If you have been invited to an interview it is a sign that you have submitted a strong application and the employer is keen to find out more. The short listing stage will have eliminated candidates who failed to show sufficient evidence of their suitability or lacked the skills and experience required for the role.
To prepare you will need to:
- research the organisation/department/company thoroughly
- anticipate questions you are likely to be asked
- draft examples to demonstrate how you meet key competencies
- prepare questions for the interviewers.
Although there is no prescribed format for academic interviews it is common for candidates to have a panel interview (between 3-10 interviewers) and also conduct a brief, 5-10 minute presentation. Current PhD students may also be invited to attend the candidate's presentation. As with any interview preparation is crucial, so consider the following tips if you want to acquit yourself well:
- Thoroughly research the department and think about how your research and teaching interests align with theirs.
- Make sure you give full and complete answers with examples to illustrate your point. Remember, the interviewer will not infer anything from what you say so you need to be explicit about your skills, experience and overall suitability for the post.
- Be yourself; try not to assume or project the personality you 'think' they want. The interviewers are looking for a colleague - not just an employee - and they want to see how you will fit in.
- Think about the contributions you could make; it is important that you distinguish yourself from your fellow candidates so if you can offer something distinct say so!
- When asked questions refer your immediate answer to each interviewer but remember to include all the panel members by glancing at them as you speak.
- For teaching posts expect to be asked questions about your teaching methods, pedagogy, course you may have designed/delivered and possible course development.
- For academic posts in research intensive universities you will be expected to discuss your research trajectory i.e. how do you see yourself developing as a researcher, what projects do you have planned, what do you hope to have achieved within your field during the next 5-10 years.
Interviews for other job roles may adopt a variety of formats: telephone, panel, competency or one to one. The following is a guide to good interview performance:
- Always research the role and company. Make sure you can express why you have applied and why you think you are suitable for the post. Be specific!
- Re-visit your CV/application and try to relate your skills and experience to the job/person specification.
- Avoid using overly technical and/or academic terminology (unless applying for posts that demand it) as this may raise suspicions that you are simply a 'frustrated academic'. You may need to adapt your style and approach to meet the needs of a non academic audience. They are less interested in your research expertise than what you can actually do and contribute.
- Prepare for some of the most common interview questions. Try to anticipate possible questions.
- Jobs.ac.uk: guide to succeeding in academic interviews
- Prospects: interview tips
- Vitae: academic job interviews
- ‘University researchers and the job market’(Agcas, 2009) - check the interview section.