Academic Job Interviews

Basic Guidelines ›      Sample Questions ›

Compiled by Mara Mills and Sara Schwebel, former Bok Center Teaching Fellows


Basic Guidelines

  1. Do as much background research as possible on the institution, department, and faculty conducting your interview. Check the undergraduate catalogue for courses and authors typically taught. Check the school website for learning resources such as library or computing assistance.
  2. Have sample syllabi prepared in advance (including texts, course outlines, and means of assessment), but do not read aloud from them. You may or may not be asked to distribute syllabi.
  3. Arrange to rehearse with mock-interviews.
  4. Be able to describe your research, teaching, and future projects succinctly and engagingly. They will ask general questions, but you should give specific answers.
  5. Be prepared to answer the same questions over and over again during a day-long interview.
  6. Sound flexible. (Or, rather, do not sound too specialized/esoteric). Be willing to teach to department needs and student interests, as well as to experiment with various formats (team teaching, blended learning, etc.).
  7. If you have the opportunity to give feedback at the end of the interview, do not ask any questions you should have researched already. Use "Do you have any questions for us?" as an opportunity to say a bit more about yourself. (For instance, "I ran a working group on X at Harvard. Do you think there would be any interest in a similar endeavor here?" Or, "I noticed that you have a Humanities/Gender Studies/Teaching and Learning Center here. How involved are department faculty with this outside institute?)

Sample Questions

  1. What is your basic teaching philosophy?
  2. How would you teach...? (Anything from an introductory service class to an innovative course in the department.)
  3. If you could teach any course you wanted, what would it be? What would you teach next if you could teach two of them?
  4. Which text would you use (have you used) for the U.S. Survey, for English composition, for Am Lit 101, etc.? (Or, how would you teach [specific major work in your field]?)
  5. Take course X. As you would teach it, what three goals would the course achieve? When students had completed your course, what would they have learned that is of lasting value?
  6. Tell us how your research has influenced your teaching. In what ways have you been able to bring the insights of your research to your courses at the undergraduate level? How do you balance teaching and research?
  7. How do you use technology in the classroom?
  8. Describe your classroom environment.
  9. How would your work fit with the work of this department?
  10. Do you know x historian's work? [Read up on your orals list before your interview.] How does it relate to your teaching?
  11. What is the difference between history and American Studies?
  12. How do you teach writing? What kinds of essays do you want students to write? How do you know you've been successful?
  13. What critical approaches do you find most persuasive? How do they translate into your teaching?
  14. What interdisciplinary courses could you teach?
  15. How will you deal with scientific controversies in your (science) course?
  16. How do you (as a Harvard graduate) anticipate teaching students at this school?
  17. What role do primary sources play in your classroom?
  18. Describe your best teaching experience.
  19. How will you teach nontraditional students? Non-native speakers?
  20. What teaching-related responsibilities are you prepared to assume in the department?