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Interview Board

Interviewing for Research & Teaching Positions

Types of Interviews

Academic interviews are usually in one of two forms: a half-hour to hour-long preliminary interview at an academic convention or conference, or a one-or two-day interview on campus. In many fields, the campus interview follows the successful completion of the convention interview.

Research the Institutions

Throughout the application process, do as much research as possible about the institutions to which you are applying to determine whether or not each school and department is a good fit for you, both personally and professionally. Prepare for the interview by learning as much as you can about a department's course offerings, research/teaching ration, and distribution of faculty by research and teaching areas. Be prepared to ask the interviewer(s) questions about their department and institution, since they will undoubtedly ask if you have any. Finally, become familiar with the faculty's research and publications and try to make the connection between your interests and theirs.

Prepare to Talk about You

As in any interview, you must be able to talk comfortably and confidently about yourself and your work experience. The interviewers will want to know that you are well on your way to making the transition from graduate school to professional life. The interviewers are interested in your dissertation research, teaching experience and future research plans, but they are also interested in you as a colleague – someone with whom they can talk about their own work. So, the more you can think about the interview as a conversation among colleagues, the better off you will be.


Throughout the interview process, you will need to explain your dissertation project to a variety of people: specialists in the field as well as deans, graduate students, and faculty from other departments. Think carefully about how you want to present your work to these various audiences. Prepare two overviews of your dissertation: one about 90-seconds in length, the other 4-5 minutes long. Practice these aloud whenever you can.


When discussing your teaching, be prepared to talk about your classroom methods as well as your general philosophy. Be ready to talk about what you can teach as well as what you would like to teach. You will probably be required to teach courses at many different levels. Make lists of the texts and/or materials you would use and be prepared to talk about how you would present and make assignments. Think about how you would adapt courses you have already taught to be appropriate in a different environment. The more specific you can be when answering a question about teaching, the more ready you will appear to do the job.

Future Research Plans

Even though you are currently immersed in your dissertation research and writing, give some thought to the direction of your research in the future. You will want to demonstrate that you have plans beyond the revision and publication of your dissertation. The department chair may want to know what kind of support you will need to pursue your research plans, such as specialized equipment, laboratory start-up funds, special software, travel money for archival research, etc.

Sample Questions

On research

  • Tell us about your current work on…
  • Why did you choose your dissertation topic?
  • How does your work contribute to the field?
  • What theoretical framework did you use in developing your research?

On Teaching

  • How would you teach a required course on …
  • Your work is very specialized. How do you feel about teaching undergraduates?
  • What do you see as the main difference between undergraduate and graduate education in this field?
  • What texts would you offer in a junior seminar on …

On your willingness to participate in the department or school

  • How do you feel about working at a school in rural …
  • How do you feel about working with older students and teaching evening courses?
  • Why are you interested in our type of school?
  • What kind of service do you expect to do when you arrive?

Some General Advice

  • For your answering machine message, be brief and professional; include your first and last name.
  • Keep a pen and paper by the phone, along with your calendar and a list of questions you want to ask your contact when you are offered an interview.
  • Wear comfortable but professional clothing that does not detract from what you have to say about your work or experience. You want people to remember what you said, not what you wore. Inquire about appropriate dress for specific events.
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