Could you talk us through your recruitment process?
We do everything via the website: it’s an online application, which is open to all, as Tate is for all. We don’t look for postdocs specifically but they are welcome to apply.
There is no CV or covering letter- you complete an application along with a supporting statement outlining how you will carry out the job description and meet the essential and desirable criteria of the person specification. A panel will shortlist all applications on this basis, and the application is anonymous until you’ve been selected and you are about to interview.
It’s important to say that our roles can attract hundreds of applications. You are operating in a global arena that is very competitive, so you need to stand out.
What makes an application stand out to you?
You need to do your research before you apply for anything – it’ll get picked up if you don’t! Get to know the organisation, get to know everything you can about it, go and meet people before you apply. Show that you know the organisation. Learn everything you can about that business before you apply, that gives you the edge.
There will be certain sections in that job description that you should be writing to, don’t just blanket put down everything you’ve ever done without relating it to the job, don’t just list, ‘I’ve done this, I’ve done this, I’ve done this’. Instead, try writing ‘my experience and knowledge can help the organisation to…’, ‘my worth to you is…’ ‘I can be flexible and adaptable because I…’.
For a supporting statement, don’t write more than two pages. Be concise – but not too concise – you need to link the job role to your experience.
What we are looking for is ‘can this person do it? and ‘will this person do it?’ The ‘can they do it?’ is about, does this person have enough knowledge and experience and enough about them. The ‘will they do it?’ is do they have enough of those other skills, those transferrable skills, to do it, are they willing to learn new things?
How can an applicant do well in an interview?
Being well-prepared and well-presented (not necessarily suited and booted but you are going to an interview).
You should be attentive, pleasant, open, and consider questions carefully rather than just say the first thing that comes into your head. If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification, or ask to take a little bit of time to think about your answer.
Don’t talk too much, just talk enough! Read body language – if you are talking too much, then you’ll probably be able to judge that. You will be told at the start of the interview ‘you will be asked about nine questions it will take x amount of time’, so you need to be aware of that. If you are rambling on you’ll be cut off.
Be truthful and honest: if you mention anybody, anything, or any organisation, we all speak to one another – it’s quite a small sector and everyone knows each other! Probing questions will be asked in the interview about the details of what role you played for example, so don’t be tempted to say you played a leading role in a project when actually you were only a peripheral member of the team.
During interviews if we are not getting the responses we need, we’ll ask questions to prompt, such as ‘and what did you do in that scenario?’.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any questions at the end, but if you do this is often where people trip up. It can make it clear that they’ve not done their research. Things that raise alarm bells are asking if you would get the chance to work at Tate Modern (problematic if you’ve applied to work at Tate Liverpool), or asking about career progression before you’ve even got this job.
Asking questions about other jobs in the organisation doesn’t give a good impression. Asking questions that you could have (should have!) found the answers to on the website, for example, highlights a lack of preparation and looks bad.
Good questions would be what you might not be able to find out from doing research from outside of the organisation, something like ‘how does your team work with other teams within the organisation?’
What are the most common mistakes you see in the application process?
Lack of concision: we see people writing pages and pages of dense description, when we might be reading 200 applications! You need to think about who’s reading it, what those people are looking for, being concise.
What I would say is that people often do not read the job description properly. Don’t apply for every job at every level at an organisation: you may be lucky enough to be called for an interview but you look unfocussed, and that you are just looking for a way in to the organisation.
You need to have given real thought to this particular role. If you are applying for a role you aren’t actually interested in and just want it as a way into Tate this will be brought out during the interview. It will become clear that it isn’t what you are passionate about, have knowledge and experience about or want to do. It will be clear that you are unlikely to do that role well, even if offered it, as you have an eye on something else.