I am the pre-interview contact point and these are my personal thoughts on that process, which blend background information and some helpful advice.
The first two posts provide ‘open ended’ contracts. We are also seeking a postdoctoral researcher/ lecturer to work with me for 4.25 years on a Horizon2020 project. So, I’ll give some general advice on each, then emphasise some differences with the third post.
The politics staff in our division will be 10 following these appointments, so you will have the chance to play an important part of a group which is small enough to act collectively – to, for example, influence its research direction.
Why do we make reference to ‘gender, sexuality, and race’ in the FPs?
5 of our 7 permanent lecturers are men and all 7 are white. We are not interested in simply reinforcing the imbalances that are already there. So, we worded the further particulars to ‘signal’ that we have realistic hopes of producing a more diverse and gender-balanced short list. Usually, job adverts will have a pro-forma statement about equalities, but we are trying to go one step further to signal – albeit with rather subtle cues – that we have thought about this issue a bit more; that we’d like to expand our networks and the ways in which our staff approach the study of politics. We are trying to make sure that our current set up does not put off women or people of colour from applying, recruiting from a subject pool in which there is (I think) a relatively good gender balance, and signalling support for research topics that might help expand our current offering.
These notes are also there to address a potentially major imbalance in the informal side to recruitment: if you do not have the contacts and networks that help give you the confidence to seek information (on the things not mentioned in the further particulars), here is the next best thing: the information I’d give you on the phone. Still, if you reach interview stage, we really should talk.
We hope to make this kind of informal advice a routine part of the application process, as part of our commitment to innovative best practice and Athena SWAN.
Here are some tips on the application and interview processes.
The application process:
- At this stage, the main documents are the CV and the cover letter.
- You should keep the cover letter short to show your skills at concise writing. Focus on what you can offer the Division specifically, given the nature of our call and further particulars.
- Shortlisted candidates at the SL/ Associate Professor level will likely be established lecturers with a strong record on publications, income, and leadership – so what makes you stand out? Lecturers will be competing with many people who have completed a PhD – so what makes your CV stand out?
- Note that you will have the chance to play an important part of a group which is small enough (10 in Politics, as part of a larger Division with History) to act collectively – to, for example, influence its research direction (as a group, we hold regular 90 minute research workshops for that purpose).
- Focus on what you have already done when discussing what you will promise to do over the next five years. Those plans seem more realistic if there is already some sort of track record.
- We take teaching very seriously. Within our division, we plan an overall curriculum together, discuss regularly if it is working, and come to agreements about how to teach and assess work. We pride ourselves on being a small and friendly bunch of people, open to regular student contact and, for example, committed to meaningful and regular feedback. You might think about how you would contribute in that context. In particular, you should think about how you would deliver large undergraduate courses (in which you may only be an expert on some of the material) as well as the smaller, more specialist and advanced, courses closer to your expertise.
The interview process
By the interview stage, you should almost certainly have a conversation with me to make sure that you are well prepared. For example, here are the things that you really should know at that stage:
- The teaching and research specialisms of the division and their links to cross-divisional research.
- The kinds of courses that the division would expect you to teach.
Perhaps most importantly, you need to be able to articulate why you want to come and work at Stirling. ‘Why Stirling?’ or ‘Why this division?’ is usually the first question in an interview, so you should think about it in advance. We recommend doing some research on Stirling and the division/ faculty, to show in some detail that you have a considered reply (beyond ‘it is a beautiful campus’). We will see through a generic response in a heartbeat and, since it is the first question, your answer will set the tone for the rest of the interview. You might check, for example, who you might share interests with in the Division, and how you might develop links beyond the division (for example, the Centre for Gender & Feminist Studies in our school) or faculty (such as the Faculty of Social Sciences) – since this is likely to be a featured question too.
- Then you might think about what you would bring to the University in a wider sense, such as through well-established (domestic and international) links with other scholars in academic networks.
- Further, since ‘impact’ is of rising importance, you might discuss your links with people and organisations outside of the University, and how you have pursued meaningful engagement with the public or practitioners to maximise the wider contribution of your research.
The presentation plus interview format
In our system there tend to be presentations to divisional (and other interested) staff in the morning, with interviews in the afternoon. The usual expectation is that if you can’t make the date, you can’t get the job (although we can make accommodations to help you apply or interview via Skype).
- We recommend keeping the presentation compact, to show that you can present complex information in a concise and clear way. Presentations are usually a mix of what you do in research and what you will contribute in a wider sense to the University.
- The usual interview panel format at this level is five members: one subject specialist from the Division, one other member of the Faculty (not necessarily from our division), the Head of Faculty of Arts and Humanities, a senior manager of the University (in the chair), and a senior academic in another Faculty (by the time of interview you should know what these terms mean at Stirling).
- So, it is possible that only 1 member of your panel will be a subject specialist (in Politics). This means that (at the very least) you need to describe your success in a way that a wider audience will appreciate. For example, you would have to explain the significance of a single-author article in the APSR!
It sounds daunting, but we are a friendly bunch and want you to do well. You might struggle to retain all of our names (nerves), so focus on the types of question we ask – for example, the general question to get you started will be from the senior manager, and the research question from the divisional representative. There are often more men than women on the panel, and they are often all-white panels, but I hope that we are providing other more useful ‘signals’ about our commitment to equality and diversity.
I am happy to answer your questions. We can try email first – email@example.com – and then phone or skype if you prefer.
The Horizon 2020 post
I have described some key concepts in two separate posts, to give you an idea of our part of the larger project:
Please also note why we are offering a 4.25 year post: we want it to be a platform for your long term success. A lot of applicants will know that our research funding system has some unintended consequences: some people get grants and are bought out of teaching, others get more teaching in return, and many research fellows compete for very short term contracts with limited job security. This post should reduce those consequences: you and I would share my full teaching load, you would have the chance to co-author a lot of research with me (and we can both single author other pieces), and we would seek more opportunities for funding throughout. By the end of 2021, I hope that your CV will be impressive enough for you to think about applying for senior lecturing positions.