All stages of the interview process involve questions related to research, teaching, and service/collegiality. Depending on the position (teaching-focused or research-focused or post-doc), the weight of these areas will vary.
Yes. It is highly recommended that you research everyone on your hiring committee. You will gain insight into what kind of questions they will ask. For instance, a committee’s research background may indicate what kind of questions they will ask you. It will also give you a framework for how you can best tailor your answers for the committee.
You may also have the opportunity to mention that you have read a paper or book by one of the committee members. If you do so, be sincere and genuine by making it a natural part of your answer. This shows that you are making a connection between your work and theirs, emphasizing the suitability for the department as well as possible collaborations.
Yes! Research the department, the faculty, and the university. Researching into these areas might indicate what they are looking for in a candidate. Or, your research may provide you information so you can tailor your answers, interactions, and job talk. Such questions include: Does the department have a new initiative or lab space? Did the faculty receive any particular kind of funding? Has the university made the news lately?
You are strongly encouraged to research all faculty members when you are invited for an on-campus interview. You have to be prepared to talk to everyone, be able to make connections between you and their research if possible, and address what your research adds to the department. Additionally, you should indicate possible collaborations some time during your on-campus interview, whether that be during the job talk or through meetings. You may focus your research on those potential collaborations, but still research the entire department.
It is highly recommended that you review the documents you have submitted. Because there is a longer period of time between applying and interviewing, you want to refresh yourself on what exactly you wrote in the cover letter or indicated in your CV. This will allow you to appear consistent and remind yourself how you have presented yourself to the committee.
First round interviews can be held at a large conference or over skype. These interviews are typically shorter, from 30 minutes to an hour, and contain questions that allow the committee to get to know you.
The main goal for the search committee during the first round interview is to answer the following questions:
In first round questions, any questions are fair game. Expect questions about your research, teaching, and service experience, as well as questions related to see if you have done your research on the hiring committee, the department, and the university. Below is a sample of some questions that may be asked in a first round interview.
While the questions will be the same, there are situational differences between a first-round skype and conference interview that you should prepare for.
A conference interview might be more stressful because you are likely also presenting and networking at the conference. Be sure to schedule time for yourself to recharge and relax before and after the interview. Also be aware that the interview does not necessarily end after the interview: there may be interactions between you and the committee during the conference, or there is a possibility that they are in attendance at your panel.
A skype interview may require setting and location preparation beforehand. Make sure that your background is not distracting but still can convey personality and professionalism. Check your camera’s view beforehand to ensure that the lighting is good and that you are facing the camera at eye-level (placing your laptop on a stack of books is helpful for this). In addition to the background, make sure you location is quiet and free of any interruptions. You can ask your program coordinator or supervisor about getting a space.
Anticipate possible technical difficulties and prepare for ones that may be out of your control:
Yes. 24-48 hours after the interview, send a thank you email to the committee that interviewed you. Refer to a specific part of your conversation that you enjoyed and reiterate why you would like to work for them. You can also briefly note something you did not get a chance to mention in the interview or something you would like to add. And then mention that you look forward to hearing from them.
Campus interviews are the final stages of the academic application process that are 1-2 days of meetings, lunches, dinners, and tours during which you will be evaluated. Make no mistake, you are being interviewed the whole time. But also be aware that you are interviewing them, too, to determine whether the department, university, and/or location are the right fight for you.
The underlying goal for the search committee during the campus interview is to answer the following questions:
Your own questions are not that different. The market is tight, but this does not mean that you must accept a job that is not a good match for you.
The campus interview consists of most or all of the following elements, for which you will receive a schedule in advance of your arrival (if you do not receive one, ask for it before you arrive):
Because each discipline has different measures of formality, we recommend asking this question to your supervisor or mentor or fellow colleagues on the job market. Additionally, attend job talks at your department and observe how other job candidates dress in your field. Taking into consideration the information you received from mentors and from the job talks you attended, dress however you feel comfortable and confident in.
Yes, they are. While less formal, you will be asked questions throughout your meal. Choose food that is less awkward to eat while also talking with others. Bring snacks with you to eat between the meals because you will likely not eat a full meal while talking for the majority of the time. Do not forget to drink lots of water. If alcohol is available, read the room: if others are drinking an alcoholic drink, you can, too, but do not feel pressured to do so. If you are drinking alcohol, pace yourself and limit the number of drinks you have.
Let the search committee know if you have food allergies or any other dietary restriction to avoid awkward situations that leave you hungry and awkward exchanges with your hosts as you arrive at a restaurant.
You will need to be prepared to move into details and specifics to discuss your qualifications for and interest in that particular department. Remember that researching the department and the university where you will be interviewing is crucial for handling the search committee/faculty questions. You must be prepared to give thoughtful responses to their questions, and relate your answers to the job and the needs of that particular department. Focus on projecting confidence and collegiality at all times.
How you frame and structure your answers will depend on the particular contexts of the position, department, and/or university. For example, are they a primarily undergraduate institution focused on teaching? If so, you will probably want to focus on your teaching and mentorship experiences. Are they are an R1 university? Then, focusing on your publication and conference record would be appropriate.
The kinds of questions asked are divided into three categories: Research, Teaching, and Service. Below are details for what they are looking for in each category.
