/ Lecturer Interview

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Catriona on 25 Jan 2013
I have an interview coming up for a job as a university lecturer. I currently work in industry, so haven't had this type of interview before. I know I have to give a lecture as part of the assessment, which I'm comfortable with, but wonder what kind of questions are typical of a panel interview for a post like this. I'm already well used to competency based interviews etc.

Any UKC academics that can help please?
Toby_W on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Catriona:

What subject and what University. Or if that's too much to share does the place have a research reputation or is it more undergrad focused.

Cheers

Toby
Catriona on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Toby_W:

More undergrad focused, with degrees in more applied subjects (typical of what used to be a polytechnic), not much of a research reputation.
Tim Chappell - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Catriona:

Without more detail it's hard to help you, but I work for the OU, and I can say that what I'd be looking for an interviewee of the type you describe is the ability to communicate complex subject-matter clearly and interestingly.
Catriona on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Thanks Tim. I was assuming that was more the focus of the assessment of the brief lecture I'll be giving, rather than the interview.

I don't want to broadcast the exact role I'm going for, but if you could give some pointers in your own subject matter at the OU please, I'm sure I could translate that to mine.
Simon_Sheff - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Catriona:

What is your teaching experience?
What courses/modules would you be keen to teach?
What are your research plans?
How to you intend to apply for funding?
How would you contribute to the administration of the department
Why do you want an academic post?
Why this university?

More narrow:
What is your teaching philosophy?
What is your view on didactic vs Problem based learning?
What research experience do you have?
Tell me about your research area?
How are you going to integrate your research interest into the Department's research cluster?
How are you going to manage doing teaching and research? What us more important to you?

Food for thought..........
Tim Chappell - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Catriona:
>

if you could give some pointers in your own subject matter at the OU please, I'm sure I could translate that to mine.


Really? My own area is Philosophy; it sounds like yours is something at the technology end of science. So there's some distance to bridge in translation!

But suppose I was called in as external assessor for an appointment in Engineering, what would I want to see in the interviewees? The answer is lucidity, grip, clarity, enthusiasm. The candidates I'd like would be the ones who both obviously knew their stuff and also got even me interested in box-girder bridges or whatever!

Good luck, anyway.

Coel Hellier - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Catriona:

Why have you decided to leave industry?

What teaching experience have you had?

When enthuses you about teaching undergraduates?

Where do you see yourself in ten years' time?

Can you tell us why your industry experience equips you for this role?

Then there might be more specific questions based on your CV and track record, and the particular subject you will teach, etc.
In reply to Catriona: "where is the egg on your tie?"
cb294 - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Catriona:

Why this uni? Why the career move? Why should they hire you rather than someone with an academic and teaching track record (probably less important for the applied scenario you describe).

Also, make sure you know EXACTLY which courses are being taught, and ideally by whom and in in which format. Know the background of your prospective students. Have an idea what aspects you can offer to the department that are not yet in place, e.g. how your industry experience will enhance your teaching.
CB
Toby_W on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Catriona: Well, I've worked at Bristol, Bath and now have a lecturing job at, from the sound of it, a similar uni to the one you're applying to.

Rather than a talk on my research interests I had to do a presentation on something related to the undergrad courses. We were all doing the same talk, I was last (being W), but new I'd got it at that point simply because I can make a dry subject engaging and interesting (and had no doubt that there would have been three rather dry talks prior to mine). I took a bag full of bits and pieces to pass round, used some good analogies, made some jokes, smiled.

There was a tour and lunch, coffee etc and a chance to chat to staff and then a formal interview on teaching and a bit on research. One of my big selling points is I've been very involved in recruitment, open days, as well as working with teachers and schools to promote science education and engineering. In the current climate getting students through the door and keeping them is very important.

I was helped a bit in all this as I'd been so busy I'd not had much time to prepare, the week before I was ice climbing. I really wanted the job but equally it would have been just as much a relief not to get it.

Hope some of this rambling helps

Toby
Catriona on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to all:

Thanks. Some really useful stuff here.
Mark Torrance on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Catriona:

The "can you communicate complex ideas clearly" issue should be covered by your lecture.

I would carefully prepare answers to the following questions (amongst others):

- How would you go about designing a module in [your subject area]? You'll want to show that you can think through broad issues to do with what to cover, and how this is best delivered.

- ...and how would this be best assessed? Looking for issues to do with fairness and validity, but also that the nature of the assessment will motivate students to engage effective and comprehensive learning.

