During a job interview, how important is it to ask other faculty about their research? When I was a graduate student, my department was holding a search for a tenure-track position in my area. (To give you some context, it was a good Ph.D. program. Certainly not a top program, but many of the faculty had grants.) During one of the individual meetings between the candidate and a faculty member in that area, the candidate did not ask the faculty about his research. Apparently the search committee considered this to be very rude and upsetting and it was used as one of multiple pieces of evidence against the candidate.
Was this an isolated incident, or do faculty really value being asked about their research? I could see this being important in departments with doctoral programs where faculty are quite proud of their research and research is valued above teaching, but even in that situation it seems strange to me for it to be a "death knell" to not ask a faculty member (who is in the candidate's same area) about his or her research. Has anyone else heard of this, and do you think it's important?
I'm concerned that if make an effort to ask each faculty member about his or her research in departments with only Master's or BA programs, perhaps they will take it as a sign that you are too interested in research and not interested enough in teaching. However, it would also be important to know if PhD programs really value questions like this, or if perhaps the incident I heard about was unique to the concerns of that particular department.