Questions related to research inquire if your research plan will enhance the department’s reputation and meet the department goals. The committee wants to know if you will be able to get started on a research program quickly. Expect questions about your research, methods, and the plans you have for your research. Below are a few sample questions:
Questions related to teaching inquire if you have the competencies to teach courses at the undergraduate and graduate level in their department. Prepare past evidence of effective teaching so that you can answer questions with concrete examples. Below are a few sample questions:
Questions related to service and/or collegiality are inquiring if you would be a good fit for the department and a good colleague to work with. Will you be able to share the work load of supervision and committees? What administrative experience/strengths do you have? Do you have any past service experience worth mentioning that would indicate the kinds of impact you can have on the department?
In some departments, students, especially graduate students, hold significant influence on the hiring decision. While this will not be the case in all departments, it is a good strategy to assume they do. Take advantage of the opportunity to meet the graduate students. Take an interest in their work, in their insights about the department, institution, and area of research. Never talk down to them. Graduate or undergraduate students are usually responsible for the campus tour. The same rules apply in that context. Take an interest, be engaged, speak to them like equals. They will have some excellent questions to ask you, and can be excellent allies in the hiring process.
Like the search committee and faculty, students want to know if you would be a good match for the department but in terms of supervision, mentorship, and contributions to the graduate/undergraduate curriculum and experience. Students want to know if they can see you as a supervisor for themselves or for junior colleagues. Can you address a gap, whether course-wise or supervision-wise, that students feel exist in the department? Are you approachable?
Expect questions about your research, teaching, and service. But these questions will be focused on how your research, teaching, and service impact graduate and undergraduate students. Below are a few sample questions:
Broadly, you can ask questions related to the department’s future plans, the university community, teaching experiences, research support and opportunities, professional development advancements, industry partnerships, and students and colleagues. Below are some questions to ask specific groups of people during the campus visit.
Questions to ask Deans/Chairs
Questions to ask faculty
Questions to ask students
The job talk is widely considered the climax of the campus visit of an R1 institute and of most research-focused positions. The Teaching demonstrations are the standard equivalent for teaching-focused institutions/positions. Sometimes the teaching demonstration replaces the job talk, and sometimes it is required in addition to the job talk.
The job talk is a presentation of a specific topic related to your research that is relevant to the position. Audience members are both faculty and grad students. The presentation is typically followed by a Q&A.
The teaching demo can be organized in a number of ways, but here are the most common: 1) The teaching demo occurs in an existing class that is currently being taught; 2) a mock class of students is assembled for the demo’s purpose; 3) you present to the faculty, treating them like a potential class. While the teaching demo does not have a Q&A, there is the interactions with the students that you must anticipate.
Be sure to prepare well in advance so that you can present your material confidently and deal effectively with the question period afterwards. Specifics about the job talk (such as length, delivery method, etc.) can vary widely by field. Make sure you research this important information to prepare adequately.
One way to prepare for your job talk is to give a mock job talk in your home department or with some fellow students. The key is to practice until your job talk is confident and smooth, including how you respond to questions. Practice using an authoritative tone that projects confidence. While you are practicing, make sure to time your talk. Do not go over time.
Practicing your job talk often will allow you to speak dynamically, to look up from your paper if you are reading it, and to speak fluidly about your topic if you are using only notes. If you are unsure, tape yourself giving the talk so that you can listen to how your voice sounds and what message it is sending.
Advanced research into the student body, the department’s courses, and, if possible, their courses’ syllabi is important for determining your job talk. When you are told the topic and level of class you will be teaching, research the standards and expectations of similar courses. Do not assume that those standards and expectations are the same across universities. If your supervisor or mentor has connections to the department, gather advice and information from them. Like the job talk, you can practice this, too, with friends or colleagues.
You can anticipate what questions faculty may ask based on the research you have done on the specific faculty members and the department. You can also integrate some level of control what will be asked by how you organize your presentation and what content you choose to include (or exclude). Additionally, practice how to respond to questions that may seem odd or perceived as hostile. Always work to bring your answer back to your own research and strengths, rather than what you do not know.
Never apologize for what you do not know. It is best to avoid this language entirely. Instead, redirect to what you do know and can talk about. It is generally an effective strategy to respond to a question with “that is an excellent question” or “thank you for that question” and pause for thought. Doing so will give you a chance to collect yourself and to structure your answer. Also, be sure to finish strongly. Rather than “Does that answer your question?” rephrase to “I hope that answers your question,” or even “Next question.” This will project confidence and allow you to establish yourself as a colleague, rather than a grad student.
When you are dealing with questions, it is generally expected that you call on more senior faculty/audience members first before moving on to other faculty or graduate students. At the same time, make sure you are aware of the etiquette in the department for how a question period works. Do you control the Q&A, or is a faculty member responsible for selecting questions from the audience? You can ask about this in advance.
Prepare a class that is participatory, interactive, and engages in discussion. While you may prepare a lecture, keep it brief to allow more time for activities and discussion. The teaching demo is not just about you; it is about the students and how you work with students. So avoid lecture-like discussions about your research. It is okay to incorporate your research organically, but you have to demonstrate that you can, like other faculty members, teach outside of your own research. Thus, it is encouraged to choose a topic outside of your research expertise if you are given the choice to demonstrate your willingness and ability to teach more than what you research.