The academic interview process is notoriously long and complicated.
While applying for a job in any sector involves research, drafting emails, waiting to hear back, and attending different interview rounds, academia takes the cake when it comes to having a drawn-out hiring process.
Understanding how the academic hiring process works can help you figure out how best to respond to an academic interview invitation.
This article talks through how to respond to interview invitations for all stages of the academic hiring process and includes sample responses to help you draft your own response email.
How to respond to an academic interview invitation
- Open with an appropriate greeting and address the email to the correct person.
- Thank the person you are corresponding with for their interest in your application.
- State the times you are available for the interview.
- [For an on-campus interview] Ask about how travel is arranged and paid for.
- [For an on-campus interview] Ask what the interview will consist of and who will be present.
- [For an on-campus interview] Ask whether you need to prepare anything.
- Express excitement for the interview
- Finish with an appropriate closing line and sign off with your full name.
- Check your email regularly to ensure you do not miss a response.
A brief guide to the academic interview process
You may be familiar with how academic hiring works because you have already been through the whole process of applying for grad school. At that stage of your academic journey, you will have had to tackle the hard question of how to respond to an interview request for grad school.
However, once you have finished your PhD, the interview processes in academia become even more complex. Here is a brief run-through of what the typical hiring process looks like.
Once they have received applications for a position, many institutions begin by offering promising candidates a screening interview. For example, if a university department has received 200 applications, it might invite 15–20 candidates for a screening interview.
Screening interviews are short, preliminary meetings, which are often held at academic conferences or remotely, either on the phone or via a video calling platform.
If the interview is going to be conducted over Zoom, it is a good idea to do some research on how to respond to a Zoom interview request.
After the screening/telephone interview, the person conducting the hiring process will invite the most impressive applicants to attend a full interview, which usually takes place on the university campus and involves either a “job talk” or a research talk.
If 15–20 candidates were invited for the screening interview, the search committee will generally choose about 2–3 candidates to invite to attend a full interview.
This is an approximately one-hour-long presentation which on your research conducted in from of the hiring committee as well as any other faculty members or researchers who may be interested in your area.
After the full interview, you will be told whether you have been chosen for the academic position.
How to respond to an invitation to a screening interview for an academic position
Applying for an academic position can be intimidating. Depending on what university you are applying to work at, you may be invited to attend a preliminary screening interview.
After a job opening has been made public, the search committee will begin accepting applications.
They will then select the most promising applicants for a preliminary interview.
If you receive an invitation to attend a screening interview for an academic position, you are already doing very well.
Committees are usually very selective about who they invite to the first round of interviews, and academic positions are notoriously competitive.
If you intend to attend the interview, keep your email confirming your interest as concise as possible. You are not writing the ultimate essay about yourself! Instead, you are communicating practical information.
Remember that this is your first opportunity to prove your competence and communication skills to your potential future employer.
Here is a sample email you could send to accept a preliminary interview for an academic position.
Dear Dr. Richardson,
Many thanks for your email and for the invitation to attend a screening interview for the position of lecturer of psychology.
I am available to meet with you on the 16th or 17th of January at the British Conference on Psychological Innovation or else via Zoom during working hours during the week beginning January 10th. What would be most convenient for you?
Please let me know whether I should prepare anything in advance of the interview.
I look forward to meeting you and discussing the role in greater detail.
It is possible that the hiring committee will call you to invite you the interview instead of sending you an email. If they do, your side of the conversation should include the same information as you would write in an email.
Even though most screening interviews are conducted remotely, it is still important to send a message following up on the meeting. For guidance on how to write this, have a look at how to write a thank you email after a Zoom interview.
How to respond to an invitation to an on-campus academic interview
If you make it through the screening interview and are then asked to attend an on-campus interview, you are in with a good chance of landing the role.
Only a very select few candidates are invited to attend in-person, on-campus interviews.
In principle, accepting an on-campus interview follows the same formula as accepting a screening interview.
However, you will also need to address a few additional logistical arrangements such as travel costs and what you can expect regarding your research talk.
While all these logistics are important to iron out, don’t forget to actually confirm your attendance of the interview!
As with a screening interview, remember to follow up your interview with an email thanking for interviewer for their time and reiterating your interest in the role.
Here is a sample email response to an invitation to attend an academic interview.
Dear Dr. Osman,
Thank you for taking the time to speak to me at the BNLU conference in June. I very much enjoyed our conversation, and it was fascinating to hear about your research on neurodegenerative diseases in greater detail.
Thank you for the invitation to attend an on-campus interview. I look forward to seeing the university and learning more about the department.
I am available to travel during the week beginning July 12th. Would this work for you?
In advance of the interview, would it be possible to provide me with information regarding travel funding for interviewees? It would also be great to know who I can expect to speak to during the interview, what the arrangements for the research talk will be, and whether there is anything I should prepare before visiting.
I appreciate the opportunity to attend an on-campus interview and look forward to speaking soon.
How to respond to an invitation to an academic interview if you are not interested in the job
Whatever your reason for changing your mind about your application for an academic position, you should always respond to an invitation to interview politely.
Of course, how you respond to an offer for an interview will depend on what stage of the interview process you have reached before deciding you are no longer interested in the role.
If you change your mind after applying and then receive an invitation to attend a screening interview, you could send something along the lines of this sample email.
Dear Dr. McGregor,
Many thanks for the offer to interview for the Postdoc position in the Veriman Lab.
Unfortunately, my circumstances have changed, and I am no longer looking for employment.
I wish you the best of luck in finding a suitable fit for the role.
If, however, you change your mind about your interest in an academic job after you have completed the screening interview, let the search committee know as soon as possible. This will allow them to make an informed decision about which candidates to invite to an on-campus interview.
If this is the case, instead of sending a ‘thank you’ email following your initial interview, you can send an email informing the search committee that you are withdrawing your application.
Here is an example of how you might inform the search committee that you are withdrawing your application.
Dear Dr. West,
Thank you for taking the time to discuss the Postdoc position over Zoom yesterday. It was fascinating to hear about the direction your department is going and to learn about the advancements you are making in your research.
Unfortunately, I do not think I would be the right fit for the role, as my interests and expertise are more suited to the neuropsychological aspects of insomnia. I would therefore like to withdraw my application from consideration.
I wish you the best of luck in finding someone well-suited to the position.
If you only realize that a job isn’t for you once you have received an invitation to attend an on-campus interview, you could send something like the following sample response.
Dear Dr. Broil,
Thank you for the invitation to interview for law professorship at Triorala University.
Unfortunately, my circumstances have changed, and I am no longer looking for employment.
I appreciate your careful consideration of my application and wish you the best of luck in finding a suitable candidate to fill the position.
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