The Five People You will meet at your job talk (who might cause you to lose the job).

  1. Gangster Prof Doing the Drive-By.   This academic gangster will ask a question.  If you answer him incorrectly or disagree with him, he will make a disapproving comment, barely audible, but not to you.  A simple “that’s not right” or “I think you’re wrong” in his eyes is enough to kill your talk.  You’re done.  At the hiring meeting, he will use one of the faculty meeting tactics to destroy you, mostly likely appealing to authority.  Why?  Pretty much the same reason as real-life drive-bys.  Revenge (not necessarily related to you), turf war (subject matter overlap), and, of course, drugs may be involved.
  2. Monopolizer.  It is as if you two are having the next great debate.  Except it is really not.  He is stuck on footnote 4 (because he’s fixated on that footnote number since Carolene Products).  It isn’t even your footnote because some editor threw it in.  You’d like to stick to your main points but, no, he’s now on his sixth volley and other hands are now going up.  To the extent monopolize is merely taking a contradictory position, you two may end up sound like the Monty Python Argument Clinic skit.
  3. Confuse-us.  You are four minutes and thirty seconds into your talk.  The hand goes up.  The question:  “When we are talking about eggs, you mean the organic free-range eggs or do you mean caged chicken factory eggs?”   Actually, your talk is about embryos and property rights, but no matter.
  4. The Apologizer.  I’m sorry, says the Apologizer, but I fear that I have to use my superior intellect to shred your job talk.  L  The Apologizer looks at you with pity:  You’re so sadly devastated by his argument.  If only you had been more thoughtful!  Sorry!  In reality, of course, the Apologizer has done no such thing.  No one else gets it either.  But he’s so confident!   You think he is wrong.  But that’s not what he thinks, and that is why there is a look of pity.  He’s so nice, what with the puppy dog eyes, that you eventually start to think he is right.
  5. Verizon.  Without regard for your job talk, Verizon will have his cell phone go off during the talk.  He might even stand up, talking loudly into the phone, as he walks out.  Do not laugh, regardless of the ring tone!   And do not allow yourself to be deterred from completing your talk either.  Suggest something better as a ringtone.  Perhaps the “Sound of Silence?”

Good luck!