Jane Green (Professor of Political Science and British Politics at DPIR) spoke at Hilary Term 2022’s DPIR Alumni Career Conversation with Arthur Spirling. Here are Jane’s top tips for giving a great academic job interview:
Prepare and rehearse for your interview (many people don’t!). In the UK, posts will advertise ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’ criteria, so you know what they will ask you about. Make sure you can tick off as many as possible in your preparation and be prepared to discuss them in your interview with examples.
Expect to be asked: what are you trying to change in understanding in the discipline, and why should people care? What is new, important, or agenda-shaping? How will you be known as a scholar in 5-10 years? Have a sense of your direction of travel and say where you think you are going.
Know your panel: we all ask questions based on our hinterland. You will be able to anticipate some of the reactions to your work.
What do you want to convey about your research? Summarise key points and statistics, and have some good examples that illustrate why your research matters and evidence your findings.
The Research Excellence Framework (REF): you’ll likely be asked about your publishing ambitions: who do you want to publish with; what kind of feedback have you had on your papers; what will – eventually – be in your REF return?
Teaching experience: demonstrate what you’ve taught, what you can teach, how well you teach. You may not have pastoral experience, but prepare examples from your life to convey maturity, good judgement and sensitivity.
Be prepared for questions you don’t want to answer: what are you not too familiar with? What are you hoping isn’t asked? Prepare for that too.
Questions for them: don’t ask questions for the sake of it and try not to overrun your allotted time. Don’t try to be too clever or engage in debate. You can always say “there are lots of small questions I can ask later if I’m lucky enough to get through.”
Everyone on the panel is important: if they are on the committee, they’ve been chosen to have a say. Treat each person with equal respect and give everyone on the panel your full attention.
Be succinct, honest and genuine. Don’t be too contrived or try to second guess the perfect answer; be honest in your answers and you’ll come across as genuine.