On Campus Interview Questions

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Burning questions
photo credit: Attacking Difficult Questions via photopin (license)

Job market season is here! If you haven’t already checked out the Ultimate Job Market Guide or my syllabus for the PhD Job Market Course, now is the time to do it. On that topic, I thought you might all like to see a list of questions I would ask on a campus interview. These questions are geared towards a research intensive university, but could be used for all kinds of institutions.

I have divided the questions up into sections, but you might want to ask multiple people some of the questions to get a sense of how much consensus there is around topics. Also, don’t forget, for everyone (including graduate students, faculty, and administrators) you meet – do your homework!!

Finally, you might not understand why to ask some of these questions. If you have questions about this list, ask your advisor or other trusted mentor about the question. Hopefully, they will explain some of the nuances and motivations behind it.

For interdisciplinary departments
1. Where do you see someone in this position publishing?

Department Chair questions/Questions about the department
2. How does departmental governance work? Is there an executive committee?
3. What sort of things are brought to the faculty for consideration? For example, in a faculty meeting.
4. How often does the faculty meet?

5. Are there departmental bylaws?
6. What kinds of funds are available for travel?
7. What is your vision for the department?
8. What are the department’s research strengths and weaknesses?
9. What are the department’s plans for growth and hiring?
10. What kinds of hires do you expect to make over the next five years?
11. Where do you see the department five years from now?
12. Why did you want to hire someone with interests like mine?
13. What do you consider the strengths and weaknesses of the college and department to be?
14. Which subfields of the department are growing or shrinking?
15. Are there tensions among the subdisciplines?
16. How do you think the department is positioned in the college?
17. How would you describe the department’s culture?
18. What does the department do to promote diversity among the faculty and students? Are students and/or faculty trained in issues surrounding diversity?

Research/Tenure
19. What are your expectations for research productivity?
20. How is the quality of the publication related to the quantity of publications? Are there certain journals that the department wants to see faculty publish in? Is there a list I can see?
21. What is the annual review process like?
22. Is there a methodology center on campus? Where do most students learn methods?
23. Are there site licenses for stat packages, or is that covered by individuals?
24. How are new faculty mentored? Is it a formal or informal program?
25. What is the relative importance of teaching, research, and service for promotion and tenure?
26. What is the average time that faculty spend in each academic rank?
27. Are there criteria for being promoted to associate with tenure?
28. What are the department’s research strengths and weaknesses?
29. How are salary raises computed? What has been the past track record for raises?
30. Who decides tenure and how? What is the tenure process like?
31. Are sabbaticals available? How often?
32. What kinds of service to junior faculty typically do? What is the balance of departmental, college/university, and professional service expected?
33. In terms of advising graduate students, are there specific expectations for tenure – i.e. must graduate a PhD student prior to tenure?
34. When are the big reviews – is there a review at the 4th year that goes to the department, department chair, college, and dean levels?
35. Are books, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries counted for tenure? How do these types of publications compare to peer-reviewed articles?

Grant writing
36. What kind of support is there for grant writing? Are faculty expected to have funding for tenure? Does internal funding count?
37. Do faculty do their own budgets and submit their own grants?
38. What is the availability of seed money for research?
39. How does it work with grants and salary? Are you expected to fund part of your salary from grants?
40. What is the methodological and statistical support available?
41. Are there internal grants for summer support?
42. Are there internal grant programs?
43. How do indirect costs from grants work? How much goes to the college, department, or back to the PI?
44. What is the course buy-out rate? (That is, what percentage of salary is required to buy out of one course?)
45. If the grad students here don’t have the methodological skills that I need, where can I find skilled people to serve as research assistants, or as a methodological consultant on a grant?
46. Can grants be used to supplement summer salary?
47. Does the department or college help cover the costs of funding graduate students on grants?

Teaching
48. What is the teaching load?
49. What are the circumstances under which someone may get a reduced teaching load?
50. Are there many adjunct faculty who teach in the department?
51. What kind of technology is available in the classrooms?
52. Are most classes taught in other buildings on campus or in the main building?
53. Are you looking to fill specific courses?
54. How does the department and university support teaching? Is it thought of as an afterthought or as important?
55. Is there an expectation to teach over the summer?
56. What is the average class size?
57. How is it decided who teaches what? How often do you have new preps?
58. Do most courses have t.a.’s?
59. How do ideas for new courses get processed?
60. What are the teaching expectations for tenure?

Service
61. How much of my job is emphasized on service? At what level?
62. What is the advising load like at the undergraduate and graduate level?
63. Are secretarial services available to the faculty? For instance, help putting together an exam or a grant proposal?
64. What are the standing department committees?

Undergrad students
65. Where do the undergrads go after graduation?
66. How does undergraduate advising work?

Grad students
67. How are grad students supported for the most part?
68. What is the department doing to recruit top grad students?
69. Are there any training grants funding grad students?
70. How does graduate advising work?
71. Is summer salary for grad students or undergrad students available until you have a grant?
72. How are graduate students assigned to advisors?

Personal / benefits
73. Where would my office be?
74. What is the retirement and benefit package? How is it? How much does the school contribute toward retirement?
75. Do most people work over the summer?
76. Does the department have a recent annual report that I could look at?
77. When do you expect to make a decision, or when should I hear something?
78. On what criteria are raises granted, and who decides?
79. What is the culture in the department regarding working on versus off campus?

Overall Advice:
• Smile
• Read local paper morning of interview and review news websites (so that you can make small talk)
• Bring umbrella
• Don’t order messy food
• Say I instead of we when talking about dissertation
• Say these data
• Watch saying um, and um, so um, um so, and so, etcetera, during job talk. Just pause

One thought on “On Campus Interview Questions

  1. Claire: I’d like to suggest an addition to your list. At land-grant universities in particular (such as The OSU), applicants should inquire about the outreach/engagement/Extension responsibilities, opportunities and expectations of faculty — which are quite different than the “service” examples that you list.

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