I’ve been meeting lots of researchers recently going for interviews. Really good people, who have done successful applications and been called to meet their potential new employers. They’ve practised their presentations, polished their competency answers and figured out how to respond to, ‘And where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’ Sadly, of course, not all of these people will get the job they’re going for.
There are so many reasons for this, and those of you who have come on the RDP courses about Interviews will know my views on some of them. But one is the whole business of structuring your answers. It’s your job, as a candidate, to create confidence in your abilities, in the minds of the recruiters. Having a good logical, thought-through answer is a fantastic way to show that this is the kind of person you would be if you were working for them. And who wouldn’t want to employ a logical, thinking person?
- At its most basic, a thought-through answer has a beginning, middle and end. Show them that you’ve finished your answer so they can move on to the next question.
- An answer to a ‘Why?’ question (why do you want this job/did you come to KCL/like lecturing) might include ‘Firstly, secondly, thirdly’ in it, to show you’re thinking through a bullet-pointed list in your mind (but not every time!)
- You could use the STAR technique (talk about Situation, Technique, Actions and Results) to frame a competency answer focussing on an example that demonstrates your transferable skills.
Or, you could listen to Radio 4 and see how those accomplished politicians smooth their way through their interviews. No half-finished sentences, ill-defined thoughts or equivocal responses from them. Brief, well-constructed, assertive language that shows a strong grasp of lots of issues and creates confidence (not straying into arrogance, of course!). They’re aware of time constraints, understand what their audience wants to hear, and deal with questions they don’t want to answer superbly well.
I’m not saying candidates need to come across as oily and untrustworthy. But confident, professional and polished may well help. Check out the Today programme 8.10am interview, usually with a top politician, or anyone interviewed on PM from 5pm.
Another way Radio 4 could help your career? Have you ever heard The Life Scientific? These are great stories of amazing scientists and their careers, giving you insight, and possibly inspiration, about where you could take your academic job. Perhaps you could persuade your lab to give it a listen once a week!
(Of course there are loads of Arts and SSPP-related programmes available too).
If you’d like to talk about your interview performance, please do get in touch. We can even do a trial run to help.
Good luck and happy listening!