Interviewing for Academic Jobs
If you've received the good news to be invited to interview with the search committee, you'll want to be prepared ahead of time. It's important for you to practice your answers to questions about your current and future research and your teaching as well as questions related to why you are interested in that particular department, school, and/or institution.
If you're on the faculty job market, we recommend that you get in touch with Career Services before you anticipate getting invitations to interview and make an appointment for an academic mock interview. In addition to seeking resources within your own department, we're happy to help you prepare for your interview, whether it's for a first-round video, phone, or in-person interview or a final round on-campus interview. To make the best of your academic mock interview, review this prep sheet ahead of your appointment.
We also encourage you to take a look at our Guide for Academic Interviews and Question Types as well as our sample of list of interview questions related to research, teaching, and service. You can also use InterviewStream to practice your interviewing skills in the comfort of your own home.
Negotiating for Academic Jobs
If you've received an official offer letter from an institution, congratulations!
The time to negotiate an offer is after you've received a written offer. Many graduate students and postdocs often ask us if they should negotiate, and we believe that there are always opportunities to negotiate. You may want to negotiate because the start date is earlier than you anticipated, a salary offer is lower than what you expected, the start-up package is not sufficient for you to carry out your research, or the teaching load will make it difficult for you to publish your book, or any other reasons you may have.
Once you've decided that you'd like to negotiate with your potential employer, do your research if you haven't done so already. Research and understand your own needs and desires (for example, what's your financial "bottom line"? Will this job allow you to pursue your larger career goals? Will your family be willing to relocate?) as well as the institution's culture, context, and resources (for example, will making a request to teach fewer classes fit with the institution's mission?).
Next, prioritize the list of items you'd like to request and practice asking for those things out loud. You'll then want to have a phone call with your potential employer to negotiate because it's much easier to convey your enthusiasm for the job offer while making your requests in a polite conversation than it is to do in writing, where tone can easily be misread. In your discussion, be sure to speak with confidence, respect, and optimism. After your conversation, it is best to summarize your requests and major discussion points by email so that you and your potential department chair (or chair of the search committee) can have a written record of what was discussed.
What resources can you take advantage of as you prepare to negotiate your academic job offer? If you're evaluating faculty salaries, be sure to consult the AAUP Faculty Compensation Report and the Chronicle's Data on faculty salaries. In general, take advantage of the academic and professional network you've developed to ask faculty mentors, colleagues, alumni, and friends about their advice and ideas when it comes to negotiating for an academic position.
Come to Career Services to discuss any questions related to the process of negotiation. Many graduate students and postdocs have found it helpful to discuss specific questions like the following: What details can I even negotiate and how? How should I prioritize my requests? Do I need other offers in order to negotiate? How do I manage this process given other faculty searches I'm involved in or other competing offers I may receive? In many cases, academic institutions will expect that you will negotiate your offer for a tenure-track position, so chat with a Career Advisor before you begin this important process.
In all situations, it is important to negotiate your offer with the kind and type of institution in mind, including its resources, mission, and values. We can help you brainstorm and strategize your approach to negotiations so that the outcome of the process is a win-win situation for you and for your future institution.
Action Steps Checklist
Below are some suggested steps for you to take as you prepare for academic interviews and negotiations. Make an appointment with a Graduate Student & Postdoc Career Advisor via Handshake to discuss your specific plans for interviewing and negotiating.
Consult with faculty members and advisors and seek resources in your department(s) to help you prepare for your interviews.
Use InterviewStream to select interview questions related to the academic job search and record your answers that you can review or self-assess in preparation for your interview.
Consult the Academic Job Search Handbook to learn more about the interviewing and negotiating processes.
Q: What does an academic mock interview at Career Services look like? How should I prepare
A: When you make an appointment for a mock interview, we ask that you send all job materials along with the job announcement to the advisor that you're meeting with. What we do is review your materials and then draft interview questions that you'll likely encounter during your real interview. During the mock interview, we play the role of interviewer asking you questions, and we have you play yourself answering those questions. We usually record this mock interview, and then debrief with you by reviewing the videos of each of your answers together and discussing ways you can strengthen your answers. Before your mock interview, we recommend that your review this academic mock interview prep sheet
so that you can make the most of your mock interview.
Q: During my on-campus interview, I'll be meeting with individual faculty members. How can I
prepare for these meetings? What kinds of questions can I ask?
