Post Academic

“Top Grad Student” Round 4, Convention Interviews with Soul-Sucking Vampires

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on August 3, 2010

Voting really picked up since yesterday, though it’s no surprise, considering all the traffic the WordPress front page sent our way–thank you our blog overlords!  However, even our best ratings ever for a “Top Grad Student” event weren’t enough to save our Math contestant from hearing our dreaded imaginary kiss-off, “You’re application has been…rejected!”  I imagine that the networking challenge left our competitors in a weird state of being buzzed and exhausted as talking too much often can.

However, it makes sense that those with the best people skills to advance to round 4, where we’re really getting to the nitty-gritty: Convention Interviews with Soul-Sucking Vampires–AKA, forgetful chaired profs with grumpy clout and younger faculty trying to their teeth on the fresh meat entering the generic hotel room/arena.  As someone mentioned in the comment thread for yesterday’s post, academia is test of not only mental acumen, but actual physical stamina.  In order to accurately gauge how well our contestants can stand up both to the psychological strain and physical toll of convention interviews, we’re forcing each of them to do 6 interviews spread over 2 two days,which replicates what many of the stronger candidates in lit have, anyway.  The interviews will happen the day after a major holiday, when the “Top Grad Students” will fly into Philadelphia–that’s what it seemed like we did in MLA-fields every other year between Xmas and New Year’s over the past decade.

The convention interview round magnifies all the skills and attributes of our contestants, who will be judged according to a wide range of criteria from the seemingly superficial to the seemingly substantial:

1. Who has the best stamina and can overcome–or at least deal with–fatigue the best, between traveling, eating greasy hotel food, meeting a bunch of random people, sleeping only a little bit, and prepping for interviews?

2. Who can handle the stress best?  Or another way of putting it, who can psych her/himself out the least?

3. Who looks the sharpest and makes the best first impression?  Remember, looking the most fashionable here isn’t the goal, since we’ve all heard the urban legend about how being too trendy has rubbed search committees the wrong way.

4. Who does the best job of saying the fewest dumb things and can recover the best from them–because you know you’re gonna say dumb, impolitic stuff during this endurance test?

5. And, oh yeah, who actually interviews the best, in terms of being prepared , describing research, elaborating on teaching, and thinking on her/his feet when you’re asked a vaguely antagonistic stumper?

In between, we’ll probably throw our contestants some unforeseen obstacles, like when they spring an extra course to make in an hour on the Top Chefs.  In our case, we’ll either get ’em drunk at an awkward dept party the night before a big interview or cram a snoring friend who needs for emergency housing into a hotel double.

So by now, you know what to do: Vote below for who you think should advance to the next round, the campus visit.  The contestant with the fewest votes will be sent to the limbo of constantly refreshing the Academic Jobs Wiki site to learn her/his fate on the job market.

3 Responses to '“Top Grad Student” Round 4, Convention Interviews with Soul-Sucking Vampires'

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  1. Enjoying the contest, but 2 things:

    1) Re: 3, my experience it’s not an urban legend, and it’s not just looking trendy that will tick committees off, it’s looking attractive in any way..
    2) If you’re really going to replicate the job market experience, you can’t send the Math student any official rejection notices until, say, June of the next year!

    • Arnold Pan said,

      Thanks, Worst Prof Ever, for mythbusting the urban legend about looking good vs. looking dowdy for job interviews. As for official rejection letters, it’s 50/50 as to whether any of the contestants will receive them–that’s why they’re surfing the job wiki. If/when they do get a reject, it’ll either be addressed to “applicant” or her name will be misspelled. And it will be on photocopied letterhead.

      • Argh, yes, the photocopied letterhead, I’d forgotten about that one!

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