Academia Interview Questions

What questions should you ask the department before you visit?

  • Background and interests of the department
  • Faculty research interests
  • Backgrounds of the undergraduate and graduate students
  • Current teaching needs
  • What are departments looking for in candidates?

  • Will this person be a good scholar with a program of research that will enhance the department’s reputation?
  • Will this person be able to get started on a research program quickly?
  • Does this person have a range of scholarly interests and skills consistent with the general department and area goals?
  • Based on the presentation of the research, how well does this person convey ideas orally, and how well does he/she answer questions?
  • Does this person have the competencies to cover courses at the undergraduate level that we need to teach?
  • Does this person have a good range of teaching skills outside his/her own research area?
  • Is there any evidence to indicate how effective an undergraduate instructor this person would be?
  • Can this person teach large classes, small classes, seminars, and laboratory sections, equally well?
  • Does this person have the competencies and skills to meet the graduate teaching needs in his/her area?
  • Would this person’s research area be seen as attractive to graduate students?
  • Will this person be a good team player?
  • Does this person have graduate teaching skills beyond his/her special area of research?
  • Does this person bring the level of scholarship and teaching skills needed in the department?
  • Do you see this person as having the potential to enhance the reputation of the department?
  • Would this person fit into the department and be a good colleague?
  • 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?

    Standard academic interview questions and how to answer them

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