Career Development workshop focuses on academic interviews

Center for Career Development career consultant Kay Gruder speaks to a group of students during a workshop at Homer D. Babbidge Library in Storrs, Connecticut on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015. (Bailey Wright/The Daily Campus)

The interview process for academic positions is like a marathon, career consultant Kay Gruder said before a small workshop of postgraduate and postdoctoral students Thursday in the Scholars’ Collaborative of Homer D. Babbidge Library.

“You have to prepare as if you’re preparing for a marathon,” Gruder said. 

The application process for professorial and similar jobs is long and challenging, often taking most of the academic year before it starts, Gruder said. This workshop is the sixth in the “Graduate Student Career Matters” series sponsored by the Center for Career Development and focused particularly on interviewing.

“What I recommend is to focus less on answering specific questions and more on talking about yourself and your work,” Gruder said. “Have a library of stories you’d like to tell highlighting your qualifications.”

Gruder outlined the STAR format for answering behavioral questions: situation, task, action and result. This method, and interviews more generally, require talking aloud about oneself.

The question often phrased “Describe your greatest weakness,” she described as relating to introspection.

“It’s less about what you say and more about self-awareness, how you put in place measures to lessen those weaknesses,” Gruder said.

The three vital skill areas she consistently discussed were teaching, research and leadership. She noted that some positions might be exclusively teaching or exclusively research, but all interviewers will be looking for colleagues capable of working effectively in a collaborative environment.

Gruder also encouraged interviewees to take the chance to ask their interviewers questions. While it inadvisable to ask for any information that should already be accessible online, it is effective to ask for a group or institution’s broader vision, long-term goals, deeper research developments, and ways to become involved in the community and workplace culture.

These questions are additionally important for an applicant to understand if they will fit well within the institution, Gruder said.

Overall, introspection and the ability to tell one’s story is the key to success in an academic interview.

“You want to talk about your academic journey, and what about your academic journey makes you qualified for the position,” Gruder said.


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