What Do You Say During Faculty Interviews?

Beyond just chit-chatting with people during your interview what, exactly, do you say?  How do you present yourself in the most realistic light? I don’t say ‘most positive’ light because I believe you need to be authentic during your interview.  If you present yourself as different than you are, you may lead to a bad decision about fit being made. So, you need to present yourself authentically, and discover if this place could be a good fit for you.  What do you say?

First, as always, be honest.  If you are looking for a faculty position because you enjoy research, but are not very enthusiastic about classroom teaching, you can communicate that in a positive way.  “What is your approach to teaching?” “I enjoy teaching small group and one-on-one settings so I can really engage with the students on a personal level.” If asked very specifically, be honest.  “How do you feel about teaching large lecture courses?” “Honestly, it’s not my preferred teaching setting,” and then you have two choices: “…but I enjoy a challenge and would be willing to tackle it with good mentoring,” or “…and I would rather not spend a large amount of my time with those types of courses.”

While being honest, be positive.  If you are looking for a new position because your current institution is terrible, put a positive spin on it.  “Why are you interested in our institution?” “I really like the way you approach teaching- encouraging different teaching strategies and elective classes.”  Contrast with, “You don’t micromanage the faculty constantly or overwork them.”

Second, ask all the questions about how the place works.  We will have a separate post with a list of questions, but try to plan out what you want to ask each person or group on your itinerary.  As an interviewer, it is incredibly frustrating to say, “What questions do you have?” and get nothing back. You need to ask questions to make sure the place is a good fit, to demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm, and to demonstrate to them that you Know What You Are Getting Into.  If you don’t ask about on-call responsibilities for a clinical position, for example, they may wonder if you know that this is expected. Conversely, if you obsess over on-call responsibilities, they may assume you don’t actually want to do on-call. It can be a difficult line to walk. Spend time before the interview coming up with these questions and find ways to ask them in a positive light.

Finally, answer their questions in an honest but not necessarily exhaustive way.  If you find yourself talking for more than about 2 minutes, you are probably giving an excessively long answer.  Provide an answer to the question and no more- they will ask clarifying questions if they feel it is important. Don’t be evasive or coy or abrupt, but you don’t need to give a long, rambling answer to every question.  Identify what, exactly, is being asked, and answer that with enough detail to demonstrate you understand the issue at hand.

For example, if asked, “What are your concerns with coming here?” you might answer, “It seems like there aren’t a lot of systems and protocols in place, so we will be figuring things out as we go.  I have only been places with a lot of systems but, even there, I helped create some systems and processes so I look forward to helping to put those in place here.”

When answering questions, an effective strategy is “You do… I do.”  For example, if asked, “Do you think we need an MRI for a neuro service?” you could reply, “Well, an MRI is really essential for good neurologic imaging.  However, if that isn’t possible, I can see a service where medical neurology is the focus. I have spent the past 3 years focusing on neuromuscular diseases and could build a strong referral base on that experience, even without an MRI.”

Remember, the point is to find a good FIT.  If they want you to teach a lot of large lecture classes, and you just want to do research, will you really be happy there?  “But Vetducator, I just want ANY job!” Well, as a veterinary specialist, you generally have your pick of jobs, so you at least need to find one which won’t be terrible for you.  And, ideally, you will find a job which is a good fit, which will lead to career satisfaction and life happiness. Who wouldn’t want that?

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