Academic Interview Questions Uk

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Question 1 – How does this lectureship or fellowship fit with your career aspirations?

Quite often, this is one of the first questions you’re asked and it’s a BIG question! It is really important to be clear and concise about where this job is going to take you. A lot of people go back in time to answer this question but it’s about the future. Some of your responses might be:

  • This position will be an ideal springboard for me to become an independent researcher or to create my own research group or
  • To work on my own projects but also provides a scaffolding for a successful start on an academic career.
  • In five years’ time, I hope to be senior lecturer (or reader or whatever that promotion might be).
  • You’ve got to give an indication what the optimistic future looks like for you. They want to employ ambitious academics. So, if you just say “I’m not quite sure” then they’re not going to be very convinced, are they?

    It’s important to say where you’re aiming. Don’t just give them past history although you might need to do a bit of that. A good start would look like:

    Panel interviews are most common, where you are interviewed by a number of people together, usually between two and six. The panel is likely to include at least one person from the department (possibly the head of department or research group), a representative from Human Resources, and often someone from another department outside your discipline.

    You will usually be asked to give a presentation either to the panel or to other members of the department or research group. This will commonly be on your research and could include plans for future research. You may also be asked to present on your teaching practice or give a mini-lecture.

    Question 3 – Where do you see yourself in x number of years?

    The timeframe of this question changes. It could be 10 years. It might be 3 years if it’s a 3-year fellowship. The idea behind this question is to probe. Do you have a plan? Ideally, you’re wanting your answers to be one or two minutes long. Don’t get everyone lost in an overlong answer!

    So, thinking about 10 years, how are you going to break that up? If it was a lectureship, let’s focus on what they need to know. They need to know you have a research plan, they need to know you have a funding plan, to know what grants you’re going to fund, they need to know how big your research group is going to be. They want you to think about your career ambitions.

    I would always start with the end first. In 10 year’s time, I will be a reader with a group of 10, which includes five postdocs, five PhDs. Then you can unpack how you are going to get there but you start with headlining the key achievements.

    Then you’re going to say how you’ll fund it because most universities are very interested in the money! For example, I will apply to an ERC grant, I will apply to the Royal Society Fellowship.

    What’s the typical career trajectory where you are applying? Have a look and understand what is possible where you’re applying. If you’re applying to research institute that will be different to a university. It also demonstrates an understanding of what you’re getting into. They know that you’ve done your research.

    Standard academic interview questions and how to answer them

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