Questions to Ask: Faculty

Possible Questions to Ask Hiring Committee/Department Chair

You should be asking questions during your interview, especially during those moments when an interviewer asks the inevitable, “Do you have any questions for us?” Prepare a few questions in advance. Take advantage of your opportunity to learn more about the position, and ask questions that will help you determine if it will be a good “fit” for you should you receive an offer.

Here are some of the most “natural” questions for a new academic hire:

  • Can you describe for me the process of renewal and then promotion/tenure? By that I mean: What is the timeline and the procedures by which I will be assessed for renewal and then promotion/tenure?
  • What are your expectations for promotion to associate professor with tenure? How will my teaching and scholarship be assessed? Can you give me an example of what a “typical” successful promotion case looks like in your department?
  • Looking back over the last five or six faculty members you have hired who would normally be tenured in your department by now: How many of them were in fact tenured in your department? What happened to the others? [Presumably one of three things: (1.) He/she attempted to get tenure and did not; (2.) He/she left without trying because tenure seemed unlikely; (3.) He/she probably would have received tenure but left without trying for a “better” position.]
  • What is the teaching load in this department?
    • Is there a different teaching load for untenured versus tenured faculty?
    • Is there a different teaching load for “research active” versus “non-research active” faculty? How is that determination made?
  • How are teaching assignments made?
  • Tell me about the undergrads in your department.
  • Tell me about the grad students in your department. (For departments with grad programs.)
  • What resources can I expect to receive from the university to support my scholarship? (Especially in science & engineering, some universities provide “startup packages” that enable the new hire to buy equipment, support grad students, etc. However, even in departments where such packages are not the norm, there may be “pots of money” for travel, supplies, etc.)
  • Is there a formal mentoring program in the department or college?
  • To be asked of potential peers &8212; i.e., not department chair or other administrator:
    • What is the best thing about working in this department?
    • What is the most difficult thing about working in this department?
    • What is the department culture like?
  • What kind of service activities are expected of untenured faculty?
  • Where are you in your selection process? What comes next? (Typically asked at the end of the day.)