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Interviewing for a job and asking the right questions

Randall F. Clemens

In my last blog, I discussed finding and applying to faculty positions. Today, I continue to the interview stages of a job search. Typically, the process includes two parts: a phone interview and a campus visit. The campus visit consists of informal and formal meetings with faculty, administrators, and students. The meetings take place in a range of locations including offices, classrooms, restaurants, conference rooms, and even elevator rides and walks from here to there.

We often think of job interviews as one-way interactions; however, each meeting provides an applicant several opportunities to ask questions. In doing so, he or she has the chance to learn about the school and make a positive impression among the faculty. Of course, asking questions is as much about impression management as answering them. Be informed. Search the web prior to the phone interview and then again before the campus visit. What is the mission and vision of the school? What types of degrees does the school or department offer? What are the degree requirements? What does the school’s website highlight? Students? Programs? Faculty research? Who are the faculty members? What are they researching? 

Below, I provide some questions to consider:


  •     How does the school support new faculty?
  •     What sorts of university grants are available?
  •     What are the major foci for tenure?
  •     Where do faculty members publish?
  •     On what types of projects are faculty members working?
  •     What is the vision for the school in the next ten years?
  •     Are graduate assistants available for research?


  •     Do new faculty members receive course reductions?
  •     How many classes do faculty members teach?
  •     Which classes do new faculty members teach?
  •     Are the classes on the main campus, satellite campuses, or online?
  •     What are the students like?
  •     What sorts of technology do classrooms include?
  •     Does the school provide professional development?


  •     What service opportunities are available?
  •     How many doctoral students do faculty members advise?
  •     On what types of committees do faculty members serve?
  •     Does the university provide outreach to neighboring communities?

The questions will vary based on what is important to you and also what you know about the university. Each school has its own distinct culture(s). The best advice I can offer is to talk to a range of individuals. Talk to your advisor. Talk to your committee members. Talk to newly minted assistant and associate professors. 

At the end of most interviews, someone will likely ask, “Do you have any questions?” You will be surprised how much you learn about a school during the course of an interview or series of interviews. But, sometimes you don’t know until you know. That’s why one question, above the others, will be useful: “I have heard a lot of great things so far and I do have questions. But, I’m also interested in your perspective. Based on your experiences, what do you think I should ask?”