Academia Interview Preparation Resource

(by Julia Aguirre, 8/16/01)

This document is a synthesis of different responses shared by graduate students and faculty in various fields of education. The document is a work in progress. Please feel free to update it and/or revise it to suit your needs. Also, remember that all things included in this document are based on different experiences of different people. Some of these things may not apply to everyone or every situation. The best of luck and success in your current and future job searches.

Preparation for Interview

The chair of the search committee will contact you about travel arrangements and of your schedule. It is customary for you to meet with faculty in the department, for you to present a colloquium(ia) , and for you to meet with a Dean or Vice President of the University. Find out who else is on the search committee.

The Job Talk

You will be asked to give a "job talk" or "colloquium." The purpose of your colloquium is NOT TO IMPRESS THEM WITH YOUR RESEARCH! The search committee is already impressed with your research record. That is why they have invited you for an interview. The purpose of the colloquium is to provide the DEPARTMENT a sense of who you are, the scope of your work, and to some extent an indication of your teaching. Don’t make the mistake of creating a talk that is too technical. Be sure that you can speak to someone who is not an expert in your field, and that you give introductory words on how your research fits into the “big picture”.

The Teaching Colloquium

You also may be asked to do a "teaching" colloquium, which specifically provides evidence of your teaching commitment and competency. Universities are continually under pressure to improve their instruction. Some universities are thinking about Lee Shulman and the Carnegie Institute's focus on the Scholarship of Teaching. Gone are the days of the impeccable researcher who has to have his/her arm twisted to teach a class.

The potential for stellar scholarship may not be all the committee and department are looking for in your interview. Several scholars have pointed out, that good teaching may not get you tenure, but bad teaching will prevent you from getting tenure. Be sure to check if you have the choice of what you can present, or are specific criteria (like an existing course) that you may have to prepare something for.

Other Talk Preparation

PRACTICE YOUR TALK (Several times). Make sure you do this before an audience that will be critical of potential flaws, rather than a friendly audience that will not tell you where you made mistakes. Also, invite people not in your area/field for the mock talks.

WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE? Ask the search committee chair who your audience will be, and what material they would like you to bring along. Be sure to bring copies of your vita, and preprints or reprints of your work to hand out to faculty members who may request it during the course of your interview.

Try to ask the committee chair more about the position, and the composition of the committee. It is important to identify the type of person they are looking for, and to see how you compare to their ideal candidate.


Think About Logistics

TRAVEL: Plan, if possible, to arrive a day before your interview so you will have time to relax, prepare yourself for the interview, and to have a cushion in case there are any travel delays.

DRESS: Be sure to dress professionally. I would recommend a suit or sports jacket with a tie for men, and a suit or professional looking dress for women.

BACK UP: Always, always, always, have a back-up plan if technology or something breaks down. For example, power point presentations should have transparency version back up.

Other Preparation

RESEARCH YOUR POTENTIAL COLLEAGUES AND THE DEPARTMENT PROGRAMS. Websites are very helpful. Find out what the fields of interests and current projects of department faculty. Think about potential collaborations. Find out the existing courses offered (and that you might want to teach) and what courses you might bring to the program. Some universities may want you to teach undergraduate, graduate, and credential courses.

How does your research overlap with that search committee member's? Ask if they have considered asking my research questions in their area of interest?

Talk about overlaps with other department faculty members/programs. Prepare ideas to talk about & discuss

What areas in their job description are not strengths in your vita?

The Interview

YOU ARE "ON" FOR 48 HOURS. Listen carefully and keep emotions in check. During the interview try to remain neutral AND friendly. Don’t express extreme dissatisfaction.


Often there are several meetings scheduled during your interview: with the committee, administrators (deans), students, and individual faculty members. Some of these meetings feel very "formal" or "informal." BUT, they are all part of the interview process. The committee already knows about your background on paper. They want to find out more about your personality, your professional opinions regarding issues in your research, and your concerns about education. Other activities (meetings, dinners) are also opportunities to the faculty, staff, and students to get to know you and vice versa.

Do not assume that everyone on the committee has read your vitae and publications closely or recently. And, it is likely that the department has not read anything, so their impressions of you are from your interactions during the talk and meetings.

Find Out About the Department

Is this a place you can envision yourself working in for several years? This is your chance to find out. Ask questions about the position: the success of previous Assistant Professors in securing tenure, mentorship process for junior faculty, collaboration among the faculty, future directions of the department, priorities of the department and of the institution.

Be sure to meet with faculty that are most similar to you such as junior faculty, faculty of color or women faculty members to get their impressions of the department/university and professional support. Think carefully about discussing "sensitive" subjects like balancing family and work or potentials of conflicting demands and over extension of commitments because of role as a faculty of color or woman faculty member.


This is an important issue. And, should be discussed at some point during the interview. If you can, research the salaries of starting professors at that institution. Some salary scales are of public record. Have a ball park figure in mind. And, see if possibilities exist to start at different “steps” depending on experience. You may have to make a case for higher salary, if offered a position. If it is not, there are ways to ask about it in an appropriate and indirect manner. It is worthwhile to ask about tenure and promotion criteria and the departmental record, fringe benefits (such as sabbatical leaves), internal research support, teaching loads, external support -- “buy-out” of courses etc.

Post Interview

Return your expense vouchers and receipts in a timely fashion to get reimbursed for your trip.

WRITE A THANK YOU LETTER FOR THE INTERVIEW. Let the committee know whether or not you are still interested in the position. Mention parts of the interview that you enjoyed. Do not make judgmental or critical statements regarding your assessment of the department.

Interview Questions You May Be Asked

All questions were generated from various job search candidates' experiences. Help them see you as collegial, stimulating, as a person who knows who s/he is and will continue to do strong research. Be confident. Don’t be humble. Be flexible. Know the school.

Your Research

Your Teaching

Potential Fit with Department

Opinions on Educational Issues

ILLEGAL Questions

These shouldn’t be asked of you, but they may be. Here is some advice on how to respond to them.

Even though these questions are illegal, use caution in how you answer them. You may piss off an interviewer by pointing by deflecting the question or asking about its relevance to the interview, which may result in an unfavorable recommendation. It is a tricky situation. Listen carefully and think hard before you answer them.

Questions You Might Ask At The Interview

The Position

Department Fit and Expectations



Committee Work

The Department Program

For Grad Students