Academic Interviews (Faculty Positions)

Interviews for faculty positions often include two rounds:

First round – Phone or Video  (20-40 minutes)

This is an initial screening interview with members of the search committee.  Review the job posting, and make sure to learn as much as you can about the department and university you are interviewing with.  Look up the profiles of your interviewers.  Take time to practice answering questions out loud. You can schedule a mock practice interview with a CAPD career advisor.

It is important to prepare answers regarding research experience and future directions, teaching style and experience, prospective collaborations and plans for future funding of your research. This funding could include foundations, governmental agencies or industry.

Common questions include:

  • Tell us a bit about yourself
  • Why are you interested in this position?
  • Give us an overview of your research proposal for the next 5 years
  • What research resources do you need to be successful?
  • Why are you interested in teaching?
  • What classes are you prepared to teach?
  • Tell us about your teaching experience
  • Do you have any questions for us?

Second round – Campus Visit (or virtual visit) – 1-2 days

The second round lasts 1-2 days, and includes meetings with members of the search committee, individual faculty from inside (and sometimes outside) the department and the department chair.  You may also meet with a group of students and postdocs from the department, other staff in the department, and other university leaders (such as the dean).  For in-person visits, you will typically get a tour of the department, and will be eating meals with faculty or students.

You will be asked to present one or more of the following:

Research talk/ seminar/ job talk (45 minutes -1 hour):

  • highlight your previous research; introduce the goals and significance of your work and choose 1-2 projects to go more in-depth
  • give a brief preview of your future research vision and plans
  • know your audience – your talk should be understandable to faculty and students outside of your field

Teaching demonstration (sometimes):

  • you may be asked to prepare a lecture on a given topic, or to submit a teaching video
  • show how you would engage students by preparing exercises, questions, and other interactive components

Chalk talk (sometimes – more common in research-intensive science departments):

  • informal discussion about your future research plans
  • you may use a real or virtual whiteboard to write an outline of your plans and draw out helpful figures; sometimes a few slides are permitted (ask about the format)
  • be prepared to answer questions, defend your ideas, and respond to potential limitations and challenges of your proposal

Be sure to practice any presentations with faculty mentors and peers inside and outside your field.  You can also discuss your interview preparation and practice your presentations with CAPD advisors.

For additional tips, watch a recording of a panel on academic job interviews and offers with MIT faculty.