Higher EducationPop Quiz

Pop Quiz: Job Interviews

A colleague of mine (also on the job market) recently scored a Skype interview with a big-name institution, which has led to a lot of discussion ’round these parts about what sorts of questions to expect in such an interview, in order not to be caught off-guard by the interviewers and consequently say something woefully ill-considered, like:

Interviewer: So why would you like to come teach at University of X?

Interviewee: Um, well…you’re so close to the beach!

Interviewer: Uh…I see….


Since one misstep in front of the inquisitors interviewers can cause everything to go up in flames, a group of us spent a while coming up with a whole list of potential questions to prepare for in advance. This kind of advanced preparation ensures a minimal amount of awkward pauses or searching for words, which interviewers can interpret as uncertainty. The most important of these seemed to be the following:

Painting of Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition

This is some serious shit right here.

1) Now that you’ve finished your diss, what do you think will be your next major research project?

2) How do you see yourself fitting in to our programme?

3) What are your current plans for publication?

4) How would you describe your teaching experience?

5) Do you have any questions about University of X?

Of course, it’s always going to be the unexpected questions that throw candidates for a loop, including the the odd twists and turns of conversation that can occur when making small talk (this is of course much more likely on a campus visit than on the phone or on Skype).


So today’s question is: what kind of odd questions should someone be prepared for in the interview process? If you’ve been on a committee, what kind of questions do you usually ask candidates? What was the weirdest interview question you got while looking for a job?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons (ET).

Featured image: Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition, by Cristiano Banti (1824-1904)

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Dan holds a PhD in Music History from a major Canadian university and is now pursuing a M.Ed in Higher Education at another one, because he likes to collect very expensive paper. He performs stand-up comedy at venues all over Toronto when he's not busy playing JRPGs with his cat, Roy. You can follow him at @incontrariomotu, but he isn't going anywhere. You can also send him a tip on PayPal (paypal.me/dandonnelly) if you like his work!


  1. February 4, 2014 at 10:05 am —

    Best question: Do you like Thai food? (Sort of an icebreaker, but not totally irrelevant: Lunchtime meetings often involved ordering from the cheap-but-good Thai place down the street.)

    Questions often asked:
    How would you describe your teaching philosophy (one application required a 1-2 page description of same)?
    What is your experience with instructional technologies?
    How would you approach students with different learning styles?
    What is your involvement with professional organizations in the field and at your current institution?

  2. February 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm —

    I’ll add to those:
    Describe an upper-level elective you’d like to teach.
    How would you teach our undergraduate survey course?
    How do you think you would handle supervising graduate students? (if applicable)

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