Screening Interview Preparation for Positions in Academia

Search committees are increasingly using phone/video pre-screening interviews in addition to the campus interview to narrow the pool of candidates that usually last 20-30 minutes.

Tips and Suggestions when Preparing

Interview space: Find a quiet space without distractions. If you have a video interview, be sure to have a professional background and a table to spread out materials you want to refer to easily and quickly.  Think about taping documents with a large font (e.g., resume, list of skills, classes you would want to teach, list of those interviewing you) to the wall behind your computer (at eye level) for quick reference, if needed.

Computer/technology: Make sure you have access to the appropriate software (Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, WebX, Google Hangout, Team, Blackboard Collaborate, etc.). Pre-test your equipment, software, and account settings to ensure that everything works.  

Phone: Make sure that you are in a place with sufficient reception. Consider wearing a headset.

Video preparation: Dress professionally for an interview, even if they can't see you. It helps you mentally prepare. Don’t pace back and forth. Limit hand gestures and movements. Don’t rustle papers. Ensure the camera is level, lighting is even, and the screen captures your entire face and shoulders. Ensure the background is not messy and content on walls is appropriate. Smile. Look at the webcam at times to simulate eye contact.

Mental preparation: Realize you may not get the critical facial cues we use for communicating, which means being extra sensitive to verbal cues. Preparing answers in advance with specific examples that are brief is key. Each answer should be short (not too short) and to the point. Start with results and accomplishments first. You can also use verbal cues such as “I can answer that in 2 ways…” to alert the listeners to how many points you will be making. If you don’t they may cut you off before you have finished. Be brief! 2-3 minutes per question is adequate.

Resources to Help You Prepare

If an interview room is available, graduate students and postdocs can reserve a space on the 3rd floor of South Hall at the Internship and Career Center; contact Bethany Hopkins (  Paused for 2020-21 due to COVID-19.

Schedule an appointment for a practice (mock) interview with a career advisor at the Internship and Career Center.