I have come across several examples of what not to ask a search committee during a phone interview. However, I am looking for some example questions the search committee members considered appropriate, well crafted, and tailored to the department of interested. I am interviewing for both research and teaching focused positions. Any recommendations, especially from past/present search committee members are much appreciated.
Date: 05 Jan 2016 14:26
Number of posts: 7
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Also it probably wouldn't matter, but I am interviewing for Social Psychology positions.
I'm open to critique on this (I've only been on the interviewee end of things), but I usually ask:
-What are the students like, and what are their career goals?
-What are the teaching expectations for this position, in terms of course load and classes that need coverage?
-(If not obvious) Can one get TAs, and if so, for what kinds of classes/class sizes?
-Are there opportunities for internal funding for research support?
-Is there a participant pool?
-Is there lab space? Is it shared?
-What are the expectations for departmental or university service?
-What other departments do faculty members have the most contact with?
Re-order and re-emphasize depending on the institution's focus— if you don't ask any questions about the students at a teaching-oriented school, it looks bad. Lead with questions about whatever the institution's focus is.
I'd ask about academic support staff. Does the department have their own secretary/admin assistant? How is college-wide assessment performed and who runs this? Does the college have an IRB and what is the IRB's structure? Etc. Also, ask about how course loads are computed. Is supervising student research/projects part of the teaching load? Is it an overload with extra pay involved? And, ask about technology - how often do faculty get new computers? Is there a dedicated department copy machine or is it shared?
I actually disagree with AcademicInferno. I would not ask about administrative details on the phone interview. You can ask these things on campus (though they'll probably show a lot of it to you) or after you get the offer, but if I got that type of question in a 20-minute interview with a candidate I'd think, "gosh, you couldn't think of something more substantive to ask us about, so you could learn more about our students, faculty, mission, etc?" I think these administrative details are in fact quite important things to know eventually, but at the phone interview stage you won't do yourself any favors asking them.
I think anon's list of questions is great. The one about students shows interest in them and is substantive. The one about teaching expectations is good even for a teaching-focused place (where they don't usually like load questions off the bat because it sounds like you're trying to get a low load and you don't care about teaching. The question asks about what classes need coverage, which does show caring about teaching. Then again, make sure this information wasn't already in the ad.) I might not ask about TA's at teaching-oriented places, even though they sometimes do have them. Ask later, like at the campus or offer stage. Participants, lab space, and internal funding are great questions for any school, unless the load is 4:4 or higher AND the ad doesn't say anything about research. The last two questions are also great for any type of school.
Asstprof's comment about when to ask about administrative details is a great point. With a short phone interview, it may be better to hone-in on things relevant to the department doing the interview. That said, I note to ask about these things and get abundant answers before accepting an offer. During a previous academic search, I overlooked a lot of this and am now at a particularly bad institution when it comes to these sorts of things. Needless to say, I'm back on the academic job market, which is hardly a fun endeavor.