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I recently interviewed at an ivy, and think it went really well… the job talk was a little weird. A 2nd year student wanted to fight about a really basic term, and that took up like 10 mins of Q&A.

But the faculty present acknowledged the oddity and said their students can be like that sometimes. We all laughed about it afterward. On the other hand the faculty asked great questions, and i answered their questions well during the talk.

My real question has to do with the dinner after the talk. It felt really relaxed, everyone had two drinks and there was a lot of jokes and laughing and story-swapping. A few of them followed up on my thank you email yesterday, and one search committee member even gave me a book to take home… however, nobody asked me anything else about my work or teaching at the meal… I feel like that’s a really good sign or a really bad one (ha!).

I know that it’s no use dwelling on it, but if someone can weigh in on whether the dearth of shop talk at dinner is a good or bad sign, I’d be exceedingly grateful.

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Your experience with the dinner after the talk sounds perfectly normal to me. An on-campus faculty interview is a bit of a two way street. Your CV, job talk, and probably the bulk of time in your 1 on 1 interviews probably gave them a good idea about your research and a bit of your personality. This was likely more about them selling themselves to you.

When I was doing these interviews, the dinner was a way for the candidate to get to know the department faculty as people. Realize that not only are these people considering you as someone they might work with for the next 30+ years, but that you too will be doing the same. We wanted the candidate to be able to relax and not have to be "on" after the full day of interviewing and questions, but also be able to get a sense of the faculty as a community.

however, nobody asked me anything else about my work or teaching at the meal… I feel like that’s a really good sign or a really bad one (ha!).

I personally would take the fact that you and they could have conversations without it being just shop talk as a good sign and an indicator that they might be somewhat more well-rounded as people. However, if you are someone that wants it to be all-work/research with your colleagues all the time, then you'll have to think about the fit for yourself.

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  • Thank you! This is really helpful!
    – Jww18b
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 0:33

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