So far I have shared my experience with receiving the ‘sorry, we found someone with more experience‘ rejections. I also have spoken about showcasing your passion in applications for work and how this translates to the interview room. But now I want to turn my attention to talk about that period between when you have scored the interview and just before you step into the interview room; I want to talk about preparing for the interview itself.
Let’s start with the obvious one; review your application. Every job requires your application to highlight specific skills and abilities that meet the requirements of that specific job. As such, each application you write will ultimately be a touch different. But the last thing you want is to mix up your applications. So, I studied my own cover letter and CV. When studying these, I did so with the job description next to me with highlighters in hand. I colour coded different parts of my application and matched it with the respective part of the job description. I took these with me into the interview so I could easily source this information if needed.
Know the Hiring Panel
This one is not always a possibility, but in some cases you will be told who the interviewing panel will be ahead of schedule. This information gives you a lot to work with. Learn everything you can about the hiring panel, what their research is, what work in the community have they done, are there videos of them presenting their work or lecturing? All of this can help you to not only understand the interests of the panel but also to glean a little about their personality. I found this particularly helpful because it did mean I could position myself in such a way that hiring panels found me personable and relatable.
Know the Staff and How You Fit In
This is a must, in my opinion, but is also a great fallback strategy when you don’t know the hiring panel. Almost every institution will have staff profiles. These, for the most part, will be up-to-date with photos, descriptions of staff research interests, and descriptions of what staff teach. Sometimes it also includes administrative roles of staff. All of this information can be paramount in knowing exactly how you will fit into the institution. But, as an added bonus, if you do not know who is on your hiring panel, you now have a bit more of an insight into who might be on your panel. In fact, this is exactly what happened with most of my interviews. I did not know who would be on the hiring panels but was able to know each panel member by face because of the research I had done prior.
Some interviews with universities will require a research presentation of some kind, so obviously, practice and prepare. However, I have been to other interviews where I was told “no presentation is required” and then in the first 10 minutes or so of the interview I get “please tell us about your research”. Luckily, in my case, I had already prepared a presentation on this topic and presented it to a number of interview panels and had feedback from each to improve the presentation. When I was caught off guard in this particular interview I simply gave that presentation. So it may be worth having your story rehearsed and ready to perform even if there is no explicit request for this.
What are Your Strategies?
Use the comments below to share your own thoughts and strategies for preparing for interviews. Do you do something different? Perhaps you have tried something I have suggested and it did or did not work – what was your experience?