Preparing for the Academic Interview

Congratulations! You got an interview! Now what?

Here’s a good resource to start with...
Academic Interviews (Stanford Career Development Center)

...and a few videos.
How to Interview for a Faculty Position

How to prepare for the campus visit and academic job interview

Tips for the academic interview

Overall strategies for your academic interview

The Academic Interview for Science & Engineering PhDs – Duke University

The Academic Interview for Social Sciences & Humanities – Duke University

Phone (or Skype) Interview

Some institutions will use some kind of distance interview to pare down their list of candidates to the two to four they will bring in for on-campus interviews. These are traditionally done as phone interviews, but are occasionally done now using Skype or another video conferencing program. These interviews may be done with one person, or possibly with many. The chair of the search committee may even call and ask if you have a few minutes to talk right then. (In this case, it is recommended that you attempt to schedule the conversation for a future time so you have some time to prepare.)

A few tips:

  1. Dress as though you are interviewing in person. Comfortable, but professional.
  2. Make sure you are alone and there will be no distractions during the interview. Keep pets out of the room you are using, and get roommates, kids and other family out of the house completely if possible. Disable your call waiting if possible, and use a landline to reduce the chance of dropping the call. If for some reason a cell phone is your only option, let the interviewer(s) know up front and ask for a number to call back if the call gets dropped.
    TIP: You can schedule your phone interview to be at the Career Development Center. You will have a landline available and a quiet, private space to carry out your interview.
  3. Have some water available to sip as necessary, and make sure you’ve had a chance to eat a small snack so you won’t be hungry (distracted) during the interview...or let them hear your stomach growling.
  4. Don’t eat or chew gum…imagine how that might sound over the phone.
  5. Use the restroom before your phone interview is scheduled
  6. When the search committee chair calls to set up the interview, ask if you can get a list of who you will be interviewing with. This may allow you to do some research about your interviewers ahead of time.
  7. Be familiar with your application materials. Review your cover letter, CV and any other application materials you submitted and refer to things in those documents when answering questions. Be ready to answer any questions they might have about what you sent them in those documents.
  8. Review your responses to some commonly asked questions in phone interviews for faculty positions:
    1. Describe your research.
      You should be able to describe your research in three – five minutes. It’s great to not only talk about the research you’ve done, but future research you’d like to do as a post-doc or faculty member.
    2. Tell us about yourself
      Once again, in just a few sentences. It is ok to talk about things that are on your resume like where you went to school, and it’s good to let them know how you got to where you are. Try to keep the topics mostly applicable to the position you’re applying for, although something short and personal can be ok for them to remember you by. For example, “I am a huge football fan and I’ve been keeping track of your “insert team here.” It looks like they’re in for a tough season.” Be genuine.
    3. Why do you want to work at our institution?
      Show them that you’ve done some research about the institution. For example, “I’ve really enjoyed the teaching experience I gained as a graduate student, and would like to work somewhere that places a high value on teaching.” Speak to the size, type and location of the institution, the students, and about the program/department you’re applying to.
    4. For a sample list of questions to prepare for in an academic interview, see
      What You'll be Asked During an Academic Job Interview

      Standard academic interview questions and how to answer them

    5. DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS FOR US?
      Your response should always be yes or it seems like you don’t care and/or haven’t done your research. Ask to learn more about a specific lab on campus, or about the type of teaching or research support available to faculty on campus. For some questions that you can ask, please go to:

    6. What to Ask During an Academic Job Interview
      Asking the Right Questions
      Good questions for you to ask in your academic interview

Practice, practice, practice. Make sure you recite the responses to these questions out loud to see how they sound. Practice in front of friends, have your advisor ask you questions and rate your responses, sign up for a Mock Interview at the Career Development Center and see if you can do it over the phone or through Skype. It’s better to be over prepared than under. You’ll feel more ready, and more confident. It will show.

Notes on interviewing through Skype or another video conferencing method:

  1. Look at what’s behind you. Keep it simple and not cluttered. See what they will be seeing.
  2. See what you look like in your suit, hair, makeup on the camera.
  3. Same goes for noise and privacy as with a phone interview.
  4. Be aware of where you’re looking. To “make eye contact” with the people interviewing you, remember that you’ll need to look directly at your camera, not necessarily at their images.

