Tips for succeeding in an interview regarding
- the rhetorical situation
- what the interviewer wants to see
- sample questions to ask during the interview
- Think of the interview as a two-way street: You should be thinking, "Do I want to see these people in the halls every day?" as well as "Will they like me?"
- Interviewers will have different levels of familiarity with your field. (You'll be lucky if anyone knows your work closely.) Prepare descriptions of your research that a generalist would understand, but be prepared as well for questions that are both specialized and (to you) off the wall.
- Interviewers want you to be active, but they also want to run the interview. Don't be silent, but don't, for example, hand out your teaching packet unless you are asked, or unless it's an appropriate response to a specific question.
- Appearance: Wear a slightly dressier version of
your teaching clothes. Men should wear coat and tie; a skirt and jacket
are good for women. Lose the pony tail, earrings, evidence of body
piercing, etc.; don't let anything distract from the interview itself.
Some questions will be challenging, and some may be mean. Know the difference. (Don't misinterpret challenging questions as mean.) Some interviewers will treat this like a PhD oral exam, some won't.
- Read the MLA guidelines for interviewers as well as for interviewees; interviewers should follow these, and most do.
- Entrance and exit:
- Arrive on time, knock, wait to be invited in and to sit down. You'll probably shake hands with everyone—take your time.
- Be aware of the time: If it's been 30 minutes and they say "Do you have any more questions?" as they stand up, take the hint, thank them and leave.
- Address interviewers as "Professor."
- Remember that these people may be doing 8-10 interviews a day. Schedule the interview for early in the day if given a choice.
- Project honesty, straightforwardness, and intelligence. Avoid egotism, fear, condescension, sucking up, and cliches. Don't call your dissertation "groundbreaking."
- Project your classroom personality: Interviewers will be trying to picture you in the classroom. Do your part to make the interview an engaging conversation.
- Look the questioner in the eye, answer him/her, but include the other interviewers.
- Listen, and answer questions directly. Many interviewees are faulted for not responding to the questions they are asked. Not all questions require long complicated answers. Ask for more specificity on vague questions ("What level course?"). If you are going on and on, ask, "Would you like to hear more detail?"
- Don't inflate or downgrade your credentials—be honest about what you can and can't do.
- Distinguish between questions about what you would like to do and questions about what you can do—not all questions are exam questions, and the interviewers will assume that you will continue learning.
- Show familiarity with the institution—prepare specific questions to ask, but be careful about striking nerves. Don’t ask, for example, about the warring factions in the department.
- Review your work—it’s easy to forget what you have written.
- Dissertation-related questions:
- Tell us about your dissertation.
- Why is your dissertation important, or what does it contribute to your field?
- What is your methodology? What theorists do you use?
- How does your research (dissertation and other) relate to your teaching?
- When will your dissertation be finished?
- What plans do you have to revise and/or publish your dissertation?
- Pedagogical questions:
- What authors and texts would you use when teaching a course in your period? A survey course over two or more periods? A specialized course within your field?
- What are some of the writing assignments you give in a literature class?
- How do you teach composition?
- What do you do when a student asks you a question to which you don't know the answer?
- What is your dream course?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses as a teacher?
- How does your research inform your teaching?
- Miscellaneous Questions:
- What are your long-term research goals? (Or, what do you want to be doing five years from now?)
- What special knowledge and skills will you bring to our institution?
- Why do you want to teach at our institution?
- How do you feel about relocating to our geographical region?
- Look over your cover letter and try to anticipate possible questions it may raise.
- Questions to ask:
- What issues and opportunities are currently facing your department?
- What are students like at _________?
- What kinds of courses will I be teaching?
- What kinds of research support does your institution offer?
- What kinds of pedagogical resources do you have? How are the library, information technology, writing centers, facilities for computerized instruction, etc.?
- What is the typical class size?
- Ask other specific questions that arise from a review of the bulletin, web site, etc.
- Do not ask about salary.
Questions about this site
Last updated April 14, 2005