Interviewing for a Faculty Position
By Helen K. Ezell (adapted for the Web from
Guide to Success in Doctoral Study and Faculty Work
An Overview of the Faculty Interview
When you apply for an academic position, you may expect a
different sort of interview than when you apply for a job in a
private clinic, hospital, or school setting.
Most universities use a search committee. This is a group of faculty and selected student
representatives from the hiring department who have been charged
with structuring and coordinating the interview process and
recommending one or more candidates for the position.
- When you send your letters of recommendation, curriculum
vita (known as a CV), and letter of interest, the search
committee reviews your credentials first.
- the committee will examine your documents, contact you or
those cited as your references for further information if
necessary, and then rank all applicants based on the
The pool of applicants is ranked. Some individuals will be selected for a campus
interview, some may be placed "on hold," and some may
be considered unsuitable and removed from consideration.
- The number of those selected for interviews will vary
according to the strength of the applicants' credentials,
the financial resources available from the university to
support applicants' travel, and the time available for
- Often three to five individuals are invited to interview.
At this point all faculty who are not on the search committee
are encouraged to review the credentials of those invited for a
Interviews are completed. Faculty share their opinions about the candidates in
a group meeting.
- Following this discussion, a faculty vote is conducted to
determine the top candidate.
- An offer of employment is usually presented by the
department director to the person selected by the faculty,
followed by a letter of offer sent by the Dean of the
In the event that none of the applicants interviewed is
given an offer of employment or if no such offers are accepted,
the search committee may re-examine the "on hold"
applicants for other possible interviewees. Eventually, if no
candidate is found or none of the offers of employment have been
accepted, a search may be closed and possibly re-opened the next
When you arrive on campus for an interview, you may be given a
schedule or proposed agenda that will be followed during your
visit, which is usually one to three days in length. Your visit
will consist of several components:
- one-to-one interviews with selected individuals
- small group interviews with faculty
- group interviews or informal meetings with students
- a professional presentation to faculty and students
- social events for getting acquainted
- a tour of the campus and surrounding community
In all interview meetings, you may be asked about your prior
experience, research interests, professional goals, and opinions
or viewpoints on professional issues. In short, you may be asked
just about anything so long as it is relevant to this
Professional presentation. When interviewing for an academic position, a common
requirement is for the applicant to conduct a professional
- You may be asked to speak on a particular topic or on a
topic of your choice. Usually a one-hour presentation is
expected, with time allowed for questions.
- It is important to spend considerable time preparing this
presentation in regard to your delivery, pacing, visual
materials (including a handÂout), and answers to anticipated
questions because this aspect of the interview process weighs
heavily in the decision-making process for most faculty.
How to Prepare for the Interview
Learn about each department where you plan to
interview. You can obtain such information from the university's
and the department's Web site. Checking journals for
recent faculty publications will give you knowledge about the
research being produced in the department. Also, you can
ask your colleagues what they know about the program or the
faculty who work there.
- Coming to an interview informed about the program and its
faculty really does make an impact. You will make a more
favorable impression because you took the time to learn about
- Having advance knowledge allows you to ask more in-depth
questions, rather than using questions to simply gather the
facts. So instead of asking, "How many students do you
have enrolled in your master's program?" you could
ask, "I understand your master's program has only 15
students this year. Do you anticipate a larger class next
Prepare a research presentation.
It is recommended that you spend your greatest effort on this
aspect of the interview. Very few individuals will receive an
offer of employment when they come ill-prepared to speak because
doing so leaves faculty with two general impressions. First, they
consider that you might not care enough about the interview to
prepare for it; or second, that you are always ill-prepared. You
do not wish to leave either of these impressions, even if
you decide that this position is not for you.
Prepare your presentation just as you would for any
- Outline your topic and decide what information can be
covered in the time period allotted.
- Develop your notes and slides or overhead
- Create a handout for the audience to follow along, and
consider including a glossary of terms in your handout if you
will be covering a topic unfamiliar to most listeners.
- Practice your presentation with your visual materials and
notes so you can master your pacing, volume, emphasis, and
- Be sure your presentation expresses your interest and
enthusiasm in the topic.