A: Research the faculty member's bios and webpages before you arrive on campus and jot down a few notes about their areas of research and teaching. If the faculty member's research specialties are closely aligned with yours, you may want to be familar with some of their publications. For meetings with faculty who don't share your research interests, you may think about your meetings with them as a way to learn more about the department and the university. If someone is a new faculty member, for example, you can ask them how they've taken advatnage of resources at their institution in their academic and professional development. If someone recently earned tenure, you can congratulate them and also ask how they were supported by the department during the tenure and promotion process. Use these opportunities with faculty to discuss your research interests and/or to learn more about what it's like to be a faculty member at that institution.
Q: For my campus visit, I also have to meet with academic administrators (such as an associate
dean, dean, vice provost, or provost). What should I expect from these meetings and how should
I prepare for these meetings?
A: These meetings with academic administrators are pretty typical for a campus visit, and the meeting is a chance for you to meet the administrator overseeing your academic department and for that person to get to know you as a candidate. Although the adminstrators you meet with are unlikely to be in your discipline and will not likely participate in determining your intellectual fit with a department, you should still approach this as a opportunity to make a good impression on the administrator with how you can contribute to the institution as a scholar and teacher. You may also learn about some challenges that the institution may be facing, particularly regarding their budget, but be optimistic and positive in your conversation. Be prepared with questions to ask in case there is time left. Questions about institutional priorities and support for faculty and academic programs not only demonstrate that you've done your homework on understanding the institution but can also provide some helpful insights about the future direction of the institution should you end up being a faculty member there.
Q: How can I prepare for interviews for non-tenure-track positions (like postdocs, visiting
assistant professor, lecturer, and adjunct positions)?
A: You'll want to be prepared to speak about your research and teaching like you would for tenure-track interviews, but depending on the role and the specifics of the position description, you also want to be careful in not giving answers that suggest that you're seeking a different role. For example, if you're interviewing for a lecturer position where you'll be teaching a 4/4 load with no expectations of research or publications, you should focus your answers on your teaching experience instead of speaking at length about your dissertation and your second research project. Similarly, if you are interviewing for a one-year postdoc position with high expectations of research and participation in weekly seminars but no teaching, you may not want to want to talk about how you plan to contribute the course offerings of the department in the long-term.
Q: How can I prepare for my job talk or chalk talk?
A: Giving a mock job talk/chalk talk ahead of your scheduled campus visit has been very helpful to job candidates. A mock presentation will allow you to practice your talk with a live audience so you can feel comfortable with the delivery, the timing, and the choices you made for what to include in your presentation. A practice presentation can also help you decide if you want to make any changes to the presentation, either in what you present or what you say, before the real one. Let your advisor or PI as well as your grad group coordinator know as soon as you know that you'll have an job talk or chalk talk coming up. With notice, they will likely be able to set up a mock job talk/chalk talk with faculty and fellow graduate students/postdocs in attendance to provide you critical feedback on your presentation and ask you questions.
Q: Where can I find resources to prepare for my teaching demo?
A: Contact the staff at the Center for Teaching & Learning
for an appointment to discuss how you can structure and plan your teaching demo. Additionally, some academic departments may be able to help organize a mock teaching demo for graduate students and postdocs. Check with your grad group coordinator or advisor to see if this opportunity exists.
Q: My partner is also an academic. At what stage of the interview process should I disclose to
the search committee chair that I am interested in an academic position for my partner?
A: Partner hires at academic institutions are often very complicated for a lot of reasons. Because interviews are still part of the evaluative search process, we recommend that you not disclose your desire for a partner hire until after you've received the offer. Disclosing this fact during the interviewing stage may cause some institutions to hire another candidate who does not require this accommodation. In rare cases, candidates have revealed this during the final interview stage when it is clear that the search committee chair is interested in hiring the candidate and knowing this request sooner rather than later is going to help the department make the partner hire a reality.
Q: My first-round or campus interview has just ended. What should I do next?
A: Always send a thank you email to members of the search committee and anyone else that you met with during your interview within 24 hours of your interview. Your brief email can include expressing your gratitude for your conversations with them, a short sentence or two describing what information you learned that made you even more excited about the role, and any follow-up you may have promised earlier (like sending an article or a book recommendation). A thank you email conveys your professionalism and allows you to make another positive impression on the search committee even after the interview has ended.