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How to be an Academic Superhero

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay

In universities across the world, academics struggle to establish and sustain their careers while satisfying intensifying institutional demands. Drawing from the author’s decades of observation and experience in academia, this exceptional book responds to the challenges of fostering and sustaining a successful academic career.
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Chapter 15: Manage job interview failure and success

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay


Unless you are exceptionally talented or enormously lucky, it is more or less inevitable that some of your applications for jobs will be unsuccessful. Of the tens or hundreds of people who apply for any single position, only three or four will usually be interviewed and only one of them will be successful. So, the odds of rejection are, for most people, high. But rejection is not necessarily about any failings you may have. It may simply be the elusive matter of ‘fit’.1 Some people’s research interests or intentions or aspects of their character make them better for some departments. Many appointment committees find themselves faced with having to ‘sort diamonds’, choosing one jewel over another. Take consolation from this.

If you are not selected for appointment, do contact the recruiter or selection committee chair afterwards, thanking them for the opportunity and for any assistance they provided – particularly if you were interviewed for the role. Not only will this help enhance your reputation as a courteous colleague it may also consolidate the foundations for future opportunities. If those involved in the selection process know of you and know that you are thoughtful enough to thank them, they may be more inclined to support your efforts to secure employment elsewhere.

Do also ask for some critical feedback. Remarkably, very few job applicants do this. What were the reasons for the outcome? What can you do differently in future to help increase your chance...

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