Prepare answers to questions you may be asked. You can anticipate that questions will seek
information about your current research, teaching experience,
work history, professional activities and associations, and your
attitudes and beliefs. Some examples of
possible questions include the following:
- Describe your current line of research and explain its
clinical relevance. What aspects of your research are
- What do you believe is a researcher's obligation for
dissemination of results?
- What experience and success have you had in acquiring
research grant support?
- What research equipment, personnel, and supply requirements
do you have?
- Describe the courses you have taught by summarizing the
course content and assignments required.
- Explain how you grade students' written work. How
have you handled conflicts with students over grades and
- How would you handle an episode of academic
- Define "integrity" and explain at least two ways
that you have demonstrated this trait in your research and
- How have your prior jobs contributed to your professional
skills and attitude?
- Why are you interested in a position at this
- What strengths and expertise will you contribute to our
- In what ways do you feel you can lend support to your
- List three areas of weakness that you wish to improve
- How will you be a role model for our students? In
your opinion, what personal and professional traits are
desirable for mentoring students?
Prepare answers to questions that might be raised during
- Come prepared with additional overheads to explain points
that may have been omitted due to time constraints. Often these
can be useful or relevant to questions that are posed.
- If questions request clarification about something that you
covered, consider a different way to explain the concept rather
than simply repeating exactly what was said before. Remember,
your audience is evaluating your clarity of explanation and
your approach to instruction. An excellent communicator is able
to make even complex concepts clear to the lay listener.
Prepare questions to ask faculty, students, and
department director. It would be beneficial to list questions that you would
like to ask in advance of your scheduled interviews.
- If you interview for positions at several universities,
asking the same questions will allow you to compare the
positions more easily.
- When you have a list prepared in advance, you need not rely
on your memory during the interview.
There are two important aspects about questions that you
intend to raise in your interview.
- The first involves the
of the question. Content should be focused on the job
expectations, the support systems available, and salary
and benefits. Avoid asking trivial questions such as when you
are expected to arrive for work each morning or whether there
is a dress code for faculty.
you ask your question is the second important aspect. Your
wording of the question and your tone of voice are very
important. For example, a common question asked by interviewees
involves the teaching load. Asking "How many courses am I
expected to teach each term?" may give the impression that
you are not interested in teaching or may wish to teach the
fewest courses possible because of the phrase "am I
expected." Instead, it might be preferable to ask,
"Could we go over the courses that your department offers
and your current teaching needs?"
You will wish to designate different questions to be asked of
colleagues, students, and administrators as it is unlikely that
you would address all questions to each audience.
- Colleagues will be able to give you general information
about how the department works, such as number of faculty
meetings, committee responsibilities, and undergraduate and
- Students will provide good information about their concerns
regarding clinical supervision, coursework demands, extent of
mentoring, and how student/faculty disputes are resolved.
- Administrative personnel will be able to address questions
about contract negotiation, teaching and research expectations,
tenure and promotion, and consulting options.
A few recommendations about speaking with your future
- It is not good form to begin a conversation with faculty by
asking what research they do. If you come to the interview
prepared, you should already know this. When you come to
the interview with prior knowledge, you can ask faculty more
specific questions about their research methodology or
- Ask some of your questions of more than one person to
check for varying opinions on a particular topic. For example,
universities vary widely in their travel support policies for
faculty to attend conferences. Asking a question on this topic
to several faculty as well as the director may give you several
different perspectives on this matter.
Be aware that faculty may skirt sensitive topics so as not to
explicitly point out disadvantages of the position. For example,
faculty may be dissatisfied with their new leadership, but they
may not wish to give an unfavorable opinion in this regard. If
you sense such a situation, listen closely but avoid putting the
individual on the spot with further questioning. Most important -
keep the concern to yourself.
Information to Share
Come to an interview prepared to share information about
yourself that will help everyone get to know and remember you
better. Here are a few suggestions of what to bring along:
Bring extra copies of your vita and recent
publications. Although you may have supplied a copy of your vita when
you applied for the position, never assume that everyone has
reviewed it prior to your arrival.
