I can think of two examples when we brought in people who looked okay, but had issues. We weren’t high on them, but they had something that looked interesting enough to invite. One was for a very specific position, and we had few applicants that met the criteria. We invited the guy almost out of sheer desperation. And both of them blew us away. And they’ve been fantastic colleagues. So think of the interview as an opportunity to strut your stuff, and to allay fears by acknowledging weaknesses but then really emphasizing your strengths.

    2) While serving on hiring committees, the biggest turn-off for me were people who were reticent about offering information, or somehow gave the impression that they were hiding something. IMHO, it’s better to be too chatty – even if that means making some minor faux pas – than it is to be evasive or silent.

    3) You learn a lot from calling the references. People say stuff they would never put down on paper.

    4) You see an ad for a position from College X. You apply, and get turned down. The following year, you see exactly the same position from the same college. Should you apply? My answer would be YES, YES, YES. Who knows why they didn’t fill the position. Who knows how the make-up of the committee may have changed. Who knows how this capricious, whimsical process resulted in your being turned down. Put your name in the hat and see what happens. If you say, “Well, that mean, nasty college turned me down. Why should I apply there again?” you’re doing exactly the wrong thing.

    • Massimo Says:

      It’s all a matter of probability, and whether it is worth your time and aggravation. Me, if they did not interview me last year, I don’t bother with them this year. The likelihood of them realizing twelve months later that I am worth interviewing, in my opinion, is too slim to bother.

      I know three people who interviewed twice (on two consecutive years) at the same institutions. On one occasion I was on the search committee, and fought hard not to have the person interviewed again. Lost the battle. Person was interviewed. We did not offer him the job, and my fellow committee members told me at the end “yeah, you were right, it was stupid and unfair to get him here again”.

      Another time this fellow asked me if in my opinion it was a good idea for him to go and interview at the same place that did not make him an offer the previous year. I said no. “You are wasting your time, they did not offer you the job last year, they won’t this time around either”. He went. Did not get the job. Told me afterwards “Damn, you were right, this was stupid. Why do they play idiotic games like these ?”. Damn if I know.

  4. prodigal academic Says:

    I am afraid I have to respectfully disagree about the importance of interviews. Although I am new to the TT, I have now been on 2 search committees and participated in 7 total searches. In every single one, at least one candidate bombed the interview. In two of them, it was the “top” candidate on paper. We have (like transientreporter) also been blown away by candidates who seemed the weakest on paper, but turned out to be awesome in person. So far the interview impression seems to be the correct one.

    There seem to be three groups of people who don’t interview well: people with personality issues (sometimes you can figure this out from references, sometimes not), people from large resource rich groups who are carried by the group and have a great paper track record that overestimates their true ability, and people who are just not ready to run their own group for whatever reason. I’ve seen all three. Now probably, we could do a better job prescreening from the application materials. Usually we are trying to select 5 or 6 to invite out of a list of 20 or more who are at the top of the pool and look great on paper. Even if 1 of the 6 bombs, that still leaves 5 candidates above the bar. I agree with you that many “failed” searches fail because of the department, not the candidates.

    As a recent TT candidate, I can also say that the interview is of critical importance to the candidate, who needs to decide if they can work and live in the department.

  5. Massimo Says:

    In every single one, at least one candidate bombed the interview.

    What does this mean ? They gave a bad talk, said things that they should not have said, acted funny, did all sort of things that they should not have done, and as a result of that, even though all of this could be attributable to nervousness, or just a bad day, you decided to pass on them ? People who likely did have what it takes to succeed ? In other words, the same people, with their ability and preparedness, if properly coached on how to interview, would have gotten the job ? I doubt it. I hope this ain’t it.

    If you are talking about people who on paper seemed to have what it takes, but then in person proved the opposite, in other words showed serious deficiencies, then no kind of “coaching” or “interview advice” would have saved their behind, that is my point. Those people simply should not have been interviewed, but there is a good chance that their application was not looked at carefully, or that someone lied, or was reticent, on some recommendation letter.

    • prodigal academic Says:

      One bad candidate was an arrogant ass, one expected a level of support and access to instrumentation that we just didn’t have (the committee should have caught that one), the rest were unable to answer pretty basic scientific questions about their prior and/or proposed research, making us think that perhaps they were not the main driver of the work on their CVs. Now, their references should have known this–either they did and weren’t forthright, or they don’t know who is who in a giant lab. Either way, I am less likely to trust recommendations from them in the future (2 of our below the bar performers were from the same lab!).

