Interviewing for Academic Positions

Academic interviews require some additional preparation. Of course, you must do your homework as you would for an industrial interview- know the faculty members, the department, and the institution:

  • Read any available literature, the institution's catalog, and the ACS Directory of Graduate Research to become familiar with each faculty member's research interests. Typically, departmental websites will list faculty with descriptions of their research, contact information, and photos. If this information is dated, look up more recent publications.
  • Be ready to ask questions and to present your research, both formally and informally.
  • Prepare your technical presentation or seminar, keeping in mind that in an academic environment, the interview also will evaluate your teaching abilities. You may actually be asked to teach a class. In either case, a well-rehearsed, well-organized presentation is essential.
  • Bring reprints and preprints of your publications with you to the interview.

In addition to a formal research seminar, most university departments will request an informal overview of your proposed research, presented orally. Bring copies of your research proposals, including an estimate of start-up costs. The university will want to know what resources you need to get results within the first three years, so you can then write grant proposals that will fund your future research.

When you receive your on-site interview invitation, ask if you are expected to give a presentation on your research. If so, determine length of your presentation, approximate size and technical background of the audience, and availability of audio-visual equipment. Prepare a well-organized presentation and rehearse it.

If possible, practice in front of an audience before leaving for your interview; this is when you'll get your best idea of whether your presentation is the desired length. You want to stay within the time limit without being too brief, but leaving time for questions. You'll also get feedback on your oral presentation techniques from the audience members in your practice presentation.

You are not expected to disclose confidential or proprietary information; it is acceptable to present your research in general terms or to use non-proprietary examples, as long as explain this at the beginning of the presentation.

Your proposal should address each of the following points:

  • Multiple projects, including some short-term low-risk projects, as well as some higher-risk, longer term projects
  • The time needed to complete the work, as well as whether the research would be suitable for undergraduates, graduate students, or post-doctoral scholars.
  • Which agencies you would approach for support - with a realistic budget for necessary equipment, supplies and expendables, student support (usually in the form of guaranteed teaching assistantships), and possibly a summer salary.
  • A focus on originality, relevance, and fundability.
  • Statement of teaching philosophy, listing courses you're qualified to teach (undergraduate and graduate), special topics of interest and expertise, and innovative approaches (such as interdisciplinary courses or multimedia methods).
  • Emphasis on projects of manageable size, so there will be a reasonable chance of completion within an academic year or in a summer of research with undergraduates.
  • Be especially realistic about industrial support; junior faculty rarely obtain support from industry.

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