November 03, 2005
Blinking at the AALS Meat Market
Posted by Christine Hurt

I am listening to the audiobook Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.  I don't think that the concept (your subconscious picks up more clues in the span of seconds than your conscious could pick up in hours of investigation) is all that new, but it is interesting to listen to in the car.  I do think that the concept is relevant to some of our readers in light of the fact that the AALS recruitment conference is coming up soon.  In the span of 30 minutes, interviewers will be making an assessment of candidates, and I would bet that most assessments are formed within the first minute or two and then rationalized by what happens in the next 28 minutes.  That's fairly frightening to think about.

However, candidates also have to make judgments about the people that they are meeting.  I know the general attitude is that candidates are being interviewed, not interviewing, but I would take the latter approach.  You are also interviewing schools here, and if you leave off your consideration until you have an offer, you may have missed some clues.

I hope our experienced readers can come up with their own heuristics for candidates to use in their assessments.  My mentor gave me one that I think holds true.  You can tell a lot about a school by what questions they ask you.  I found that I had two kinds of interviews:  (1) chatty, tell-me-about-yourself interviews and (2) interviews that probed my scholarship and my research agenda.  There was a range within those two groups as well.  If a school emphasizes and supports scholarship, the questions will fall into Group 2.  If the school does not or is split, then the questions will fall into Group 1.  So, even though this may not be intuitive, you should be glad if a school grills you.


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