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UCD Research Skills & Career Development

Forbairt Ghairme & Taighde Scileanna UCD

Interview Strategy - Taking Control of the Process 

Having a proactive strategy for interviews allows candidates to make the best possible case for themselves and reduces the “fear-factor” associated with the process.

 If you know

  • what you have to offer

  • why this is relevant to the position

  • how this impacts the organisation

  • why you want the role

  • how you could potentially develop it, in the context of the organisation concerned,and to the benefit of the organisation.

then you are in a strong position to make your best case for the role. If you, as a candidate, cannot address one or more of these issues then it is likely that you will not perform  optimally in the selection process.

Key Points to Remember:

Only apply for positions that you want and for which you are suitable

Preparing for and undergoing the selection process is time consuming, and can be confidence-sapping if you are repeatedly unsuccessful. Worse still is the fact that you may develop a reputation as someone who is unrealistic and over-estimates their own abilities.

Make the Call

Most positions will have a contact for candidates to call for informal discussions re the position.  Make the call.  After doing the research and establishing that you are interested in the position and have something to offer, call the contact for a discussion about the position - in this way you can learn more about the position and/or unit and about what they are looking for in a successful candidate.

Know your strengths

Make a list of the strengths that you have relating to the position, with three examples of each strength in appropriate contexts. This helps to clarify in your own mind exactly what you are bringing to the role and why you are a suitable candidate. Practice answering typical questions, such as “What key strengths do you feel you bring to this position?” out loud. The emphasis on this practice is not to memorise your answer but rather to familiarise yourself with both referring to yourself and your accomplishments in this way, and in articulating your case.

Know why you want the job!

The old adage goes: Candidates get interviews on the basis of what they have done in the past, they job offers on the basis of where they see themselves going in the future. Ambition and motivation are key drivers in the selection process as organisations want their people to be energized and proactive, who will display initiative and be forward-focused. So be able to say why you want the job in terms of your ambition and what you want to do with it.

You got an interview!

This is prima facie evidence that the organisation thinks that you are up to the job. No organisation ever interviews a candidate who they feel cannot do the job. They don’t waste their time like this.

First Up, Best Dressed!

Appearances matter. No matter how relaxed and informal the organisation culture is – you are not part of it, yet. So dress professionally, arrive on time, don’t skip a meal (your rumbling stomach will be the best communicator in the room!), and smile. You want to project an air of competent, calm, professionalism.

Be Ready to Talk about your Research

Everyone will ask about your research – and you need to be able to answer:

  • Your peers – who are familiar with your area and among whom you can presume a high level of appropriate knowledge
  • Other professionals in your area – who have only a passing acquaintance with your speciality.
  • Non-specialists – who have no relevant reference points at all.
The last is sometimes used at interview to assess the candidates communication skills where the candidate out of their professional “comfort zone”.

On Being Rejected

This never feels good. Ever. Even when you don’t really want the job.Get used to it. Everyone gets rejected during their career; the trick is to use it to learn something about yourself. Contact the chairman of the selection panel and seek feedback on your performance and reflect on what you might do to augment any perceived weaknesses.

REMEMBER – you may have not received this job, but you may be applying here again, or have a member of the interview panel on a subsequent panel, or have your name recommended for another post.

 Online Resources for Interview Strategies and Techniques

http://www.vitae.ac.uk/researchers/1380/Successful-interviews.html

http://www.vitae.ac.uk/researchers/1660/Academic-job-interviews.html

http://www.grad.illinois.edu/careerservices/academic/interviews/academicinterviewshandout.pdf

https://www.training.nih.gov/assets/Preparing_for_Academic_Interviews_Handout.pdf

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUdguDDjgH0

http://www.beyondthephd.co.uk/audio/

http://www.prospects.ac.uk/your_phd_what_next_academic_jobs.htm