Back Page: Want to Nail the Campus Visit? Sweep the Leg, Johnny!

Sensei John Kreese, PhD
Cobra Kai University

Martin Kove, left, Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita in a scene from the 1984 motion picture "The Karate Kid." CREDIT: Columbia Pictures [Via MerlinFTP Drop]

Martin Kove, left, Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita in a scene from the 1984 motion picture “The Karate Kid.” CREDIT: Columbia Pictures

Finding an academic job in this age of austerity is an increasingly difficult task. So, if you’ve made it to the campus visit stage, take some time to reflect upon your achievements and acknowledge that your work is good and that people are taking an active interest in it. With the right amount of preparation, level-headedness, and confidence, a campus visit can be an enjoyable experience wherein you get a sense of the program, introduce yourself to potential colleagues, and ultimately show them that you’d be a good fit on their faculty.

People often ask me, “Is there a particular secret that will help me nab a job in the final stages of interviewing?” I wish that were the case. So much goes into branding yourself as a candidate that it is difficult to point to one particular aspect of your application as the primary selling point. To be sure, a friendly, generous persona and a smart look can give you an edge over other competitive candidates; showing a genuine and well-informed interest in their program helps, too. However, there is one piece of advice that I have told all my successful advisees that may tip the scales in your favor if it is prepared and deployed confidently and with style: Sweep the leg, Johnny.

Before meeting with the hiring committee, tailor your interview outfit so that it is flexible for the widest array of aggressive attacks. Be sure to practice on trusted friends and mentors. Recognize that there is no fear in this university! There is no pain in this university! Do you have a problem with that? I didn’t think so. The job market is a merciless netherworld of terror, malice, and misdirection. Down is up! Horror is ennui! A man stands at your door, head of a tiger, body of a wildebeest. Do you let him in? Will he grant you the position you seek? Have you timed your job talk and prepared a comprehensive teaching portfolio?

Upon entering the room where the interview is to be held, shake hands with each member of the hiring committee. Remove your briefcase and bow, as is custom. Then bellow, “Strike first! Strike hard!” and take the leg out!

I repeat: sweep the leg, Johnny. A man confronts you? He is the enemy. We show no mercy toward our enemies.

You will be nervous: it’s only natural, but if you avoid stressing-out with last minute preparations, you’ll look calm, happy, and healthy when you meet with your future colleagues. Remember: if your work alone was enough to get you a job, the campus visit would be unnecessary. They want to meet and get to know you. Quite simply, they want to make sure you’re pleasant to be around and a good fit with the program culture.

This is why the element of surprise is so important. By swiftly and accurately applying a clockwise sweep with the right leg, you convey your readiness to embrace this job and your ardor for its many challenges. I would say your interviewees will stand shocked, but not if you are merciless and unforgiving in the punishment you hand out. You are a cobra waiting in the tall grass to pounce, to anesthetize your combatant and slowly digest him. Visualize the job as you windmill your leg around in a perfect curl. Do not force it! Center yourself and push down through the pelvic floor, using your leg’s natural weight to uproot your opponent from his or her moorings. Then, when you stand over them, triumphant in your domination, you can look down from the heights of victory and shout, “My way is the way of the fist! Defeat does not exist in this university! I am Johnny! Here are some additional teaching materials!” It’s the surest way to let them know that you really want this job. With enough practice, you can knock an entire hiring committee off its feet.

I can’t guarantee that if you sweep the leg, Johnny, that you’ll get an offer, but if you’re looking for a way to separate yourself from the pack, I can guarantee you that they’ll never forget the time they met Johnny, master of the first, lithe yet strong, pivoting gracefully from the ball of his left foot and leading from the hip on the follow through.

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