Job Hunting: Preparing for Interviews

Job_InterviewIn my last blog post Post-Post-Doc Job Hunt: 6 Top Tips, I talked about applying for jobs so I wanted to follow this up with something about the interviews. I only went to two interviews for academic positions but they were really quite similar. Both interviews were for positions involving both teaching and research and both began with presentations essentially to test my communication skills, could I pitch a subject at the  right level for a given group of students. The questions were also along similar lines, communication skills, experience of working with students, how I would handle particular aspects of the job and what experience I had that might be relevant. I was asked how I would handle the competing demands of different aspects of the job...and now I’ve started the job I realize this is the key question!

The Expected Questions

  • Communication Skills - It doesn’t matter what job you’re going to do you’re going to need to communicate with someone about something. Who and how are the questions, in teaching the answer to how you can communicate is very broad and the broader your experience and examples the better. Technology in learning and distance learning also featured quite heavily which I expected because they are common issues/interests for universities right now and go hand in hand with some potential strategies for coping with the changes to the financial climate.
  • Team work and flexibility - These also came up in both interviews, the old fashioned idea that academics work alone is, well, old fashioned! One of the questions I got asked which I thought was quite a good question was an example of when I had worked as part of a team and what my team mates would say about me.

Knowing something about the organization interviewing you and why you want to work there is essential and applicable to all jobs, but from talking to other people is amazingly still overlooked by some. It should also go without saying (but doesn’t seem to) that knowing about any current issues is important. No one expects you to be able to quote verse line and chapter of the latest government paper but if there is one you should be aware of it and be able to comment sensibly about it bearing in mind the perspective of your future employer.