I have a phone interview coming up (with a SLAC), and I am curious about appropriate questions to ask THEM at this stage in the process (i.e. on a long list but not a short list). What is appropriate to ask at this phase over the phone?
Date: 11 Oct 2012 02:57
Number of posts: 16
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didn't do a formal phone interview for the position i'm in now… but in thinking about the things that might be helpful to know that might not be readily accessible from the website might include:
- of full-time faculty vs. those who are on early retirement (wasn't clear when I looked at our dept's website).
course load (if not clear from ad) and average class size
# of majors/minors and faculty/student advising ratio
can you get teaching units for a larger class or supervising students in research
clarification of what they want you to teach
research expectations and available resources (e.g., will you be supervising capstones and that counts as your research; or do you have to have a full-time lab - obvs you're not negotiating start-up, but trying to get a feel for expectations)
if research is a higher priority, does the school offer summer grants/funding to support research? grants for students to go to conferences (and travel money for faculty)
other things that might help you get a feel for the department:
what types of programs are the students applying for and getting into (e.g., at my school, the students are overwhelmingly shuttled into MA/MFT clinical programs and few even realize there are other subfields of Psych or what a PhD is/how to obtain it)
% of "traditional" vs. "non-tradition" students; % of transfer students; % of commuters
again, i don't know that you'd want to go into this much detail in a phone interview, but it does seem important to have at least one or two thoughtful questions. i'd err on asking about the students since that seems like what a SLAC's priorities would be.
I am sure there is no right answer, but here are some of the things I have asked that are well-received:
1) If the ad specifies any courses that have been taught previously by someone else, ask how they've been taught (what textbook has been used etc.) so you can get a sense for their model of teaching the course, what the expectations might be, etc. That gives you an opening to explain how you have taught it and how you might approach the course.
2) Ask them to characterize the student body.
3) Ask about the relative balance of research, teaching, and service and get a sense of the institutional expectations for each
4) If this is not clear from their website, ask for a sense of what the curriculum for psych majors is, and where whoever fills this position would play a role. Would you teach mostly freshman and sophomore courses? Would you be teaching advanced courses for seniors doing thesis projects? And so on.
It is also possible to throw in a few questions that are actually opportunities for you to demonstrate your understanding of program and commitment to teaching (and research, if that's important). "dualcareer" had a good one — asking about funds for getting students to conferences. This demonstrates that you anticipate doing research with students, and want to give them professional opportunities that will help them successfully land in grad school or employment after graduation. A couple others that come to mind:
1. Is there the opportunity to develop new courses, or teach an advanced seminar in your area of expertise? (Demonstrates an interest in curriculum development, and that you're willing to take on the extra work of prepping a whole new class.)
2. Is there campus support for development of teaching? (Demonstrates that you both care about being an effective teacher, and that you are aware that no one is already "perfect" at teaching — we all need some help!)
I also advise picking apart every bit of their website. In the past I have been able to find information about teaching evaluations (e.g., my current department's website had a page stating that they have the highest student evals on campus; this didn't really provide the opportunity for a question, but was a good lead in for questions about teaching, such as "I noticed your evaluations are high, what steps do you take as a department to foster teaching excellence?").
Practical questions are important too. Definitely ask about the teaching load, AND about number of preps. A 4/4 with two preps might be better than a 3/3 with three preps. I also recommend asking about the area where the school is located. I saved this for a final question on my phones interviews last year and the interviewees seemed to enjoy talking about it. (I also recommend you know something about the area in advance, or have a prepared reason for why you might like living there, because I was occasionally asked this question, especially if the schools were in very rural areas).
GOOD LUCK!! :)
Yikes! I think those suggestions above are not the way to go AT ALL.
You don't have the job yet. You don't have the interview yet. You use the questions to impress them, not to gather real information. Get the campus interview offer first, then ask the some of those questions above. For example, you ask questions like:
A) Every week I meet with my undergraduate research assistants to discuss ongoing projects and recent studies in the news. Are there enough motivated students interested in research to have an active research lab?
B) I typically run my experimental studies through the psychology subject pool. Is there an active subject pool?
C) I noticed in your course catalog that you offer Personality, Lifespan Developmental, and Research methods, which are all classes I would love to teach. I was wondering if you had a sense of what classes the incoming person might teach, and if their are opportunities to develop specialized seminars in my topic area? [NOTE: When they ask "could you teach X", the answer is always yes]
D) I am preparing an NIH R03 grant on XXX, and I was wondering what kind of grant management support is offered at the university?
Keep it short. Don't ask a dozen questions. Ask a few that communicate important info to them and that show that you've looked into the school or community around the school.
I wouldn't even ask about teaching load until you get an interview invite, unless it comes up naturally. At some private schools, this is something that is negotiated in the contract process so it can be awkward because everyone might be on different teaching loads.
For the most past, I agree with Phonies on this. I would consider the phone interview an extension of your application, while an on-campus interview is a two-way interviewing process to determine fit. However, if you know there is something that would absolutely preclude you from taking the position, then by all means ask it during the phone interview or before accepting a campus interview.
At SLACs, I have found that they are perfectly happy to treat phone interviews like a two-way information exchange. If you have questions like those suggested above by me and jobseeker, it shows that you have read their website and you are trying to imagine yourself there. It shows that you are serious and enthusiastic about the job. I asked questions like this for five phone interviews last year and I received on-campus invites to all five.
I guess the take-home message is to have questions prepared and follow your gut - if it seems appropriate and you really want to know, then ask. If it doesn't seem appropriate, then don't.
I think I stand corrected. I'm mainly interested in research schools, and the one SLAC I had a phone interview for I did not get invited to the campus, so perhaps I should defer to the more successful amongst us.
You might not have a lot of time to ask questions depending on the interview format. Most of the phone interviews I did were like speed dating and they usually gave you a chance at the very end to ask questions. I asked about department culture, research support, and things that were maybe unclear from the website. Very tailored to each site. I saved the teaching load and nuts/bolts questions for the campus interview…had them on my list, but didn't have enough time and I also felt that staying away from that left a more amicable impression…meaning I trusted them to explain it when we met in person.
Batman is right about that. Sometimes it's really just "are you still interested in the position?" and a couple of boilerplate questions and then they're like "we gotta go. oh, do you have questions?" Not really an invitation to ask. You definitely do have to feel it out. Some places really want to chat with you and see if they like you. If it's a small college where you'll only have a couple of colleagues, personality fit is a big thing. In that case, the questions come in handy. I agree that you never want to force questions on a search committee that's in a hurry.