I have been invited for an interview for a tenure track assistant professor position. The interview will be conducted virtually. At the beginning of the interview I am supposed to give a five minute presentation by way of introduction. Very little was provided by way of instructions for this presentation, apart from the time limit.

I don't really know how best to use this time. They have already seen my application materials (research plans, teaching philosophy etc), and will presumably have them to hand, but should I give a summary of what I consider the most important points of those? Or should I give a summary of my career so far emphasising the most relevant experiences? Or should I be trying to introduce some new information that they won't have seen in my application?

  • 1
    @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact, that should probably be an answer.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 27, 2020 at 21:09
  • Take into account the type of institution, and type of job. A bit different for an undergraduate teaching college than for a research university.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 27, 2020 at 21:13
  • Related: What is expected in a 5 minute postdoc interview presentation?
    – GoodDeeds
    Commented Nov 27, 2020 at 21:29
  • Can you reach out to the chair of the search committee and ask him/her about how the department views this introductory presentation?
    – Yasha
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 22:33
  • @Buffy The institution has both undergraduate and graduate programs, and the faculty all seem to have a substantial research output, so they're definitely interested in both research and teaching ability
    – twestley
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 5:56

2 Answers 2


Five minutes is pretty long, so I would at least ask your interviewers if they expect you to cover completely new ground. I don't know if academia is much different to the real world, but in the real world quite often the interviewers haven't done their homework and going back over previous ground is not unusual. Not only that they may have reviewed so many people that they think you are someone else. Often they think they have the star candidate in front of them and the worst thing you can do is let them know otherwise

  • 4
    Hmmm. Five minutes seems very short to me.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 27, 2020 at 23:13
  • 3
    @Buffy I had 12 minutes to be hired. Project included. It seems that OP should use the 5 minutes to introduce her/himself. Short biography and past experience.
    – Alchimista
    Commented Nov 28, 2020 at 10:15

Welcome to Toastmasters

(I am not an officer (except at the volunteer/anyone can do it Club level), employee or stockholder of Toastmasters. Just a very satisfied member since 2014. I get absolutely nothing out of anyone joining.)

This is a Toastmasters Ice Breaker speech. 4-6 minutes about yourself. (Which is shorter than most other Toastmasters speeches.) I've given 3. First speech for every Toastmaster. Consider visiting a club. Almost all enjoy having guests, and all are virtual now (a year ago, that was against the rules, now it is required!), and since they're worldwide you can certainly find one to fit your schedule. One of the best things I've done in a long time was join. Worthwhile even if you don't have to actually give speeches often.

Most Toastmasters speeches are designed to work on specific skills - vocal variety, gestures, presentation software, humor, research, etc. There are a set of different "Pathways Paths" that have different types of speeches. But every Path, and also the former Competent Communicator program, starts with an Ice Breaker speech. A speech about yourself. There are many different ways of giving this speech, and since the first Ice Breaker is your first ever Toastmasters speech, pretty much anything goes! There are a bunch of different styles:

  • Personal History/Timeline
  • Focus on one specific aspect of your life - career or a particular hobby or interest
  • Why I decided to go Toastmasters - a bit of a cliche, but sometimes actually interesting
  • Family History


Obviously this speech, like any other, might be tailored a bit to particular situations. Your family history probably won't be a good choice for your current situation. But maybe the story of how/why you got interested in your academic field. Or perhaps a story about how some previous teachers influenced your life and motivated you to go into academia. They may well have left it open-ended specifically to see what different people can come up with - if they wanted to know specific facts they would just give you another questionnaire.

Try Toastmasters. Even if you only go for a little while, you may get some inspiration and/or useful advice. If you do stick around and join, you may find the benefits in learning how to be a better speaker really pay off in the long run, whether as a teacher or as a researcher.

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