Interviewing for a Faculty Position

What to expect in an interview for a faculty position

You may be asked to give a job talk about your prior research, a chalk talk about your future research, or a demonstration of your teaching. You will typically talk to many faculty one-on-one about their research, and you may be asked to meet with graduate students. In addition, you will almost always be taken out to dinner with members of the search committee.

That said, there is no such thing as a completely standard job interview. Every department conducts interviews a bit differently, so effective preparation depends on your ability to sleuth out as much info as you can about your hosts’ specific expectations.

Prepare

Overview

These slides offer a brief overview of the components of a faculty interview and what to expect in each of them. More in-depth resources on each of the components are below.

Interview Questions

Job talk

  • Gather information from the department that invited you. For example, who is the anticipated audience and how big might the audience be, how will the room be set up, will you be presenting from your own computer, what time of day is your talk, are there expectations for length of talk vs questions, can you have a 15-30 minute break scheduled prior to your talk to prepare?
  • There are numerous resources written by faculty about how to prepare and deliver a job talk. We've listed some of the best resources below:
  • Watch a video: "How to Give an Effective Job Talk," a workshop offered by the NIH’s Office of Intramural Training & Education (2 hours). Complete listing of videos is found here (scroll down to "Academic Careers").
  • Schedule a practice talk with your lab at least 2-3 weeks before the interview. Leave adequate time to incorporate significant feedback you may receive.
  • Practice your talk with researchers who are outside your discipline, since it is critical that your work be easily understood by all members of the search committee and department. The audience you present to may be from a mix of fields.
  • Avoid temptation. In the lead-up to a campus interview, it can be tempting to spend all your time obtaining that last piece of dazzling data to put in your formal job talk. But don’t neglect the other facets of your preparation, described below.

Chalk talk

Teaching demonstration, if requested

  • Read this handout explaining Teaching Demos, from the University of Washington’s Career Center.

Interviewing online

If your interview will be online, there are a number of things you can do to prepare.

  • Read How Do I Stand Out During a Video Interview? (Career Tip by OCPD's Sara Ayazi)
  • Read Interviewing by Video (7-step checklist)
  • Watch the recording of Interviewing for Faculty Positions During COVID-19. In this panel discussion, UCSF alums who received faculty job offers in the 2019-2020 job cycle share their experiences with interviewing online.


    Do your homework

    Learn all you can about the department and the people you are likely to meet on campus. Read their research profiles, browse their lab websites, and perhaps skim a recent paper or two. Jot down a couple questions you could ask each of them, and note any possible opportunities for collaboration. Also understand when your talk(s) will be during the interview so you can adequately prepare. Below are two sample schedules for academic visits.

    Look the part

    Decide what you are going to wear and go shopping if necessary. Buy or borrow a professional-looking bag for your laptop and other materials, as well as an advancer/laser pointer, if you will use one during your talk, but make sure to practice with it so you are comfortable with it by the time you give your talk.

       

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