My first job interview was for the position of Senior Science Editor for a rapidly expanding pre-publishing company in Japan. I'd found the job advertised on Naturejobs, and had applied by sending in a cover letter and CV. The job, in a nutshell, was teaching Japanese and Chinese scientists (Korean and Middle-Eastern to follow) how to communicate their science more effectively.
- Editing and rewriting of manuscripts as required (less than 15% of work-load)
- Project management of non-editing services
- Contribute to development of new services
- Development of educational content and delivery vehicles
- Contribute to the development of publisher co-branded educational seminars
- Give educational lectures, seminars and workshops at Society meetings in conjunction with publishers
- Give educational lectures around Japan, China and elsewhere as needed
- Rescue editing and editor feedback as needed
- Dealing with client complaints as needed
- Development of science community building activities
- Within Japan to give educational lectures and workshops
- To China as needed for educational lectures and conferences, as well as to share knowledge with staff in China.
- Potential for travel to other worldwide destinations as our business expands
So, as you can imagine, the job description got me pretty excited. I get paid to travel the world and give lectures and workshops on science communication? Really? Of course, it was moving quite far away from actual science (among other things), but I decided not to worry about that, and to just throw myself into the interview. I’d never done a proper job interview before, except for some teaching positions during my PhD, and if nothing else, it would be good experience.
So this was my job interview strategy:
1) Understand the company and the job
2) Prepare answers to a list of anticipated questions
3) Prepare a list of intelligent questions to ask my interviewer
4) Decide what to wear and get a good night’s sleep
To understand the company and the job, I did a bit of research: I read through the company website, and tried to understand what they did and how they worked. (I took especial note of things like ‘the 3 distinguishing features of the company’ and ‘the company ethos’). I even read through the frequently-asked questions which taught me how the editing process worked, and how the company dealt with client complaints.
The only anticipated questions I could think of were:
Why did you apply for this job?
Why do you think we should hire you/you are suited for this job?
So I prepared three points for each (to keep things brief and to the point). This had worked well during my PhD interview, so I thought it might be worth recycling.
List of intelligent questions (adapted from various online suggestions)
- The job advert includes a long list of responsibilities that I would be involved in. What would you say would be my main responsibilities if I get the job?
- What kind of opportunities will I have for training and skill development?
- It is important to me that I receive feedback on my progress. How will my performance be evaluated?
- What would you say are the most rewarding/challenging aspects of working for your company?
Although I was dying to ask about salary and benefits, a wise and trusted source (Google) said not to, but to wait for them to make me a job offer.
My interview was going to take place on a Monday, at 9am, over Skype, so I spent most of Sunday preparing (as described above). I then got up, took a shower and went and had dinner with my boyfriend’s family. I got home around 10, got a good night’s sleep, and woke up early to straighten my hair, get dressed, and have a banana before the interview. I dressed ‘professionally’ (shirt, skirt), despite the fact that none of this would really show on Skype, but I wanted to feel professional (and opted not to go with pyjama bottoms as a friend of mine had suggested). However, I had gotten a pair of woolly cow-socks for Christmas that I absolutely adored, so I kept them on. Maybe as a reminder not to take myself too seriously.
At 9 am, sharp, my Skype phone rang.