Thursday, February 10, 2011

Interview Essentials

So you’ve worked very hard on your app package. You’ve applied to every university that has an opening and you’ve been waiting for weeks [months], anxiously hoping you get noticed. And then the day comes. You get that email/call saying you’ve made it to the interview stage!

Now what?

The easiest thing to say is: Don’t Screw It Up. The best thing to say is: Practice. A simple Google search should produce numerous “typical”interview questions. Be prepared to give answers on any of these questions. Some people suggest writing out full answers but I tend to think you sound like a robot in those cases. It seems like you’re “too” polished. What I did was jot down ideas/thoughts on a question but stopped short of memorizing a 2 minute monologue/answer. Also, make sure that you can answer the generic “give me 2 minutes about yourself” and “why do you think you’re ready for this position” questions. In two, all day interview sessions with 15+ people faculty members, be prepared for those in at least 50% of the interviews. Once you have practiced your questions, it’s time to practice the actual interview.

By now, you should know some faculty members who are willing to help you out. See if they have a faculty friend who maybe knows of you but doesn’t really know you and ask them to give you a mock interview. Treat this like a real interview. Set up 30-60 minutes and come prepared with copies of your app package for them to look at. Ask them to treat you like they would any other candidate.

I only did this with two people I knew but I got some very good feedback, especially from one Prof. When it was over, I thought I did will. Prof thought otherwise, saying to fix X, Y, and Z and come up with a better SoR and research outlook otherwise I’m not going to get the job. It was quite damning but sometimes tough love can be a good thing.

The other thing Prof did (and I didn’t even notice) was goad me into a minor argument. That’s one way to kill your prospect as a candidate. If it comes down to even a minor argument (that you win), you still lose. Sometimes this happens for political reasons like you’re not the candidate that this particular faculty member wants. They really want candidate B or C. If you argue with them, they’ll definitely take that back to the committee meeting and say “Candidate A seemed to argue over everything. I don’t think she/he is the right person for here.”

This leads to two points: make sure to do your background on the faculty to find your champion and it is ok to say you don't know. I’ll discuss those tomorrow. Did I miss any interview background topics? Any other tips?

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