We previously have discussed the type of people you meet at your job talk.  It’s important that you review that information, in case you get that exciting call back.  The next step is to actually give your job talk.  Here are some tips that helped me secure a position on the tenure track.  I did all of these things.  Really.  You’re welcome.

  1. Talk about something no one knows about except you.   It is my personal belief that job talks based upon any first year course are doomed to failure.  Every faculty member has taken those courses, and that translates (in their minds) to extensive experience in those subject matters.   If you do a job talk in these topics, make sure it is an obscure area of the subject matter rather than something such as, say, the commerce clause.   Example of a good job talk: Oil and Water Don’t Mix: Fracking and Water Law.  Example of a bad job talk:  The Commerce Clause and the Dormant Commerce clause: Reconciling the dormant with the active.   You will still need to make sure they have enough information to know what you’re talking about, why it is interesting, and that you know more than they do about it.
  2. Your job talk title should have a colon.  You might have your colon removed during the presentation of your job talk, but really your job talk title should start with one.  The first portion of the title should have words that will grab the attention of even the sleepiest of professors.  Examples:  Sex, drugs, rock and roll, iPhones, social media, Google and book titles (dare you to use Shades of Grey or Twilight).  Relevant information about what you’re really going to talk about should follow the colon.  That portion should contain a statute, a legal principle, or the words “reconciling,” “rethinking,” or “the death of.”  Make sure that your topic has not been previously reconciled, rethought, or killed.
  3. Market Your Obscure Topic.  The fact you have chosen an obscure topic will make some faculty members question why on earth they are bothering to listen to you.  It is not so much a question of what you say here, but how you say it.  You should make a passionate (but not overly emotional) defense of the importance of your topic, explaining how if your problem isn’t addressed soon cats will bark, dogs will meow, birds will fall from the trees and law professors will lose their jobs.
  4. Bait and Switch.  Now that you have them riveted, turn the tables on them. Many job talks don’t provide solutions to the problems they discuss, or at least do not provide pragmatic workable solutions that could be implemented.  To paraphrase Dr. McCoy, “damn it, Jim, I’m a law professor, not anything useful to you right now!”  Leave the ball up in the air.  When your audience attempts to propose solutions, criticize the solutions.  Now you’ve taken the high road: You are grading them, not the reverse.  You may not get the job, but at least you can give them an F.  Then at the end, come up with a solution “spontaneously!”   It demonstrates that you’re thinking on your feet, and you came up with something more brilliant than they did!   You’re a genius that needs to be hired!   They don’t need to know you spent months thinking about it, and that you had to go to the mountain and ask the sage.
  5. Go Socratic.  If you get ridiculous questions, engage in some thought, compliment the questioner on the interesting question, and then start a discussion.  Respond after your initial thoughts with “what do you think?”  Then you’ve taken the high road back, as in #4.

You may not be employed using this advice (although for some strange reason I was), but at least you’ll find your job talk entertaining.  Hopefully they will too.  Sure, there may be better advice out there, but this is what got me my job.  I think.  You’re welcome.

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