Some funders require applicants to attend a formal interview as part of the application assessment process.
This will usually take place once the written application has been peer reviewed and has received high enough scores to proceed to the next stage and be considered by the assessment panel.
The aim of the interview is to assess:
- the project idea in the light of the reviews
- you as the applicant
- the University of Leeds as the potential project host
Being invited to interview is a positive step, as it usually means you have received positive reviews, and the chance of you being funded has increased.
The interview represents a unique opportunity to sell your idea in person to a panel who are actively looking for projects to fund.
Now is the time to re-familiarise yourself with every aspect of your proposal, the peer review comments and your response to reviewers.
Make sure you are not caught out with questions about things you might no longer remember writing, or issues arising from peer review you can anticipate that the panel will pick up.
You may be asked to give a presentation or pitch to kick off the interview.
Be sure to follow any guidance you have been given by the funder about the content.
Most panels are unlikely to want you to repeat your application and want something specific – make sure you know what it is and stick to what you’ve been asked to do.
It is very likely that you’ll be given a time limit (10 minutes is common). Practice your presentation many times over so that you can get a feel for the right speed and phrasing, and that you can fit everything in that you need to say.
Assessment panels often comprise academics who are outside your immediate research area. That means you could be trying to sell your project to people who are not particularly close to the nitty-gritty of your specific scientific discipline but can grasp the bigger picture and the context within the research landscape. It’s therefore important that you pitch your presentation at an appropriate level.
The best interviewees neatly articulate the problem and excite the panel early in the interview with the potential of their idea
Regardless of the funder or scheme, there are often key themes that panels will want to find out about from you:
- What is your vision?
- What is novel about your proposal?
- What is the problem you will solve?
- Why are you the best person/team?
- What will be the impact within or outside academia?
- What are the risks to success?
- What is Leeds the right institution to host this project?
A lot of the questions you will be asked are likely to be variations on these themes, so devote time to thinking about how you will address these points,
Research development colleagues in RIS can arrange a mock interview with panel members who have experience in taking part in funder interview panels and/or securing funding via the scheme in question.
When it comes to interviews there is no substitute for practice. It pays to go through the likely questions one by one and make sure you have a robust response for each.
You don’t want to have scripted answers as they could come across as either wooden or over-polished; just make sure you know the key points you want to get across.
If you are conducting a presentation make sure you run through it several times on your own, with academics and professional staff in your school, and at a RIS-organised mock interview.
To arrange a mock interview contact Tim Nadin, Research Development and Infrastructure Support Officer or email email@example.com.