Monday, November 20, 2006

How to stand out in a crowd of job applicants

Today was the day of the campus visit for candidate #2 for the position I am currently holding.

The two finalists are remarkably similar types. Same gender, same age, similar physical appearance and similar personality types. On the scientific level they are also very similar: same specialty (not requirement for the position, just coincidence), same level of experience since PhD, both well-connected and both recognized as rising stars within their sub-field.

I happen to know both of them from before (from different settings, but nonetheless). I like both and have no preferences as to who should get the job. I am also not on the hiring committee so my opinion here has no real influence.

However, today while listening to the trial lecture given by candidate #2, it struck me that #2 gave a much better impression than #1. They have both been invited to give a 45 minute public lecture on their research and both of them had put together a nice and appealing presentation. They were also both visibly nervous, but got it together and left an overall professional impression.

Candidate #1 seemed like a really strong candidate but:

Admitted to be nervous

Asked the audience to speak up if we couldn’t hear what was being said

And told the hiring committee at lunch afterwards that the experience was anyway good practice for future job interviews

Candidate#2 seemed much more confident and left the impression of being a better candidate because:

(S)he had a couple of welcoming sentences in the beginning, making it clear the talk was well prepared and (s)he had spent time rehearsing it.

The talk focused a lot on the candidate’s plans for future research and how those tied in with this particular position (something #1 didn’t mention at all)

Mentioning institutions the candidate planned to collaborate with as well as realistic plans for graduate students

No mentioning of insecurities at all



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