How to Get Ready for Job Interviews

Describe your research.
Have a good articulate rap down pat in short and longer versions, for experts and non-experts.

What audiences are you addressing, what are the other hot books or scholars in your field, and how does your work compare with theirs? Rephrased: What is the cutting edge in your field and how does your work extend it?

Answer this question on your terms, not those of your competition. Be able to answer this in both general and specific ways.

Question may imply: Do you have an interested publisher and where do you stand in your negotiations with said publisher?

Question may also imply: We thought there were some significant shortcomings in your thesis, but we like you, so we’re giving you this chance to redeem yourself by indicating that you’re in the process of addressing these shortcomings in ways that we think appropriate.

What you’ve said is all very interesting, but doesn’t work in your field sometimes tend to border on the (choose adjective) esoteric, antiquarian, (and if postmodern) ridiculous? What is the broader significance of your research? How does it expand our historic understanding, literary knowledge, humanistic horizons?

(Remember that this is a legitimate and important question – may be the toughest one you get.)

Usually asked by someone outside your field: Can you explain the value of your work to an uneducated layperson?

Grapple with limitations in your research – don’t be afraid to acknowledge these, particularly if you can use such an acknowledgement to indicate where you intend to go in your research after this (my doctoral research, you see, is only the necessary first step…)

What is your basic teaching philosophy?

Question might be answered quite differently for the small liberal arts college, state branch university with heavy service teaching load, or graduate-degree granting institution.

How would you teach…?
Basic courses in your field
Any of the courses on your CV that you say you can teach
What courses would you like to teach if you had your druthers? How would you teach them?
Many committees will want to know which specific books you would use

This may be an indirect way of ascertaining whether you already have the course in the can.
Do you, for ex. know what is and is not in print in paperback form?

Which text would you use (have you used) for the U.S. Survey, for English composition, for Am Lit 101, etc.? (Beware, this can turn into a great test of your poise and diplomatic skills when one search committee member says “I love that book” and the next says “I wouldn’t be caught dead including that text on MY syllabus”)

Be prepared to talk about several courses, after having sized up the institution’s needs
Do your homework and anticipate what the department needs.

Be prepared to talk about teaching its basic courses (intro to media and culture, intro to interpersonal, rhetoric, etc.)

Be ready to talk in detail about an innovative course or two that you think the Department might really go for – something new and within your expertise.
Take course X. As you would teach it, what three goals would the course achieve? When students had completed your course, what would they have learned that is of lasting value?

Interviewing – Emily West’s thoughts
(prepared for a UMass Grad student workshop by Leda Cooks)

Have a spiel of different lengths about your dissertation practiced. A 1 or 2 sentence version, a paragraph version. And the extended version of what the findings or contributions or interesting things about it are for more in-depth conversations and for the personnel interview itself. Ideally practice it.
Creating a narrative about your research program is important. Find a way to track a trajectory in the work you’ve done so far, and have something to say about where you see the trajectory going. This is actually important for application materials too.

Prepare point-form answers for as many possible questions in advance as possible. Unless you’re really, really good at thinking on your feet!

SAMPLE QUESTION: Imagine you’re teaching the Intro Class. What are 2 or 3 readings that you think are very important to the field as a whole that you would assign to students?

SAMPLE QUESTION: We focus on a certain thing in this department (which you don’t necessarily do). If you were teaching a course on this, what would be the first 2 weeks of classes? Walk us through how you would begin a class like this.

SAMPLE QUESTION: Imagine your career 5 years from now…what does it look like? What do you hope to have accomplished by then?

SAMPLE QUESTION: What scholars do you admire?

SAMPLE QUESTION: Open-ended questions about “approaches” to undergrads and graduate students. Best to think ahead what you’d like to say about this, with reference to specific examples from classes you’ve taught and/or taken.

SAMPLE QUESTION: How does your work relate to various subfields in communication…particularly the ones represented in the department?

Depending on the department you might need to feel ready to talk about grants. Talk about grants you’ve received or applied for Does your research lend itself to external grants? If not now, might it in the future?

Every candidate on the market right now would probably have something to say about new technology, with regards to teaching, and perhaps even to the content of your research.
QUESTIONS TO ASK THEM (in no particular order):

Expectations for tenure. Track record of the department’s tenure cases.

How does undergraduate advising work? How many students would one typically advise/ How are they assigned?

How about undergraduate thesis or independent study advising?

How do you balance your research, teaching and service?

Travel money?

Research money?

Audio-visual and other resources for teaching: e.g. copying, budgets for guest speakers (at least to defray travel?). Are field trips ever done?

How are the library resources? Are there good electronic resources?

What kind of committees do people serve on? Are they mainly in the department or also across the university?

What kinds of careers do your undergraduates tend to go into?

What have recent graduate students gone on to do? Where do they teach?

Relationships between faculty and graduate students. Questions of collegiality, collaboration, etc.

Support for grant-writing and administration?

How does the graduate student advising break down? Is there a formal advising structure, or is it more informal?

Collaboration among department faculty? With other departments on campus?

Living in the area.

Other Notes on Interviews and Cover Letters
- from Instructional Development in Pedagogy Seminar for Grad Students

On Teaching:
DO NOT be new-agey, aloof
Talk about your range of experiences – from TO to TA
Do a guest lecture in a large lecture to show you can speak in front of a large class
Tailor-based on the philosophy and needs of the place (do background research)
Have a story prepared of your most brilliant teaching moment
Most difficult teaching moment and you dealt with it.
Honor students – how would you teach them?
Do a mock interview
How do you connect your teaching to you’re your research and vice-versa?
How is teaching a transformative process?
How would you teach a service learning course?
Would your teaching address social change at all?
Does it connect with other disciplines/
Does it address diversity?
Always think of what the opposition might say and be prepared to respond
Articles, if relevant to how you’ll teach
Syllabi that you’ve created/could create for the department
What is your dream syllabus? /a class you would propose?
Be prepared to talk about how you can incorporate new technology
Get involved with helping with curriculum while a graduate student

Letters of recommendation:
Avoid using ‘letters on file’ – they need to be customized to each position
Make sure you ask those who can give you a very positive and personalized letter
(most should give you a copy of what they’ve written)