Interview Questions

While there’s no way to know specifically what a given search committee looks for when interviewing a potential faculty colleague, you’ll feel more prepared if you can anticipate questions you're likely to be asked. Generally, there are three areas they’ll expect you to address: (a) your research/dissertation; (b) your teaching; and (3) your knowledge of, and interest in, the institution and the department. We've also included questions you should think about asking your interviewers—you'll almost certainly be given the chance, and it pays to be prepared.

Here are some sample questions— organized by topic area—to help get you started.

Questions about Research

  • Tell us about your research.Do you expect to continue on this research track?What are your future research plans?
  • Have you ever supervised undergraduate student researchers?
  • How would you involve graduate students in your research?
  • How will you go about revising your dissertation for publication?
  • Tell us how your research has influenced your teaching.In what ways have you been able to bring the insights of your research to your courses at the undergraduate level?

Questions about Teaching

  • What is your teaching philosophy?
  • What are your goals for student learning? How do you know if students meet your learning goals?
  • What teaching strategies do you use to help students learn?
  • 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-to-day teaching?

Questions about the University or Department

  • How would you see yourself contributing to our mission and campus atmosphere?
  • 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?

Do You Have Any Questions for Us?

Search committees often ask this question near the end of an interview, and this is your chance to find out if the department is a good fit for you. Of course, you’ll have discipline-specific questions you might want to ask, but here are a few general questions (in no particular order) you also might consider:

  • What do you like most about this college/university?
  • How would you best describe the departmental culture?
  • What is the department’s most important long-range goal? Short-term?
  • What are the department’s strengths—or what do like best about the department? Areas for improvement?
  • What are the relative importances of teaching, research, and service?
  • What is the usual promotional time frame?
  • What is the nature of the review process for promotion and tenure?
  • How important are committees to the function of the department?
  • How often are departmental meetings held? Are decisions made in the meetings, i.e., votes taken?
  • Are there departmental bylaws or procedural guidelines?
  • Where do faculty spend most of their time?
  • What are the next steps? When can I expect to hear from you?

Questions Employers Can’t Ask

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’re not required to provide any information about your marital or parental status, your ethnic background, or any disabilities you may have. However, some people may choose to reveal this information voluntarily, so they can assess whether a department is family-friendly or ethnically diverse, or if the appropriate accommodations for a disability will be provided.

If you are asked an illegal question, for example, “Do you have any children?” here are three possible responses:

  1. Answer directly, highlighting positives. “Actually, yes. 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're 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?”

Adapted from The Academic Job Search Survival Handbook… by UCSD Career Services.