Potential Interview Questions for Positions in Academia

Typical questions you can expect to answer when interviewing for academic teaching and research positions. Expect to answer 4-6 questions for a 20-30 minute screening interview.


  • What about the job description attracted you to this position?   OR   Why are you interested in working at our campus? --- Note: They are trying to discover “fit” and possibly if you are serious about a big move.
  • What is the difference between a liberal arts college and a research university?   OR   Why a liberal arts college?   OR   Why a state college?  Are you comfortable with our campus’ mission? --- Note: This may come from a college with religious affiliation and may include the expectation that you will participate in campus worship. It is illegal to specifically ask about religious affiliation in a job interview. Be sure to research expectations before you apply and be prepared to answer this question honestly.
  • What can you tell us about yourself that stands out from other candidates?
  • Will you take the job if it is offered to you?
  • How have you contributed to service in your department or the discipline?
  • What questions do you have about our campus?

On teaching

  • What is your teaching philosophy?  OR   Briefly outline your teaching philosophy and its application to teaching an introductory course entitled, “XX”.
  • How would you handle an increasingly diverse student population?    OR    What will you do to encourage participation and diversity at our school?   OR   We are very proud of our success in fostering diversity with the field; X campus represents a very diverse community and fostering diversity is very important to us as a group. What have you done to foster diversity and how would you do that here at XX campus?
  • What things have you done to “capture” student’s attention in the classroom?   OR   What things would you do to inspire students in XX class at our institution?    OR    How do you inspire students in XX discipline?
  • Of the classes you are interested in teaching here, how do you see them interacting and supporting classes from other areas within your own discipline?  How about classes from outside your discipline?
  • What courses are you prepared (feel confident/enthusiastic) to immediately teach at our campus?   AND/OR   What course would you be interested in developing over a longer period?   AND/OR   Which of our courses would you prefer NOT to teach?
  • Are you willing (confident) in organizing lab classes? 
  • How would you structure an outreach program? 
  • How would you teach XX specific class at our campus?   
  • Give us an example of both the WORST (BEST) experience you have had when teaching?   OR  What is the biggest challenge you have had as a teacher and how did you deal with it?

On research

  • How would you balance research with the demands of teaching?
  • How would you incorporate undergraduates (graduates, postdocs) into your research?
  • How would you characterize your research?   OR   What is your dissertation about?  OR   Where do you see your research going from here?   OR   What contribution does your research make to the discipline?
  • What research would you anticipate doing here at our campus?  OR   We read your piece on X, we would like to know more about your research plans specific to our campus.   OR   How does your research fit in with our current faculties’ research?
  • How would you go about and where would you anticipating finding funding for your research?   OR   Where do you see yourself applying for grants?
  • How much financial support do you need for your research?   OR   What kind of equipment and space would you need for your research?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of XX research methodology (e.g., survey research). ---Note: expect discipline specific, methodological or substantive research questions!
  • Can you tell me more about XX? (Where XX is my specific research area and the faculty member asking is from a different subfield or field and doesn’t know much about it.)

You may also be asked questions which are inappropriate, even illegal.  You can gracefully decline to answer or answer as you see fit. Some questions might be:

  • Do you have a partner? And, what do they do?   OR   Are they in the same field as you?
  • Do you have children?    OR   Do you expect to have children?