I have an interview early in the new year, and was wondering if there are questions I should be asking the SC before I get there. The SC said 'ask anything' but as this is my first interview, I don't really know what I don't really know. Tips appreciated.
Date: 05 Dec 2013 21:08
Number of posts: 11
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Here are a few, in no particular order, and you may already know some of these:
1. What is the teaching load?
2. What is the average class size?
3. What are the expectations for research?
4. What support is there for reserach (i.e., lab space, money, RAs, equipment)?
5. What does the typical start-up package look like (and when does it expire)?
6. Describe the average (grad) student here.
7. What do students go on to do after the program?
8. What percentage of junior faculty get tenure?
9. Is there a third-year review process? If so, how closely does that predict tenure decisions?
9. What is the reputation of the department in the division/college/university?
10. What are the expectations for earning grants?
11. Are there expectations/availability to teach during the summer?
12. What do faculty do in their spare time/for fun?
13. How is the quality of life (e.g., housing costs, restaurant availability, proximity to interesting cultural experiences, schools for kids, weather)?
14. How well do the faculty get along?
15. Is there anything YOU think I should know about this place?…and then just listen.
With a some of these questions, there is a hidden question behind it. For example, if no one can think of an answer to #12, perhaps faculty don't have spare time (red flag). If #15 elicits a laundry list of warnings and potential traps, that may be a bad sign.
I'm interested to see how the rest of the community adds to this list.
I assume you meant logistical questions about your visit, so you will be more prepared, and in case you did, I suggest:
1) Who will be the audience for my job talk/teaching demo, and how many people will be there? Faculty, grad students, undergrads? If you are not doing a teaching demo, your job talk is also a chance for the committee to evaluate your teaching. A neuro hire in my grad program got the job because his talk was AMAZING, and he used really great demonstrations that engaged everyone, whereas the other talk was just mediocre (not bad, but not exceptional). That literally sold everyone. I assume he knew that his audience ranged from faculty to undergrads and tailored appropriately.
2) Details on the room where you will be giving your talk. Do you need to bring your own computer, slide advancer, etc.?
3) If they have not provided you with an itinerary, ask for one, and if they don't give you details on getting to and from the airport, where your hotel is, how you will get to campus, etc., ask for that information. They should, of course, but I've had places overlook this information.
Yeah, definitely don't ask anon's questions until you're at the interview, and I would say to exercise caution at an interview with #'s 1-3 and 5.
Otherwise, I echo anon2's advice :-)
I agree that the long set of questions are better saved for an interview itself. But, why be careful with questions # 1-3 and 5?
Teaching load, class size, and research are all fundamental to any faculty position. It's critical to know this and is extraordinarily informative. For example, a school that tells you "we expect faculty to do some research and support this" yet have something like a 4/4 teaching load reveals something rather unrealistic. Class size tells you a lot about teaching duties, especially if one doesn't have TAs. For #5, the opportunity for "research and professional development funding" is important to find out about. Schools that expect faculty to do research, or encourage it, yet don't provide any internal funding to help support things like conference travel are again being unrealistic.
I say ask away at an interview. It's better to find out as much as possible before a potential offer, as an offer from a place that has teaching/research loads that don't match what you're seeking will simply leave you - the candidate - in an unfortunate position.
Also, ask about faculty service expectations. This is important, but save this for the actual interview.
I think interview #s 1-3 and 5 are important to ask, unless of course it is explicit about the teaching load in the ad and it is obvious that research is expected. A side question may be about summer teaching, especially if you want to "show-off" your interest in teaching, and there is a teaching load already indicated in the ad.
For me, I think I would save the quality of life questions for a face-to-face, not because they are not important but a lot of times search committees have an allocated amount of time for questions during a phone interview. There may not be enough time to answer them all, and you would want to save some for the campus interview.
thanks for all of this useful feedback. To clarify, I meant when the Search Chair emails me about logistics and asks if I have any questions, are there things I should be asking before I've even arrived for the interview (this is what anon2 answered)? The others I'll save for when I'm there, but appreciate your delineation of them anyway.
Hey all…I totally agree that 1-3 and 5 are super important. But, a lot of times it's pretty easy to figure out what the teaching load and research expectations are from the website etc… I think that unless the question were worded carefully, I'd probably be like "say whaaa?" if a candidate flew all the way across the country (or whatever) and didn't understand what the teaching and research situation were like before the interview. Of course, these issues likely will come up in conversation and are definitely worth talking about, but — especially at some types of schools — I would find it off-putting if the candidate hadn't put the time in to know what the typical class size and typical teaching load and typical amount-of-publishing-before-tenure number were.
As for #5 — again, the financial aspect of a job is very important. But asking about startup numbers is really different from finding out about general support for research/travel, and — at least for me — falls in the category of "let's talk about this if I get an offer". And, again, you can get this information in a much more indirect (and less awkward) way — e.g., asking about recent conferences that the faculty/students attended; asking to see lab spaces and equipment, etc. If you have very specific startup needs, then ask away. But otherwise, it would make me think "hmmm, why are they asking me this before they have an offer?", and I can't think of a positive answer to that question (except maybe "this person has really specific research needs and has enough foresight to think about that early in the process"), but I can think of lots of potentially negative ones ("they're concerned that their needs won't be met at this school"; "they already have another offer and are planning the negotiation wars").
I've asked about teaching load and research load at each place I interviewed at, and got offers. It can be hard to figure-out these sorts of things from many school's websites. Many job ads don't offer much insight. And, teaching load can vary within a department depending on which classes have lab components. The research stuff may be easy to find at an R1, but otherwise this can be hard to dig-up.
When I was interviewing, I directly asked about what resources are available to help faculty with grants, what internal resources are available to support professional development and research, and about the teaching/research loads. I got offers, so I don't think asking these things is a negative. So, we have divergent perspectives here.
I'm the big-list poster (with my wacky 15 questions). I didn't read the OP carefully enough to see that the question referred to BEFORE the interview. Sorry. I'd save most of these for the actual interview. But I'm glad to see that some of these might be helpful once you get there.