Despite the pandemic, many institutions are moving forward with their faculty hiring, and selected candidates are now preparing for their interviews in earnest. If you’re one of those candidates, congratulations on making it to the next round!

As you polish your seminar presentation and anticipate questions that may get thrown at you, make sure you also have a list of questions for your interviewers—from the department head to the faculty to the students you may interact with—even if it’s over Zoom. A faculty position is not just a job; it’s a career decision, a multi-year-long investment (from you and the university) that hopefully leads to tenure and lifelong contributions to research and the community.

What questions you bring to the table will vary based on your values, priorities, and individual experiences. Below is the master list of questions that Prof. Mike Short (a 2nd-year research scientist at the time) created when he was interviewing at multiple institutions. He shares it here in the spirit of transparency and open mentorship. You may adapt these questions to your own needs and circumstances.

Good luck!

To the department chairperson

  1. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the department? The institution?
  2. Is the administration supportive of the department and its program? How does that support manifest itself?
  3. What are the immediate needs of the department(s)?
  4. How do you see me fitting into those needs?
  5. Where do you see this department five years from now?
  6. What are the relationships like among the various departments in the college/university?
  7. How are departmental decisions that affect the faculty made?
  8. What behaviors are valued in this department?
  9. What are the procedures for promotion and tenure?
  10. What kinds of monies are available to cover professional convention expenses?
  11. What other resources are available, such as research assistants, teaching assistants, computer services, research space, and administrative assistance?

To the college dean

  1. How do you perceive the department in relationship to other departments in the college/university?
  2. How do you perceive the college in relationship to other colleges in the university?
  3. Five years from now, where would you like to see the college? The department?
  4. What are the strongest departments on campus? The “up and coming” departments? What do they do particularly well?
  5. At a publicly-funded institution: What is the legislative atmosphere in the state regarding funding for higher education?
  6. How does this state compare with other states in terms of funding for higher education?

To the search committee

  1. Where is the committee in the job selection process?
  2. How many people are you bringing to campus?
  3. What is your timetable for making a decision?
  4. When can I expect to hear from you?
  5. How did this position become open?
  6. Who was in this position previously? Why did they leave? What did this previous person do well in their job? What do you wish he/she had done differently?
  7. What does the work load consist of in terms of courses, advisees, etc.?

To the department faculty

  1. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the program?
  2. How do you evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the program?
  3. What are the challenges currently facing the department or program?
  4. How would you describe the ideal candidate for this position?
  5. What kind of research is being done within the program? Within the department?
  6. Do you do collaborative research with other faculty members, either in this department or in other departments?
  7. What is the expected course load? Number of advisees?
  8. What are the students in the program like? How are they selected/recruited?
  9. What have your graduates gone on to do?
  10. What is the history of the program? The anticipated future direction of the program?
  11. What do you like best about working here?
  12. What are the areas of conflict in the department?
  13. How is the conflict handled?
  14. How would you describe [name] as a department chair?
  15. For how long is he/she going to continue to be chair?
  16. What will happen after that?
  17. What are the support services like (e.g., secretarial assistance, teaching and research assistants, travel monies, field trip logistics)?
  18. What do you do for enjoyment?

To the students

  1. What are the strengths of the program here?
  2. What do you wish for, that you don’t have, as a student in this department?
  3. What are your professional goals? After graduation? In five years?
  4. If you know some recent graduates, what are they doing now?
  5. Who amongst the faculty do you think does a great job?
  6. What do they do particularly well?
  7. Especially for graduate students, or some highly competitive undergraduates: How many of you have published an article in a professional journal? Presented at a national convention? Belong to national professional organizations?
  8. How frequently do you socialize with faculty? With other students in the program?
  9. Is the program atmosphere conducive to your learning and development?
  10. Would you recommend it to a friend?
  11. If I were a good friend of yours, what would you tell me that I might not ordinarily find out about this place?

Published January 8, 2021

Related articles:

Over the years, the Comm Lab has spent over 100 hours helping clients with their faculty applications. If you would like customized feedback on your documents, schedule a time to speak with one of us.