  6. Calvin Johnson Says:

    I also tend to disagree. I got my first faculty position because the leading candidate blew the talk, and I gave a good one. And in several cases I have seen what should have been good candidates blow it, either in the talk or in private conversation.

    Here’s what I tell my junior colleagues, though Massimo may disagree. The importance of an interview is not to establish how good you are at research; that’s already known and that’s why you were invited. Instead, the purpose of the talk and the discussion is to demonstrate how good a colleague you will be in the department. Do you communicate your ideas effectively? Can you ‘sell’ yourself, to students and to funding agencies? Will you be someone who will be a positive asset to the department, or someone who will be a drag?

    • Massimo Says:

      Well, see, this is what baffles me: so, you have someone who gives such a bad talk, that the vast majority of the department feels that this person cannot possibly be an effective teacher, communicator, mentor to graduate students, what have you. Is it at all possible that maybe they had a bad day, that they were nervous, that that performance is in no way representative of their everyday selves ?
      I mean, we are humans, can’t something like that happen ? Are you going to discard someone for one bad talk ?

      Because, if they are really that bad, then I have to wonder where the hell were his PhD and Post-Doc advisors when this person was supposed to be taught how to give a talk, especially in view of future job interviews. And if these people tried to teach this person and simply failed, then I think a serious letter of recommendation should point out this obvious problem…

      • Doug Natelson Says:

        Massimo, I’ve seen it, too. Yes, it is possible for someone to blow a talk that badly. For example, we interviewed a clearly brilliant candidate several years ago who was utterly incapable of giving an explanation of anything at the level of general interest. This wasn’t a bad day – this person just could only talk at an expert level, period. I’ve also seen a candidate who looked good on paper come in and make it abundantly clear that they’re not at all excited about the job. Again, not in a subtle, misinterpretable way. It can happen, and it’s just odd.

      • Massimo Says:

        Doug, I believe you, I have seen it too. I agree, it is odd, and in my experience rare. In any case, I doubt if these people could be made “acceptable” by giving them a simple list of rules, of “dos and donts”, before their interview. These are clearly cases of people who slipped through the cracks, and in these cases I am sorry but I lay the blame squarely on the advisors. I blame them, if not for succeeding at teaching their advisees, at least for not warning the search committee about these deficiencies, especially if they are so obvious that a majority of the audience will start shaking their heads after five minutes.

  7. Calvin Johnson Says:

    have to wonder where the hell were his PhD and Post-Doc advisors when this person was supposed to be taught how to give a talk, especially in view of future job interviews.

    Really? In your experience, PhD and Post-doc advisors consistently and universally take the time and care to teach their advisees how to give good talks? Especially if the advisor himself may be famous and brilliant but in fact does not know how to give good talks.

    Maybe it’s just been my bad luck, but I happen to have run across an awful lot of my fellow physicists, including senior physicists, who themselves do not know how to give a good talk. I’m sure this is not the case in your department, Massimo, and in your field, but we’re not all as lucky as you. And if someone doesn’t know how to give a good talk, how can they advise someone to do so?

    And if these people try to teach this person and simply failed, then I think a serious letter of recommendation should point out this obvious problem…

    Oh, come on. How many letters have you received that read, “Dear Massimo, my former student Dr. X is a brilliant scientist, but keep him away from freshman classes because he can’t explain Newton’s law without recourse to tensor algebra.” Probably you are that rigorously honest, but frankly most are not.

    • Massimo Says:

      I don’t know what to tell you, Calvin, as a graduate student I remember my PhD advisor making me rehearse for hours and hours my ten-minute APS meeting talk, the Friday before leaving for the meeting.
      At FSU, during my five years there, I gave at least one departmental talk every year, plus I went to the APS meeting three times and gave talks. Every student did it. I am sure you did too. Was it so unusual ? Have times really changed that much ?
      I am sorry, maybe students at my school reading this, who might have been considering me for supervisor will now change their mind, but I do the same. I make my students give a lot of talks, go through their transparencies with them, try to give them a sense for how to do a passable job, at least.

      Of course there will always be those who do it better, who are brilliant speakers, who simply are gifted at communicating — but, from that to consistently giving a bad talk, there seems to be quite a distance…
      Look, if I had a student like that, I think I would sit with the person and tell him/her “I am sorry but if you do not, cannot, will not learn how to do this, then you are not going anywhere !”. I mean, it’s like learning English, a foreigner will practically never speak like a native speaker, but most of us get to a point where we can function. I believe that the vast majority can be brought to that point. Those who can’t are out of luck, and you cannot get around this. You must be able to speak and write understandable English, if you want to be a faculty at an American University, simple as that.