- Be sure that the vita you bring is up-to-date and includes
a current mailing address, telephone number, and e-mail
- Along with your vita, it is recommended that you bring
copies of your recent publications. This is suggested for at
least two reasons. First, you may wish to use them as a
resource for your own purposes. Sometimes a question is raised
in the interview about a reference or research method that you
would have difficulty answering without referring to the
article. You may also provide copies of your articles to
faculty or students who would like further reading about your
research. These may be offered either at the end of your
research presentation or at other times during the
Bring copies of your course syllabi and teaching
evaluations. If you have done any college teaching, it may be to your
advantage to highlight this experience.
- Faculty in many departments feel that teaching experience
is important even though they may not express this outright.
Thus, all things being equal, they may prefer to hire an
individual who has classroom experience over another who has
- When showing these items to faculty or administrators
during the interview, you may simply mention the courses that
you have taught and say that you have brought the syllabi and
teaching evaluations if anyone cares to see them.
Prepare a list of your research needs. You can expect to be asked what equipment, space,
supplies, and manpower you will need to establish your research
program, so it is wise to bring a detailed list along with you to
- Coming without a list or having very little idea of what
you will need may give the appearance of being unprepared or
lacking a research focus.
- It may be surprising to you that considerable start-up
funds are available to new faculty. Most universities expect
that they will need to provide some support to help you get
your research under way.
- The time to negotiate this support is when you are hired,
because such support may not be available in subsequent
years. If no one brings up the topic, then it is
recommended that you raise the issue.
Information to Obtain
Keep in mind that each interview is a two-way process: the
university is evaluating you for the position, and you are
determining whether the position is right for you. Thus, it is
suggested that you request information that may be valuable in
learning more about the position.
Promotion and tenure guidelines.
Request a copy of the written instructions and/or guidelines for
Promotion and Tenure Review during your interview.
- These will be the instructions that you will follow when
preparing your promotion and tenure dossier.
- If you are told that the guidelines are currently under
review and being updated, do not be alarmed as most
universities do this routinely. They should be able to provide
you with a copy of the version being reviewed. This will give
you a reasonable idea of their process even though changes may
- Be sure to ask which faculty member chairs this review
committee so that you may direct your specific questions to
that person during your interview.
Institutional Review Board (IRB)
Each university will have an Institutional Review Board through
which all research must be approved.
- Request an application packet that includes a description
of the various types of review, upcoming Board meetings and/or
- Ask if any faculty in the department currently serve on
this Board. If so, you may wish to discuss the IRB process in
greater detail with that individual.
Internal funding options.
Many universities sponsor internal grant competitions for faculty
- The number of such awards and amount of funding will vary
from university to university.
- The purpose of such awards is often to provide initial
start-up funding for new projects that show significant
potential for future external funding. Almost always, these
awards are competitive.
- Be sure to ask about such research awards and obtain
information that provides eligibility criteria and submission
deadlines. Ask how many such awards have been granted to
faculty in the department in the past 5 years.
Examples of course syllabi of classes you will be asked
Once you have determined the courses that you are expected to
teach, request a copy of the syllabus for each.
- This will provide you with considerable information about
the course content and level of detail, assignments given,
required reading, and the grading scale.
- Talking with the current instructor will be important as
- It may be helpful to have a university catalog that
provides course descriptions for each class offered. This will
allow you to view the curriculum as a whole and to see how
courses are sequenced.
- If you are being asked to design a new course, a syllabus
will not be available. In that case you may ask what
documentation and procedures will be required for getting a new
course approved by the university.
Having a list of committee assignments will give you an idea of
the amount of committee work that may be expected of you at the
department, college, and university levels.
- It will also provide you with an opportunity to view how
the department is organized and which faculty are in key
- It is appropriate to ask what each committee handles and if
particular committee assignments may be requested.
Faculty are often expected to participate in student advising. At
some universities this may be handled by only a few faculty or
more experienced students. However, advising in other departments
is a major commitment for all faculty.
- If advising guidelines are available, it may be helpful to
see this information. Such a policy is likely to reflect a
department's attitude toward students and their guidance in
- This may provide you with an additional perspective on this
issue that might confirm or refute oral reports you receive
from faculty, administration, and the students themselves.
If your job responsibilities include clinical supervision, you
will want to obtain a handbook of clinic policies and procedures
from the clinic coordinator. This will provide important
information about intervention guidelines or philosophy,
reporting client progress, and community referral resources.
Benefits package from Human Resources.
