In addition to the related questions in this website, I have been reading about chalk talk (e.g., here and here). My assumption was that this is the common routine everywhere in the North America for all kind of positions. However, today I asked a question about this from my PI (at a Canadian institute), and she said she has recently attended two (STEM-based) search committees in none of which they had a chalk talk (like asking the applicant to get to a board, writing his vision, aims, discussing them, answering questions in between, and overall defending his candidacy by selling themselves to the committee). Alternatively, she said they had something like a "round table" during which questions where kind of not too formal, and there were no board, or anything particularly focusing on the format expressed in the references above. My advisor stated that, to her estimation, the main focus of the committee to decide about an applicant, was on their teaching and research demos, rather than their post-launch private session with the committee.

Now, I am wondering whether or not the chalk talk notion does exist at all in the case Canadian (STEM-based) tenure-track campus interviews? Overall, what should one expect about the mechanics of private interviews of such positions?

  • 2
    Whatever the norms may be, variation is always possible, so always be sure to get a detailed schedule for the interview, and ask about any expectations that are not 100% clear. May 18 at 19:39
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    I think "STEM" is too broad. I am a US-based mathematician who has been on both sides of job interviews; the "chalk talks" described in your links aren't something familiar to me, although many of the same questions might be asked. Moreover, in math a "chalk talk" describes any talk given at the chalkboard instead of over slides, and I have seen successful candidates give their formal research presentation this way. Overall, I'd suggest you seek out more narrowly tailored advice, in addition to what your advisor told you. Best wishes to you.
    – academic
    May 18 at 21:32
  • Also, see here: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/117603
    – academic
    May 18 at 21:33
  • @academic: By "STEM", I particularly meant "E"ngineering.
    – Pinton
    May 18 at 21:42

1 Answer 1


Yes, there are definitely some Canadian tenure-track campus interviews in STEM fields that will have exactly the kind of chalk talk that you've heard about.

Yes, as your supervisor's comments show, there are definitely faculty interviews that do not have such a formalized chalk talk part.

Whether or not a particular interview falls into the first or second category will be clearly communicated to the candidate before the interview. In either case, your preparation will be fairly similar. You will need to have well thought through plans for your future work once you arrive at University X and you need to be able to communicate them clearly. The committee will certainly probe the details of your proposed research program and wants to see how you will fit into the department.

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