Tackling Academic Interviews

The last month or so has seemed quite busy with mock interview requests so here are some brief tips for anyone who has an upcoming and interview and wants some quick fire suggestions on how best to prepare.

Very often academic interviews also involve giving a presentation as well as a panel interview. Typically these will have an element of looking to the future such as what will you bring to the department and what direction your future research may take. Even when you are focussing on the future it’s still useful to point to concrete examples of what you have achieved and how you can and will expand on this. Make sure that you budget for this in your preparation time also. Typically you will be asked to prepare slides for the presentation. A top tip is not to include too much information and too many slides as the time allowed is often very short e.g. 5/10 minutes. It is better to have the time to explain each slide thoroughly rather than racing through several slides. Remember that the time limit really does matter in an interview setting. If you exceed the limit you will be marked down for this. Another tip is not to finish the presentation in a rush or make it look like you have run out of momentum. Ensure that you have a summary slide that reiterates your main points.

You can Prepare!

Refresh yourself on what you told them! Re-read the job description, person specification and your application then get into character as the recruiter – what would you want to ask you? Is there anything that they might have a concern over or areas where they may want to dig for further information? Motivation questions sometimes cause researchers to struggle as on the face of it these questions seem relatively straightforward but can be quite hard to verbalise in a clear and succinct way. I would 100% recommend that you practice orally answering questions. Jobs.ac.uk has an ‘interview tool’ that provides a handy breakdown of the different types of questions (also with example questions).

Who to practice with:

In an ideal world you will undertake a 1:1 Career Consultation with either myself or Darcey. However, if that is not an option owing to time constraints, think about who else you can practice with that can provide valuable feedback. Key people to consider asking are your Line Manager and other academics (if you are hoping to get a panel interview set up sometimes these can take a while to organise so try to allow as much time as possible to do so).

If you have a Mentor this is a great person to practice tricky questions with. Otherwise friends and family can also prove to be a useful resource. Failing all of the above record yourself answering questions! Listen back – how enthusiastic do you sound in your answers? Do you give clear and straightforward answers? What is the pace of your answers like? If you spot anything amiss then this is your opportunity to correct it.

Body language:

This covers both presentation and the actual interview itself. Try to present calm and open body language. Remember to smile this goes a long way to making you seem approachable and engaged with the process. If you do suffer from nerves try to be aware of your breathing, pitch of voice and the speed at which you are talking. Reminding yourself to pause and take a breath before answering a question can help. If you lose your train of thought or don’t understand a question don’t hesitate to ask if it can be repeated.

Night before preparation:

Make sure that you look and dress the part appropriately. Yes, this does mean ironing the shirt that will be worn under a jumper! Make it look like you are taking the process seriously by dressing in business wear.

Finally – as contradictory as this may sound don’t overdo the last minute preparation and stay up re-reading all the different questions that you could be asked! A good night’s sleep will benefit you much more so that you are ready to face the day with a clear mind.

If you’d like to discuss anything raised in this post feel free to make an appointment to discuss your career needs with either Darcey or Eleanor.

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