26

I have been invited to interview for a lecturer position (AFAIK, equivalent to assistant professor elsewhere) in the UK, after being pre-selected following a Skype interview. This means that the department is probably reasonably interested in me as a prospective hire. I have been a postdoc for 3.5 years now, and this is my first interview at this level.

I also do not have much experience with interviews in general, since I got my PhD position at the first try, and then was offered my postdoc position (I did not interview for it). In the middle I had two other interviews for postdocs that I didn't get, one of which went badly on my part. The other one went well but the position was extremely competitive (1% chance) which makes drawing conclusions difficult.

So I would like to have some pointers from academics who are familiar with the UK system on what to expect and how to best prepare for the interview. The email they sent me asked me to deliver a 30-minute presentation on "your research, enterprise and teaching aspirations at [univeristy name], with the first 5 minutes directed at an Undergraduate audience". Then, there will be a panel interview, followed by tour of the department and lunch. I should add this position puts more emphasis on research than teaching (externally funded).

Specifically, I'm interested in:

  • What to focus on during the presentation, e.g., what is a good balance of my past/present research versus future plans
  • Should I link the undergradute part to my research topics?
  • What kind of content the panel is expecting from me: "research, enterprise and teaching aspirations" sounds a bit vague (perhaps that's intentional?)
  • What to expect from the panel interview: technical questions, career plans, ...?

Update:

I had the interview, which I think went reasonably well. I found the advice given by the accepted answer to be quite valuable in the end. Things that came up were for example 1) subjects that I can contribute to the teaching portfolio of the department which are not currently taught, 2) what kind of funding I am going to secure to do research, 3) how my research ties in with what current members of the department are researching, 4) why I chose this university/department, 5) some more technical/specific questions about the research project attached to the position (as I said this position is externally funded).

Things that did not come up were salary or REF.


Update2:

I was offered the position. Unfortunately (or maybe not) I could not accept it because of a mixture of personal and professional reasons.

  • 1
    I suggest that you should add details about your subject area, as this may well make a big difference to the answer. – Neil Strickland Apr 25 '17 at 8:24
  • 1
    @NeilStrickland The area is computational chemistry/physics. – Miguel Apr 25 '17 at 9:00
  • 3
    UK hiring is all about the REF. – StrongBad Apr 25 '17 at 13:06
  • @StrongBad I'll try to have a good look, although I'm pressed right now to finish up my presentation. What specific sections of the website are most relevant? – Miguel Apr 25 '17 at 13:39
  • 3
    Re the REF, all UK universities obsess about their position in this, to a greater or lesser extent (there is non-trivial central funding attached to the scores). The methodology changes from REF to REF (infuriatingly), so everyone's second-guessing the process (infuriatingly), and the whole damn thing is a sink of effort (infuriatingly). If you can roughly indicate how you might fit in to their submission for the ‘Unit of Assessment’ they're part of, and even improve their ranking, they will listen. – Norman Gray Apr 25 '17 at 14:40
27

This is all pretty standard practise for UK lectureships. They are basically testing your skills that will be required in the position.

In the presentation they will want to see a demonstration that you can communicate your own specialism to both an undergraduate audience (as in teaching class) and your research peers (like for a conference). They want to know that you understand how research is done and where the money comes from (knowledge of funding sources), and some assurance that you demonstrate the basic skills to communicate and cooperate with others already in the department to achieve that goal. They will also want some indication that you have done some background intelligence to discover their particular departmental specialisms and how your skills will fit in their niche. You should at least have read the pages on their web site!

The presentation is likely to be done in a "public" venue with most staff and PhD's invited, who will also ask you questions at the end, just as if it was a research paper.

The interview will be behind closed door with the panel, often with senior staff such as Deans and HR who will ask questions that verify things from your CV/Resume. They will find out about your past employment, measure your level of experience, salary expectation plans for career development and so on. They would want to know how long you planned to stay with them to know if their investment in you was returned. They would want to know that you were self assured and reliant and not dependant on your previous supervisors, but conversely not a loner who could not collaborate with the existing and future teams.

  • 8
    The only additional point I would add is to expect in the interview to be asked how and where you would get funding for your research, so do some study on how UK funding works. – Ian Apr 25 '17 at 9:35
  • 3
    They'll also want to know what recent outputs you have that are suitable for submission to the REF, and what plans you have to produce further such outputs. – csp Apr 25 '17 at 16:13
9

A very UK specific thing is the REF. It is an exercise that happens every 6 years or so. Every university in the UK obsesses over it. While the rules/targets keep changing, it has consistently stressed quality over quantity. The last REF only looked at your top 4 outputs. What hiring committee was to know is what would your previous REF submission have looked like and what your submission for the next REF will be. Be prepared to answer what your top 4 publications are from 2008-2014 and your top 4 from 2015 forward and future publishing plans are.

  • 3
    There will be a lot about the TEF in this hiring round, as fees may be linked to TEF results. Previous hiring rounds were REF obsessed but it is a changing landscape. More senior hires would be looking at REF capability. – Brian Tompsett - 汤莱恩 Apr 25 '17 at 16:30
  • 3
    Just for the sake of one data point: neither REF nor TEF came up in the interview. – Miguel Apr 29 '17 at 15:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.