Questions Job Candidates Should Expect to Be Asked

The list below contains questions actually asked of graduate students working on their dissertations and seeking a position as an assistant professor. Please send suggested additions to

Questions Asked of the “Candidate”

A phone interview:

  • Why don’t you begin by telling us about your program of coursework in graduate school and how you arrived at your dissertation topic…
  • What is the theoretical motivation for your dissertation and why is the dissertation important?
  • What are your goals for the next few years? What kind of research do you want to conduct and what do you expect to contribute to the field?
  • What courses can you teach?
  • What are you like as a teacher?
  • What’s the largest class size you ever taught?
  • Here at ____, our faculty represent diverse areas of inquiry and expertise. Often, the only ties that bind here are not at the level of our research but at a more global level of interest. What sorts of institutional or other issues interest you? What kinds of interests will you bring to our department?
  • Have you ever lived ____?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • Do you have time to read outside of your research area? What are the last few books you read?
  • Do you have any questions for us?

In the job talk:

  • We don’t study ____(what you study). Could you frame your work within a larger context, for example, ____ (something that is only remotely if at all related to your dissertation topic)…
  • What is your goal for this research? What do you hope to accomplish with this study and what will you do next?
  • How are you going to test this (model, design, etc)?
  • When will you be finished with the dissertation?

In small group or individual interviews:

  • Tell me about your dissertation…
  • How does your dissertation fit into a broader program of research?
  • Whose work in the field has most influenced you? How?
  • Why do you want to come here? What have you heard about our school?
  • What do you want to teach? What is your teaching style? Have you ever taught ____?
  • How do you feel about ____ (some emphasis in the department that is not representative of your own work or the theoretical tradition your work represents)…

Asked at the end of the day:

  • How will your interests complement our program? How do you see yourself fitting in here?
  • What do you want from us?