Preparing for the Interview

“Remember that if you get an interview, that means that you are qualified for the job. Hence, in addition to evaluating your teaching and scholarly potential, a major purpose of the interview is to gauge your fit and collegiality.”

Ralph Carter and James Scott, “Navigating the Academic Job Market Minefield,” PS: Political Science and Politics 3, no. 3 (1998): 619.

A Former Provost’s Advice on Interviewing

Provost Ralph L. Pearson led a workshop for graduate students entitled “Getting Ready for the Interview.” He interviewed candidates from across all disciplines and brought insights from a diversity of university perspectives. What follows is a summary of Provost Pearson’s remarks.

Departments want a fresh infusion of ways to teach and research.

  • Be an expert in your field of study.
  • Be articulate about who you are as a teacher; be able to explain your choice of teaching methodologies.
  • Be engaging in your conversation.
  • Be ready to present your own work, and also discuss the work of your potential future colleagues in a collegial way.
  • Be sure you engage in two-way conversation; avoid lengthy monologues.

Classroom effectiveness is most important.

  • If the school asks for a classroom presentation, in what ways will you come across as an effective teacher?
  • Are you open to instructional innovation?
  • In what ways do you employ technology to promote learning?

Have a carefully planned research agenda.

  • Be specific about your research goals.
  • How will you implement your research agenda in your first years?

Display an element of professionalism.

  • The norms for dress vary across disciplines and institutional cultures, so ask your mentors for advice.

Do not appear desperate.

  • Show that you are interested in the university.
  • Convey your passion for your proposed research.
  • Display your interest in this institution and position.

Raise appropriate questions.

  • If the position is a tenure track position, what are the university guidelines and policies for tenure?
  • What are the university’s expectations for the third year review in terms of teaching, research and service?
  • If a position is a non-tenure track position, what are the criteria for renewal?
  • Could either the department or school recommend a mentor to support you in your faculty development, including teaching, research and service?
  • What is the process of the annual review of faculty on the departmental level?
  • It's not appropriate to raise questions about salary at this initial face-to-face interview. Generally, you wait for an offer before discussing this.

Select Online Resources

Sample Interview Questions

  • The University of Leicester has an extensive list of academic interview questions.
  • Mary Corbin Sies offers a list of questions from the University of Maryland and the University of Virginia.

Additional Resources

  • While most interview questions will focus on issues of teaching, research and service, Mark Wasicsko explores questions that expose a candidate’s attitude in “The Fourth Factor for Hiring” ( The Chronicle of Higher Education).
  • Mary Dillon Johnson offers sound advice about preparing for the interview in “The Academic Job Interview Revisited” (Chronicle of Higher Education).