So what do academics interviews consist of?
September 4, 2008 1:37 PM   Subscribe

What to expect at an interview for an academic teaching post?

As a follow up to this question regarding changing my CV to pursue another teaching post (I already have a part time slot teaching at the Masters level), I've got my first interview tomorrow. The specific job is Lecturer in Econometrics at a UK University.

Great news, but I don't know what to expect. Corporate interviews are no problem, done hundreds of them in my time, from both sides of the desk.

But academic? I have no idea. A clue is they'd like me to bring along and present a lecture of my choise suitable at the Masters level, and that's fine. It's a one hour interview and they expect the presentation to take up twenty minutes, and I plan to approach this part of the interview as an actual lecture, complete with me asking the "students" (interviewers) questions, peppering the presentation with historical market anecdotes relevant to the topic we're discussing, etc.

Before and after that? I'm sure pleasantries, brief review of my CV, a cuppa & some biscuits, discussion of my previous lecturing experience (two years, four terms in front of the class), talking about my current academic assignment, some bitching about the rotten English weather and what else can I / should I expect?

I never get nervous at these things, regard them more as an opp to meet some (hopefully) interesting people, score some free eats and nothing more. But the more I know about what to expect the better things will go. TIA for any help!
posted by Mutant to Work & Money (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Often there are 2 presentations in an academic interview. One is as you describe a 'typical' lecture, but usually actual students are shipped in to be your audience or 'class'. The point of this presentation is to see how you do at teaching. The other presentation, though, is a research presentation, where you present original research to the committee. The purpose of the research presentation is to evaluate your rigor as a scholar. If the committee is expecting a research presentation and you deliver a typical lecture, you might be screwed.
posted by hworth at 1:54 PM on September 4, 2008

hworth, I think this is for a sessional teaching position. If there were a research presentation I think they'd have told Mutant as much.

Although I could be wrong. In North America, a "lecturer" (or sometimes an "instructor") is involved only in teaching- a position that entails research (often as one's primary responsibility) as well as teaching is a "professor." What sort of position is this?

Maybe as well somebody can chime in to let us know if/how the British approach to academic job interviews is different from that in the US and Canada- having endured 19 (yes, 19) of these in my career, I can at least tell you that it's a whole-day, often a whole two days, process and it's very arduous.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 2:43 PM on September 4, 2008

Best answer: previously. There may be significant differences between US and English institutions, though.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:16 PM on September 4, 2008

Best answer: Although I could be wrong. In North America, a "lecturer" (or sometimes an "instructor") is involved only in teaching

UK usage is generally different. Usage varies, but UK lecturer normally = US asst professor.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:25 PM on September 4, 2008

Best answer: I interviewed for similar level positions (except in Linguistics) about 10 years ago, in Edinburgh, Cardiff & London. Things may have changed but I was invited early to meet the other faculty in a semi-informal capacity (tour around the Department, they would leave me in each lecturer's office for about 10 minutes). Then lunch, then a formal presentation and interview.

The formal presentation part was enjoyable in the sense that the academics really challenged you to justify the positions you were adopting, in some cases asking deliberately awkward questions to see how you would respond. I fucking loved it.
What I found disheartening on each occasion was the fact that there was clearly a home-grown candidate (usually the only guy not wearing a suit) who had previously been Prof So-and-so's doctorand, or had been part-time until new funding was released, on one occasion it was the wife of the Head of Department.

These jobs have to be advertised but for the most part they already know someone who would be good for the job, someone they know, have supervised, etc., etc., which means that you have to be twice as good as that someone.

Some of my research at that time was quite edgy (think Mulvey & Female Gaze applied to film subtitling and dubbing) and I was really surprised to be the only female interviewee at all three Universities as Linguistics is not exactly a boyzone.
Clearly I wasn't twice as good as the home-grown candidate who got the job on each occasion.

It may be that funding is much more fluid in Econometrics (tee-hee, see what I did there!)so there aren't as many people waiting in the department involved for the nod.Having followed many of your posts and comments you are clearly well able for this job so...knock 'em dead, Mutant!
best of luck with it.
posted by Wilder at 3:36 PM on September 4, 2008

sorry, that should read "husband" of the Head of Department!
posted by Wilder at 3:37 PM on September 4, 2008

Best answer: Academic hiring is mostly internal departmental politics. But you won't know this politics even if your the inside track candidate because they may not even know until they are forced into talking about it. Btw, it's extremely bad form to hire your own PhD student, even in Europe, but Europeans often hire their own postdocs, which isn't kosher in the U.S.

Your interview does matter in England. So read the materials they have sent you. I'm sure they told you the level where they want the talk pitched. Also, examine the department's webpage to learn who you might work with. Try working with them while visiting.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:24 PM on September 4, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses folks! Just to close this question down - the interview was conducted by a small panel. We reviewed my CV, separately discussing previous academic and banking experience

Nobody on the panel had direct expertise in my field but, as Wilder predicted, those present challenged assumptions, asking what clearly were intentionally awkward questions.

Three students were recruited for my lecture, and seemed interested in the material as they peppered me with more questions. I suspect the panel wanted to see how well I could control a classroom as well as present a lecture.

Politics didn't seem to play a part in this interview, but probably only because I can speak English - there are lots and lots of people who know this material better than I, but their spoken language skills are shaky.

So, nice people, great group and we left it at "We'll talk amoung ourselves and get back to you with a decision".

Which they did by telephone about three hours later: got an offer to teach Financial Modeling starting in October.

So thanks again for your help guys!! I owe everyone a round of pints at the next meetup, or maybe I'll make an extra special celebratory cake.
posted by Mutant at 4:41 AM on September 7, 2008

OK but this time it has to be a RED cake! eh, innit???
posted by Wilder at 12:11 PM on September 23, 2008

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