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Interviews for Postgraduates
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This is part of our Essential Guide to Careers for Postgraduates from the University of Manchester Careers Service, and deals with Interviews

This is part of our Essential Guide to Careers for Postgraduates from the University of Manchester Careers Service, and deals with Interviews

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  • First two point pretty obvious. Second two points – it’s OK to contact them beforehand to find out. Shows you’re taking it seriously and doing your preparation, and can be an opportunity to start building rapport with the interviewer or at least the personnel department
  • Interviews generally very poor predictor of who will be the best for the job. Employers can improve their hit rate by looking at past performance as a predictor of future performance. Involves drilling down, asking more & more detailed questions about a real situation you’ve experienced
  • Get their suggestions Always prepare for the questions you hope they don’t ask Practice saying the answers out loud. Difficult to put a spin on your own life – master spin doctor for the Labour Party but couldn’t save his own career by putting a positive spin on it
  • Need to find the right tone between bashful and cocky – but no place for shrinking violets Last question is your chance to leave the interviewer with your key selling points, or to add information about yourself and your achievements which you haven’t been asked about yet.
  • Pictures : Coathanger – how many uses can you think of for a wire coathanger? Used by Mars (some years ago) for grad interviews Kitchen utensils – what kitchen utensil do you identify with, and why ? Harvard Business School Ink blot test – used to “put people on the spot and see how they react” – real example of interview technique used by a Production Planning Manager for clerical staff (stamped out when I found out what he was doing – Elizabeth!)
  • Get them to think of the types of questions they could ask Some suggestions : asking about the interviewer’s reasons for enjoying working with the organisation “I think I’m particularly strong in creative problem solving – where could that be of most use in your organisation?” “How would my performance be measured over the first year?” “As a postgraduate, I’ve got 3 years more maturity and experience than an undergraduate, and I believe I can be effective in the job and deliver results more quickly than many undergraduates. Does your pay & grading system allow you to progress according to your results?”
  • Re-iterate these main points, and any others which didn’t come out from the discussion of the video


  • 1. The Essential Guide To Careers For Postgraduates : Interviews Elizabeth Wilkinson University of Manchester Careers Service
  • 2. What We Will Cover
    • Before the Interview
    • At the Interview
        • Types of Interview Questions
          • and how to tackle them
        • Your Questions to the Interviewer
        • First Impressions and Body Language
    • Further Careers Support and Resources
  • 3. Preparing for Interviews
    • Where’s your evidence ?
    • Catalogue your achievements
      • Can’t always assume they realise the value of your qualifications or academic experience
    • Review the skills & knowledge they demonstrate
    • Practice explaining them to someone who wasn’t there when you did them
  • 4. Practical Points
    • Logistics
    • Where do you have to go ?
    • How do you plan to get there ?
    • Who will you see ?
    • What will they put you through ?!
      • It’s OK to ask
  • 5. Your Starter for 10 …
    • The toughest question for some people:
        • Tell me a bit about yourself …
  • 6. Testing Your Motivation
    • Why did you study … ?
      • Looking for passion, enthusiasm - and ability to communicate about your subject
    • Why do you want this type of work/PhD?
    • Why do you want to work for this employer/study for a PhD in this department?
      • Looking for passion, enthusiasm … and evidence of research
  • 7. Convince me …
    • Behavioural interviewing
      • Having done something in the past is the best predictor of whether you could do it in the future
    • “ How” vs “what”
      • How you did things is often as important to an employer as what you did
  • 8. Behavioural Questions
    • Give me an example of …
      • … the most effective team effort / collaboration you’ve been part of
      • … when you’ve had to persevere to achieve a difficult objective
      • … where you have introduced innovative teaching methods
    • C ontext, A ctions, R esult
  • 9. Forensic Interviewing
    • Level 1 - ask the question (Give me an example of an effective collaboration…)
    • Level 2 - ask for evidence (how did it come about etc)
    • Level 3 – personalise (what was your role?)
    • Level 4 – generalise (what do you think makes an effective collaboration?)
    • Level 5 – challenge (but what about? ie something you haven’t mentioned)
    • Level 6 - ask for more (give me another example)
  • 10. The Art of the Spin Doctor
    • Need to present a positive interpretation of your life – even the bad bits
      • What are your weaknesses?
      • Why did you fail that exam / repeat that year / leave that job …?
      • What’s the worst … part of your postgraduate degree / person you’ve dealt with ?
    • Think of what you learnt, how you would do things differently, how you persevered through adversity
  • 11. Your Chance to Shine
    • Specific:
    • How has doing research / a Masters prepared you for this job / PhD?
    • Broader:
    • What are your strengths?
    • Why should we take you?
        • What are your three bullet points?
  • 12. The Unpredictable …
    • Hypothetical –
      • What would you do if …?
    • What were they looking for ? !
  • 13. Other Questions
    • Will you be a good investment ?
      • Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
      • Which other jobs / PhDs have you applied for?
      • For academic roles:
        • What ideas do you have for further research?
        • What are potential sources of funding?
  • 14. Your Questions
    • Do ask questions
      • about your future in the organisation
      • for academics - their research !
      • highlighting the benefits you could bring
    • Don’t ask questions
      • about salary, car parking, pensions …
      • which are answered in their recruitment literature / website
      • about page 43 of the annual report
  • 15. Presentation
    • First impressions are crucial
      • Punctual, unflustered, neat appearance
      • Firm handshake no bone-crushers … or limp lettuces
      •  SMILE
    • Eye contact
    • Positive body language
    • Look confident and interested
  • 16. Further Careers Support
    • When you have an interview coming up :
    • Book a mock interview
      • If possible, give us a week’s notice
      • Give us a copy of your application AND details of the job for which you will be interviewed, at least 2 days in advance
      • We’ll prepare questions to suit
  • 17. Interview Videos
    • Real employers interviewing students (including some postgrads)
    • Hear the answers, what the employer thinks, and what they’re looking for
    • Streamed direct from the Careers Service website (requires University of Manchester login):
    • http:// /careers/interviews
  • 18. Some Further Career Resources
    • Handouts:
    • First Interviews (Including Telephone Interviews)
    • Assessment Centres (including Second Interviews)
    • Interviews & Assessment for Research Students
    • Web resource
    • PhD Interview Preparation Guide For Positions In Academia (though aimed US market)