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Interview stress - shadows of echoes of memories of songs — LiveJournal
j4
j4
Interview stress
I'm worried about this interview with UCLES. Apparently it's going to be two interviews, each with two people; it's not clear what the difference between the two interviews is.

The job I'm going for is English Project Assistant; essentially it's administrative support for the Project Officers, whose job is described here [word doc]. There isn't a specific description for the job I'm applying for.

What sort of things are they likely to ask me? How can I convince them that I'm keen to work in the education sector, without sounding desperate and just repeating "I'm really interested in..." all over the place?

The thing I really hate is when they ask me to "describe a situation when you..." or "describe an occasion when you..." and I'm stuck with examples from ProQuest, which are all sufficiently fiddly and bitty that they don't make any sense without some understanding of the nature of our data, but generally people's eyes just glaze over as soon as I mention SGML.

Current Mood: stressed

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Comments
beingjdc From: beingjdc Date: December 5th, 2003 09:30 am (UTC) (Link)
I had two interviews here, because my job is kind of split between
my boss the leader for whom I actually work, and the head of my department for whom I theoretically work.

Elsewhere when I've had two interviews it's been one with HR and one with the Department. Erm, except my Oxford application, where I had three. One with the Law tutors, one with the French tutor, and one with the Law tutor's wife.

You'll be fine.
taimatsu From: taimatsu Date: December 5th, 2003 10:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. First, I suggest ringing someone in Personnel or in the relevant office to check what the difference between the interviews is - if you explain that you just want to be better prepared for the interviews they should have no problem with that. They've probably not realised it's not very clear.

As for what they might ask you, that's trickier. I've had lost of interviews over the last few months, and they varied wildly. Only one interviewer threw anything at me I couldn't answer - she asked me 'Tell me about a time you did something without being told to.' and I went blank, because I do lots of things without being told, but not in a very interesting way. Oh, and 'Tell me something about yourself which would shock me.' and then she gave the example that she was into bungee-jumping. Well, I couldn't very well out myself on the spot, or burble about kinky fetish whatever, and most of the other interesting things I do were on my CV - sign language, trip to Romania, that sort of thing.

Other interviews were all very straightforward. In fact, the interview for this current job (which is the most like the one you are after) was very boring indeed! They really just asked me questions to check I had the skills they wanted (this computer skill, that computer skill, happy to work with people, not moody, good with phones...) and a few questions about myself and my attitudes to work and things. The interview there was so un-challenging in comparison to previous ones it almost put me off accepting the job!

It's a shame there is no job description. When I prepared for interviews I took the key words from the job ad/description and prepared ideas for the 'describe a time when you..' questions - things like initiative, teamwork, organisational skills, coping in a crisis, working to deadlines, working beyond the call of duty, etc. These needn't be from work situations if you can demonstrate the required skills in another form - extra-curricular activities, maybe. You could perhaps take the time to explain that, while your work at ProQuest did allow you to develop many useful skills, it is hard to compress the complexity of the work you were doing into a useful soundbite.

I was lucky in that I have a couple of academic-sector jobs on my CV, albeit small, generally crappy ones. It helped me to have something to refer back to. I said that I had always enjoyed working in an academic environment; that I liked the feeling of doing something useful on a wider scale in my employment; and that I felt the atmosphere of academic workplaces was often friendly and intellectually stimulating in a way that many other workplaces are not.

Good luck. Do contact them for info - if our office is anything to go by (and especially if you speak to someone on your interview panel or someone who works with one of the panel) contacting them will be a positive 'this person is keen' thing, not a negative 'this person can't read the info we sent' thing.
j4 From: j4 Date: December 7th, 2003 04:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
'Tell me something about yourself which would shock me.'

That's a ridiculous question! I mean, I can think of lots of things that might shock interviewers, but they're hardly appropriate subject matter for a job interview. I can't think of anything "shocking" that would be appropriate, to be honest.

Do contact them for info

It was a bit late by the time people started suggesting this (on Friday) -- the interview's on Tuesday morning, and if I ask for clarification "so that I can prepare more easily" now (or rather tomorrow morning) it'll look like I'm leaving the preparation till the last minute, won't it?

I'm not sure how it'll help anyway, knowing which is which -- presumably they'll tell me at the time if it matters, or else just ask things and I'll answer them as best I can, as I would if there was only one interview.

