Here’s a data download for first round interviews. Wisdom I received and things I learned along the way when I was on the JM last year. Please feel free to add your 2c! (I’ll post my notes on flyouts soon)
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Your goal is to convince them that you are smart, competent, & kind, that you have an interesting pipeline of work, that you would be a great colleague, and that you will come if they offer you a job. (Insight from @lkatz42)
Approach interviews with excitement--not dread. Interviews are an opportunity to share work that you’re excited about, an opportunity to chat with a handful of really smart people taking your research seriously. How wonderful!
First round interview structure is fairly predictable: they welcome you, you give 2 sentence intro of you, 2 min intro of your JMP, they ask Qs or if they're quiet, you give a 10 min intro of your JMP, they ask Qs, (they ask if you ask Qs), fin.
Be nice to the admin assistants who are scheduling you. It’s easy and it makes the world a better place. Also, I’ve heard of places that interpret rudeness to admins as a good signal of being a poor colleague.
Schedule your interviews for your “best” time of day (aka, not 8am if you’re a night owl; not 2pm if that’s naptime). Schedule enough time to reset between interviews. For me, that was 10 minutes (over zoom; longer if you need to physically commute).
Spiel tips:
You should have a 2-min and a 6-10-min spiel prepared about your JMP. You should also have a 2 min spiel for each of your other working papers or future projects.
Spiel structure: question (and maybe for motivation why the question is interesting/important), setting/empirical approach, results, conclusion (perhaps with contextualization in the literature, why your findings matter, and what is new).
Spiels should be accessible to everyone, regardless of field. So eliminate jargon. E.g., You won’t say "an elasticity of 3 wrt Y" but instead "for a 1% increase in X, I estimate a 3% increase in Y, which is large relative to prior estimates." @nhendren82 is a master.
You can’t overpractice your spiels. One of the things you're practicing is how Not to get bored saying the same thing. We need the same enthusiasm on interview 15 as you had for interview 2. You should be able to do them half asleep without stumbling over a single word.
Your humanities-major college roommate, Cousin Sammi or Grandma are all great folks to practice with. They can tell you if you sound like a normal human being or a robot, if you sound excited or bored.
A mentor told me that interview questions are trying to
(1) learn about you & your research mind
(2) show you they’ll be fun, dynamic, thought-provoking colleagues, or
(3) show off for other colleagues who are in the room
For your own sanity, figure out if aggressive questions are (1) or (3). If (1), distill any feedback and use it to grow. If (3), take this as a valuable signal about their culture, consider if you want that type of colleague, and update accordingly.
Good resources exist that have compiled a list of exact questions. E.g.,… But if there’s demand, I can also condense the list I had of questions folks asked me.
Take notes on questions and practice your best answers for various different audiences. You’re likely to hear various iterations of the same questions during flyouts.
For online interviews, get the tech. (Tech tips adapted from @ShengwuLi & @ben_golub.) I am still using all the tech, so I don’t think any $ was wasted.
(1) A circular lamp to light up your face without squinting
(2) Headphones that don’t hurt your ears and are low-profile
Tech Pt 2:
(3) Microphone that will pick up your voice clearly, but not your typing or breathing
(4) Stand so the laptop’s camera is at eye-level (yay good posture and eye-contact!)
(5) Chair that doesn’t make you slouch & doesn’t hurt your butt if you’re sitting for hours
Tech Pt 3:
(6) Second monitor so you can see your slides And the attendees (placing one on top of the other with the camera in the middle often works well. That way they don’t get your profile when you toggle between)
(7) Reliable internet
Tech Pt 4:
Make sure your headphones & mic work on all the platforms (Webex, Teams, Zoom etc.) Day of, you don’t want to faff around, wasting valuable interview time
Tips for the day of your interviews:
Create a 3-min routine/song/mantra/stretch that calms, focuses, and energizes you. You need this to get ready for high-stakes ones & to recover between interviews if you got a curveball. You’ll want it during flyout season too
Review whatever you said in your coverletter about why you’re a good match for that school.
Look the part: Sit up straight, smile, wear professional clothing, cover up any bags under your eyes (yeah, we’ve all had ‘em), take care of any sheen on your skin (looking sweaty == looking nervous == not a great signal)
Be on time -- even 30-sec early since Zoom has a waiting room. If you’re going to be late, email and give your ETA. “I’m so sorry. I’ll be three minutes late.” Pre-write & pre-address these just in case you need to hit send on the fly.
Take notes on whom you met with, what they liked, what they didn’t, & what you liked. If they offer a flyout, you’ll want to refresh on these details. Take a screenshot of the faces + participant list to refresh your memory before a flyout.
In your interview, be enthusiastic No Matter What. If they’re quiet, assume that they’re exhausted, not bored. So give them an infusion of energy by being passionate about your research. Remember, enthusiasm is infectious!

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