Congratulations! You got a job interview! Now what??

Congratulations!  You got a job interview!  Now what??

Congratulations! You got a job interview! Now what??

Steven Shirey and Anat Shahar

November 13, 2019


The workshop on interview tips was led by GL Staff Scientist Anat Shahar and DTM Staff Scientist Steven Shirey, who began with a segment from the 1992 musical The King and I, with Julie Andrews singing "Getting to know you."

Some important tips for a skype interview, which is usually the first stage following your selection as a possible candidate for the position:

  • Practice for the interview 
  • Do your homework 
  • Look professional
  • Log in early and look into the camera
  • Focus completely on the interview, do not type or look at your cell phone
  • Have questions ready
  • Don't be negative
  • Look calm, not anxious, and smile
  • Use headphones if that helps with technical feedback

Think about some of the questions that may be posed:

  • Know the title of the proposal you plan to submit
  • What funding agencies will support your work?
  • What kind of labs do you work in?
  • What specific programs at NSF, or elsewhere, could support your work?
  • If you are asked about a start-up package, know what you will need

Your talk:

  • Prep for your job talk, and focus on YOUR research. 
  • You are the rockstar, your subfield is fascinating, the department needs someone like you.  Convey these points WITHOUT arrogance.
  • Why is your topic cool?  Your audience will consist of many levels (experts in your field, other fields, students...).  20% of your slides target the experts; the remaining 80% for everyone else in the room. 
  • Schedule practice talks at BBR
  • Make eye contact
  • If you do not know the answer to a question, thank the questioner and state you are not sure of the response and that you will get back to him/her.  And DO follow up.
  • Let the audience know why your new technique is important; why is your research interesting?
  • Exhibit high energy and a vision for the future.  Where are you going?
  • You are being watched as to how you can perform as a professor

For your campus or site visit:

  • Take a snack with you
  • Be relaxed
  • Get adequate sleep ahead of time
  • Dress respectfully and wear comfortable shoes
  • Bring along a copy of your CV just in case
  • Don't be late
  • If you have food restrictions, inform them ahead of time
  • Be prepared:  bring along an extra laser pointer, your talk on multiple devices, and do not bring out your phone the whole day!
  • Bring along a paper and pencil and jot down notes.  No audio recorders.
  • Ask the interviewer to keep track of time (they usually have someone who does that)
  • The job interview continues through dinner.  Do not order multiple alcoholic drinks, even if your host does so
  • Treat the grad students you meet well.  Do not just talk about yourself.  Ask about their work.  Again, no arrogance.
  • Talk like a professional

Have some questions for your host.  What are their expectations for obtaining tenure? Let them know how you would fit in their department, and what you can add to the department. 

Let your hosts know that you have good ideas, and that you can collaborate with others. Some universities like king-makers, others prefer interdisciplinary researchers.  Find out about the university you are visiting.

Follow up your visit with a thank you email to everyone.  Follow up on any promises you made.  Learn from each interview for the next one.  Were there any red flags?

Apply for all jobs.  Even if the position is advertised as "open rank," apply!  It is easier to hire on a "5-year interview" rather than a more senior person.  Do not be intimidated by open rank calls.

Good luck, and be sure and look at the links at the end of the uploaded presentation! 

Eighteen postdocs were in attendance; valuable feedback was provided by Staff Scientists Lara Wagner and Diana Roman, as well as  DTM Director Rick Carlson.