More links on the “Dreaded” Phone Interview:
The Dreaded Phone Interview

The On-Campus Interview

The on-campus interview can be an intense experience. It can last anywhere from one to three days; you may be traveling a great distance to get there and you have to be in full interview mode for the whole time. Doing your research and being prepared can make this experience go much more smoothly and be more enjoyable. Always remember…you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you.

Some good general advice about job interviews:
Show Them You Really Want the Job

Preparation

In preparing your materials, you should have already done some research about the institution you’re applying to; and now, you get to do even more to impress them. Now is the time to do more in-depth research about the department you’re applying to, the structure of the campus administration, the faculty in your department, courses taught, research being done, etc. At some point, you will receive a schedule of your visit (sometimes later in the process than you would like), and it should provide you with a list of people you will be meeting with during your visit. Learn a little about each of these people, their research, where they went to school, where they publish their work, what conferences they attend, what professional societies they’re members of, etc. You can get most of this information from their websites and/or CV if it’s available.

You also will most likely be giving at least one presentation, and maybe two. Some programs will want you to give a research presentation as well as a “teaching” presentation or lecture in a specific class. If you are putting together a presentation(s), it’s important to ask a few questions.

  1. How much time will I have for my presentation(s)?
  2. If giving a teaching presentation, what class will you be presenting in? (Course, level of students, information about your audience).
  3. Will you want to give hand outs to the students, lead an exercise? How many will you need to bring?
  4. What type of room is this? Will you have a white board or chalk board to write on? Can you get to the room early to prep and get set up?
  5. Do you need to bring a laptop? Can you bring your presentation on a flashdrive?
  6. Is there an internet connection in the room I’m presenting in? If you’ll be clicking on a link to show the audience a specific website, you’ll need to have an internet connection to make this possible.

You’ll want to run through your presentation on their computer and check for compatibility issues. If you’re going to show a video or audio clip in your powerpoint, you may also want to bring a backup of the file that you can open if it doesn’t work correctly.

Also read through the advice listed in the “Phone Interview” section. Much of it applies here as well. Review the list of questions you may be asked...

What You'll be Asked During an Academic Job Interview

Standard academic interview questions and how to answer them

...and questions to ask them

What to Ask During an Academic Job Interview

Asking the Right Questions

Good questions for you to ask in your academic interview

Basic Interview Schedule

Day 1: Arrive on campus or at local airport, dinner

Your interview starts the second someone picks you up at the airport. Usually you arrive late morning/early afternoon and check into your hotel. Generally you’ll have a little time to settle in at the hotel, freshen up, and then you will go to dinner with a few members of the department or search committee. Go back to your room, relax, grab a snack, go to bed. You have a big day ahead.

Day 2: First full interview day

Someone will probably pick you up at your hotel around 8:00am or so. Be ready. Get up early and grab some breakfast in advance. Be waiting for them in the lobby. At this time you may get a brief tour of the campus and then the meetings start. During your interview you’ll traditionally meet with: members of the search committee, other members of the department, various administrators, members of other departments you might work with, grad students, undergrad students, and someone from human resources to tell you about benefits. If you’re giving a presentation, you might do this today, or if you’re giving multiple presentations, you’ll likely give one today and one tomorrow. You’ll have lunch with some people and probably go out to dinner again with some other people. Plan for your day to end at 8:00pm or later.

Day 3: Second full day (or maybe half day)

Again, someone will pick you up, although you might have to check out at this point. Lucky you, you’ll get to take your luggage to campus with you, although you’ll likely leave it in someone’s office when you get there. Prepare for that. Maybe you’ll be giving your research presentation today in a departmental seminar in the afternoon. You’ll meet with anyone you didn’t get to meet with on Day 2. After your day is through (hopefully not as late as Day 2), someone will take you to the airport. You will get there and feel wiped out, but relieved that you’re finished…now on to thank you's.

Here are a few examples of sample itineraries for campus visits:

Sample Itinerary 1
Sample Itinerary 2