I try not to give advice about most things because they reflect my own experience and are rarely generalizable. What I have found helpful is other people showing me their work (e.g., a sample cover letter / research statement, a grant proposal). In that vein, I present to you some of the questions that I prepped with for my academic job interview along with the list of questions that I asked after the "do you have any questions for us?" section.
For reference, my advisor asked another faculty member, Hiromu, who didn't know that much about my work to ask me questions for about an hour. I did give Hiromu all of my job materials, which he very kindly read before the interview. (He didn't send me anything beforehand.) When I prepped for other job interviews (like the one I did at Mozilla), I did run my responses two or three times with my sister — once as the initial answer, second to tighten the narrative, and the third round after some feedback. For this job, I didn’t do that and instead just went through the practice with Hiromu in one go with Graham on the sidelines. We debriefed a bit after but Graham suggested that I not stress about this too much since more prepping might make me sound a little canned.
Practice questions that Hiromu asked me
(He sent the list to me after the fact, which he had kindly prepared after reading my cover letter.)
- I missed the talk. Please give me the high level summary -- what is the elevator pitch? Why this matters, why is it worth studying?
- Can you briefly describe what is, from your perspective, ultimately at stake in your work as a media scholar (defined intellectually, politically, or any other ways you find most relevant)?
- Tell me more about this interactive date representation and the prototype. How does it work?
- You wrote, “ I leverage scholarship in disability studies to identify and address the ways that ableism, misogyny, and racism might be re-inscribed in the technologies we build at CSAIL.” Can you give me an example that is especially important from your perspective?
- On your “Viral Visualizations” project: you write, “better visualizations will not meaningfully address the problems associated with data-heavy misinformation” > I’m curious about how you process where this conclusion leaves you as a media scholar and a specialist in data visualization. How have you wrestled with it and, assuming that this is something that will be true in other topics (climate!) do you foresee any ways that your work can further address this dilemma?
- Your future project on Chinese social media and fandom sounds fantastic. Given our particular historical moment, it also made me think of Ukraine. Has anything struck you, as we all consume various media on the war there, from the perspective of your research?
- You list several classes you could contribute to in CMS as well as potential “thematic courses” that you could create. Among those, can you describe what would be a “dream course” for you to create/teach and why?
Questions I asked them
- Work life balance: what was their junior faculty experience like in the department?
- Tenure: the department is very diverse in terms of the types of work people do. How do you manage expectations for tenure in terms of what to publish? How do you make the work commensurately?
- College of Computing: what will CMS' engagement look like with the CoC?
- Students: what gets undergraduate students excited to take a CMS class? What opportunities are there to work with students outside of the classroom?
Other crowdsourced questions I found helpful
The questions below were crowdsourced by JK Flake (thread) but I marked the ones that I remember the search committee asking during my panel interview with an asterisk (I also had 1:1s with a couple of faculty members -- folks signed up and I had one with the search chair). I didn't actually take notes during the panel interview because I was too nervous just trying to answer the questions; many of them were straightforward enough that I didn't really feel the need to write them down. The one wild card that I really remember was a question about what I was reading now, and for my thoughts on Cowboy Bebop (thank god I'd actually seen it).
- Why did you apply for the job?
- What do you contribute/bring to the department?
- What connections would you make with other faculty? *
- How do you address X thing mentioned in job ad (reread job ad before)?
- How are you different from leaders in your field?
- Describe your past experience and research
- Where do you plan to take your research next? *
- A 2/5/10 year plan * (NB: they asked me for a ten year plan lol -- phrased more like "what themes will continue to animate your work" but still, that is a long time horizon)
- How will you make sure other labs can confirm or replicate your results?
- What are the most important questions in your field right now and how does your work address them? *
- Where do you think your field is going in the 10 years? How does your research connect to that and address challenges? *
- What does your research matter (to community, to field, to lay people?)
- How do you connect with community/outreach questions
- Explain what you do in a way that a non-specialist could understand
- Describe your experiences working with practitioners (as a researcher).
- What is the most important/exciting finding from your work, so far? *
- How will you fund your future research?
- Any funding streams that are novel?
- What will be the topic of your first grant, with what funder?
- Describe your grant writing experience
Teaching & Mentoring
- What is your teaching philosophy?
- What classes would you want to teach? *
- Any that we do not already offer?
- Describe a dream class
- What approach would you take to teaching X class? *
- How do you incorporate students in research?
- What projects would you have your first few grad students work on?
- What about undergrads?
- How do you promote diversity/inclusivity? (don’t restrict to race)
- How would you address teaching our specific student population? *
- How will you attract graduate students?
- Methods for teaching to large and small classrooms (specific teaching techniques) *
- Describe a situation in which you had to confront a research assistant (grad or undergrad) about not meeting expectations, how did you handle it?
- Describe how you use technology and keep up with the latest technology in teaching
- What are mentoring styles you would like to emulate (from your experience) vs things you would do differently?
- Describe your mentoring experience/style/how available do you plan to be? *
- Describe experiences working with international students
- Consider your first couple of graduate students.
- What sort of training do you want them to get/area of expertise do you expect them to develop? (AKA what type of student are you going to produce?)
- How will you manage your lab?
- How many people will you hire?
- What will the people you hire do?
- What do you need to be successful? What are your startup costs?
“Do you have any questions for me?”
- Plan for department in next 5 years?
- What do you like about working in the department?
- What is the approach taken to mentoring?
- What is the tenure/promotion process like?
- What are the mechanisms for covering start-up costs?