How to prepare for a Job Interview

Navigating the interview process for an academic position can be daunting. Whether you’re aiming for a role as a lecturer, instructor, or other job position, preparation is key.

Here’s a guide to some common academic job interview questions and how to answer them effectively.

By Raymond Mulyawan

Preparation for Interview

  • Expect a panel interview between 2-10 people.
  • Research on the interviewers’ background and recent publications.
  • Focus on the essential and desirable criteria in the job description.
  • Read recent papers by departmental publications and focus on aligning your research with the current work.
  • Talk to colleagues who have undergone academic interviews.
  • Organise a mock interview.

Common Interview Questions and Answers

1. Tell me about yourself?

Tip: Tailor your response to the specific institution and position. Highlight your unique qualifications, experience, and how they align with the department's goals and values.

How to Answer:
Example: "I completed my Ph.D. in Environmental Science at Stanford University, where I focused on climate change adaptation strategies. My research has led to several publications in high-impact journals and presentations at international conferences. I have taught undergraduate courses in environmental policy and sustainability at UCLA, where I emphasised active learning and critical thinking."

2. Why should we hire you?

Tip: Craft a concise narrative that connects your academic journey, research, and teaching philosophy to the position you’re applying for.

How to Answer:
Example: "I bring a robust research background in renewable energy and a commitment to innovative teaching methods, which align with your department's focus on sustainability and student engagement. My experience in developing interdisciplinary courses and my recent research on solar energy optimization could significantly contribute to your ongoing projects and enhance student learning."

3. What interdisciplinary courses can you teach?

Tip: Highlight your flexibility and the breadth of your expertise, demonstrating how it aligns with current trends in higher education towards interdisciplinary learning.

How to Answer:
Example: "I can teach courses that combine environmental science with public policy, such as 'Climate Policy and Governance.' I have previously developed a syllabus for a course on 'Sustainable Urban Development,' integrating perspectives from environmental science, urban planning, and public health."

4. How do you approach your research?

Tip: Share your future research goals and how they align with the department’s interests and resources.

How to Answer:
Example: "My approach involves a combination of fieldwork and computational modelling to study climate change impacts on coastal ecosystems. This methodology has led to key findings on the resilience of coastal habitats and has implications for developing effective conservation strategies."

5. What plans do you have for your research?

Tip: Share your future research goals and how they align with the department’s interests and resources.

How to Answer:
Example: "I plan to expand on my current research on coastal ecosystem resilience by exploring the socio-economic impacts of climate adaptation strategies. I’m particularly interested in developing collaborative projects with colleagues in the social sciences to assess the human dimensions of environmental change."

6. Describe your experience in teaching?

Tip: Provide specific examples of your teaching roles, responsibilities, and achievements.

How to Answer:
Example: "I have taught undergraduate courses in Environmental Policy and Sustainability at UCLA. My approach focuses on interactive lectures and project-based learning, which has resulted in high student engagement and positive course evaluations. Students have particularly appreciated the real-world applications and case studies integrated into the curriculum."

7. Have you instructed college courses previously?

Tip: Highlight your direct teaching experience, including any responsibilities such as course design, assessment, and student mentorship.

How to Answer:
Example: "Yes, I have taught courses such as 'Introduction to Environmental Science' and 'Advanced Topics in Climate Change' at the University of California. I was responsible for syllabus design, lecturing, and assessing student performance, as well as mentoring students on their research projects."

8. What are your current research interests?

Tip: Align your research interests with the department’s focus and potential future collaborations.

How to Answer:
Example: "My current research focuses on the impact of climate change on biodiversity in coastal ecosystems. I am particularly interested in exploring adaptive management strategies that can help mitigate these impacts. This research aligns with your department's strengths in environmental science and conservation."

9. Describe your teaching philosophy?

Tip: Articulate a clear and coherent teaching philosophy that reflects your values and approach to education.

How to Answer:
Example: "I believe in a student-centred approach that encourages critical thinking and active learning. My teaching methods include collaborative projects, case studies, and technology-enhanced learning tools, which I have found to be effective in engaging students and fostering a deep understanding of the material."

10. How would you mentor graduate students?

Tip: Discuss your mentoring style and how you support graduate students in their academic and professional development.

How to Answer:
Example: "I aim to provide holistic mentorship by offering regular one-on-one meetings, constructive feedback, and opportunities for professional development. I encourage independent research while providing guidance on project design, data analysis, and publication strategies. Additionally, I support students in networking and presenting their work at conferences."

Academic Interview Presentation Tips

During an academic interview, you might be asked to present your current research or give a short lecture. Here is how to excel in your presentation:

  • Know your audience: Understand their interest to tailor your content accordingly.
  • Have a clear structure: Outline the key points you want to convey and tailor accordingly.
  • Practice timing: Rehearse your presentation to refine your delivery and fit within the allocated time.
  • Confidence: Speak confidently and maintain eye contact with everyone in the room.
  • Use audio-visual equipment: Ensure any electronic files you bring are compatible and prepare good quality visuals.
  • Engage and conclude: Invite questions at the end and thank your audience for their time and attention.