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“Job Talks” as Part of an Interview Process

Paula Goodman
By Paula Goodman, Director of Recruitment / HR Client Services-CUHR at Columbia University
October 31, 2016
An image of an African American woman presenting to her peers.

Job Talks No Longer Just for Academics

Faculty recruits are often tasked with making presentations on their specialized fields - what's known as a "job talk" when coming before search committees. This process gives recruits an opportunity to demonstrate their abilities and style as a teacher, scholar, and colleague. 

There is now an increase in similar requests being made to those interviewing for administrative roles. When serving on search committees I had observed these job talks when senior administrative candidates reached the near-final stage. Now, however, even middle level administrative candidates are often being asked to present to a committee of peers and stakeholders when they reach a final round. 

While I don’t necessarily advocate for this exercise as part of the process, I can understand why a hiring unit might see the value. How a candidate prepares content, presents to an audience, and fields questions does say a great deal about how they would perform on the job---especially if the position would require them to do just that. At the same time, it can be somewhat unnerving for a candidate who has made it successfully through one-on-one interviews and then receives word that a job talk is the next step. 

 

Preparing for a Job Talk

So what can you do to ease your anxiety? First, as with any interview, try to learn in advance who will be in the audience. Knowing as much as you can about the individuals sitting across the table from you will ease your anxiety.  Remember you would not have gotten this far if the people you have met to date did not have strong interest in you. 

So now you have to use this presentation to demonstrate your understanding of the functions of the role. Hopefully you will receive some guidelines on what they want to hear from you. But if the subject is open, then use everything you have learned in the interviews so far, to come up with a topic.  Most likely, however, they will give you extensive details on what topic they want covered. I have even heard of role-plays being incorporated.

Like any successful performance, job talks require practice. If you are not strong on PowerPoint, then get help from a trusted friend! The stakes are high and you do not want inferior technology to impede your chances of landing the position.  If you are selected, accept the position, and learn that these presentations happen frequently you can always ask your new boss about training to improve your skills.  

Nerve wracking as job talks can be, try to see them as an opportunity for you to envision what it would be like working daily with this office.

 

For more interviewing tips, visit our archived webinars page.

 

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