Austin Z. Henley

Assistant Professor

Faculty interview questions I asked and got asked


This is a list of questions I asked and got asked during phone and campus interviews for tenure-track Assistant Professor positions in Computer Science during the 2017-2018 interview season. Many of the existing resources for the job market focus on application materials and the job talk, but I had no idea what to expect during the interviews, so I wrote these down.

I applied to 34 positions, did 10 phone interviews, was invited to 8 campus interviews, and received 7 offers. Most of these universities were R1 state schools and ranked in the 60s-70s by US News. I attended an R2 university with an unranked department.

Questions I got asked

  • Tell us about your research.
  • What are the contributions of your work?
  • Can you explain the theory behind your work?
  • How does your research relate to X? (where X is something I've never heard of in a very different domain)
  • How is your work different than other's in your field?
  • How will you distinguish yourself from your advisor?
  • What are your 1st year goals as faculty? 5 year goals?
  • What are your funding plans?
  • Which specific NSF programs will you submit to?
  • What other funding agencies can you submit to besides NSF?
  • What will be the topic of your first grant proposal?
  • When will you first apply for the CAREER Award?
  • Who will you write your first grant proposal with?
  • Do you have any grant writing experience?
  • What do you want your research group/lab to be like? Number of students?
  • What is your biggest achievement?
  • What is your "home" conference?
  • Who will you collaborate with externally?
  • Who would you collaborate with within the department? What other departments could you work with?
  • What will your strategy be in order to publish top-tier papers consistently?
  • What would you like to teach?
  • Can you teach X? (sometimes X was far outside my area)
  • What resources do you need for your lab?
  • Why this university?
  • What are you looking for in a department?
  • What other schools are you interviewing with? (some beat around the bush, others were blunt)
  • What is your timeline [for accepting an offer]?
  • Why academia? Why not industry?

Questions I asked

  • What is the teaching load, before and after tenure?
  • What is the size of undergrad and grad classes?
  • How many PhD students does the department have? Masters? Undergrads?
  • What kind of lab space will I be provided? Is it shared?
  • I need space for running user studies, is that possible?
  • What is the IRB like here?
  • Is there any mentorship for junior faculty?
  • What grant writing support is there?
  • What has been your experience in recruiting students here?
  • Where do the undergrads usually go after graduating?
  • What are the big tech employers here? Is there much of a startup scene?
  • To grad students: Is the GA salary livable? Do you get health insurance?
  • To junior faculty: What are department meetings like? Do you feel like you have a voice?
  • To senior faculty: What do you think makes for a successful junior faculty member here?
  • To graduate/teaching coordinator: What courses is the department in need of someone to teach?
  • To dean/chair: What is the success rate for tenure?
  • To hiring committee/chair: What is the timeline for the committee to make a decision and extend an offer?
  • To chair: What are the tenure expectations? How much grant money?
  • To chair: What is the startup package? Student support? Summer salary? Travel and equipment? Expiration date?
  • To chair: How much do students cost to support?
  • To chair: What is the overhead rate for grants?
  • To chair: How much does it cost to buy out of teaching?
  • At dinner: Where do most faculty live? Which school zones are good?
  • At dinner: What made you choose this university?