Thank you for the advice though, it's always helpful to hear other people's experiences etc. *hugs*
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: December 6th, 2003 01:42 am (UTC) (Link)

You can do it: hints from an interviewer

Well, there are some clues here about the job you are supposed to be supporting, so you might as well prepare for that one a bit, and then consider what you would want in a support officer. The advice to ring HR and ask about the nature of the two interviews is excellent.

If you analyse the document text you will get some key words: The bulk of the work will be linked to the preparation, administration, analysis and evaluation of trials and pre-tests of papers. The officer will be involved in the analysis of the results as well as in the writing of evaluation reports. From that, and from the description they provided of the background they have tended to recruit from previously, they look to me like they are asking:

Do you know enough about tutoring or marking, at any level, paid or unpaid, to understand and use the language and concepts of assessment? Are you up to speed on what assessment is supposed to be doing? (I expect you actually do understand assessment, and probably have experience at assessing others in some respect, so don't worry about it; use your experience of being assessed at Loughborough and at Oxford if necessary.)

Can you make sense of a basic statistical report? E.g., do you know the difference between the mean and the median and what that implies, are you conversant with some of the more quantifiable language-analysis techniques? How would you go about comparing the results of two trial papers?

Jan, you know a lot more about academic studies in English than I do, so I won't presume to tell you how English Lit. people do textual analysis, but 'Im Indoors has that background so I know there is such a thing as textual analysis, and presumably those techniques can be applied to examination papers as well as to Shakespeare, George Eliot, and Dario Fo.

Can you tell the difference between the 2002 and the 2003 tests? In what ways do they differ? you have an advantage here - these changes won't phase you because you come fresh to the development process.

OK, you understand what the PO is supposed to be doing, and you certainly have the intellectual and academic background to do that work.

You DO have the skills to make this kind of exercise flow: your SGML experience shows you can understand and work with logical structures, and that you work well, simultaneously, with details and with metastructures.
And, of course, you know your way around a keyboard. You deliver On Time And To Budget (your free-lance work shows this clearly).

You are versatile: you can get on with the typing and photocopying, but you can accept delegated tasks requiring you to "wear your brain" (as Child says).

Don't hassle yourself about the questions you hate: concentrate on all the many excellent things your CV says about you. You achieve (Oxford; ballet; music), you work well in teams, you can operate as a responsible individual, taking initiative (during your year out you took on employment at Templeton rather than skiving off home and working as a store clerk) when required, whilst at the same time taking direction (if that doesn't describe being an orchestral player, what does?).

I don't know what you do with ProQuest, but I bet you one pound that you could describe your data in one sentence; describe what you are supposed to so with it in one sentence; and then say how you use "a mark-up language", don't bother saying which one, to do what needs to be done.

"I want to work in this capacity because although I love my music, my Morris Minor, and learning more programming in my spare time, I have always loved English literature, and I still do. I care passionately about how well it is taught and I see this post as a way I can use both my technical skills and intellectual training to [deliberate use of jargon]contribute to the teaching and learning process[/jargon]."

And yes, of course you would be interested in a future with UCLES, but you understand this is a temporary post, and that too doesn't phase you. They key thing is that you have the temperament and the key skills, as well as the intellectual background, to fill the post in whatever ways they require, and you expect it to be varied, which is, of course, another reason why the post is attractive.
j4 From: j4 Date: December 7th, 2003 04:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: You can do it: hints from an interviewer

Do you know enough about tutoring or marking, at any level, paid or unpaid, to understand and use the language and concepts of assessment?

I have absolutely no experience of tutoring or marking, so I'm not really sure what type of language and concepts you're thinking of here...

Are you up to speed on what assessment is supposed to be doing?

Again, I don't know what sort of answer you're driving at. I have no experience whatsoever of assessing other people and/or reporting on the results of that assessment. I could probably guess at the sorts of things that assessment is supposed to be doing, in so far as it's common sense really, but I don't know the jargon. (Or if I do, I don't know that I know it, IYSWIM.)

Can you make sense of a basic statistical report?

No idea. Probably enough to extract some information from it.

E.g., do you know the difference between the mean and the median and what that implies,

I know the difference, I'm not sure what you mean by "what that implies". (What the difference between them implies, or what each implies, or what?)

are you conversant with some of the more quantifiable language-analysis techniques?

Not really.

How would you go about comparing the results of two trial papers?

No idea. (I suspect, though, it would depend on what sort of results they were, what format they were in, what the point of doing the comparison was, etc.)

