What questions should you ask the department before you visit?
What are departments looking for in candidates?
Employers can’t legally ask you any questions that may lead to discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, religion, national origin, or disability. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t be asked to field an illegal question. It’s not that someone is intentionally trying to break the law; some interviewers may ask such questions because they don’t know they can’t or shouldn’t. Whatever the case, your best option is to remain calm and professional.
• You’ve seen our mission statement. How would you see yourself contributing to our mission and campus atmosphere? • What is your perception of the responsibilities of a full-time faculty member in a University / College? …To the department? …To the division? …To the University / College as a whole? • How will you fit in as a department member and what kind of contribution will you make to our community? • Apart from the obvious financial reasons, why would you like to join the Faculty of Y at University X? • Could you tell us about your long-range plans and commitment to this department?
So, what if you are asked an illegal question? For example, “Do you have children?” Here are three possible responses:
1. Answer directly, highlighting positives. “Actually, yes, and luckily my in-laws live here in town and would be happy to take care of them while I work.” 2. Avoid the question, highlighting your qualifications. “If you are concerned about my commitment, I can assure you that my research plan is already up and running given the generous five-year grant I just received….” 3. Challenge the question, knowing the risks involved. “Can you tell me how this is relevant to my ability to perform as a faculty member?”
• What is your philosophy of teaching? • What classes could you teach in our program? • How would you plan a course in ___? What texts would you use? What topics would you cover? • How would you evaluate student learning? • How do you bring diversity into your day-today teaching?