      If they really cannot do it (but in my experience they all get to a point where they can at least be understandable), and there is no way I can get them to fix it, and after I have explained to them that they cannot be in this profession unless they learn how to speak to an audience, they still try and apply — well, I am sorry, I am going to have to write on my letter that unfortunately this person’s communication skills are not as good as they should be.
      What else should I do ?

      • Calvin Johnson Says:

        A good, conscientious adviser and/or department will do exactly that. And they all ought to. Apparently nearly all of the candidates you’ve screened have been lucky enough. But that’s not been my experience.

        As for bluntly honest letters, I can completely believe that you write them, friend Massimo, as do a few others. (I’ve heard of a case where a Famed Professor wrote, “Dr. X is my best student. However I must say that none of my students have done very well.”) Many, however, are reluctant to write openly negative things of someone they have nurtured and worked with for years. It’s called human nature. Perhaps they ought to be more blunt, but the world often isn’t as it ought to be.

        Furthermore, some people simply have different views. They may truly believe Student X is smart, or gives good talks, or whatever. It is entirely possible to simply come to a different conclusion.

        (I do agree, however, with the comment that talking to a reference, particularly if you know that person, can be much more insightful than a cold letter.)

  8. GMP Says:

    I also must disagree. The interview is very important. Several people above have nicely elaborated why.

    About the bad day: I don’t believe that. It’s more of a bad match/bad chemistry kind of thing. We are supposed to be professionals, and you are supposed to suck it up and do your best for the big show. You do not get a chance at a repeat performance. Some people could/should have been coached better, but if they weren’t — tough luck (it’s irrelevant who’s to blame). Some people crack under pressure; again, tough luck. The competition is just too fierce to allow for fallibility in performance.

    Another thing about interviews: people with great pedigrees (e.g. where they got their PhD) get the bulk of the interviews; people with a no-so-great pedigree get comparatively fewer. If you come to an interview with a less-than-stellar pedigree, you better blow everyone away; you don’t have the option of failing as you may end up jobless. If you bomb or are just so-so, nobody will give you the benefit of the doubt (that you may have had a bad day etc) *precisely* because you come from a lesser background.

  9. Massimo Says:

    Some people crack under pressure; again, tough luck. The competition is just too fierce to allow for fallibility in performance.

    See, I could not disagree more with such a philosophy.
    The notion that an interview is like the Olympics is pernicious, in my opinion. You have to try and hire the person who will work out best for the next ten, twenty years, not the one who packages him/herself best and put on the best show in those two days. I am sorry but, just like (as Calvin says, which is true) there are great scientists who cannot give good talks, there are also plenty, I say way more people who are mediocre scholars but are really good at blowing smoke, and a lot of us fall for that.
    I have seen really bad hires made because the short-term, “shock and awe” effect of the interview, trumped what should have been the overriding consideration, namely the assessment of a person’s long term suitability.
    I have had bitter arguments with colleagues who said things like “yeah, I also think X is a better scientist all around, but I didn’t like their talk, so I am going to go with Y” — that’s nonsense. We are evaluating the academic, the scientist, the colleague, not the showperson.
    The two things may go together in part, but not all the time.
    If they “crack under pressure” but are still better scientists, I am more inclined not to make a big deal out of the interview, especially if there are reasons to believe that it may just have been a “bad day”. We all have those.
    And I think it is very important for the search committee not to rush, to take a few days after the interviews are over and “cool off”, let the dust settle — that way, it becomes easier to make a more reasoned decision, based on the whole picture, as opposed to a dinner, a half-hour conversation and a talk.

    Another thing about interviews: people with great pedigrees (e.g. where they got their PhD) get the bulk of the interviews

    Bingo. That is the problem. And very often they are short-listed for no other reason, or in any case, the level of scrutiny to which their application is subjected is inferior. And then, when they show up and cannot put two words together, people act all stunned — “How is this possible… a student of So and So Big Shot…. coming from Great School, no less… who woulda thunk it”, when often times a careful, dispassionate examination of their application material could and should have raised a red flag.

    • GMP Says:

      My attitude is not that the best showman should win (I too am wary of all show and no substance), but that there is generally no room for big blunders and that, just as you said above, people will say that you botched the talk and in my experience that’s impossible to recover from. So one needs to be at the top of their game for the interview, whatever their game is, and I think people usually are (adrenaline and all that). So when someone bombs people believe the person is simply not good.

      trumped what should have been the overriding consideration, namely the assessment of a person’s long term suitability.

