Academic common room
First RA interview - advice please!?
PhDone · 21/07/2019 19:13
After submitting MANY job applications for Lecturer and RA jobs, I finally have an interview for an RA post (actually might have two interviews, but the second one asked me to come an hour before the first one, and they're at least 6 hours travel apart!).
So... any tips? I really want the job and will have had a week without much else on to prepare.
- What should I wear? I'm sure it'd be a very casual workplace, but I feel like my standard of leggings and a dress would not be enough. For my current job (academic teaching-only) I wore black suit trousers, teal silky top, and a grey suit jacket. Long hair half up.
2. How much should I talk about my owen research interests? They align very well with the project but aren't exactly the same.
3. I know who will be interviewing me - is it weird and stalkerish if I've read their recent papers etc?
MedSchoolRat · 21/07/2019 21:51
it's not stalker to read up on their background, what they are interested in, capable at. It would be creepy brown nose like (imho) to gush over their specific papers.
They want to know that you'll be nice person to work with and competent or even excellent at that job.
If it's like my current institution, they have scoring sheets to fill in, specific same questions for each applicant, it's regimented. You want to talk about your past to the extent that it evidences that you will be able to do the future work.
I think I turned up for leggings under a dress for my last 3 interviews. I just don't get smarter than that.
impostersyndrome · 22/07/2019 05:39
First of all, congratulations on getting the interviews. (With the clash, you don’t ask, but I’d explain there’s a clash and ask if they can out you on a reserve list, or indeed interview via Skype for the one up you can’t get to).
- I’ve never noticed an interviewee’s outfit except for one, whose tattoos were rather too much on show. In short, go for comfortable for you own peace of mind, but reasonably smart, and you’ll be fine.
2. Be led by the questions. If there is no opportunity to discuss till the inevitable “And do you have any questions?” You could ask at that point about if they encourage development of one’s own research. It’s a tricky one though, as some places don’t fund conferences etc for RAs unless they relate to their funded work. I’d focus on your interests that directly flow from the project. If they make encouraging noises that’s a good sign that they’re looking for someone who’s an independent thinker.
3. I’d say on the contrary, almost necessary - do read their work, both to prepare for likely questions and to show knowledge and interest in the wider field if the opportunity arises.
Good luck, and report back if you can!
PhDone · 22/07/2019 09:58
Another question - the second interview I mentioned gave a specific time (11am on friday). I replied saying I couldn't do that day but I was available the day before or any day next week - no, then I asked if it could be later in the day - again no.
Is this normal? to expect someone to be available to interview at a week's notice, and be completely inflexible on times??
Chathamhouserules · 22/07/2019 10:01
No its not. They've probably got someone in mind already but have to interview others.
PhDone · 22/07/2019 10:06
Yeah I know that's common... They offered to skype with me but there's no way I'd be done in time for the first interview (which I want much more).
I'm still trying to get hold of the administrator person who's been emailing me, but I'm thinking of just emailing the academics directly, saying I'm sorry I caan't attend that time, but I'd gladly rearrange with them...
PhDone · 22/07/2019 10:07
The first interview people were much more accommodating, I asked for late morning/early afternoon if possible and they did that :)
mindutopia · 23/07/2019 18:28
I think it depends on your field what you where but I’ve always been told no ‘suit’ as in the matching kind. Trousers, nice top, none matching jacket (or none of truly boiling!).
Definitely plan to talk concisely about your research interests, how they link to the project, how you could further your interests via future collaborations (more grant money!).
Yes, I would definitely read up on any interview panel members and prep questions for them about their work as it fits your interests/the project.
Also, I think what really helps is presenting yourself to be a team player, easygoing, someone they’d want to work with, present yourself as someone keen to get involved in the department (committee work, teaching, etc). Obviously not in an insincere way but I think they like to see that you want to be involved.
And I wouldn’t stress about the second interview. Their loss! My feeling is always if you value what I have to offer enough, you’ll make time for me. If not, it’s not the right fit.
My current senior postdoc position I got offered an interview right before xmas on a week’s notice. It required travel. It just wasn’t possible with school holidays for me to be available then on such short notice 3 hours from home. I explained this to them. They couldn’t get the interview panel together again until about 3-4 weeks later so they really scheduled me for then. They called me the day after my interview to offer me the job. I was obviously the preferred candidate and they were happy to bend over backwards to find me a suitable time. If it’s the right fit, they’ll be keen. If not, I’d let it go and focus on the other one.
mindutopia · 23/07/2019 18:29
Sorry autocorrect is massively failing me today! I blame the heat.
PhDone · 24/07/2019 13:39
Thanks, I've actually agreed to skype for the first interview, it's at 11 and should be 40 minutes, and the second one is at 12!!
Fortunately I know someone at the uni I'm visiting, and she's said I can borrow her office which is just around the corner...
I may be insane...
I'm hoping preparation is key, I'm going to write myself a "cheat sheet" to read right before each one!
I was pretty happy about my outfit but now I'm thinking I'll boil in a suit... So I might go with black suit trousers and smart top.
PhDone · 24/07/2019 13:40
Sorry I just realised I've switched around which one I'm calling first and second...
dorothymichaels · 24/07/2019 14:54
For RA job, definitely read their papers - particularly those related to the study. Think about the skills required for the job (quant/qual) and how your previous experience prepares you for those.
Ask about what opportunities are available within the department to support your development as a researcher (e.g. data analysis groups, lab meetings, training).
My RA job is qualitative follow up on a large quant study so I made sure I had read the main paper. I also thought about some of the issues that might arise in the study I would be working on - ethical and practical.
MedSchoolRat · 28/07/2019 10:32
I'm curious how you got on, OP. Have you had the interview(s) yet?
tbh, I've never understood enough of other people's papers to read & understand them in the detail others seem to be describing. It's becoming rare that I don't get offered jobs so I know my strategy works for me. YMMV.
PhDone · 28/07/2019 17:39
Hi! Yes they were on Friday. The first (Skype) one I arranged to borrow a friend's office (just round the corner from the second one).
it did not go well! I couldn't hear them very well, it kept cutting out and I had to ask them to repeat things. There was also some drilling going on on their end, which came through really loudly and kept breaking my train of thought. They asked me some technical questions and I completely floundered... Not sure why as they weren't that hard, I just didn't get it. They then said I'd hear next week and I got an email 2 hours later saying they didn't want me!
Overall a complete bust lol... Then I ran round the corner for the second one, I would have been 5 mins early except I went to the wrong building! Thankfully I realised and got there just on time.
the second one went well, they were interested in my research and we had a really good discussion about the project they were working on. They had also arranged someone to show me round and take me for lunch, which was all great, and it seems like a really great place to work. I really want that job now, they said I'll hear in a week or two.
PhDone · 01/08/2019 20:45
Eugh the wait is killing me! They said "a week or two" so could hear any time from tomorrow I guess.
PhDone · 13/08/2019 11:36
Well sadly I didn't get the second one either :(
They were very nice though, said they were impressed by me but wanted someone with a particular technical skill
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