- Why teaching, and why this department? (Looking for plausible, positive reasons)

I would also make certain, before the interview, that there is no expectation that your role will involve research, or consultancy, or anything other than teaching. I would be suprised if this is the case. Unless they give you a definite no, then you should also prepare answers to questions about possible research activity (or other non-teaching projects) including of course, ideas for sources of funding. These should be concrete, well researched and realistic.

In my experience of these things (social sciences, with research focus) you can pretty much rehearse everything that you are likely to get asked or, put another way, if you rehearse good stuff then you will almost definitely get a chance to say it in the interview. So the key (I think) is lots of preparation, combined with passion, enthusiasm, and coherence in the interview.
Bob Aitken - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Catriona:
What can you contribute by way of breadth and/or depth to the Department’s current teaching and research programme ? That can be delicate – some Departments welcome proposals for new modules, especially if you have them more or less ready to roll; in others, some lecturers may be jealous custodians of their specialisms even if they could do with upgrading. As cb294 says, it could be very useful if you can suss out the current teaching set-up (even have a snoop on lecturer rating forums for pointers to Departmental performance in your own subject area).

Probably obvious, and without knowing your subject, but if you’re coming in from industry the Department may be particularly interested from a pragmatic angle to know whether you have good links that can bring in funding for research, opportunities for student placements, or even channels for graduate employment.

Good luck!

EeeByGum - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> The answer is lucidity, grip, clarity, enthusiasm.

But don't worry if you don't have any of that. Most of lecturers certainly lacked enthusiasm and many just pumped out their lectures without even engaging the class. A bit sad really.
Jon Read - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Mark Torrance:
I second Mark's points here.

Some horrible teaching-related questions:
What is your teaching 'philosophy'?
How would you respond to the need for higher education to be more inclusive, and accessible to different student background and nationalities?
What about pastoral care of students?
How would you improve The Student Experience?
Catriona on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Mark Torrance:

There is an expectation that I would carry out research as part of the job, which is something new to me (as is perfectly evident in my application). There are areas of my field which I have read into and applied more than others, and I'm closer the the leading edge in those areas as well. These areas combine into something coherent, a "passion" if you like which would be an area for my research and something which might attract industry funding. However, I don't have a concrete proposal for an exact research theme or funding. Do you think that is sufficient?
Catriona on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Jon Read:

Thanks Jon. Horrible indeed. Those are the sorts of questions that could trip me up; in some cases because I'm not used to the language and in others because I hadn't even thought about those questions before.
Coel Hellier - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Catriona:

> However, I don't have a concrete proposal for an exact research theme or funding. Do you think that is sufficient?

This really depends on how much the research side and the attracting funding from industry features in what they are looking for (you can judge this from the "job specification" and "person specification" material that likely accompanies the advert).

It sounds to me that you likely need to have a good plan for what research you want to do and how you are going to get industry funding to do it. At the least that would be a big plus. It would only not matter if this is essentially a teaching-only job.

If they have short-listed you despite no research experience, that probably means they are expecting you to be able to get funding from industry based on your current industry experience.

But all this really does depend on the job specs and person specs and what they are looking for.
The Ivanator - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Catriona: How could you contribute in marketing the course to prospective students?
Give an example of when you have overcome a challenging situation in a teaching environment.
What different styles of delivery do you employ to engage students?
What methods would you use to stretch and challenge gifted students?
ads.ukclimbing.com
IainRUK - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Catriona: They vary..

usual why did you apply?
How will you complement the teaching and research of the department?

list your Teaching experience..

What would be your first grant?
What would be your lecture module?
What would be your first PhD students topic?

I'm assuming it is research active.
IainRUK - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Catriona: Ahh sounds more like an old poly then.. I had one recenly at Bolton and it was fairly research inactive... I had more papers than the whole of the department put together.. one of the sports scientists listed articles in Mens Health in his publication list..

They'll want money from Industry, student placements, how you can apply your industrial experience to teaching, contacts with the local community.

TBH I get maybe 30-50% of the same questions but then some off the wall ones..

Sometimes very subject orientated too.. I even had:

'What does ecosystem resilience mean?'
'Whats the greatest threat to the marine environment'.

I've also had some depressingly bad interviews.. some you walk in and get ripped to pieces. Basically I was there to make the numbers up, so what academics do well is put people down.. At one I was told my research wasn't my research it was my supervisors as grants have been in his name.. with me employed on the... yet I even have his signature as a JPG to insert into the grant applications I write..


cb294 - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Catriona:
> (In reply to Mark Torrance)
>
However, I don't have a concrete proposal for an exact research theme or funding. Do you think that is sufficient?

