Junior Prof’s Preliminary Interview Questions

Even if you don’t anticipate needing them, show up to your preliminary interview with 3-4 copies of the materials you’ve circulated, a pen and paper, pre-designed course descriptions with sample reading lists, business cards, and a bottle of water. It’s possible all of this will never leave your bag. Better to have it and not need it than the inverse.


  1. Could you describe your dissertation and research interests, more broadly?
  2. Can you back to X thing you just mentioned? I didn’t understand and would like you to elaborate.
  3. Decide how you’ll answer some kind of antagonistic question, such as: you omitted A and B in your work, which as you know has been very influential. Could you address why? Will you add that later? (Specifically, it’ll likely be related to the faculty member in question’s research…so you have to acknowledge the importance of whatever they brought up.)
  4. How will you go about publishing your dissertation as articles or a book manuscript? / What will your next project be? / What is your research agenda and how will it fit in at our institution?
  5. How would you situate your work in conversation with X in the field? / What recently published work has influenced your research?

PRO-TIP: If you’ve been asked to circulate a writing sample, reread it. Remind yourself of connections between the writing sample and the work of faculty who might be interviewing you.


  1. How will you balance research and teaching moving forward? (Knowing what the norm is at the institution in questions is critical.)
  2. How does your research inform your teaching?
  3. Our university is working hard to integrate more undergraduate students in research activities. How could you contribute to that mission?


  1. How would you teach?:
    • a first-year seminar
    • an Honors class
    • a writing-intensive class
    • an upper-level course in your field
    • an introductory or survey class
    • a hybrid advanced undergrad/MA level class
    • a graduate-level course
  1. How do you incorporate technology into your teaching? (The answer here is never, “I don’t.” If you aren’t a believer in techy-teaching, have a solid reason as to why.)
  2. Describe your teaching goals and/or challenges?
  3. How do you implement inclusivity in your classroom structure? (or some other nod at the importance of diversity and inclusivity in teaching)
  4. Describe your worst teaching moment. And the best?
  5. Describe how you frame your syllabi theoretically.

PRO-TIP: When answering these questions, draw on related experiences you already have, when possible. It’s unlikely you have experience teaching graduate students, but you can prepare a course description ahead of time and reference it. Combine that with the coffee you had with a graduate student once and the anecdote where they expressed a particular need. Then explain how you’ll centralize that need in the course you designed.


  1. How do you engage students in extracurricular education?
  2. How would you encourage students to pursue a major in our department?
  3. How would you recruit students to take courses with us?
  4. How would you mentor graduate students? What experience do you have?
  5. How do you feel about teaching classes online / in the evening?


  1. Can you summarize the contribution you would make to our department? / How do you see your work fitting into our department? / Why are you interested in the department?
  2. All faculty are required to participate in service activities. How do you see yourself getting involved in service on campus?
  3. Would you be willing to serve as the faculty mentor for [insert student organization here]?
  4. In our department, the department chair role rotates every three years. How would you begin preparing to be department chair?
  5. Tell us about what leadership experience you have and what leadership activities you’d like to undertake at our university.

PRO-TIP: Researching the institution where you will interview is a great way to try and anticipate the questions that you will get related to service and recruitment. Ask someone in your field who recently interviewed what else is missing from this list.


  1. What courses would you imagine the ideal candidate would offer?
  2. Tell me more about your students and how the ideal candidate could meet the needs of your students.
  3. I see you that your university has [INSERT RESOURCE]. How do faculty engage that resource within your department?

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