At the LAGB meeting in Leeds 2010 the Student Committee organized a mock job interview with the aim of helping postgraduates in Linguistics interested in a career in academia to prepare for their future job applications. The interview panel was Prof. Kersti Börjars (University of Manchester), Dr. Hans van de Koot (UCL) and Dr. David Willis (University of Cambridge).

This document summarises the feedback provided by the interview panel, and aims to be of use to anyone preparing for an academic job interview in Linguistics. (You may also be interested in Maggie Tallerman's interview tips from LAGB 2013.)

  1. Before the interview
  • Represent the person specification in your CV or application form, making sure that you cover each of the competencies using relevant experience.
  • Consider what skills you have picked up from your experiences.
  • Try to select at least one referee from outside of your department, as this indicates that you are likely to be making greater impact within the wider academic community.
  • Find out what the lecturing roles in your department involve, including administrative duties outside of teaching and research. Such additional duties may include chairing of exam board meetings, or arranging interviews for approx. 100 students. Consider your experiences in the light of these additional aspects of the job.
  • Research the department to which you are applying.
  1. Interview questions and answers

A) Research

Tell us about your current/recent research.

  • When outlining your research, highlight what your contribution to your research field has been (e.g. a challenge or a data set etc.).

Where do you see your research in five years?

  • Be specific.
  • Think outside of your PhD or recent research project, as it is important to demonstrate that you have new directions for your research that are not limited to the content of your doctorate. Prospective research projects should be well thought out and realistic.
  • Discuss potential collaborations.

Where will you be publishing in five years?

  • Be specific; name three to five journals in which you would like to publish, and also indicate where you have published so far.
  • Interviewers need to see that you have a good knowledge of relevant journals, and that your publishing aims are ambitious.

B) Teaching

As part of your role you will be expected to teach and organize a course in undergraduate (syntax/phonology etc.). What questions and issues would you consider while planning the course?

  • Consider how you would teach. Try to link this into your past experiences.
  • Consider how you would assess and give your reasons (e.g. exams, coursework, participation etc.).
  • Discuss ways to motivate students in areas in which their interest may be more difficult to maintain. For example, it was commented in the interview that students respond better to problems illustrated with sets than to theories. How would you capture their interest?

What advice would you give to undergraduates about the usefulness of a linguistics degree should they not intend to become linguists?

  • Consider the skills that are required in a linguistics degree, such as data analysis, and how they might be desirable to other employers.

C) Administrative duties

In the role you will be expected to draw funding from outside of the department. How can you demonstrate experience of grant applications?

  • Consider what is fundable for future cases for funding.
  • Show a sound knowledge of relevant research bodies and programmes.

As part of the job you will be expected to take on administrative roles such as admissions tutor. What experiences do you have to show you could take on such roles?

  • Relate your experiences to the skills required.
  • In advance, try to take on administrative roles within higher education. These might include conference organization, journal refereeing etc.