No. Think of a topic you are uniquely qualified in and which fits and enhances the current setup. Identify potential funding agencies and programs (ideally knowing when the relevant application deadlines are, whether you are eligible by yourself or need cooperation partners from industry, etc....). No need to have it in writing, but you should be able to outline a program at that level of detail witout hesitation if asked to do so.

CB
Coel Hellier - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to IainRUK:

> At one I was told my research wasn't my research it was my supervisors as grants have been in his name.. with
> me employed on the... yet I even have his signature as a JPG to insert into the grant applications I write..

That must be annoying. :-( I think STFC have recently changed to allow PDRAs to be formal applicants in such situations.
Mark Torrance on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to cb294:

Concerning research, I think (but again this might vary with context) that there are probably two things that you need to demonstrate:

1. That you have concrete and achievable reserach plans that will contribute to the departments income and / or research standing. Whether or not this is actually important to them can be guaged roughly by their current output. If most staff have very few publications or little external avitivity, then they will still want to pay lipservice to reserach but it won't be a deciding factor.

2. That you understand what research is. Even if few staff are active researcher there will be an underlying assumption that you believe in the need for reserach, that knowledge changes through research, that you can help students design projects and so forth. To demonstrate this you I think that you would need at minimum to (a) be able to discuss potential projects that you'd like to conduct (if you don't have any ideas for these this suggests that you don't the the development-of-knowledge mindset that is meant to be at the heart of university education) and (b) to be able to point to stuff that you've done in the past that is a bit like research (audit? implementing then evluating new practice?), and demonstrate that you can do this rigorously.

Mark Torrance on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Mark Torrance:

Being able to type "research" or, indeed, any other word accurately is unlikely to be assesed, however. Fortunately.
Simon_Sheff - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Catriona:

Lots of helpful posters repeating the same info. I think u get the message.
What is as important, if you have been shortlisted is to get down/up there and meet the cheeses down there. Serves 3 purposes, if they like you the job might already be yours, u get to suss out what they are after, and what they are looking for (so u can practise your interview questions to this). Lastly if you don't and the other candidates did go for a meet, your look lazy and unbothered (in my eyes anyway) and potentially you've lost the job even before your interview.
It amazes me how many people think just applying is okay.
IainRUK - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> (In reply to IainRUK)
>
> [...]
>
> That must be annoying. :-( I think STFC have recently changed to allow PDRAs to be formal applicants in such situations.

I should have been a research co-I.. I was actually told by him it wasn't possible... I was only told in a performance review that I'd missed out on that opportunity.. my fault for being ignorant of the processes

But I'm now writing the final reports.. yet he's PI.. as he has no idea about the grant.. yet I'm no longer employed by them yet still expected to work for them.. I'm doing it as he's my referee so I can't put him offside.
IainRUK - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Mark Torrance:
> (In reply to Mark Torrance)
>
> Being able to type "research" or, indeed, any other word accurately is unlikely to be assesed, however. Fortunately.

reaserch.. is my favoured way of misspelling it.. a tricky word..
tlm - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Catriona:

Do you mind sharing an office with two men?

(that is one of the questions that has been asked in such a situation!!!!! I was shocked!)
Tall Clare - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to IainRUK:

I'm proofreading quite a few Ph.D theses at the moment... 'Researches' is a favourite, it seems.
Catriona on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Tall Clare:

I wrote an entire university dissertation (before spell checkers) related to cryogenic stuff featuring my own spelling of "refrigderation" a couple of dozen times.

Thanks again for everyone's help. I shall now do my usual of overpreparing some areas and underpreparing others.
rif on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Catriona:
Coel Hellier and others have come up with nearly all of what I would think of as the standard questions. One other that might come up is, "Who in the dept/institution might you be able to collaborate with in developing your research profile/winning research funding?"
owlart - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Coel Hellier:
> Where do you see yourself in ten years' time?

What would the correct answer to this be?
Simon_Sheff - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to owlart:
> (In reply to Coel Hellier)
> [...]
>
> What would the correct answer to this be?


Holding a chair and running my own research group
owlart - on 25 Jan 2013
In reply to Simon_Sheff: So long as the person currently running the research group you'd be joining isn't on the interview panel! :-)

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