      I agree, but how do you do this? You have the CV, the letters of recommendation, and the interview. There is only so much information in the CV and letters if you want to remove the interview as unreliable or dismiss on the basis of propelling showmanship over substance.

      If the person gives a boring talk, maybe they are shy, but maybe they won’t be able to convince anyone to fund them and they will also be boring teachers. If a person gives a bad talk (underprepared, or can’t answer questions), maybe they suck pretty bad, but maybe they had a bad day. In my experience, hiring committees always assume worst-case scenario.

      Presumably everyone else saw the publication list and letters, hence the person was invited. When you want to argue that a person had a bad day, how do you support it? What is it in their record that indicated they had a bad day and weren’t instead exactly what they looked like (an incompetent fool/arrogant ass/boring/potentially terrible teacher/fill in whatever) and which would completely sink them? What is it in the person’s paper record that makes yuo decide that a person has long term suitability even if they interviewed poorly? I must say that I agree with prodigal above regarding the types of people who generally interview poorly. (Other than that, if the interview wasn’t terrible per se and the person didn’t get the job, it’s just bad chemistry or department politics that’s invisible to the candidate.)

      And very often they are short-listed for no other reason, or in any case, the level of scrutiny to which their application is subjected is inferior.

      We are in complete agreement here. Some of the worst interviews I have heard were from candidates coming from big name schools. But then none of them were offered the job either. I still want tot reiterate that, if you are not from a big name school, you better polish your interview persona because no one will give you the benefit of the doubt or a second chance, as you always start from a point of perceived inferiority. For the sake of all excellent scientists who may not have the best pedigree, for the love of god, nail the freakin’ interview once you are fortunate enough to get one. You usually got one because someone (like Massimo!) was willing to look at your record in detail and forgo the pedigree. Don’t let them down and blow everyone away with your interviewing awesomeness!

      • Massimo Says:

        There is only so much information in the CV and letters if you want to remove the interview as unreliable or dismiss on the basis of propelling showmanship over substance.

        True, and I suppose that at the end of the day it remains subjective, but I do think that sometimes the CV raises red flags that a convincing interview does not really remove — not for me, anyway.
        To give you concrete examples drawn from my own experience (granted, my personal recollection, reading and/or interpretation of facts and events — I think it is reasonably objective but, take it for whatever it is worth), consider the cases of a short-listed candidate who has given the best personal impression during the interviews, and whose publication list
        1) is much weaker than that of the other interviewees.
        2) only includes articles co-authored with his/her doctoral advisor and always on the same subject, including after taking a postdoc some place else
        3) sports a decent number of publications, but no significant results on any of many problems (s)he has worked on, as a result of which the h-index is significantly below that of the others
        4) does not convey a sense of focus, namely the person has performed essentially a random walk from one small problem to the next, without ever tackling anything major.

        In all of these cases, I personally would be very wary of letting a brilliant talk, or a good personal impression given by the candidate during the interview, trump in importance a record built over a decade. There are reasons why they have not published much, and there is a pretty good chance that they will keep on publishing little as faculty.
        I am much more willing to believe that one may have had a bad day than ten bad years.

      • GMP Says:

        I agree, these are all quite serious shortcomings. Most of them sound like they would exclude the person from the short list completely in the first place (i.e. they would not be interviewed). What is it that got them the interview to begin with [especially if they are under 1) or 2) or 4)]? Was it pedigree alone?

      • Massimo Says:

        Was it pedigree alone?

        Pretty much, and in some cases “relevance of their research area to the strategic goals of the department”.

  10. Schlupp Says:

    “…and there is a pretty good chance that they will keep on publishing little as faculty.”

    Which is entirely justified and logical from their point of view: Given that they were rewarded with a faculty job – no mean reward – it makes absolute sense for them to assume that those “ten bad years” must have been pretty awesome after all.

    • Massimo Says:

      I agree. If to that you add six more years of no feedback whatsoever, other than cryptic half sentences dropped here and there, nothing ever put in writing, and the occasional congratulatory remark from the chair for inviting a colloquium speaker or organizing some outreach activity, you know why tenure rejection comes so often as a shocker — and why so many institutions are wary of possible legal repercussions.

  11. David Says:

    I think bad presentations can often sink candidates, including me.

    • Massimo Says:

      That they can, there is no doubt about it. However, I have seen it happen seldom, even though often times search committee members with an axe to grind, will base on a (supposedly) horrible presentation their insistence that a certain candidate be discarded.

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