Posts Tagged ‘academia’

Job Interview Feedback

Friday, August 9th, 2013

I came late to today’s Twitter discussion initiated by @Nadine_Muller on feedback following academic interviews.

In most sectors, providing feedback remains a relatively rare practice. After all, once a candidate is unsuccessful at the interview stage, their potential value to that institution or company is invalidated. However, I was struck by the sentiments expressed in @MerrickBurrow’s response that academia might have a collective responsibility in this process.

As someone who is once again embarking on the interview circuit, there is no question that feedback can be useful, though in my experience, it is often supportive but limited in its criticality; responsibly cloaked in standardised jargon that is not particularly constructive.

To an extent, the authenticity of feedback is always going to be moderated by what can be appropriately disclosed. Having had limited experience of sitting on interview panels, both in and out of academia (which I have to say is the best possible training for ‘being’ interviewed), I realise the selection process can be significantly influenced by personality traits and an instinct for who might best ‘fit’ within the culture of the working environment (particularly if candidates are closely matched professionally). It is hardly appropriate that such subjective views be included in any subsequent feedback.

But as the Twitter discussion revealed, some academics do genuinely go out of their way to try and give honest feedback – either as standard procedure or on request – though as several people suggested, assessment of specific candidates can vary widely within interview panels, and a consensus view may be difficult to articulate.

Whilst a personal commitment to responding to a feedback request is hugely appreciated, I suspect many large institutional interview procedures (such as at a University) are increasingly subject to Human Resources protocols. If so, I wonder if these could be exploited to enable a more systematic approach to feedback provision? After all, many job applications routinely indicate where the interview constitutes specific assessment criteria, yet such distinctions are rarely alluded to in any feedback.

In particular, feedback that enables the unsuccessful candidate to make a clear judgment between that which may relate to their (relative) unsuitability for the position (which may have emerged in the interview discussion), and that which relates to their actual performance in the interview (communication skills, self-confidence, critical thinking and problem solving etc.) would be highly valued.

Figured World vs. Field

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Drawing particularly on Homo Academicus, Holland et al. (1998: 59) highlight the limitations of applying Bourdieu’s concept of ‘field’ to the analysis of day-to-day socio-cultural relations in academic practice, in comparison to their proposed ‘figured worlds’ as a heuristic for identity development:

“Had Bourdieu mediated his understanding through “figured world” instead of “field,” he would have told us more about the discourses of academia and the cultural constructions that constituted the familiar aspects of academic life: the taken-for-granted generic figures (professors, graduate students, undergraduates, provosts, secretaries) and their generic acts—both such formal tasks as giving tutorials, administering tests, firing, hiring, and granting degrees, and the less formal stories of tenure granted, tenure denied, and teaching responsibilities juggled against writing and scholarly research—as situated in a particular institution. He would have more closely detailed the terms of academic discourse—such as “quality,” “originality,” and “brilliance”—as ways in which academics come to evaluate their efforts, understand themselves, and interpret the positions they hold in the academy.”


Holland, D., Lachicotte, W. Jr., Skinner, D., & Cain, C. (1998). Identity and agency in cultural worlds. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Academic Discipline

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

“A colleague once defined an academic discipline as a group of scholars who had agreed not to ask certain embarrassing questions about key assumptions.”

Mark Nathan Cohen (1989, viii)

Cohen, M. N. (1989). Health and the Rise of Civilization. New Haven: Yale University Press.