OK, you understand what the PO is supposed to be doing, and you certainly have the intellectual and academic background to do that work.

Um, well, the Project Officer is supposed to be a qualified teacher with 3+ years of teaching experience, and I'm certainly not that -- but they don't require that for the Assistant job (which is the one I'm going for)...

Don't hassle yourself about the questions you hate

I'm not hassling myself, but if they do ask me the kind of questions I hate then I want to be prepared for them!

I don't know what you do with ProQuest, but I bet you one pound that you could describe your data in one sentence; describe what you are supposed to so with it in one sentence; and then say how you use "a mark-up language", don't bother saying which one, to do what needs to be done.

Most people I talk to outside the geek community don't have the faintest idea what "a mark-up language" is. If I'm really lucky, they've heard of HTML, because it's "what you use on the internet", but they don't necessarily know what it is or even vaguely how it works; a lot of people haven't even heard of it. The relationship between language and markup, and the implications of adding standardised logical markup to complex and often inconsistent data, probably isn't something that I can explain in a single sentence to somebody who's never encountered the concept before.

Jargon about "teaching and learning process" is useful, though -- thank you. Other bits useful too but I'm now worried about a different set of things, because I really don't think I do have the skills that you seem to be suggesting I should. :-/

(And sorry for snapping at you in comments on another thread. Late at night after 10 hours of train travel was probably not the best time to start looking at LJ & trying to engage in discussion.)
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: December 8th, 2003 03:51 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: You can do it

Sorry, I wasn't clear, again. But working backwards:

Snap? If that was re friends and responsibilities, I replied, and snapping is Allowed anyway. I'd rather you snapped than moped any day. I hope you read my reply! :-) I have my catcher's mitt ready for any further hairballs thrown my way.

Re mark-up languages and who knows what they are: you write: Most people I talk to outside the geek community ... a lot of people haven't even heard of it... to which I ask, does "most people" mean all the interviewers you have encountered in the last two years? Go in assuming that people know what you are talking about: it flatters them, and if they really think you have just slipped into Alt dot gibberish then they will probably indicate it, even if only by a look. A mark-up language is an editing scheme, and anyone with even a remote connection to the publishing process will know what an editing scheme is. Every newspaper in the world went to the printers full of mark-up, usually in blue pencil, using a previously-agreed scheme. SGML and HTML is really not different in concept although it is in execution. They will also understand that some stuff arrives so garbled that it requires a lot of editing. Using the language of geekery obscures the basic concepts, that's all.

You probably have a perfectly OK standard answer to the questions you hate. Trot it out.

me: How would you go about comparing the results of two trial papers? (I should have said "if you were the project officer, here)

You:No idea. (I suspect, though, it would depend on what sort of results they were, what format they were in, what the point of doing the comparison was, etc.) They give you an example of two set questions and why they differed. Read their example and their reasoning analytically and Bob's your uncle. I am thinking of how, if it came up, you could show some readiness to be delegated to (you can tell that English was not my special subject).

me: are you conversant with some of the more quantifiable language-analysis techniques?

You:Not really. Word frequency-counts? (Like sermons which use the word "I" in every sentence...)

me: E.g., do you know the difference between the mean and the median and what that implies,

You: I know the difference, I'm not sure what you mean by "what that implies". (What the difference between them implies, or what each implies, or what?) Correct me if I am wrong, but I think that the grammatical subject of the sentence is 'the difference'; but in any event, your excellent question asking me to clarify my question shows that you are sensitive to lnaguage in a way which will be useful to them. "Implies" is one of those nasty words people use when they want you to say, succinctly, all you know about, frex, the mean and the median.

You:Again, I don't know what sort of answer you're driving at. I have no experience whatsoever of assessing other people and/or reporting on the results of that assessment. I could probably guess at the sorts of things that assessment is supposed to be doing, in so far as it's common sense really, but I don't know the jargon. (Or if I do, I don't know that I know it, IYSWIM.)

I'm not driving at an answer: but they use the necessary jargon in their blurb. Go back to it and read it as if it was literature.

You do have experience of tutoring and marking: as a recipient. And I expect you have taught a lot of people things on the job, one way or another, and informally assessed whether they stood a chance of understanding you or not. One of your previous intervewrs asked you if you had ever thought of being a teacher, which implies, to me, that you explain things lucidly and clearly, even though you think you don't.




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