Congratulations! You’ve made it through the academic gauntlet and secured an interview for your next postdoc or lecturer position. Now it’s time to put your best foot forward and make a lasting impression on your potential employers.
As someone who has been on both sides of the interview table, especially as a hiring committee member, I am here to share with you five insider tips that will help you stand out in your next job interview.
Here are five insider tips to help you succeed in your next postdoc or lecturer job interview.
1. Research the Institution and the Interviewers.
Before the interview, take the time to research the institution and the individuals who will be interviewing you. This will help you gain insight into the organisation’s culture, values, and priorities, allowing you to tailor your responses accordingly. Start by visiting the institution’s website and reading up on its mission, history, strategy, and recent achievements.
Next, look up the backgrounds of the interviewers on LinkedIn or the institution’s website. What are their research interests or teaching philosophies? Have they recently published any papers or given talks at conferences? Knowing these details will enable you to ask informed questions and demonstrate your interest and fit for the position.
By demonstrating your knowledge and interest in the institution, you will show the interviewer that you’re not only a qualified candidate but also a good fit for the department’s academic community.
2. Prepare examples of your teaching and research experience.
When it comes to academic job interviews, it is not enough to list your qualifications and achievements. You need to demonstrate how your experiences have prepared you for the role you’re applying for. To do this, prepare specific examples of your teaching and research experience that highlight your strengths and accomplishments.
For example, if you’re applying for a teaching position, talk about the courses you’ve taught, the feedback you’ve received from students, and any innovative teaching methods you’ve used. If you’re applying for a research position, discuss your past publications, conference presentations, and collaborations with other researchers.
Use the SOART technique in answering questions related to your experience. The SOART answer technique is an acronym that stands for Situation, Obstacles, Actions, Results, and Tie-in.
When answering a question, first you describe the Situation or context and the key players involved. Next, you identify relevant and unexpected Obstacles that developed. Then, you describe the specific steps and Actions you took to overcome the obstacles and move toward the outcome. After that, you explain the concrete or measurable Result of your actions. Finally, you Tie In how this experience makes you a strong candidate for the role.
It is essential to show how your experiences align with the institution’s goals and how you can contribute to the department’s growth and success.
3. Practice your answers to common interview questions.
It’s common to feel nervous during an interview, especially if you’re not sure what to expect. However, you can reduce your anxiety by practicing your responses to common interview questions.
Prepare responses to questions about your research experience, interests, teaching philosophy, and career goals. You can also anticipate questions about your strengths and weaknesses, how you handle conflicts, how you collaborate with others and what are your career ambitions in the medium and long-term.
Practicing your responses will help you feel more confident and articulate during the interview. You’ll be able to communicate your ideas clearly and concisely and demonstrate your suitability for the role.
4. Highlight Your Collaborative Skills.
Collaboration is a vital component of academic research and teaching, and institutions are often looking for candidates who can work effectively with others.
During the interview, highlight your collaborative skills and experience. Provide examples of projects or papers that you have worked on with other researchers or academics, which demonstrate that you have research collaboration experience.
Use the SOART answers technique to demonstrate that you enjoy being part of a team and working co-operatively with others to achieve research project or departmental objectives.
You should be coming across as someone who is keen to contribute to the academic and research life of the research group or department you will be joining.
5. Be prepared to ask questions.
An interview is a two-way conversation. While the interviewer is evaluating your qualifications, you should also be assessing whether the role is a good fit for your career goals. This is also your chance to show that you are thoughtful, engaged, and interested in the institution and position.
Prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer about the department’s culture, opportunities for professional development, and expectations for the role. You can also ask about the institution’s strategic goals and how the department plans to contribute to them. Avoid asking questions that can be easily answered by the department website or Google search. Instead, focus on questions that demonstrate your interest and passion for the field.
Asking questions demonstrates your interest and engagement in the role and helps you make an informed decision if you’re offered the position. Landing your dream postdoc or lecturer job can be challenging, but with these insider tips, you can stand out from the crowd and impress your interviewers.
Remember to research the institution and interviewers, prepare clear and concise responses, showcase your teaching and collaborative skills, and ask thoughtful and engaging questions. By following these tips, you will set yourself apart as a qualified and passionate candidate for the position. Good luck!