**This post was written over 2 years ago but still contains valuable information.**
Over the last few year I have worked with postdocs on their interview skills in respect of applications for academic posts. Here is a summary of the advice I give.
Before the interview
In the simulations it was not possible to test or observe the quality of your preparation, but obviously preparation is key.
In preparation you analyse the specific position in the specific institution. You discover the ways in which you match the stated requirements.
You identify strong matches.
You identify weaker matches.
You may identify ‘gaps’.
You will prepare a strategy.
The evidence for the strong matches must feature in your answers.
You need to prepare a ‘defence’ for the weaker matches.
So: I have no teaching experience?
But I have been a student. What is it that I want from a teacher? How do I evaluate a teacher? What would I differently to improve the learning experience of the student. Do I know some theoretical perspectives about teaching and learning?
In the words of the professor – “Offer something”
At the beginning of the Interview
Body language was discussed. Good and bad examples were cited.
You can make choices about how you sit – so it is good to observe yourself. However, body language is part of your personality – quite difficult to control.
Here is one suggestion that has helped some clients; it is about the attitude with which you enter the room.
This is an important business meeting.
I have a task to perform and that task is to persuade the panel that I meet the requirements for the job.
The persuasion will take the form of presenting the evidence, deriving from my knowledge and experience that I meet the requirements of the job.
I have a prepared position on the key questions that are likely to arise.
I will be alert to any cues in the exchange about the concerns of the panel.
The professor talked about the mixture of distance and relationship that was difficult to achieve. Another way of saying it is: formality and rapport. You start with formality and develop the rapport.
When asked about your research the temptation is to be long. Resist this temptation. Brief statements allow the opportunity for the panel to ask subsequent questions, and focus on the areas they are particularly interested in. Long answers frequently bore. Look for evidence of boredom in the panel.
During the Interview
Typically people become more relaxed during the interview. This is a natural process; you begin to reveal more of yourself. This is good. This is what interviews are for.
However, you may forget your strategy – so try to monitor whether your key messages are being delivered.
You receive a question that is not clear. Take time to clarify it – paraphrasing the question is helpful. “Just to be clear, you are asking me about the role of intellectual history in a social history curriculum?”
You receive a question you have difficulty in answering. Pause the interview. The panel will wait. “Give me a moment to think about that.”or “Difficult question, and I am not completely clear about the answer, but let me make one or two remarks that I think are relevant.”
You are talking to each member of the panel – ‘include’ them in your gaze.
Easy questioning can be your enemy.
Tough questioning can be your friend.
Do not assume that you have friends or enemies on the panel. They are all people with whom you are ‘doing business’. This is a difficult attitude to adopt with people whom you know very well – but adopt it anyway.