Questions to Ask (And Be Prepared to Answer) During an Academic Interview
The following questions have been collected from diverse resources by Kathryn L. Cottingham, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College.
- What do you like best about this place?
- What do you like least about this place?
- What are you looking for in this new position? (want to know: is there agreement? Or are there opposing ideas?)
- What are hiring priorities for the future?
- What else does a newcomer need to know?
New Faculty Assimilation/Success
- How's the salary?
- How do raises work?
- Are the benefits any good? Are they transferable to other schools?
- What are housing costs?
- Is good housing available?
- What's it like to live here? Where do most people live? In town? Elsewhere?
- Crime rate?
- Cultural events on campus? Locally?
- Tuition assistance?
- Opportunities for spouse/partner?
- How's the parking?
- Family leave policies? Maternity coverage? Day care?
- Who pays for photocopying, phone calls, interlibrary loans, faxes, page charges, reprints?
- How's the food? Beer?
- Do alumni come back and tell you about life after graduation?
Questions to be Prepared For
In one of my interviews, I was given these four topics in advance:
- Future research plans: what directions do you see your research taking in the next 5-10 years? What will be the topic of your first major research proposal as a new faculty member, and where will you submit it? What balance do you anticipate between field research and lab/office based research? If field work will be important, what field sites would you want to consider in the first few years?
- Education: Given our curriculum needs within the X group, how will you contribute to the undergraduate and graduate curricula? In particular, what graduate course(s) what you like to teach, and what will be your basic teaching model (e.g. lecture, lecture + lab, discussion, etc)?
- Graduate and undergraduate research: How will you engage graduate and undergraduate students in your research program? That is, what style of advising/mentoring will you use?
- Resources: What critical resources do you need in order to establish a successful research program? What critical resources may already be here? What kind of help would you want from the X group, the Department, and the University for you to achieve your goals?
From Everham & Smallridge, ESA Bulletin Dec 1994
- What is the main point of your dissertation?
- What are your professional goals?
- What is your concept of teaching in a 4-year college as opposed to a research university?
- What specific research will you pursue if you are selected? How do you anticipate funding it?
- How has your experience and training prepared you to teach the courses required?
other courses might you teach?
- Why do you want this job?
- Why should they hire YOU?
- What strengths would you bring to the department?
- What would you expect from this department and administration?
- What kind of start-up funds, facilities, and equipment would you need?
- What experiences or interests do you have in college-wide activities and service?
From an underground primer by Peter Kareiva (UW-Seattle) and Dan Doak (UC-Santa Cruz):
- What research will you be doing when you show up here?
- What projects will you start next?
- Why would you want to come here?
- What teaching would you like to do?
- What is your philosophy of grad student training? How will you support students? What types of projects do you expect them to work on?
- What do you contribution to the department that is not already well covered by the faculty?
- What makes you think you could ever get any outside funding?
- What is the best idea you ever had?
- What do you do? (the 3-5 minute summary of your entire research agenda)
- Where do you see your work going in the next 10-20 years?
From an underground list of questions used by graduate students at the University of Arizona
- What kinds of tools would be available in your lab for grad student use?
- In what areas do you think your work would uniquely contribute to this department?
- With whom in the department do you envision interacting the most? Outside the department?
- What meetings do you attend? What societies do you belong to?
- What do you envision as your ideal lab: # grads, undergrads, postdocs, techs, participation of grads who are not your own students?
- To what degree do you see integrating grad students into your research program?
- Is their work usually closely related to your research focus or is it fairly independent?
- How do you help grad students get started on a project?
- What's your perspective on grad student funding?
- How would you respond to a student who is floundering (early vs. late)?
- What types of mentoring have you experienced -- and what would you do similarly or differently?
- What courses have you taught before?
- What do you see as the major challenges of teaching at a large (small) university?
- What do you want to teach? (grad, undergrad, seminars) Statistics?
Questions Known To Catch People Off Guard
- The illegal questions: spouses, children, etc.
- For example: will anything need to be done for your spouse/partner (like find them a job)?
- Would you take this job if it were offered to you?
- How would you handle an interpersonal conflict in your lab?
- A break-up between two members of the lab who were involved?