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Academic Interviews

General Interview Guidelines

In an academic job interview, the goal of those faculty who are interviewing you is to assess your fit for the department in terms of research, teaching, service, and—what some might call—”collegiality.” Departments want to find someone who is not only a strong researcher and teacher, but someone who will be a good colleague and who is a good match for the department, its mission, and its students.

In many fields, the academic job interview process takes place in two rounds. The first round is a short, one-hour interview that takes place sometimes by phone, sometimes at a professional conference, or, increasingly, via Skype or similar services. The second round is usually a full day or two-day visit to a campus.

Preparing for an Interview

You will need to have done some research into the department and the institution so that you can make the case for yourself as the best fit. You should practice interviewing—either with faculty from your program or with a career adviser or both—so that you can talk about these things fluidly and with confidence.

Some sample questions you may be asked include:

  • Tell us about your teaching.
  • Tell us about your research.
  • How would you teach our department’s introductory course on topic X?
  • What is your next project?
  • How do you motivate students?
  • What would you do to encourage students to major in our field?
  • Do you have any plans for seeking external funding for your research?
  • Why are you interested in our department/institution?

In addition to being asked questions, it is expected that you will have some questions for those interviewing you. These questions should reflect that you’ve done some research on the institution and the department. You can’t ask, “How many students go here?” Your questions must be more substantial than that (and not easily answered by an Internet search). Here are a few good questions:

  • What do you like best about teaching at this institution?
  • What are the department’s goals for the next five years?
  • How does this university support your research?
  • What are the service expectations for junior faculty?

For more ideas about what to ask, see the article “Asking the Right Questions” in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Also, be sure to review the information about job interviews from our job search basics guide.

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