Applications and Interviews


My current contract is close to expiring and I've been applying for new Postdoc jobs, so far I've had 3 interviews, 2 of which when ok (although I didn't get the jobs), and the last one which was a nightmare which has really hit my confidence, where several things came back to haunt me. My current position is with my PhD supervisor so I didn't need to apply for it.

The application form required details of all qualifications from GSCE onwards, my results at A-Level were very poor and raised questions as to why someone with my subsequent qualifications had done so poorly at A-Level and how I had gone on to even go to university in the first place. My explanation was that there were a number of factors as to why I did so poorly which included the teacher failing to teach part of the syllabus, personal reasons (illness and death of a close family member) and the main reason being me not really having good enough study skills or working hard enough. I said that I felt by being offered a place at University I was given a second chance and I worked extra hard and developed better skills which have helped me achieve my degrees and PhD.

The second thing I was pulled up on was my publication list, he took offence at me listing a conference proceeding as a journal article, and he suggested I was being devious. I explained myself by saying that the article was submitted to a special edition of a journal but had to conform to the same regulations as other regular articles, so I considered it to be of equal merit, I thought this made it's classification quite subjective, and that I was not attempting to mislead them at most I was a little naive.

I was informed a few days later that I hadn't got the job, when I asked for feedback they flagged these issues. :-( Although the responses to these questions were off the cuff, having thought about them I'm not sure I would do much different if I faced similar questions in future. But I am now becoming nervous about how to present some of these things in future applications. Any advice?


Frankly, I think the person interviewing you was on a power trip and so don't be too hard on yourself. Look to the other interviews, OK - so you didn't get the posts but you appear to have interviewed OK.

I once went to an interview, armed with my qualifications and was told they had no interest in seeing them as with computer technology I could have produced them myself!!! I was livid and contacted HR on my return home and they were fantastic, said that shouldn't have been allowed to happen and actually encouraged my to put a formal complaint in.

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agree with Delta, sounds like they were being stupidly picky and nasty! Perhaps they had an internal candidate lined up and they were just looking for any old excuse - when you asked for feedback its probably the only bits they remembered.


Interviews are for both sides to get to know each other. By acting like this they lost the chance to work with you, obviously an academic who knows how to turn bad into good and is more than capable of working hard to achieve good results. Sorry to hear about your experience. But who wants to work with narrow-minded self-opinionated academics that only want to boost their ego anyway. There will be something better in a department that you'll feel at home. Good luck.


Thanks for the positive comments you're all right, I'm not bothered about missing out on this particular job, the project seemed good but I don't want to work for someone like that.

The problem is how things like bad A-level results may affect job prospects, a friend of mine who completed his PhD a couple of years ago has had problems getting jobs outside academia (because of computer sorting of applications) and has decided to re-sit his A-levels to help his prospects, this seems crazy to me. But I worry how much of a problem it could be given our combined experiences. I wondered if anyone else had encountered any of these problems?

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my husband has awful A level results but has a 1st at undergrad, a disctinction at MSc and a PhD and he did have trouble getting into more private sector roles, where they don't look past the A level results. However, he got a fantastic job, has held it for 2 years now, I doubt his A levels will be a problem now he's got some experience under his belt. Plus he's employed by a group who actually value his PhD, rather than assuming it was just a waste of time (which is the feeling he got from a lot of employers).