The university's Human Resources department will be the best
authority on employee benefits that will be available to you.
- If you do not have an opportunity to meet with a Human
Resources expert during your interview, be sure to get a name
and telephone number of someone you might talk with when you
- Request that information be sent to you so you can look
over your options carefully before accepting an offer of
Evaluation of the Position, Its Opportunities, and Its Disadvantages
When evaluating a position, the first question to ask yourself
is whether a "good fit" exists between you and the
prospective department. This is not an easy determination to make
because it involves judgments about your own strengths and needs
and those of your future colleagues, as well as departmental
requirements and resources.
Ideally, your strengths will be useful to the department and
your needs will be fulfilled through collaboration with
colleagues and on-the-job learning. However, sometimes the
departmental needs are such that they do not match well with your
areas of strength. Generally speaking, the better the fit, the
faster you will succeed in the position.
When you determine that you and your prospective department
are a good fit professionally, consider the goodness of fit on a
- During your discussions and social interactions with these
individuals, do you feel a level of compatibility?
- Do you share similar interests and values?
- Do you find it easy to relate to several people on the
faculty or only one person? Even if you do not collaborate with
some faculty on a day-to-day basis, you will be working with
these people on committees, making decisions with them in
faculty meetings, and attending departmental functions with
- Overall, you will find your work to be much more enjoyable
and fulfilling when you both like your colleagues as people and
respect them as professionals.
When evaluating each position, consider the opportunities that
are evident for each one.
- Ask yourself what personal and professional opportunities
will be available to you immediately and over time.
- Even though many opportunities may be obvious in one
position, keep in mind that you may make your own opportunities
more easily in another.
Disadvantages. Each position has disadvantages that may or may not be
evident during your interview.
- Assessing disadvantages is difficult because sometimes
their level of importance is not always evident until you begin
- Some disadvantages are minor and may even disappear
quickly. Others are significant and may be long lasting.
- Because of the elusive nature of accurately perceiving
disadvantages, probably the best you can do is to make a
relative comparison of the apparent disadvantages of each
position for which you have interviewed.
- Listing these under the headings of "major" and
"minor," you may be able to evaluate the drawbacks of
each position in comparison with one another.
Negotiation for the Job
Even before an offer of employment is made to you, negotiation is
taking place. For example, during the interview, decisions
are being made about what resources will be needed in order to
successfully recruit you for the position. Thus, you may find
that many of the items or resources that you require will be
included in your employment offer.
Rarely is the first offer a firm one with no room for change.
It is up to you to decide if the offer is fair, reasonable, and
workable for you. If something is unsatisfactory, then a counter
proposal from you would be appropriate.
Generally, negotiation is centered in three major areas:
Salary and academic rank.
Requests for an increase in salary may be successful if it is
perceived as reasonable by administration.
- If you find that the salary being offered cannot be
negotiated, then you might inquire about other benefits that
might have financial rewards for you, such as summer teaching
opportunities are available to supplement your salary,time
for outside private consulting, support for
conference travel, or coverage of professional membership
- If academic rank is negotiable, it is usually based on your
prior work as a PhD in another academic setting. If your prior
work experience is clinical, then it is less likely that rank
would be increased from the entry level of Assistant
- Before you begin negotiating an Associate Professor rank,
be sure to understand how this may affect your tenure
timetable. The tenure time period for associate professors may
be shorter than it is for assistant professors. If you
decide to negotiate academic rank, be certain that you
understand and agree to this timetable.
This includes not only the courses to be taught, but the number
of courses per term.
- Although specifics about teaching may not be detailed in a
contract, it should be clear to you what you will be expected
to teach in your first year at the very least.
- When discussing your teaching responsibilities, also ask
about course release time for research, keeping in mind that
release during the second or third term may be of greater
benefit to you than having it occur during your first
Items related to your research program.
These include laboratory space, computer hardware and software,
research equipment, start-up funds, and so forth. As mentioned
earlier, often the best time to get assistance with your research
is when you are hired, so don't overlook your start-up needs.
Be certain to review the list of items to be provided to you
along with a timetable for acquisition, if possible.
This information is adapted from
Guide to Success in Doctoral Study and Faculty Work
(2002), by Helen K. Ezell. The complete guide is
available for purchase from ASHA's