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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Last Advice on the Meat Market: Have Fun!

Seriously: Have fun.  

This may sound like (and may be, in fact) unhelpful or cruel advice.  But I think it has a payoff.  I went through the meat market process more than once--a point I make not to discourage anyone, but to say that if you have a strong vocation and persist, you may yet find yourself succeeding in the process even if the next couple of days don't work out as you wish.  The first time through, I remember that I an into a friend on the elevator who asked how things were going.  I responded with what I thought was the usual socially appropriate grumbling about the ordeal, etc.  He replied that he was finding it all incredibly fun, and indeed I could see a spring in his step about the whole thing.  (It may be relevant to note here that he was a former Supreme Court clerk with a list of top-flight interviews and a great record.)  When I went through the process successfully, I tried to approach things with that attitude: how enjoyable to get a chance to talk about my work and how excited I am about my research agenda, to get to meet people, and to share my enthusiasm for law teaching!  I can't tell whether it was genuine, put on, or something in the way of both acting the part and becoming the part.  But I think it made my interviews more pleasant and productive, both for me and the hiring committees.  So try to have fun, even if it is all a bit of an ordeal; it may help you.

I suppose my final advice for hiring committees would be to remember your own duties, and remember that it's not always fun being on the other side of the process.  Remember in particular that you're looking for someone who has the vocation of a teacher and scholar and will grow into that role over time--and that there are many ways of being someone who fills that role creditably, from showing enthusiasm to being quite and thoughtful but incisive and committed.  Don't reward facility with a 30-minute interview for its own sake, but think hard about what the many ways in which someone can fit (or not fit) what you're looking for, and the ways in which what you're looking for may change depending on the candidate before you.  Treat questions as an opportunity to get to know someone, to open a process of dialogue in which both of you are capable of adjusting your goals depending on the answers you get, rather than as a test in which one wrong answer can ding a candidate.  It's an interview, not a quiz.  And try to enjoy yourselves too!  After all, even if you don't call someone back, these are people who in many cases will end up in teaching and may have stellar careers; what a privilege it is to meet all these people now and get to know them.  And keep your room clean!

Posted by Paul Horwitz on October 13, 2011 at 08:32 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


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My advice to candidates is to stop reading blog entries giving them advice.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Oct 13, 2011 5:13:05 PM

I second this point. One piece of advice I heard one year, that applies both to candidates and committees: Think of it as a series of mini workshops and the sense of intellectual engagement that goes along with that.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Oct 13, 2011 9:40:49 AM

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