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Applying for Post of Assistant Professor

By Omar Al-Ghazzi

The department of media and communications is keen to attract a diverse pool of applicants for the newly-advertised assistant professor position. Accordingly, I have been asked to write this blog post in the hope that sharing my experiences applying may be useful to current applicants. At the time of my application, I was a lecturer (assistant professor) at the University of Sheffield’s department of journalism studies, which I joined following the completion of my PhD at the Annenberg School for Communication, the University of Pennsylvania.

The online application process at LSE is straight forward. The application materials include a cover letter, a CV and publications/ writing samples. Obviously, the cover letter is a key component in the application. It is meant to introduce the candidate’s research and teaching profiles and to give an idea about his/ her future plans in the next few years. In the cover letter, and also in the interview process, it is important to strike a balance between discussing how a candidate fits within what the department already does and what new foci, approaches, experiences, networks a candidate would bring into the department. Accordingly, it is important to have an idea about the department and LSE in general in order to know what contribution you would make if you get the job. Getting acquainted with the Masters degrees offered would also help frame what classes and areas you would want to teach in.

Following the application, successful candidates are invited for an interview, which is the second and final step. The interview process spanned three days. It may be helpful to note that in the Department of Media & Communications, all successful candidates are invited for their interviews on the same days. So you may see other candidates, who could be friends or acquaintances, getting coffee before the interview or waiting in the corridor. The first day of the interview process consists of one-on-one meetings with some of the department’s academic staff. These meetings are meant to be more on the informal side. Though friendly, of course they are still part of the process of assessing candidates.

On the second day, candidates give presentations to the whole department. The presentation is 30 to 40 minutes long, followed by questions. Unlike job talks in the US, presentations in the UK tend to be broader in scope. Candidates are expected to present what they do, what their plans are, and what is their scholarly focus and contribution. So it is important to speak about oneself in general terms but at the same time give sufficient details about a single research project in order to demonstrate one’s interests. Candidates are also expected to discuss teaching and impact. If candidates are not familiar with higher education in the UK, it is a good idea to look up the REF (Research Excellence Framework), which is the system for assessing the quality of higher education research.

The formal interview with the selection committee took place on the third day. In my case, the committee was comprised of two academic staff from the media and communications department and three from other LSE departments. In my view, the questions were standard— focusing on a candidate’s research and teaching as well as his/ her interests in and potential contributions to the department and the university.

As this position is an open call and the department wants to attract diverse candidates from different backgrounds, hopefully that would mean all interested eligible candidates would consider sending an application and would feel that their research agendas are valued and sought-after. Good luck!