You will have at least a few days to prepare for your academic interview, here are ten tips on how to maximise your chances of getting that job!
1. Who are your interviewers?
2. Know the institution
3. What job are you being interviewed for?
4. How to get to the interview
5. Preparing for a presentation
6. Know your CV
7. Your research/teaching profiles
8. Relate your skills to their needs
9. Network, network, network!
10. Get a good night's sleep
When you receive your letter offering an interview, it will almost certainly give the names of those people on the interview panel. For a permanent job, this could be around four people, plus a representative from the Human Resources department. For part-time or temporary posts, you may have a smaller panel. Using the internet make sure you research the interests of the scholars on your panel, perhaps even make an effort to read some of their work if it's in an area related to yours. This will impress them, but also help you to target your interview answers because you will know what aspects of research and pedagogy interest your panel. If you haven't been given the names of your interviewers, call the HR department and ask them.
Again research is the key. Make sure you know what the strengths of the university or college are, and their aims and current status. Investigate the department too: how many members of staff do they have? What are their teaching and research strengths? ‘Forewarned is forearmed' and the more knowledge you have going into the interview, the more confident you will feel. Also it gives the interviewers the impression that you really care about this job, and that it is not just one more in a string of interviews for you.
It sounds silly, but make sure you know what it is they want the successful applicant to do. Is it a teaching or research post? What hours? Permanent or temporary? You will find out the information you need on the further particulars, that were sent to you or that you downloaded when you applied for the post. Keep a copy of these for reference at this time. Many applicants find that they have lost all their paperwork when they have been offered an interview, so ensure that you have an efficient filing system.
Part of your preparation will involve planning logistics for the day of the interview. If you are travelling to a town and university you do not know well make sure that you will arrive on time and do not have to rush. If you are using public transport or driving on busy roads allow plenty of extra time in case of delays. If the interview is a long way from your home or starts very early in the morning, consider travelling to the venue the night before. Your expenses should be covered by the institution, check with the HR department if you are unsure about this.
Many academic interviews require you to give a presentation to members of the department where the interview is held. This could be on any subject, your research or teaching. Instructions will be sent on what you are required to do when you are invited to interview. This is an extremely important part of the day and so make sure you give you best presentation possible. Do dummy runs on members of your current department and friends and family. The most important piece of advice: stick rigidly to time! This is a skill that will stick in the minds of those interviewing.
You have a good CV, otherwise you would not have been invited for interview. However, make sure you are completely familiar with it. The interviewers will ask you about all aspects of your academic work, so it is vital that your answers are consistent with your CV. They may ask you about an obscure conference paper given five years ago if it is on your CV, so make sure you memorise exactly what you have included. Hopefully you will have tailored your CV for that job application, so this will also help you focus on what the interviewers are looking for.
It is never possible to fully anticipate the questions you will be asked but make sure you have something concrete and interesting to say about both your teaching and research (if the job entails both). While investigating the institution you will have gathered whether they are primarily a teaching or research institution, so weight your answers accordingly. You will probably be asked about past, present and future plans, so have information prepared for all scenarios.
Using the ‘person specification' information given out when you applied for the job, make sure you understand what skills and experience you could bring to the job. Match yourself to each one of their criteria, having something to say on each point, and learn this off by heart. It will impress the interviewers and also give you the confidence that you are the candidate they are looking for.
As you are preparing for the interview tell everyone you know in the academic world that you have been offered it. Chances are that one of your contacts will know someone on the interview panel, or have a story about the way that particular department works. If you are still a junior scholar, your PhD supervisor will be a vital part of this, otherwise talk to colleagues at your institution and contacts made at conferences etc.
This is an obvious point that applies to all job interviews, but make sure you are well-rested the night before. As with exams do not spend the time cramming extra information into your head, but instead pack your bags and then relax, perhaps do some light exercise or watch a film. You should hopefully wake up refreshed and able to perform your best at interview.