Questions in professorship hearings
“What’s to expect in job interviews for a professorship?” is a commonly raised question by researchers applying for a faculty position. Here is my list of 15 questions you will most likely get.
I attended many interviews with researchers who apply for a professorship position. These meetings — often called “hearings” — are typically conducted between the search committee and the candidate after his or her technical presentation. The goal is to get to know the candidate better to assess how well she or he fits the advertised position and complements the existing department members.
According to my experience, if you do not convince in this hearing, you are out. The bad news is that many people fail, even very experienced researchers. The good news is that you can prepare for some questions that are commonly asked by the committee members. And you should!
These questions include the following:
- What was your greatest scientific achievement so far and why?
- Who has influenced you the most?
- What will be the topics of the first three PhD students you will advise, and what is innovative about these topics?
- What are the most important challenges in your research domain?
- How large will your group be, and how will you attract students?
- Which synergies do you see with the existing groups in our department?
- How will you raise funding for your research?
- Who are your main collaborators and competitors?
- Which teaching activities do you plan, how do they fit into our program, and what is your teaching style and philosophy?
- Which resources do you need?
- What would you do with 3 Million Euros?
- What will your name stand for in 15–20 years?
- We are lacking female [or male] students in our program. How will you contribute to raise the number of female [or male] students?
- In which companies or organizations will your graduates find jobs in our region?
- Why do you want to join this university?
And of course: Do you have questions for us?
I have seen many candidates not having good answers to these 15 questions. If you have well-prepared and justified arguments, you will most likely stand out among the pool of candidates and increase your chances to be shortlisted and recommended to the university president.
There are several lists with questions in academic job interviews. I would like to recommend a few of them:
- Commonly asked questions in academic interviews by Vitae
- Sample questions for hearings by University of Vienna (in German)
- Guide to answering academic job interview questions by University of Rochester. An important hint from them is “You're not going there ‘To get a job.’ You're going there to meet your colleagues.”
- List of interview questions for faculty by Texas A&M International University
Christian Bettstetter is professor in Networked and Embedded Systems at the University of Klagenfurt and scientific director of Lakeside Labs GmbH in Austria. He works on wireless communications and self-organization in networked systems. Visit his Website at bettstetter.name.