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7 Tips for a Successful Academic Interview

Updated: Sep 27, 2019

Maybe you fancy switching up your current role, or perhaps you are taking your first tentative steps into the academic job market. Since this isn't my first employment rodeo let me share some tips to help you nail that interview.

1. Research

You know how to do research, so put those skills to good use and do some research on the faculty or team that you might end up working with. Check them out on LinkedIn, Twitter, any other platform to get a sense of who they are where you can connect with them professionally. Do you have mutual research interests or mutual connections? This will help you get a better understanding of the dynamics of the job/institution that you are applying to before you even step foot through the door.

2. Interview Tasks

Most likely you have to do some form of task interview that might be delivering a mini-lecture to staff, doing a presentation on your research or providing a proposed curriculum on your knowledge area. Make sure you give yourself enough time to do this, and if you’re smart about it you can reuse this when you get the job.

3. Take back some control

Remember you are interviewing the institution as much as they are interviewing you. Even if this is your first role do keep this in mind. While you might have your heart set on the job, acquiring said job shouldn’t be at all costs. You see jobs are a bit like dating - desperation is never a good look.

4. Do you have any questions? Hell yeah I do.

You know that awkward bit at the end of the interview, where you wipe the sweat of your brow for surviving the last 50 minutes and it's all polite niceties. Well, it ain't over yet. They'll say, “do you have any questions?” - this, [insert your name here], is your time shine, so ask good questions and prepare them in advance. By asking these questions, it demonstrates that you are serious about the role and it clarifies what you’re getting yourself into to avoid any issues later down the line. This is important for both employers and candidates alike.

Here are some examples:

  • How many hours can I expect to teach each week?

  • Can you work from home and if so, what is the procedure? (You might need to ask for permission or is it more autonomous)?

  • Where will I work? Is it a big shared office or will you have a shiny new office all to yourself (so profesh)? You don’t want to be in an office with no daylight and no open windows - yes they do exist.

  • What will my role profile be? By this I mean, are you on a teaching and research or a teaching only role. Detail is key here. Do they plan to make any changes to this provision in the immediate future?

  • What are their annual expectations in terms of academic publishing and quality?

  • How many modules will you teach per semester?

  • What support/mentorship is available?

  • How big are the classes?

  • What are the expectations around further study, e.g. a postgrad certificate in higher education - do you have to do this as soon as you begin.

  • Will you be level/year leading, will you be tutoring? If so how many students.

5. What is your gut instinct telling you?

This is a crucial point. You want to have a positive feeling about the interview. Perhaps your nerves got the better of you on the day - don’t worry. What I’m talking about here is how did you find the people, did you connect with them? Did you like the environment and could you see yourself working there? Does it fit with your long term goals? Is the commute ok there or is it going to be troublesome and expensive? At the end of the day, you can spend a lot of your at life at work and these things can make all the difference between a good academic job and a great one.

6. Salary

Don't base your decision solely on money. Yes, it’s a top priority but try to get a sense of the place and the people. Perhaps the money isn't brilliant but you like the team, and there are some potential mentors. Maybe they are happy to pay you top dollar, but the working environment isn't great - what matters to you? When that offer comes ringing-in take some time to think about it. Let the employer know how delighted you are but don't feel under pressure to say yes immediately. Sleep on it. Recognise that whether you've been in the academic game a long time, if you are fresh off the PhD press or are coming in from industry, you hold value and that you have a contribution to make.

7. Didn't get the job?

What's the saying, "what's for you won't go by you." If it didn't work out (despite your best efforts), it’s probably not meant to be. Don’t worry about it and move on. Be graceful and respectful of the decision, ask for feedback, take time to reflect (but not dwell) on the interview and how it went. Is there anything you could do differently next time? No employer wants to go through rounds of interviews - we'd rather find the right person first time around. Keep in touch with them; you never know what will happen later down the line.

If you are in the job market at the moment, then I hope these tips help you. Feel free to share any thoughts you have on this post via Twitter @drsamlynch.

Useful links:

or direct via specific institutions websites.

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