Academic Job Interview Questions and Tips

The academic job interview is the marathon of job interviews. While some interviews, such as those at a conference, may last only an hour, campus interviews can take an entire day. These tips will help you through the process of a campus interview, beginning with your arrival at the airport.

1: Recognize That Your Academic Job Interview Begins upon Arrival

Your academic job interview begins as soon as you are picked up from the airport. The person who picks you up will make comments on your attitude and behavior from the moment he or she met you at the airport, so even if you have a discouraging trip, be prepared to make the best of it. Use your time to ask about the community and make an effort to get to know this person. This first contact may play only a small role in the process or may be a participant of the interview panel.

2: Prepare for Behavioral Descriptive Questions

Most academic job interviews include a series of panel interviews, and one of these panels will consist of HR personnel. HR will use behavioral descriptive questions to ask about your work history and find out about the type of person you are as an employee. Behavioral descriptive questions, the "Tell me about ..." questions, ask about a past behavior to find out how the candidate would behave in future. You can expect questions about relationships with colleagues, such as how have you handled a conflict with a colleague or peer in the past. You may also encounter questions about management, such as your expectations from senior professors or supervisors in your department.

3: Present Research to the Academic Panel

When your academic colleagues are at the table, be prepared to talk about your research. They will probably ask you questions about your role in past projects, your research and publication history (either in the past or in press). In regards to research, if you work in the sciences, the panel may ask about your expectations for your lab and materials. They may want to know about your track record in getting funding. You should be prepared to answer these questions in concrete terms and explain what you have used in the past and what you expect in this new position.

During this portion of the academic job interview, they will also ask about your ability to supervise graduate students, so expect questions about your ability to motivate people, especially junior graduate students. You will also be asked about your teaching history and your pedagogical style, so prepare an answer and bring a sample syllabus from a previous class you have taught; point to pertinent aspects of the plan when you explain your teaching. Depending on their use of technology, you may also be asked about your experience dealing with technology, distance education and online office hours.

4: Prepare Thoroughly for Your Presentation

During the course of your academic job interview, you will probably have to present to an audience. The audience may only consist of a small group of peers, but if the presentation was widely publicized, you might speak to a large audience. Depending on the assigned topic, prepare a presentation based on your original research or use a pertinent lesson from your previous teaching. Most schools will make a computer and projector available to presenters, but you should never assume their availability. If you need any technology for your presentation, make sure it will be available. Because your requirements may affect their room-booking on campus, they need to know beforehand what you want for your presentation.

5: Ask Questions at the Wrap-Up Dinner

Campus interviews usually include a tour of the campus, as well as a collegial dinner. These social events are part of the academic job interview. Come prepared to walk and talk. Use this portion of the academic job interview to ask intelligent questions about the campus and the role of the department within the campus. At dinner the present members will evaluate your social and networking skills. In fact they are evaluating you all the way through dinner, right until they return you to the airport for the trip home. Keep this fact in mind through each portion of the academic job interview.