How to Interview for a Professor Position


Feb 11, 2023

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Interviewing for a job in any industry is intimidating. Many people experience nervousness when it comes time to sit in front of a stranger and answer questions. Interviewing for a role as serious as a college professor is no different. 

At colleges and universities in 2020, the average salaries for U.S. professors increased 2.8% from 2019. Although it’s not a significant increase, the data shows that higher education positions are still competitive for those who apply.

Whether you have an interview lined up or are considering becoming a professor, continue reading to learn more about the interview process.

Applying for Professor Positions

Before diving into how to interview, let’s touch on the application process. 

There are some specific requirements for those interested in higher education positions. Some institutions require applicants to have their Ph.D. — however, depending on the position and specialty, a master’s degree or doctoral degree candidacy is sufficient.

Doctoral degrees take some time to earn and typically include in-depth research and a dissertation. Be sure to review the requirements outlined in job descriptions before applying so you know if you’re qualified.

Before Your Interview

There are some steps you can take before your interview to ensure it goes off without a hitch.

Research Your Institution

When applying for a professor position, it’s essential that you get to know the university or college you’d like to work for. Understanding their core values, student population, majors offered, and overall culture will help you during your interview. 

Take notes when you research to prepare for any questions. Interviewers will ask why you have an interest in their institution specifically — it’s a good sign if you’re well-informed. This shows your interviewer that you’ve done your due diligence and could even increase your chances of being hired!

Mock Interviews

If possible, try to conduct a mock interview before you head into your actual interview. Mock interviews give you a chance to answer complex questions that may come up. This is the time to make mistakes and hear direct feedback from your interviewer. 

Practicing an interview will ease the tension you feel when you face the real thing. Knowing you’ve practiced over and over gives you confidence in your ability to answer questions, talk about your student teaching experience, as well as come across as engaged and prepared.

Review Your Resume

Interviewers are looking for motivated, qualified, and driven individuals to add to their faculty. Your resume should highlight these qualities while emphasizing your educational background. 

It’s essential that you know your resume like the back of your hand. Interviewers may ask you specific questions about your hobbies or educational experiences. Ensure you have answers to these questions by reviewing your resume beforehand.

Types of Interviews

Phone Interviews 

Before an on-site interview, it’s common for institutions to screen candidates by phone during their search. The goal here is for the recruiter to get a basic idea of who you are, why you’re interested in their open position, and a bit of your background. 

A phone interview is also an opportunity for you to learn about the institution and ask any questions that you may have. Feel free to ask those questions — this shows the recruiter how serious you are about the position and may be the deciding factor when offering you an on-site interview.

On-site Interviews

Interviewing for a professor position is similar to interviewing for most jobs. Following best interview practices is essential for your success. 

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your interview:

  • Arrive on time: Punctuality is something many interviewers look for right off the bat. 
  • Dress professionally: Many interviewers will make snap judgments about you based on how you look. Be sure to make a good impression right from the start.
  • Bring necessary items: Although many employers will have your cover letter (CV) or resume on hand, it’s good practice to show up with something. Consider bringing a notebook and a pen or a folder with your resume. Leave any unnecessary items behind. 

Now that you’re ready to show up to your interview, it’s time to dive into common interview questions for a professor position.

During the Interview

Because you’re looking to enter an educational environment, much of your interview will focus on your educational background. This includes your secondary education, student teaching experience, degrees you’ve earned, as well as any other internships or relevant jobs you’ve had. 

Here are some questions you may be asked during your interview:

  • Where did you earn your degree(s), and in what specialization?
  • Why do you want to become a professor in this field?
  • Describe your teaching style.
  • How does your background fit with our values?
  • What are some of your research interests?
  • What research projects have you completed?
  • How do you engage with students? Do you have experience teaching in higher education?

Formulating your answers beforehand will help you feel more confident during the interview. 

When you practice answering them, keep it conversational. The interviewer will pick up on your tone, body language, and how you can answer one question at a time. Try your best to sound authentic as opposed to robotic or rehearsed. You want your interview to go as smoothly as possible to increase the likelihood you’ll move on to the next steps.

Post Interview Tips

Once you complete the interview, the scary part is over! Regardless if you move on in the hiring process, there are some things you should do to leave a good impression.

Keep these tips in mind next time you complete your interview:

  • Send a thank-you note: Sending a thank-you note, whether it’s handwritten or via email, shows you appreciate the time your interviewer took to interview you. It’s a good idea to include their name and your contact information.
  • Self-evaluate: Reflect on the interview experience. Maybe you could’ve made better eye contact or answered questions more thoroughly. Use this reflection as an opportunity to improve for future interviews. Make sure to be gentle with yourself!
  • Be accessible: Be ready to check your email and answer phone calls in the next few weeks. Human resources may reach out to you regarding the next steps and where you stand in the hiring process. Be sure to answer those emails promptly and always pick up those phone calls.

With these interview tips, you’ll be ready to interview to be a professor. It’s not an easy task, but the reward of being hired is well worth it!

Ace Your Interview for a Professor Position

Depending on your background and interview skills, you may or may not be the right fit for a professor position. Realize that rejection is a part of the job application process — at the end of the day, one position does not determine your professional worth.

If you’re prepared, well-dressed, meet the requirements outlined in the job description and try your best to showcase your talent by answering questions succinctly, any interviewer will see you as a stand-out candidate.

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