Sunday, November 12, 2006

Scouting the scouts on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Green Day, "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams," on American Idiot (2004):

Green Day, American IdiotI walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don't know where it goes
But it's home to me and I walk alone

I walk this empty street
On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Where the city sleeps
and I'm the only one and I walk alone

Greetings from the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, one week after the annual hiring combine. It is a lonely, even eerie place. The echoes of recent interviews reverberate still. The city sleeps and I'm the only one and I walk alone. MoneyLaw is pleased to offer a short musical interlude to break the silence in this cavernous hotel.

As appointments committees report their findings and candidates fretfully wait by the phone, it's worth turning the tables. I offer some observations by entry-level candidates who have been kind enough to share their thoughts with me. What follows is a composite list of observations; names and other details have been altered in order to protect both the innocent and the guilty:
  1. Generally speaking, scout teams should leave the dean at home. Whenever deans did attend, they almost always asked the worst questions.

  2. There is no difference between five and fifteen people in the room.

  3. The best questions may come from people completely outside of your field.

  4. There is nearly always a tax person on the scout team. There is high variance among tax people. From the candidate's perspective, the trick is to see how well the tax person interacts with everyone else. The tax teacher is the canary in the birdcage; he or she is an indicator of interpersonal relations on the faculty.

  5. Jokes can really bomb, but when they go over well, they can fundamentally transforms the dynamics of an interview. Consider them a high-risk/high-reward tactic.

  6. Learn to read the body language of the people in the room. In some cases, body language can reveal which professors belong to which factions on the faculty.

  7. Don't take it personally. Not every date works out.

  8. Thirty minutes is either too long or too short. Some schools' scout teams may want to bail after ten minutes with a candidate. In many cases, the feeling is mutual.


Blogger Ann Bartow said...

FWIW: I like the song and I like the post, but I don't like web pages that make noise unexpectedly - scared the bejeebers out of me!

11/12/2006 7:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand the tax professor comment, but I am intrigued. Could you say a little more? Is the idea that tax professors are generally the outsiders, at least in what they work on, so that if they get along with others it says something good about relations on the faculty? No, that's not quite it...anyway, please do say more...

11/12/2006 10:27 PM  
Blogger w_b_and_me said...

As a tax candidate at the conference, it didn't seem as though there were many tax profs on the other side of the [coffee] table -- perhaps as the designated generalists they were posing as crim law profs or something similar? If they are overrepresented, though, I find that interesting, as my experience has been that tax candidates are scarce.
Two of my observations, one directed at the candidates and one at the committees:
1. Time between appointments is only stressful if you make it that way -- being 2 minutes (or even 10 minutes) late does not seem to be a deal breaker for a callback, meaning that running between rooms and pushing onto elevators is unnecessary.
2. Don't switch to recruiting mode with a candidate unless you're pretty sure you want to be recruiting him/her.

11/13/2006 9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, as a candidate I can say that the lateness issue was so not a big deal - it was generally possible even with back-to-back interviews to get to the next one on time, and committees were very understanding in the rare cases when I was a few minutes late.

I think committees tend to go into recruiting mode because it's a good default and because they don't really know until they've spoken among themselves how serious they are about you. Still, it is unnerving to get gushy attention from a committee in the screening interview followed by dead silence post-AALS.

As far as I know, I didn't encounter a single tax professor (but maybe they're just good at blending in?).

11/13/2006 2:28 PM  

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