Academic Job Interviews

Interviewing for an academic job is different from interviewing for an industry position. Academic interviews are usually lengthier and more time consuming, however, many of the same principles apply. 

You must be prepared with information and knowledge about your skills, abilities and challenges as they relate to your research and teaching, and to the department and university/college as a whole.

Sample Interview Questions

From Deans, Chairs and other Faculty:

  • Tell us about your background (your education, experiences, interests, skills).

  • Why are you pursuing this field of study, who/what has influenced you in this decision?

  • What direction do you think our field should be moving in the upcoming 20 years?

  • Who is the most underrated researcher/professional in our career field? Who is the most overrated?

  • What do you think has been the most important advance in this field in the past 50 years?

  • What have you learned from other junior faculty?

  • What would your colleagues/supervisor/students say is your greatest weakness?  Greatest strength?

From Deans, Chairs and other Faculty:

  • Tell us about your current work.

  • How does your work contribute to the field?

  • Why and how did you choose your dissertation topic?

  • How did you conduct your research and interpret your data?

  • What is your experience working with funders and other research stakeholders?

  • Discuss past and present funding sources and how you have/how you would acquire funding.

  • In what journals do you hope to see your work published?

  • What is more important, the work or the application of the work?

On the topic of teaching;

  • What is your teaching philosophy?  How does it influence your approach to the classroom?

  • Tell us about your teaching experience-what did you like/dislike, what did the student evaluations say?

  • How have you handled challenging or ethical issues while teaching?

  • How do you feel about teaching undergraduate students compared to graduate students? 

  • What do you see as the differences between undergraduate and graduate education?

  • What do you see as the fairest way to evaluate students?

  • What are some techniques you use to motivate students and connect them to the material?

  • How will you work with students that are less talented or engaged than others?

  • How would you structure a course in ______ (often a required introductory course)?

  • What texts or other resources would you use in your classes?

  • How does technology expand or limit teaching effectiveness?

  • What would be your dream course to teach?  How would you teach it?  What would some of the assignments be?

Related to participation in department or academic community:

  • What do you think the pros and cons are of working at this institution?

  • Why are you interested in our school in particular?

  • Have you been actively involved in committee work in the past?

  • How well do you interact with others in your field?

  • How do you manage criticism from colleagues and supervisors?

  • Describe any disputes you have had with supervisors/colleagues…how have you managed these?

  • What are you looking for in a supervisor/department chair or department?

  • What would you do to recruit top students to our program?

From student representitives on panel

  • How active do you plan to be at the university, on committees, working with graduate students, conducting research?

  • Will you offer to supervise graduate students?

  • How much input do you think students should have in faculty reviews and tenure?

  • How valuable have you found student evaluations?  What is the best comment you received on a student evaluation? What was the worst? What was unfair?

  • What do you think contributes to graduate students failure?  What would you do if you were working with a student who was failing or contemplating withdrawing from his/her program?

  • Have you ever worked with a student in crisis?

  • What surprise you most about your graduate experience?

  • What have you learned from students you have taught?

  • Do you prefer lecturing or holding discussions?

  • How would you engage the student in the back row of a class of 300?

Possible Questions To Ask

Depending on information or research that you have already compiled about the University/College, there are numerous questions that you might want to ask your prospective employer.

Some examples include:

  • What's the relative importance of teaching, research and service for promotion and tenure?

  • How many undergraduate and graduate students are presently in the department? How are their numbers changing?

  • What kinds of technology are available in the classroom?

  • How well does the library meet departmental needs? Are the reserves adequate?

  • What percent of faculty receive tenure?

  • What courses are you looking to fill?

Getting An Academic Job