Advice needed for job interview in research administration
November 2, 2013 5:48 PM   Subscribe

I have an important job interview coming up this Tuesday, and I was hoping for some advice on how to handle the interview and, specifically, how to address my weaknesses productively while highlighting my strengths.

The interview is for a position as the research coordinator for a large, multi-year and multi-site academic research project. They have (obviously) called for someone with several years experience in similar positions, with specific skills listed (administration, planning, databasing, accounting, event planning, etc).

I am under-qualified for the position as it was advertised. I have just over one year's experience coordinating a much smaller and single site project. I have most of the skills listed (including the most important), but I have no experience in two specific skills listed: financial records and event planning.

That said, I have reason to believe that I still have a good chance at this job: I suspect that the employer overshot the expectations, compared to the offered salary range and contract length, and out of the 100 people who applied, only a handful have been chosen for an interview, including myself.

I also have a lot of soft skills that I believe make me qualified for the job: I have a masters and I am ABD in another discipline, so while I may only have 13 months experience as a research coordinator for someone else, I have 8 years of experience coordinating my own research. I have excellent writing skills. I have good computer skills for a non-IT person, and I'm not afraid of going online to learn more (I taught myself some simple programming last year). While I've never worked directly designing budgets or keeping formal financial records, it's the sort of thing I could learn in a week or two, and I happen to have a close friend who has been an accounting clerk for years.

What I told my friend when I applied was that I feel under-qualified for the job as written, but that (looking at what they actually need me to do), I could learn to do the job well relatively quickly -- and maybe bring some skills they didn't realize they needed.

But it's also been a long time since I did a formal job interview, and I have never done an interview for a job this senior.

What kinds of questions can I expect?

What sorts of criteria will they be judging me on?

How can I deal with my lack of skills or experience (compared to the advertisement) productively?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
They want to see you, so your perceived lack of experience is a non-issue. Come up with three little anecdotes where you were able to save the day. You'll probably be asked to describe a time when...So have these in your back pocket ready to go. Practice them.

60 Seconds and You're Hired is the best book to use to prepare for an interview.

Go get 'em!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:14 PM on November 2, 2013

I have found that a lot of interviews these days involve competency based questions, where they ask you to describe a situation where you have had an issue/problem, what you did about it and was it resolved etc. Which I presume would show them at least three different angles on how you approached a situation, worked with it and resolved it.

Personally for me, I find making a list of all the experiences I had that were tricky help me to come up with ways to show the interviewer my tenacity/ambition. For example, when I had an assistant a while back, she would rebel against me, which made it very difficult to delegate work to her. I then sat her down and gave her constructive feedback and explained how we needed to work together to make the small team we had there work and progress further. This method worked long enough to hold the bridge in place until my senior returned from holiday and continued the extra work I had taken on board. My point is that I wouldn't consider this example to be worth mentioning to an interviewer, but others have said it would. So I'm saying you should think of all the things that you do/have done that you think show that further push that puts you in front of the basic complacent worker.
posted by sockpim at 2:50 AM on November 3, 2013

The more senior the job, the longer the interview process is likely to take. Especially as this is for academia, be prepared to meet with a lot of different people, and assume you'll be saying a lot of the same things, telling a lot of the same stories, etc. Do a google search for interview questions, then go down the list (example) answering them out loud; if you find yourself repeatedly stumbling over one, or searching for words, or you've got a great story but it's taking 10 minutes to tell it, write down your answer, draft it out like an essay question, and get it "right". Of course the interviewers aren't going to ask exactly these questions, but by practicing the q&a process, your answers will be much better. Also, it sounds like you're realistically quite qualified, so by spending some time in the mental space of selling yourself to an interviewer, you'll probably learn ways to advertize that fact, and if you have some fear of an interviewer saying "huh, it doesn't look like you have the 5-8 years pofessional experience in database management that it asked for in the ad, I wonder why the other researcher wanted you called in" you'll have an answer ready. (it's because I've used databases for years, you twit! I mean, uh, sir.)
posted by aimedwander at 6:02 AM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

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