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I saw that some friends know who are the search committee members before their interviews. So would it be fine to ask the department who are they? And if it was fine, why the department didn't mention their names since the beginning? Could asking about their names be taken as negative thing?! A strong applicant could say that she doesn't care who are finalizing the list or interviewing her.

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In general, I would recommend against asking who the search committee is. It might give the impression that you are trying to "game the system" rather than simply put your best foot forward for everyone. That said, I don't think this is a serious faux pas.

Some departments, including my own, post a list of committee assignments on their department homepages -- mostly out of convenience for their own faculty. So you might be able to answer your question without asking.

  • Unfortunately some may consider it gaming. However, I think the departments should include such information in their emails or sites. It doesn't make sense to talk to a group of people, without knowing who are they and what they do, and whether they are the right people to ask a question or it should be delayed for others. – Thomas Lee Jan 17 '15 at 0:00
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    I think it's perfectly fine, and indeed a good idea, for candidates to ask with whom they'll be speaking, and to whom what questions should be addressed. And, more generally, what they should expect at the interview. (And I don't think one needs to worry about posing questions only to the "right" people.) – Anonymous Jan 17 '15 at 0:45
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    Indeed, it's not really knowing who's on the search committee that will be of help, but rather who you'll be talking to. Interviews and searches vary a lot, but really the most helpful thing is knowing not who specifically you'll be talking to, but who your audience is. Often it's more than who's on the search committe that will decide who gets an offer. (Will you need to explain your research to the dean? Do you have to give a talk to the whole department or just people in your area?) – Kimball Jan 17 '15 at 3:39
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Depends on the culture of the field. In economics, the placement officer told all candidates from our PhD program to ask who the interview committee members were when receiving a call or email offering an interview. Sometimes the question was not answered or the answer was delayed, sometimes the committee was on the website of the hiring department.

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