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Monday, October 17, 2011

Post-conference thoughts

Once again (this is my third straight year on appointments), I somewhat enjoyed the hiring conference. We met a number of interesting candidates talking about interesting scholarly and teaching ideas. And however, rushed, that exchange of ideas is enjoyable. In addition, I finally got to meet in person a few fellow prawfs whom I have long known and admired by reputation.

For now, I'd just like to raise some questions and issues that I saw coming up a lot--not all of which are all that important. Candidates and committee members, what do you think?

1) Friday v. Saturday. Is there a different tone on Saturday as opposed to Friday? Are candidates more relaxed on Saturday than on Friday? Having gotten through one fully day, candidates have a better feel for everything--the general feel and flow of interviews, the steeplechase involved with getting around the hotel, how they want to present their ideas. Plus, Saturday is often a shorter day for both candidates and committees; we went to 6:30 on Friday but finished by 2 on Saturday. So does the day feel like less of a slog for everyone? I am thinking less here about the quality of the candidates or the interviews and more about the feeling "in the air" and the attitude that both candidates and committees bring to the rooms and to the hallways.

2) Walk, Run, or Ride? Candidates, did you use the steps or ride the elevators? I spoke with a couple of people who said they took the elevators going up, but walked down the steps. This struck me as a good idea; wish I had thought of it ten years ago. Besides saving time waiting and squeezing onto an often-crowded (and stress-filled) elevator, it was a good way to keep moving and keep your energy up without also having to do the extra work of fighting gravity going up. Of course, Shabbos-observant Jews had not choice this year--Friday was the Jewish holy day of Sukkot and Saturday was Shabbos, so some, according to their faith, couldn't ride.

3) Early or Late? Is there an advantage to early-morning interveiws? The obvious advantage to an early interview is that, assuming people can be coherent at 8:30 or 9 a.m., everyone (candidate and committee) is fresher and more energetic, which means the conversation is going to be better. The perceived disadvantage is that, if the committee does not meet until the end of the conference (or even the end of the day), it may have forgotten those early candidates in favor of those it saw most recently ("recency bias" or whatever cognitive psychologists call it). What is going to be remembered by the committee as better come evaluation time: A more-energetic-feeling interview that happened 36 hours ago or one that happened two hours ago but felt less so (assuming two equivalent candidates). This is similar to questions we face in, for example, grading papers (do I judge the earlier papers too harshly because my expectations begin high or am I forgiving at the outset). But it now is influenced by an inter-personal dynamic. Can the committee overcome it by having a quickie discussion or straw poll right after each interview (or during an early break)?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on October 17, 2011 at 09:03 AM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink


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(1) I'm on board with Friday only people. This was my second time going through the process and this time I told schools that I was available only on Friday. Everyone is SO worn out on Saturday it is a real drag.
(2) I never thought of using the stairs, but I did run from one interview in a far-off tower to another that was back-to-back (and if I knocked you down, sorry!)
(3) Morning interviews are better. By afternoon, I am so tired of responding to the same questions and talking about the same stuff.

Posted by: Friday Only | Oct 20, 2011 3:13:39 PM

As for the "feeling 'in the air'", by Saturday, the whole place felt a lot more empty, since I think some people with families or other commitments squeeze all their interviews in to Friday. That does give it a more relaxed feel, since you are running in to (sometimes literally) less people.

Posted by: anonomite | Oct 18, 2011 11:45:35 PM

My worst interview was on Friday. One of the interviewers was somewhat hostile and the other two debated my paper without really including me in the debate. I'm not keeping my fingers crossed for a callback on that one. I actually had a nighmare about that interview on Friday night.

Posted by: anon | Oct 18, 2011 12:59:18 PM

Friday interviews seemed much better...it seemed like by Saturday interview teams were tired, and antsy to get interviews over with.

Interestingly, my last one late Saturday was a different story...perhaps euphoria at things being almost over?

Posted by: AnonCandidate | Oct 18, 2011 12:43:10 PM

I squeezed mine into Friday. I felt much more together earlier in the day but i could be just deluding myself. I was probably incoherent the entire day but didn't know any better earlier? does that make sense? anyway, I preferred to give it my best shot all in one day- Friday. We'll see if anyone recognized talent on Friday- or not. (I do get one call back Friday night.)

Posted by: anon | Oct 18, 2011 1:12:27 AM

I definitely felt like I was at my best on Friday and more on auto-pilot on Saturday, but this doesn't seem to have any correlation to my callbacks; my very last Saturday interview (4:30pm) was my first callback invite. Go figure...

As to elevators, I also rode up and walked down, with one exception when I only had to go up one floor in the same tower.

Posted by: Prawf Hopeful | Oct 17, 2011 8:50:28 PM

I agree completely with Anon123. By Saturday, I felt tired and my brain was not working as well. I felt like I was just repeating what I'd said before rather than thinking about what I was saying.

Posted by: anonono | Oct 17, 2011 8:29:01 PM

I felt like I was at my best on Friday (other than the first interview or two). Saturday I was just worn out and not as sharp which meant I was a bit more on autopilot. Fine for some interviews tougher for others.

Posted by: Anon123 | Oct 17, 2011 7:21:55 PM

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