Careers in Science Series: Going on an Academic Job Interview

Monday, July 13, 2015

Academic job interviews are actually pretty fun, but really tiring as most days are very long. The following is a typical schedule to expect for an interview:

Day 1

     Morning:              Travel to interview location

     Afternoon:           Meetings with Faculty Members

     6 – 9 p.m.:           Dinner with faculty members, probably the head of the search committee

Day 2:

     8 a.m.:                 Breakfast with faculty members

     9 a.m. – 6 p.m.:   1-on-1 meetings with Faculty

                                 Lunch with graduate students

                                 Formal Research Seminar

                                 Tour Core Facilities/Lab Space

                                 Meeting with college Dean

     6 – 9 p.m.:           Dinner with faculty members, probably the chair of the department

Day 3:

     8 a.m.:                 Breakfast with faculty members

     9 a.m. – 3 p.m.:   Chalk Talk

                                 More 1-on-1 meetings with faculty members

     3 p.m.                  Travel Home

As you can see from the schedule, you don’t really get any downtime, and you typically have all three meals with faculty members or graduate students. Each day will be very long, but you want to make sure that you remain enthusiastic all day long! Make sure you convey your strong interest in the institute/department to everyone you meet, including the administrative people handling your travel arrangements, the graduate students, and of course the faculty members. One thing that you will get asked over and over again during your interview is, “Do you have any questions for me?” You should always make sure you ask everyone a few questions. It’s totally fine to ask everyone the same types of questions! Here are a few general questions that I asked many times:

  • What do you like/dislike about the department?
  • What is the tenure process like?
  • How are the graduate students and postdocs?
  • How do you like the area?
  • What are the teaching and service requirements?

From a female perspective, another important thing to consider is what to wear for your interview. I wore a suit on the days where I gave my formal seminar, and for the other days I wore dress slacks with a nice top/sweater. I made the mistake of wearing high heels on one of my first interviews. I wore heels that were well broken-in and that I thought were comfortable, but I had never worn them for 14 hours straight with a ton of walking! Take my advice and stick to flats.

Other important things to carry with you on the day of your interview are your laptop, bottled water, an extra flash drive containing your talk, a copy of your schedule, breath mints, and tissues. I would also suggest that you pack all of your belongings in a small carry-on suitcase. You don’t want to have to take the risk that the airline will lose your luggage, and you will likely have to take your bag with you on the last day—I wouldn’t want to lug around a huge suitcase!

Finally, don’t schedule all your interviews on top of one another. I had four interviews, four weeks in a row. So I did lots of traveling back-to-back, but I made sure that I always had a few days off in between just to give myself some time to prepare for the next interview, re-pack my suitcase, and spend some time with my family.

Category: Careers