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Author Topic: 15 minute research presentation--what to focus on?  (Read 6622 times)
Junior member
Posts: 56

« on: April 01, 2012, 6:55:05 pm »

I am a US-based academic preparing for a job interview in the UK. Like many previously in my position, I am unfamiliar with UK hiring procedures and am desperate from some concrete advice concerning how to prepare (I've read the previous posts but still want more information). One of the most unusual aspects of the interview (unusual from a US perspective) is that I am not supposed to give a job talk, only a 15 minute presentation prior to the interview.

I had been planning to condense the 15 min presentation into a mini-job talk, in the sense that I would provide an anecdotal slice of my ongoing work (entailing, since I work on literature, specific texts and exegeses) rather than giving a boilerplate account of my various projects. In other words, I was planning to concentrate intensively on a specific aspect of my work that would keep them engaged for 15 minutes, rather than talk in the abstract about my academic career.

But now that I have received the official invite from HR it looks to me like boilerplate generic is more what they are looking for. I would much appreciate advice concerning which approach would be better, e.g. how much detail?, should I bring hand outs?, tell anecdotes?, be comprehensive?, etc. Also I’m wondering if its normal that I’ve had absolutely no contact with the academic staff for this department. All correspondence so far has been with HR. If this were for a US job, I would call the dept. chair to get a feel for what they want from the presentation, but it appears that’s not an option here. Earlier threads have included suggestions to contact the HoD directly, but want if you are only in touch with HR?

In order to facilitate a response, I paste the HR email (excerpted) below. This is a London-based Russell Group University with high research expectations.

“The selection process will involve a presentation…lasting 15 minutes (plus 10 minutes for questions) and a panel interview which will last 30 minutes. Details of the presentation are below:
‘Your current research and the future directions in which you see it developing, explaining how it relates to debates in [X literature field] and [X literature field].’

The audience will be staff and students of X Dept (including some panel members).”

Finally, one more question. As I will be traveling internationally, would it be reasonable to ask them to cover 2 nights in London rather than one? The interview itself will not span more than one day, so I think the plan was to cover only one night, but do I have anything to lose by asking for 2?
Procrastinating, Python-quoting, Blue Blazer-drinking, chocolate-chip cookie-eating, Pastafarian, Not So
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 18,850

Mind Ninja

« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2012, 7:03:21 pm »

This is, I take it, in a lit field?  If it were my [science] field, I'd do it just like a 15 minute conference presentation.  State of the problem, say why it's important, give info on method, give results, conclude, answer questions.  (Then, of course, get a beer.)  Hopefully, that's adaptable to your field.

Science Expat. Just pretending to be a somewhat
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 6,241

« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2012, 3:05:15 am »

This is, I take it, in a lit field?  If it were my [science] field, I'd do it just like a 15 minute conference presentation.  State of the problem, say why it's important, give info on method, give results, conclude, answer questions.  (Then, of course, get a beer.)  Hopefully, that's adaptable to your field.

This wouldn't work here. You need to place your work in the broader context of the field - why is it interesting and important (i.e. what makes it "internationally excellent" or "world leading"). You need to think about how your research would help the department achieve its REF objectives and attract funding from agencies such as AHRC.

(I suggest you Google the acronyms, you really need to know this stuff.)

"Continue to speak truth to power and try to provoke evidence-based debate and decision-making. The holders of power will not like it and your career trajectory will not rise as high as you wish, but you will retain your professional integrity and the respect of those people whom you also respect."
Senior member
Posts: 947

« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2012, 4:09:28 am »

You could contact the HoD, but s/he probably wouldn't give you any more info than what is in that HR email.
Sounds like roughly eight minutes on your current research (or main project in current research), sandwiched between two minutes each side on context and debates, then five minutes for what your next main project, say in three years from now, will be.
Keep it to 15 minutes; do not slop over into the question time.
Save the AHRC funding possibilities for your interview (or possible question after the presentation).

I'd think you could safely assume they will put you up for the night before and night of your interview day.
Senior member
Posts: 392

« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2012, 10:49:06 am »

In 15 minutes, I would not focus on a specific part of my research. My talk would be roughly:

My beautifully-woven round baskets, why they are interesting and what they are connected to that might be interesting and/or comprehensible to "staff and students" who are not necessarily basket-weaving experts.

Same thing for my closed and wavy baskets.

2 to 3 minutes for each part.

The rest of the time would be spent on my future basket designs.

Everything stays general and buzzwordy.

My experience has been that the question period will be implicitly used to make random checks whether you can explain more what is behind some of the buzzwords.

But really, try hard to reach someone from the department.

Otherwise, you are at a huge disadvantage compared to people with connections.

A drunk man will find his way home, but a drunk bird may get lost forever.  Shizuo Kakutani
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 1,621

« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2012, 2:35:30 pm »

I think they do say what they want. A conference talk would focus on one finding, and some UK job talks would just want "an overview of your research" in which you could have a couple of intro and summary slides on other areas, and concentrate on one area. But some UK job talks want a much more general overview. I did one that asked for "how your research will fit into our department", I seem to recall, and one that asked for "your future research plans", so those were very different talks.
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