Preparing for and Surviving Academic Interviews
Part of the Self-Reflection; series by and for early-career researchers
Your application has arrived at the top of the stack and you have passed the phone/web interview evaluation! Now all you have to do is ace the academic interview to land that faculty position you’ve been dreaming of for months. How?
There are few who would consider themselves experts at interviews, nor is there one single recipe for success. We asked scientists for tips and tricks to survive academic interview and here are their answers! Please share additional tips in the comment section.
Even if you are not currently ready to apply for academic positions, there are still steps that you can take to prepare for the interview. Start observing interviews where you are now. See how the process works and note the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates being interviewed. Start working on acquiring a skill-set that will make you the best candidate in the future.
Keep an eye on the types of positions that are available in the job market today and the types of requirements that are needed for those positions. You will see some skill-sets pop up again and again. Now might be a good time to acquire those skills. One easy way to do that is to check out the Plantae Career Center.
Build your network! Connect with others using social media and use communities such as Plantae to find scientists who share your interests and goals. Start building relationships with people you might not have met otherwise. When it comes time to apply for jobs a support system will be a valuable resource to share experiences and learn about other departments and universities.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
One of the most important components of the interview will be the talk. Practice your formal talk as well as your “chalk talk” on future projects and teaching.
Do your Homework
Think of answers to the hard questions. What do you plan to achieve in 1-5 years? Where will your independent funding come from? What is the outline of your first 2-3 grants? What is your biggest contribution to science?
Do Your Research
Look into the department and find out more about your audience.
Pack your bag!
Dress for success, bring extra clothes, and add snacks.
DURING THE INTERVIEW
Activate "Interview Mode"
Show that you are interested. Ask questions!
Keep on Time
Sometimes this can be beyond your control if you are meeting with a lot of people and you run into someone who likes to talk. Be sure to ask ahead of time about the amount of time for your seminar and your chalk talk. Typically seminars are 45-50 minutes with 10 minutes for questions. Chalk talks are much more variable. Be sure to ask what you should go over.
Interview the Department
The interview process, although stressful, is your best chance to find out everything that you need to know to make a decision if the job is right for you. Look around you and see if people seem happy working there. Ask questions to determine the structure of the department and see if you can imagine yourself as a member of the department.
Just remember it is best to save questions about salary, retirement benefits, vacation, etc. until after you have the job offer.
Send personalized thank you notes. Email the head of the search, department chair, and the rest of the committee thanking them for their time. This shows you value the time they spent with you and that you could actually imagine taking the job there. Take notes during the interview process about the people you meet and the research they do. It will help you remember who you met and individualize your thank you notes.
Dr. Erin Spark’s blog post http://thecomonline.net/reflections-on-the-academic-job-market/
Dr. Kyaw Aung’s blog post http://thecomonline.net/an-inside-scoop-on-interviewing-to-be-an-assistant-professor/
Katie Rogers (@ktlrogers) is a PhD student at the University of Florida studying Horticultural Sciences. She is also working as a Social Media and Digital Communications intern for American Society Plant Biologists (ASPB)