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Episode 65

SciComms and Job Interview tips

This episode’s guest is Alison Shean, a Science Communicator at the Natural History Museum. Follow Alison on Twitter @SheanAlison

Job interview tips start at (12:00)

Science communication

What is it?

Taking research and making it more accessible to a wider audience. Distilling complex information so it is more understandable to a non-expert audience. Science communication includes

  • Presenting

  • Facilitating dialogue

  • Writing scripts

  • Creating podcasts

  • Organizing events

  • Training scientists

Differences between communicator and educator roles

Communication roles often work with more varied audiences than in education programmes. For example they will often speak to a wider range of ages in a single event, whereas educators will usually work with a single school class at a time. It is also less tied to school curriculum topics. Meaning there can be more freedom to be interdisciplinary or cross-curricular, depending on the organization.

Relationship management is very important. Communicators and educators in big institutions will often need to work with many other departments. Building and maintaining positive working relationships with these colleagues makes a huge difference.

STEM learning - What is science communication?

Getting into environmental education/public engagement

Job interview tips

Explaining why you want the job

  • Be specific about what parts of the role you are excited about.
    What do you want to get out of the role? What do you want to achieve? What difference would you like to make? Tailor your answer to make it clear you understand the organisation’s aims and approaches, and explain how you think you align with these aims and approaches.

  • Research the organization
    Get in touch with the interviewer, if possible. Or someone else on the team. Get to know the organization and the types of activities they offer. Go to one of those activities and get a feel for their style and approach.

  • Look at the sector more widely.
    What are the current hot topics in the area? This allows you to demonstrate in the interview that you understand how the institution or organization fits into the wider context.

  • Have concrete examples
    Times you displayed job competencies or times you dealt with relevant situations. This demonstrates that you haven’t just read advice somewhere, you have also been able to apply it.Don’t forget to explain how you know you handled the situation well or were successful at a task. This demonstrates that you are reflective about your own practice and can learn from your successes as well as your missteps.


  • Have them.
    And don’t be afraid to ask if you can take them out. Ask if it is okay to write notes during the interview if you feel like that would help you answer them fully.

  • Ask if it would be possible to be sent the interview questions beforehand.
    Communicators and educators rarely go into a situation with no preparation at all. Ideally more employers should reflect this in their interview practices and allow candidates to better prepare themselves so they can be at their best.

Questions to be prepared for

  • Best/most creative thing you’ve done

  • Most challenging situation you’ve had to overcome

  • Differences between digital and in-person experiences

Dealing with Scenarios

  • How would you handle a situation where a scientist wants to include content or concepts which aren’t suited to the target audience?

  • How would you deal with a participant who has incorrect information or challenging views?

  • How have you worked differently with different audiences?

Make sure your responses to these scenarios fits with the context of the organization. Some strategies may not be practical or applicable to the types of activities which the organization offers.

What to do if asked a question where you don’t have direct experience

  • Focus on the skills that are needed to handle the scenario
    Talk about a different experience that used those skills. Explain what skills your situation demonstrated and how those skills would be applicable to the scenario the interviewers gave you. If you find yourself going back to the same few experiences in multiple questions, you may want to use this tactic anyways in order to demonstrate the breadth of your experience and your adaptability.

If you aren’t successful

  • Get feedback
    Ask for detailed feedback about which questions you did well on or struggled with. If you can’t get feedback. reflect on the experiences and which questions you felt comfortable will or less comfortable with.

  • Seek out additional experiences
    Ask about taking on different responsibilities in your current job, if at all possible. Look for volunteer opportunities in the field you are interested in. It may help to go to smaller organizations as these tend to have roles with more varied responsibilities.

  • Keep up to date
    Read up on not just content knowledge, but also industry best practices or trends. Also look at other organizations and keep up to date with what they are doing.

    Twitter is great for keeping up with trends in science communication. #SciComms or #SciCom

    Google scholar for keeping up to date with the latest research

Additional Resources

Science communication


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