Advice for job interviews at AAA

What makes for an effective job interview at the AAAs? This is a difficult question that many people need advice on, particularly at this time of year. Luckily, I have mastered the art of the job interview, and offer these tips for beginners:

  1. Remember, job interviews are serious and formal occasions. Do not use slang or informal language. Do use proper english — for instance, avoid using words like ‘I’ or ‘me.’ Ettiquette at the AAAs demands the more formal ‘one’ or ‘we.’ Thus: “One is prepared to teach at your university” or “we have a copy of our CV should you require it.”

  2. The most important part of a formal presentation is formal attire. A dark suit is increasingly becoming acceptable, but you can never go wrong with a tuxedo. If the interview occurs after dinner, white tie is appropriate. When the AAAs are held in warm climates, a white tuxedo may be worn before dinner, but never after.

  3. Most full professors — i.e. those who will be interviewing you — take their status as senior professors very seriously. Be sure never to look them in the eye while they are speaking to you — they consider this a sign of disrespct. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, I suggest bringing something small to hold in your hand that you can use to focus your attention. This trick worked very well for Chris Kelty when he had his interview for Rice: he brought a small plastic lighter and stared fixidly into the flame as he turned it on and off. If you still feel nervous when trying this trick, try murmuring the words ‘fire’ over and over again during the difficult parts of the interview until you feel calm.

  4. Remember, faculty are only interested in hires who are on the cutting edge of anthropological theory. Make sure every single answer you give begins with the words “science and technology studies.” For instance, if someone asks “What sort of teaching techniques do you find most useful?” The proper answer would be: “Science and technology studies. I like to use small-group work, science and technology studies.”

  5. Hotel room interviews somehow manage to be both physically cramped and socially distanced. Try to establish a sense of rapport and collegiality with your interviewers by attempting to sit in their laps!

I hope this helps all potential job-seekers out there — good luck!


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

13 thoughts on “Advice for job interviews at AAA

  1. Cute. Advice on things like this may seem silly, but as we have learned from Bourdieu, we shouldn’t expect everyone to be equally habituated into the social norms expected from such situations. Simple advice stating the obvious can also be helpful as a cruch in a stressful situation.

  2. Yes, I know. It is distressing to see so few job applicants today wearing tuxedos. I remember when I was a young lad and first began attending AAAs, the halls of the hotel were full of people in formal wear. The decline is standards is so distressing!

  3. I actually think we are moving more and more twoards wearing tuxs. There seem to be many more people wearing power-suits to deliver talks than I remember from 10 years ago.

  4. Funny. At the one CASCA (Canadian Anthropology Society) conference I went to a couple of years ago, attire ranged from sports coat and slacks to jeans and plaid shirts.

  5. Rex is, as usual, dead on one half of the time, and can’t count the other two thirds of the time. Numbers 1 and 2 are perfectly good advice, though just any Tux will not do anymore– I find people to be more discerning than ever, finding ways to check if your tux is Zegna or Paul Smith or Comme des Garcons, or god forbid an unhireable Men’s Wearhouse sackcloth. Numbers 3,3 and 4, however are bad advice. In my case, it was not in fact the unerring gaze of the senior professors that kept me focused on my lighter, but the desperate need to remain as high as possible during the process. As for “science and technology studies” this would have been perfect 18 months ago, but Moore’s law clearly states that the hipness of any given subfield of socio-cultural anthropoology turns into its opposite, so I would recommend saying “islamic and counter-secular american grass-roots fundamentalism” in response to every question. Finally, hotel rooms demand lap dances, not sitting–but that is also a risk, one that vey much depends on departments…

  6. Exciting! When reading these lines, I wasn’t sure if the post was irony. Use “one” instead of “I”? AAA seems to be an interesting and very exotic culture to study (from my non-american point of view). Advice 3 reminds me of an recent article about the “Cultues of Views” and the Evil Eye. Anthropologist Thomas Hauschild told that these ways of controlling who is allowed to look at who is especially popular in religious societies as a means of control and to establish hierarchy. You’re not allowed to look at some christian nuns without using a seperating wall, f.ex. Or think of the veil.

  7. “AAA seems to be an interesting and very exotic culture to study”

    Absolutely. *g
    Am currently figuring out what on earth a “tuxedo” might be, my imagination having gone wild this way..

    But talking seriously, demonstrating devotion can also be right the wrong thing, as it possibly evokes aggressions, too.
    Ca depends very much on who interviews you and on, well, who is interviewed. Moreover a behaviour that has proved to work well in one situation, can be a mistake in another.

  8. Alex, one important thing you didn’t mention/use is irony. Should you be ironic in interviews or not?

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