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Recruitment & Selection

 

A useful generic tool is 'Interview Training' - an online resource produced by SCS at Warwick with an opportunity to take an auto-generated mock interview or browse the questions employers voted the most trustworthy.

Practise your interview technique against the clock, recording your answers as you go; compare your responses against video advice from employers, explaining why they ask these questions and how good answers differ from poor ones.

 
Staying in Academia
Moving Outside Academic

If you are on track to continue your academic career at Warwick, then familiarise yourself with the requirements for academic and research staff promotion. You should also check the academic role profiles  to help you assess whether you have the skills and experience to progress and succeed.

Before you commit to the application process, have a look at the Academic Career resource developed by Manchester University, particularly: Get your academic career on track

Applications

You will need to stand out from the crowd to stand a chance of being shortlisted for an academic or research post, so your CV, cover letter and application form must make a strong and immediate impact.

CVs

There is no definitive guide to write an academic CV, and no specific template to follow. Instead you should follow some general principles and then tailor to reflect the demands of the post, the focus of the department (and institution – research or teaching?) and then present your experience in the most compelling way.

Cover letters

You should always include a cover letter to support your application for an academic or research position, unless the guidelines explicitly state otherwise.

Use your cover letter to highlight your suitability for the post and emphasise how your research experience aligns with the job spec. Take this opportunity to demonstrate how you will add value to the research group or department – strong fupotential collaborations, course modules, Selection panels will expect to see evidence of a coherent career path, so be clear about your career aims and future trajectory.

Interviews

For academic posts, you will be invited to a panel interview with members drawn from the department and other functions within the university – most typically HR. If your progression from undergraduate to postgraduate and now researcher has been relatively smooth, you may find your experience of the interview process is quite limited. Try not to be too daunted or overwhelmed by the prospect: the key to a good interview performance is practice and preparation.

Revisit the job spec and your application, and think about the examples you will use to demonstrate your suitability. It is worth remembering that, as with any other position, the job and person specifications reflect the employer’s wish list, so try not to dwell on the gaps. You should be self aware enough to know what your weaknesses are – and be prepared to address these if asked – but don’t use the interview as a vehicle to highlight any deficiencies.

It is difficult to pre-empt interview questions, but it is reasonable to assume they may touch on the following:

  • How your skills, knowledge and experience align with the role requirements
  • Your understanding of the department/research group
  • Whether you have identified opportunities for collaborative or inter-disciplinary working
  • How you propose to secure research funding
  • Your teaching methods/pedagogy and contributions to module design and delivery
  • Your involvement with wider administrative functions

Further resources

Vitae: Creating an effective academic CV and academic job interviews

An Academic Career, including the applications and interviews sections

Useful resources on academic interviews

If you have decided to move beyond academia, then you will need to be aware that recruitment and selection practices can be very different. You cannot expect to be shortlisted on the basis of your academic and research credentials, and will have to invest time and effort in producing high quality applications that demonstrate the transferable nature – and value - of your skills, knowledge and experience.

A good starting point is to conduct a thorough skills audit, to assess where you are in relation to sector requirements. Once you’re clear about your skills and strengths – and potential gaps – you are in a much strong position to move your career plans forward. It may be that you need to take a sideways step, and develop yourself further with additional training courses, before you are ready to apply.

CVs

Just as with academic CVs, there is no prescribed format for a non academic CV but there are some clear principles you will need to follow. One of the biggest hurdles facing researchers seeking career change, is the ability to translate their research experience in the external environment. Continuing to use academic style CVs, peppered with ‘jargon’ sends a very clear message to employers that you’re not ready – or serious – about moving beyond the academic/research domain.

  • Keep your CV within two pages
  • Omit the lengthy publications list unless you are applying for research or policy roles
  • Think about including a skills profile
  • Tailor it to the sector and organisation


Cover letters

Although some researchers feel uncomfortable discussing themselves and their applications in marketing terms, a cover letter is essentially a marketing document and one you should use to convey your key selling point. You will also need to communicate your interest and understanding of the job, company and sector in hand, so draft your letter accordingly. Put your research skills to good use by demonstrating a really forensic grasp of the company culture and job requirements

Employers will typically read your cover letter – or cover email – before your CV, so you need to draw them in with a well written, professional and enthusiastic document. A poor cover letter, negative in tone and short on detail will simply be cast onto the reject pile, and your CV will follow.

Interviews

Moving beyond academia means leaving behind the relative familiarity of interview and selection processes. Methods vary widely between – and within - sectors and you may be invited to attend a fairly informal interview or find yourself immersed in a 3 stage recruitment round, involving multiple interviews and possibly an assessment centre.