Standard academic interview questions and how to answer them

Okay, questions from the department. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, partly because we don’t have a huge amount of time, but also because there are a number of good resources that talk about the question. So, I just tried to come up with some questions that I know get asked and some key things about answering them.
So, here are some of the ones that are pretty standard. How would you teach the introductory survey course in the discipline? How would you organize an honors or graduate seminar in your own area of scholarship? Tell us about your research, how does it relate to the work others are doing in this area? Now you can see that with these three there would be a real temptation to go on and on and on and on. Practice your answers to those three, get them to be succinct, not so brief that they think that you don’t have anything to say, but really ensure that you don’t go on forever that you’re very focused. Because there will be a temptation sometimes to talk about your research forever, but remember you’re going to be asked questions about your research at your talk.
I [inaudible] someone asked, what’s the most significant book you’ve read in the past two years? And the answers were really interesting, that’s when where you have to come up with a strategic answer, are you going to talk about a book that you read outside of your discipline, are you going to talk about the most key work in your discipline? Sometimes that’s what they’re looking for, but not always. Sometimes they want to know that you actually have a life and a brain that gets outside of academe once in a while.
One of the latest trends are behavioral-based interview questions. This is one of those areas where human research stuff has sort of found its way into academe. Some of you may be familiar with jobs you’ve had in the past, where people ask you, how you would handle a theoretical situation. You may still get out some of those kind of questions, but this is the more current trend. You’re asked, how have you handled a situation in the past rather than how would you handle it in the future if it came up. And I’ll give you an example; one example from a dean was, describe a situation in which you used humor to defuse a difficult situation with a student. So, let’s say you’ve never had that experience, you still have to come up with an answer and it can’t be a fake answer and I’ve heard actually that sometimes, and I’ve only heard this on the staff rather than the faculty side, I’ve heard people ask the references afterwards, is that what really happened? So, make sure your story is true. You could say, you know what, I haven’t taught, but when I was a graduate student this situation arose and, you know, here’s how I used humor to resolve that situation.
They may also ask you questions concerning your comfort level with the institution. So, if you did all three of your degrees at large research intensive University, so let’s say you did your BA at University of Alberta, you did your masters at University of Alberta, you did your doctorate at University of Toronto, they may say to you, do you think you’ll be happy in Regina? And that’s a legitimate question may be, as long as they don’t say, will your family be happy in Regina? Then it’s not. But will you be happy — how do you feel about living in Regina is a question that I think is valid, and it can work in the opposite direction as well. When you’re giving your talk by the way, I didn’t mention this, but focus on the main points. If you focus on too many different areas, like I’m modeling bad behavior with today, people won’t remember any of it. So, I’m actually hoping you’ll remember some of this, but if you do that with your talk, they won’t have, say three or four crisp clear points that you made, some of which they may disagree with to take away with them. The other thing you have to remember in your talk is, you’re giving your talk to a few people who are experts in your field possibly, but most of them won’t be, and certainly with your graduate talk or your undergraduate talk, if you’re giving one, they won’t be.

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