Faculty Interview: What to Ask Whom

The faculty interview typically involves meeting the faculty members of the department, the department head, and various other administrators.  These may include the hospital director, the associate deans (typically research and academic affairs), the dean, and various directors (research centers, specific services, etc.).  Beyond the general questions to ask during your interview, I think there are some specific questions to ask some of these individuals to get the best information so you can make an informed decision as to whether or not you would be a good fit there.

Department Head

This is probably the most important single person in the interview, since they make the ultimate recommendation to the dean (who usually accepts it).  DO NOT BRING UP ANYTHING THAT SHOULD COME UP DURING THE NEGOTIATION DURING THE INTERVIEW.  This includes salary, equipment, new hires, spousal hires, etc.  You could easily spend several hours speaking with the department head, but often will only have 30-60 minutes.  Therefore, I will try to prioritize the questions from most essential to least essential.

  • What is the department’s historic success with promotions and tenure decisions?
  • What is the mentoring system?  Are third year reviews conducted?
  • What is the timeline for hiring the position?  Next steps?  More interviews to conduct?
  • What is your ideal candidate?  What are you looking for?
  • What do you want the culture of the department to be?  What is your role in accomplishing that?
  • Can you send me a copy of the department strategic plan?

Hospital Director

In addition to learning about how the hospital functions, I think it’s important to understand how it interacts with the academic departments and academic faculty.

  • How are the faculty evaluated for clinical service?  Is it provided to the department chair from the hospital director?
  • What medical record system is used and what good and bad experiences have they had?
  • What is the administrative structure like for the staff?  How do they interact with the faculty (i.e. do they answer to faculty section chiefs or to a staff member who answers to the hospital director)?
  • What is the administrative structure like for the faculty?  What are the sections?  How does the hospital board function (advisory or decision-making)?
  • How is new equipment acquired and budgeted?  How are equipment replacements handled?
  • How are new staff hired?  Do the faculty participate?  How are new staff positions added? What’s the training like for new staff?

Associate Dean of Academic Affairs/Students

This person has a LOT to do with your day-to-day job and, again, you could probably spend several hours with them.  Usually you only have 30-60 minutes.  So these questions are prioritized as well.

  • Can you give me an overview of the preclinical curriculum?
  • What are the rotations for the clinical year?  What are required?  What are the tracks/areas of emphasis?
  • How many students are on each rotation for each block (specifically the rotation of your discipline)?
  • How is the curriculum determined (faculty driven, committees, dean, etc.)?
  • What are the preclinical elective course options and how are new electives added?
  • What is the culture of the students like?
  • What kinds of problems are the most difficult for you to deal with?
  • What can faculty do to make your job easier?

Associate Dean of Research

Unless you have a high research FTE or are in a non-clinical position, in my experience this person doesn’t have a lot of necessary information.  An hour meeting is often too long, and 30 minutes can sometimes even be a bit of a stretch to fill with discussion and questions.

  • What are the approval committees (IACUC, Clinical Research, IRB) like?  How hard/easy is it to work with them?  What have challenges been in the past getting approvals?
  • What resources are there for grant writing and statistical consultation?
  • What research resources are in the CVM (flow cytometry etc.)?
  • Are graduate students under this office or the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs?
  • What is the course approval process for grad student courses like?

Dean

Although the dean is the final decision-maker for hires and negotiations, usually they approve what the department head recommends.  This person is thinking of high-level strategic ideas, so work on getting that from them.  Fortunately, you usually only have 30 minutes with the dean, so you don’t need to ‘fill’ the time very much.

  • What is your vision for this position/service?  What would you like to see happen with it in the future?
  • What is your vision for the college?
  • What is the most important task or role for this position to fulfill?
  • What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing the college?

Not only does asking these questions give you information, it indicates to the people that you are interested in the position and engaged with the interview.  It’s always frustrating for me when candidates don’t have questions of their own.  Or their questions are not particularly meaningful.  Obviously, don’t just read the questions as I have written them.  Use your own ‘voice’ and try to make them casual, rather than interrogative.  For example, instead of “What is the most important task or role for this position to fulfill”, I would probably say, “What do you think is the most important task or role for this position?”  Good luck!

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