The first thing I noticed, once the Skype video came into focus, was that my interviewer was eating a banana. I had to try very hard not to giggle.
My interviewer introduced himself and the company, and then started asking me questions.
Q1: “The first thing I’d like to know is: what is your understanding of the job you’re interviewing for.”
So I explained as best I could, using the job description posted in the advert. He added a bit more information from his side, and the more he talked about it, the more I became convinced that I would love the job!
Q2: “We’ve had a lot of applicants. What do you think makes you stand out as a candidate.”
I excitedly jumped into my prepared answer: 1) my science background, 2) my communication skills, 3) my personality.
To my surprise, my interviewer thought this was perfect. “That’s exactly what we’re looking for,” he said, with a smile. “I couldn’t have put it better myself.” Yay!
Q3: “It says here you have a diploma in statistics. I find that especially interesting since this is an area where a good statistical knowledge is very valuable. Can you explain to me what a Mann-Whitney U test is?”
As luck would have it, that was the main test I had used during my Masters, so I told him that it was used to compare the means of two groups when your data is non-parametric, which is pretty much all I could remember. (I was surprised at my own confidence, especially since my statistics knowledge had received a bloody beating during my Viva). My interviewer seemed satisfied.
Q4: Can you tell me a little about your time-management skills?
I told him that as a PhD student, I was teaching three times a week, supervising undergraduate projects, was on two society committees, and still found time to have a social life, so yes I had to develop some mad time-management skills.
Q5: I have some case-studies that I’m going to ask you to solve, but first I want to ask you if you have any questions you would like to ask me.
So I asked my prepared ‘intelligent questions’, and relaxed while my interviewer had to do the thinking and talking for a while. I was a little worried about solving ‘case studies’, but by now I was feeling pretty confident.
Q6 (first case-study): You are the senior editor and you receive a complaint from one of our clients. The author used our editing services and his paper was still rejected. The referees listed ‘language is not good enough’ as one of the reasons. What do you do?
Q7 (second case-study): You receive a paper that has been edited by the first editor, sent back to the author for some minor changes, and then re-edited by a second editor. The problem is that the second editor made big changes, basically rewrote the whole paper, and sent it back to the author when the author had been told by the first editor that it was almost ready to go. What do you do?
Here’s where I realized that my homework was really paying off. On their company website, I think it was in the FAQs, they actually explained what company policy was in similar situations. I added a bit more of my own justification, mostly common sense, but felt like I was doing well.
Q8: “When can you start?”
This one took me by surprise. I explained that I was still doing my thesis corrections, writing papers, had a few things to sort out, so maybe end of February? I was also desperate to take some time off, but didn’t want to say that! But my interviewer said, “I would need you to start as soon as possible, in a couple of weeks.”
To close, he said I would be talking to a few more people from the company, and I would have to do an editing test, but that in general the interview had been very positive and he was looking forward to talking again after I had jumped through some of the other hoops.
And my first ever job interview was over.