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Plenary: Standing out at interview

Thursday 3rd June, 14:00 pm - 14:45 pm, Plenary, JLB Meeting Room 1

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3 June 2010

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Marian Petre is taking this plenary session. For a plenary – it seems very empty – only 8 people so. This is going to be a workshop with breaks for conversation. Ahh, the crowd is coming in – someone has done the herding!

It is always surprising and appalling sitting on interview panels on how terrible some interviewees are – including their presentations.

Interviews is one of the places where you try to fulfil the job requirements and you are they person that they can work with it.

The first task every student has to do is to think what kind of candidate are you (three assets and three weaknesses):

  • What drives you, satisfies you, make a job good for you?
  • What the three greatest assets to an employer?
  • What have you got as an potential employee that the person next to you hasn’t?
  • What makes you awkward to work with?
  • What’s your ideal job?

For me doing this task I would choose greatest assets as being: quantitatively minded, good and quick grasp of technology, personable/ friendly.

For me, awkward to work with:  I only like doing the bits of research I enjoy (particularly quantitative stuff); like to have some alone time to think over different options to solve a problem, like to have my weekends free

Right everyone seemed to have note down their assets and awkwardness and are now discussing it with the people around them.

That’s one side of the equation – there is another side of the equation. We need to think about what the employer wants from you.

Consider the job:

  • What does someone in the sort of job you want actually do? (not the same as what you do as PhD job)
  • What defines the work environment?
    • Culture – social management, organisational
    • Economy
    • Business strategy e.g. how much intellectual freedom
    • Success criteria/ performance metrics
    • Promotion criteria/ potential for development
    • Facilities

What do researchers do? (asking for the audience to say stuff)

  • Writing grants
  • Organising events
  • Mentoring
  • Communication/ listening
  • Theorising
  • Sharing ideas
  • Publishing
  • Reading
  • Networking
  • Project management, leading and managing a team

You need to consider: Expressive vs instrumental behaviour and why should I want to work with you?

Interview process in an university:

Looking for a researcher with particular skills sets: takes initiatives and takes direction as well. The interviewers want to be around interesting person. You need to go through the university bureaucracy to get it accepted based on the job specs. Bunch of them sent a generic cover letter, does not fill in the application form properly, spelled her name wrong – these usually get dump. Then they argue which 5 people would be short-listed for the interview. Need to make sure that they meet the skills, continuity and engagement in their jobs. The front-page of the CV is incredibly important – that is how they find it – you need a distinguishing feature. Panels try to score CVs based on criteria.

You need to interview 5 people in one day – have time for lunch and hence each person has 1 hr. The interview is scripted – each panel person has a number of questions assigned to them. In academia, you have to do some kind of performance (presentation etc.). The organisation “sniffs” the candidates based on their presentations etc – need to find the candidate who excites them. The department will say, “ we can work with this person” or  “we can’t work with this person” and then the pragmatic things e.g. when they’re free.

Things to do:

  • Do your homework: read the website etc – have an opinion (good/ bad).
  • Be prepared to talk about your passion e.g. your research
  • Be prepared to demonstrate concrete examples

Which questions not to ask as an interviewee?

  • Do not ask about money

The panel is your audience:

  • Map between your concerns and theirs (you do this in your cover letter)
  • Map between their needs and your skills (also cover letter)
  • Map between your needs and their facilities
  • What collaborations might you from?
  • If you were given a free hand, how would you contribute?

Good candidates:

  • Make good eye contact – shows confidence
  • Passion matters – real interests expressed well
  • Evidence of concrete examples of skills and abilities
  • Clean, succinct, contentful, relevant answers
  • Engagement – listening – listen to the interviewers
  • Homework

Sometimes the interviewer can get it wrong – sometimes it is a 50% hit.

A student is talking about which provides interview questions and videos as well, if you’re thinking of going into industry.

Reference letters are something you can’t control and need to ask someone who you think will give a good letter. Read the signs of someone who does not want to write your reference letter.

12:56 on 3 June 2010

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