15 Things to Consider as You Prepare for Your Faculty Interview

During the August 2010 PROMISE Summer Success Institute (SSI), Dr. Philip Rous, then Dean of UMBC’s College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences (current Interim Provost and PI for the PROMISE AGEP), shared “secrets” behind applying for faculty positions.  Dr. Rous  provided information regarding how to prepare for the interview, what to expect during the interview, and expectations of the faculty interviewers.  Several of our PROMISE students are preparing for faculty interviews this semester.  To address some of the questions and concerns, we are posting some tips for you to consider.  This is not a comprehensive list, but rather a set of guidelines that you can use so that you have a level of preparation for your one or two days of  interviews.

    1. Location
    2. Mission
    3. The kind of school (Carnegie classification, liberal arts, teaching, etc.)
    4. Sources of pride
    1. Go through each faculty member’s webpage
    2. Know the department’s sources of pride, e.g., highlights such as new discoveries, grant funding, patents, national and international contributions to the field.
    1. Consider 2-3 courses that already exist that you’d like to teach.  Look at both graduate and undergraduate offerings.
    2. How can you contribute to the curriculum? Think of something new that you’d like to introduce, e.g., a special topics course, a department-wide workgroup that will meet regularly to discuss multidisciplinary facets of your research area.
    1. Consider faculty members with whom you might collaborate.
    2. Look for potential opportunities to share equipment, lab space, and facilities.
    3. Look at centers and their facilities to see if there is a place for you to fit.
    1. Sponsored programs and grants management
    2. University press as an outlet for your book
    3. Find connections on that campus that match the support systems that you have on your own campus, and let them know that you are going to be there for an interview (e.g. McNair advisor, SHPE advisor, AGEP director, LSAMP director, your advisor’s colleagues, WISE chapter, SWE chapter.)
    1. How much space would you want for a lab?
    2. How many graduate assistants would you need to be successful? (Note:  Some schools don’t have a budget for assistantships, but the question may be raised.)
    3. How many TAs would you request?
    4. How much money would you need for start-up costs such as your office, your computer, or your lab? (NOTE:  This question usually comes up in a second interview or after an offer is made. However, you should have a general feel for the kinds of research that the department funds, and the research funding that the department’s faculty raise. You should also know what kinds of facilities your research requires.)
    5. Examine salary.  At public institutions, you may be able to find salary information online or in a “Budget” book in the library.  Know what is reasonable for your rank e.g., assistant professor in your discipline.  (NOTE:  Salary questions usually aren’t raised until a second interview or an offer.)
    6. Think about teaching load and summer salary, example: two courses, two years of summer salary.
  7. ARRIVING:  The interview begins as soon as the department representative meets you at the train station, airport, hotel, or starting point.  Travel attire: Business casual.
  8. MEALS:  You’ll likely have all of your meals with a faculty member, a group of faculty members, or a combination of faculty and administrators.
    1. Typical meals include dinner the night before your main interview day, breakfast the next morning (this may be on your own in your hotel), lunch with a group, and there may be an additional dinner with another group on the evening of your first full day.
    2. Know your body and how it reacts to certain foods. Be careful of messy foods like pasta with sauce, and foods that produce strong odors.  Don’t choose a very heavy meal.  Play it safe.  Consider refraining from ordering alcohol.  When others are drinking, choosing sparkling mineral waters like Perrier or San Pellegrino are usually safe choices.
  9. SLEEP:  Get plenty of rest the night before your interview.  You will have a long day ahead and you will need to maintain your energy throughout the next day.
  10. MEETINGS:  You will have several meetings throughout the day (attire: business.)  Be prepared to meet with the following, one-on-one or in groups:
    1. Professors (all ranks)
    2. Graduate students
    3. Administrators
    4. Affinity groups or other campus interests (e.g. ADVANCE, Director of an Engineering Research Center, PI of a collaborative multi-disciplinary project.)
  11. THE TALK (and perhaps THE CLASS)
    1. Your talk will probably be an seminar that is open to the public.  The talk should highlight your research and your contributions to the field.  Faculty, students, and the campus community may be invited. Practice your talk in advance with people who will give you constructive criticism.
    2. You may be asked to teach a class.  Be familiar with your topic. Practice the lecture in advance.  Be sure to engage your students.
    3. It’s important to practice out loud and with others in an audience in advance of the big day.  You need to become used to the confident sound of your own voice as you discuss your research and teach your topic.
    1. Remember to ask for restroom breaks when needed. Sometimes the schedule is so packed, that there aren’t any breaks.
    2. Have a water bottle available so that you can be refreshed throughout the day.
    3. Bring a few extra copies of your CV
    4. Bring a few copies of your recent papers. (NOTE: A file with your CV, recommendations, your teaching philosophy, and other materials are usually available to the search committee, but because of busy schedules, some of your interviewers may only have a chance to skim your file.  You can provide them with updates when you meet with them. )
    1. Write to your hosts to thank them for their time and hospitality.
    2. Remember the people who spent time with you and recall the highlights of your conversation.
    3. Follow up with your contacts on campus to give them feedback and let them know about your visit (e.g., AGEP, ADVANCE, LSAMP.)
    1. Examples:  Where else are you applying? How interested are you in our school compared to the other place to which you’re applying?
    2. You may be asked to send a proposal for your start-up costs (e.g., lab, computer, office, supplies.)
    1. Be friendly and engaging
    2. Conduct yourself as colleague.  Be confident, but respectful of boundaries.  Address the faculty as Dr. _____ or Professor __________ unless you’re told to do otherwise.  Refer to the faculty as Dr. _______ to the students.
    3. Have fun and be yourself.

These are some tips to consider.  Consult your advisor, faculty members, and friends who are on the faculty at other schools for any additions or modifications.  If you have friends who work at the institution, work in the area, or work at a similar institution, don’t forget to consult them. They are a valuable resource.  Good luck with your interviews!


Resources for starting a lab and negotiating an offer: 


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The text content of this post was compiled and written by the staff of PROMISE: Maryland’s AGEP and may not be copied without referencing the PROMISE organization, as “PROMISE: Maryland’s AGEP”.

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Published by Renetta Garrison Tull

Dr. Renetta Garrison Tull is the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at the University of California Davis. She previously served as Associate Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives at The Graduate School at UMBC, and was Professor of the Practice in the College of Engineering & IT. She was Special Assistant to the Sr. Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs & Director of Graduate and Professional Pipeline Development for the University System of Maryland (12 institutions). She is the Founding Director of PROMISE: Maryland’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) – http://www.umbc.edu/promise, and Co-PI for the USM LSAMP. Her research on global diversity in STEM continues, and she is an international speaker, covering nearly all continents, for groups and conferences such as the World Engineering Education Forum, the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies, and the Pacific Sciences Congress. Her personal website is: http://renettatull.wordpress.com. Connect with her on Twitter: @Renetta_Tull; https://twitter.com/Renetta_Tull

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