Careers and Employability Centre

Successful applications and interviews

In academia

Recruiters are looking to see you are successful as a researcher and will need evidence from publications and conferences. They will also want to know about the impact of your research and how it contributes to your field. Also, they will need to hear about your experience of teaching and getting funding as well as your skills and personal attributes.

To make sure you stand the best chance of success be aware of developments in your own area. For example:

  • Quality assurance in teaching, research, department organisation
  • Research funding and grant proposals: who is writing them and for what projects
  • Applying for funding yourself: who can help you with this?

Also be aware of what is happening in the wider academic world. For instance:

  • Current issues in higher education in the UK and globally
  • Research development and large scale projects
  • External committees and working parties
  • Professional societies; government agencies and government funded projects

It is widely acknowledged that research is the key to a successful career in academia. 'In virtually all Schools and Departments the teaching pays academic salaries but it is primarily research that enhances their careers!'  Quote from Professor D.C. Berry Pro-Vice - Chancellor University of Reading, 2010 about the reality of academic careers.

As with other job choices, networking is a key way of building a career in Higher Education. Research is Cool is a social networking  website for researchers, academics and postgraduate students to network with colleagues worldwide.

The covering letter which accompanies your CV gives you a chance to highlight your skills and experience, motivations for wanting to continue an academic career with the institution and your aspirations for the future. Often Universities ask for a completed application form and sometimes a personal statement too.

Outside academia

Here you will be relying much more on your transferable skills and employers will want evidence that you have a wide range of competencies. Drafting a CV for a written application to a non-academic organisation will need to draw out these skills and show you can adapt to a new environment.


The Careers & Employability Centre can help you with preparing for interviews. You can also find interview tips the Vitae website.

As well as interviews you may face other selection processes such as psychometric testing, online tests, presentations, assessment centres and other tasks. Tips on all of these are on the Careers & Employability Centre website and practice tests are available there too. You can also book a session with a careers adviser about your preparation.