Monthly Archives: January 2010

Job Interviews

Q. What is a typical interview like for an academic job? For an industrial job? How can I succeed?

by Mark Wilson

A. The typical academic interview includes a research talk or a sample class lecture (or both), depending on the type of institution, plus meetings with faculty, groups of faculty and administrators. In addition there are sometimes social events – which, make no mistake, are also opportunities for evaluating candidates. The interviewers will ask directly or indirectly questions that are also implied in their job advertisement (so reread the advertisement before the interview, and prepare). The interviewers will also listen for indications that you have an interest and appreciation of their accomplishments. They will get a sense of how you would be as a colleague over many years.

Industrial interviews have one primary function: to determine how well you will fit in to the job environment. This is an opportunity to display your “soft” skills – communications, interpersonal rapport building, enthusiasm—fit the employers work environment and corporate culture. When you get to this stage in a hiring process, your technical background will have been vetted. You should expect subtle probes into what you know, and your work experience, but this is a context for a future employer to assess how well you will work with the existing staff, how you present yourself and how you communicate. It is wise to pay attention to dress and general appearance in preparation for an interview. While the industrial work environment is becoming more casual, it is more formal than in the typical student environment. When in doubt, it is better to over-dress.