Preparing for MLA: Presentations and Interviews

Just after we get through that end of semester crunch then comes preparations for next year’s MLA in early January. Here are some existing resources for graduate students about how to prepare for the conference and some interview tips. Good luck and solidarity! May you have some rest over the break.

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December

  • The registration rate for the convention increases.
  • MLA members attending the convention can sign up to “chat with an editor” who is a member of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ), an allied organization of the MLA. The service gives scholars the opportunity to meet one-on-one with an experienced editor to discuss any aspect of the publication process. For registration information, visit the CELJ Web site.
  • As you prepare for the MLA Annual Convention, be sure to do the following:
    • Construct a personalized conference schedule by logging in to the MLA Web site. When organizing your schedule, be sure to consider roundtables, panels, business meetings, and social events. A list of sessions of interest to graduate students will be available on the CSGSP Web page.
    • Bring your Program, registration badge, and business cards to the convention.
    • Consult the maps in the Convention Guide to determine locations of convention venues and sessions.
    • If you will be interviewing at the convention, consult “Dos and Don’ts for MLA Convention Interviews.”
    • If you are presenting, print everything out (presentation, handouts, etc.) before arriving at the convention. Be sure all audiovisual aspects of your presentation are complete, and test them ahead of time.

January

  • There is a very early January postmark deadline for registration refund requests for the current year’s convention. A $20 service fee is deducted from all refunds.
  • At the MLA Annual Convention:
    • Expect to be asked about the following by most everyone you meet: your name, school, research interests, and academic standing (“Are you on the market?” “What are you working on?”).
    • Attend sessions and meetings outside your immediate field of research. The MLA convention is a great opportunity to learn about the state of the profession.
    • Take advantage of job counseling, by appointment only, in the MLA Job Information Center. Appointments can be arranged through staff members on duty in the interview area.
    • Visit the exhibit hall. Many books and services are discounted throughout the convention.
    • Use the Graduate Student Lounge (see the Program for location) to regroup between sessions, meet other graduate students, and have a snack.
    • Check the Convention Daily for special notices, schedule changes, and brief reports on convention activities. Copies are available for free online and at the MLA information center.
  • After the MLA Annual Convention:
    • Follow up with the people you met.
    • Search for more jobs; more academic jobs are posted after the convention (see the most recent report on the JIL).
    • Renew your MLA membership.
  • Online submission of calls for papers opens for the next year’s convention. Consult the Planning a Convention Session section of the Web site and Convention Deadlines if you are considering organizing a session.

    Dos and Don’ts for MLA Convention Interviews

    The job interview is an event that has caused sufficient anxiety for both interviewer and interviewee to prompt a number of publications dealing with the topic. In recent years, concern about discrimination in the hiring process has led to a heightened awareness of the possibility of discriminatory intent in the questions asked by interviewers. To facilitate the conduct of interviews arranged through the MLA Job Information Service, guidelines have been developed for both interviewers and job candidates.

    The Candidate

    DO

    • Review job specifications.
    • Research thoroughly departments and institutions with which you have interviews.
    • Be aware that any materials that you have posted online (e.g., on social media, blogs, public e-mail discussion lists or forums) may be viewed by potential employers.
    • Remember that you are under no obligation to supply personal information and to do so may not be in your best interest.
    • Be aware that it is your right to request specific accommodations to make the interview accessible.
    • Prepare questions you want to ask (e.g., about teaching load, class size, number of majors, range of courses you will teach, library resources).
    • Request of your department some practice interviewing; use the opportunity to analyze your strengths and weaknesses.
    • Allow yourself an hour between interviews if possible.
    • Be prepared to discuss approaches to languages and literature teaching.
    • Think about courses and texts you would like to teach (be prepared to distribute sample syllabi).
    • Be aware of nervousness.
    • Come on time and follow all the usual protocols of politeness.
    • Silence cell phone.
    • Be aware of body language (your own and interviewer’s).
    • Project interest and enthusiasm, speak up clearly, listen attentively, and avoid using terms such as “you know,” “like,” and so on.
    • Maintain eye contact with interviewer.
    • Be prepared for aggressive questions.
    • Answer openly, directly, and honestly.
    • Be specific in both answers and your own questions.
    • Be prepared to demonstrate your language ability.
    • Bring out your strong points.
    • Talk about relevant skills, experience, interests, and goals.
    • Summarize your qualifications for the job.
    • Find out when decisions will be made.
    • Write follow-up thank-you letter.

    DON’T

    • Assume that a search committee is able to substitute an initial on-campus interview or phone or video interview for an MLA convention interview.
    • Ask about salary at this stage of the hiring process.
    • Be laconic or loquacious.
    • Be either apologetic or arrogant.
    • Appear opinionated or contentious.
    • Argue with interviewer.
    • Let yourself be intimidated.
    • Volunteer negative information.
    • Downgrade other candidates, jobs, or institutions.
    • Get off the track or ramble.
    • Overstay your welcome.

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