Careers and Employability Service
Services for research staff and PhDs



Researchers may have had little or no experience of formal interviews and so it can be very daunting to appear before a panel of interviewers. However you have overcome the first part of the process by submitting a successful written application. Take a positive view that the interview is an opportunity to offer more evidence of your capabilities. The sections below offer some initial insights into such things as:

  • the format and structure of academic interviews
  • attending an interview skills workshop

Using a careers appointment for individual interview preparation will enable you to work in more depth on your interview skills ─ see our careers support section for more details.



Most interviews are now conducted using interview panels. Panel size can vary, between three and five people is normal.


Interview panel members

Who is on the panel also varies, there will be one or two representatives from the department or research group where the successful applicant will be working. Other panel members may come from another academic discipline and from academic related university departments, for example student services or even careers.


Interview length

Interview lengths also vary, some will begin with a presentation and be immediately followed by the main interview. This format can mean that you could be with the panel for 45 minutes to an hour. Where the interview is a separate element of the selection day it may be slightly shorter at between 30 to 40 minutes.



Panels will prepare their questions in advance centred on the competencies, skills and experience required for the job. They will usually ask the same set of questions of each candidate.

Each panel member will lead on a particular question area with each topic being clearly introduced to the interviewee.



The Vitae website also has information on academic interviews.

What are interviewers looking for?

  • Specific evidence of the competences and capabilities for the role you have applied for
  • Evidence that you have researched the role, research group, department and university you have applied to
  • Where there are areas of the job that you have less experience you have considered these and can offer opinions as to how you will deal with these challenges ─ this is known as 'thinking yourself into the job'
  • What additional value you will bring to them ─ this may mean offering opinions and suggestions about the work you will undertake and how you will move it forward
  • Are you going to be an enthusiastic and committed member of their team


Interview health warnings

Try not to:

  • read too much into the body language and facial expressions of interviewers ─ for example someone who is frowning may be concentrating on what you are saying not expressing disapproval
  • self-assess during the interview ─ some of your answers will be better than others. Letting a weaker answer affect the next response is dangerous

Some questions regularly concern interviewees, these are usually:

  • what are your weaknesses?
  • where do you see yourself in five years time?

It is important that you answer these questions seriously but do not over estimate their effect on the overall outcome of your application. In other words prepare for them, but keep them in perspective.

Interview skills workshops for Research Staff are available further details are in the Career Management Section on Central Short Courses



Careers and Employability Service

The University of Nottingham
Portland Building, Level D
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 3680
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 3679